Executive-Based Selling Is Hot (Again)

By Ralph Varcoe, Chief Revenue Officer, now ai
6 multi-color puzzle pieces joined together

The days of lugging a briefcase loaded with pop-up presentation materials are pretty much relegated to the salesperson antique store – wherever that may be. Today, any businessperson searching for data or information can bark at Alexa or tap into Chrome. Your search for anything yields so much data, in fact, that you barely have time take a breath – or input it into your smartphone.

While access to everything and anything may be a wonderful thing, it can also be an overwhelming thing.

Customers know as much about the rep’s business as the rep knows about theirs. Both may be so overwhelmed with information that a sales call can become just another info dump leading nowhere fast.

So reps and sales managers need help sorting through all that data to find what’s relevant, useful, timely, and, most important, likely to help close a deal. Without some global help there can be inconsistency in research and approach from individuals in a team. While some are more naturally talented at (and enjoy) researching and putting together a jigsaw with no guide picture, others are ill equipped. The result? A mishmash of unstructured data that is barely effective in driving customer knowledge and intimacy.

It’s a good thing, therefore, that there are insight platforms that bring together the plethora of data into succinct and easy-to-consume pieces. These platforms enable a level-set of salespeople, all of whom now have access to the same quality information and insights. The seller is more informed and can walk into any meeting knowing a lot about a customer’s or prospect’s business – and maybe even knowing what problems need addressing. This is immensely powerful. To be that informed, and uniformly so, enables sales leaders to de-risk the data overload and inconsistent research quality within their teams.

Years ago, the term “account-based marketing” (ABM) was coined by ITSMA. While, up to then, many companies had been practising some sort of account-based orientation toward their marketing and selling efforts, it wasn’t until 2013 that the phrase started to trend on Google. There were many new platforms that drove fantastic insights into marketing and selling programs, including one of the pioneers – a company called “Continuous Insight.” Pete Pastides, founder of CI, believes it transformed the way in which clients such as BT and Tata Communications conducted their business.

Orienting the data and insight toward the account was a smart thing to do. Use the insight to target a campaign at the account and the personas within it. CIOs all have similar issues, right? CTOs are all basically struggling with the same things, aren’t they? The CFO at most companies is broadly similar in scope and responsibility, surely?

And so, persona-based ABM campaigns launched, and marketing made an improvement on their ROI. Sirius Decisions has mapped, scientifically, the impact of different approaches to marketing – and ABM has proven itself.

But a new era in B2B has dawned. Accelerated (but not caused) by COVID, the way we all interact has shifted. It’s now no longer enough just to know about your customer and prospect, or to market to personas based on great insight.

Insight is knowing there is a problem. Intelligence is knowing there is a problem and what you can do to fix it. The CIA is called the Central Intelligence Agency (and not the Central Insight Agency) for a reason.

How does intelligence differ, in reality? First, look at a number of insight points and try to make sense of them. Chances are they are snippets of information – a loose collection of which you have to try and make sense. Intelligence is all about context. Intelligence is about taking data points and cross-referencing them with multiple other data points to make logical, coherent, and contextual sense. Once these data points and insights are turned into contextual intelligence, you’ll not only know what the data says, but why and how it all hangs together. You’ll understand how to position your own services to address the specifics of the issue, in context of the industry in which the customer operates, the strategy of the company itself, and, importantly, the executive who is acting on behalf of the company.

Contextual intelligence, underpinned by new and exciting AI technology, transforms the selling process from being oriented toward an account, to being specifically targeted at the executive. New AI technology and a new application of data and insight means the new era of B2B selling will be dominated by a new term – EBS, executive-based selling.

The new era is one where salespeople and marketers already know precisely what to talk to an executive about, when to pitch which service, how to frame the context, and how to demonstrate insane value from the minute they walk into a meeting. All with a demonstrably higher ROI than possible before with ABM…and certainly higher than back in the pre-super technology world of the 1980s!

Ralph Varcoe is chief revenue officer of now ai, the world’s first sales and marketing intelligence platform.