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Four Rules (Challenger) Marketing Organizations Live By

Joseph Abbott

marketing challengersIt is no secret that sales and marketing executives don’t always see eye to eye.

Management has long called for sales and marketing to bury the hatchet, but the requests often lack urgency and are generally met with indifference. That must change. In today’s difficult and highly competitive selling environment, the rift between sales and marketing seriously undermines even the best performing reps.

In previous posts, see “Why Selling is Not About Relationships”, I have described a gifted kind of sales rep I call Challengers. Challengers excel by creating constructive tension with customers through unique and surprising competitive insights. However, all but the very best Challengers will struggle to source and package those insights unless they have organizational support-especially from marketing.

Yet much of the sales support marketing provides falls short because it’s focused on teaching customers about the suppliers business, not the customer’s. Worse, the function responsible more than any other for differentiating your solution in the marketplace often churns out collateral and sales tools that look and sound exactly like everyone else’s. Where’s the teaching in that?

Don’t take my word for it. Look at the most frequent top ten terms companies use to describe their product or service: Leader, leading, best, top, unique, solution, largest, innovative, and innovator.

Sound familiar? Most companies marketing materials make generic claims like “an industry leader with decades of experience helping global customers achieve business objectives through unique solutions and value.” Blah, blah, blah.

When customers hear such commoditized messages often enough, they stop hearing them all together. So, you say to your customers, “Our solution is unique,” and your customers don’t believe you. Why should they? Your message sure isn’t. Their reply? “That’s fantastic. Can I get a discount?” After all, why should your customer pay more for your solution when it sounds exactly like everyone else’s?

So what’s the alternative? In “Teeth, does your value proposition have any?” we show you how to get it right.
Here are four rules (Challenger) marketing organizations live by:

unique business capabilities1.     Identify your company’s unique capabilities, not all your capabilities.

In their excitement to tell the world about their broader “solution”, most marketing organizations fail to identify the handful of capabilities that truly set them apart. Sure, your products are “faster,” “smaller,” “bigger,” or “greener,” but why does it matter? If customers see no difference between you and the competition, anything you teach them will simply wind up in a RFP headed for a price-driven bake off. Bottom line, if you can’t identify the unique capabilities customers should be willing to pay for, they’re sure not going to do it for you. Answer the question, “Why should our customers buy from us over anyone else?” It’s a simple question, but often proves surprisingly hard to answer. It’s shocking how many companies are unable to identify what truly sets their solution apart. 

2.     Focus on the unique capabilities your customers currently undervalue.

Most marketing organizations naturally focus on capabilities customers disproportionately value. The thinking goes: customers want it, we’re the best at it, and so that’s the core of our value proposition. The best marketing organizations, however, are far more interested in promoting capabilities customer under value. Why? Because their primary goal is to teach customers new perspectives, not reinforce existing ones. The best teach opportunities often spring from the question, “what is it that customers fail to appreciate about their business that leads them to undervalue our capabilities?” The answer provides a strong foundation for insights that challenge customers’ thinking.

3.     Design messages that lead to those capabilities, not with them. 

Virtually all marketing collateral suffers from the same flaw. If the first five pages-and the first ten slides-of our collateral or sales pitch deck are about you (and they almost invariably are), you’ve got it wrong. Build your message that lead to your unique capabilities. In a teaching conversation, the supplier enters the conversation at the end, not the beginning.

4.     Calculate the ROI of changing behavior, not of buying a solution.

Surprisingly, the best ROI calculators are supplier agnostic. They’re built to convince customers to do something, not to buy something but to take action on whatever new perspective you’ve just taught them.
Of course, when customers ask, “Wow, who can help us do this?” the rep must be ready to legitimately say, “Let me show you how we’re uniquely able to help make this happen.
Successfully challenging customers’ thinking is a team sport. Does your company set up Challengers to succeed? Pull out the latest piece of collateral produced by your marketing organization. Does it equip your salespeople to teach a customer about their company or about yours? 




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