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Interview: Ken Rutsky, Author of ‘Launching to Leading’

I had a chance to interview Ken Rutsky, veteran business-to-business marketing consultant and author of Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, and Ignite Movements. His focus is on helping clients break through and become market leaders.

What’s today’s market reality that’s creating new challenges for business-to-business sales and marketing professionals?

Three things have changed in buyers and market behavior:

First, information has become commoditized. It used to be that buyers were dependent on 1:1 information from salespeople to become informed. Now they just go to the Internet and by the time the salesperson engages with them they may actually know more about the product you offer than the sales rep does!

Second, buyers are now fiercely independent and drive the buying process. It’s a mistake to think of a selling cycle anymore. It’s a buying cycle. Buyers drive the agenda, and have more power and information than ever.

Lastly, markets are insanely crowded. Time and space have collapsed. Competitors can emerge from anywhere at anytime. Who would ever predict that a bookseller would become one of the largest and most important IT vendors on the planet, but they did!

Explain why businesses need to move from diagnostic selling to authority-driven selling?

Diagnostic selling was built on the assumption that sellers could figure out how to help buyers — like a Doctor diagnosis a patient. However, buyers no longer have the patience to sit through a lot of questioning. They expect the seller by the first meeting to be knowledgeable about their business and problems.

Buyers tell us they want sales reps who teach them something they didn’t know. By coming in with knowledge and something to teach, sellers establish their expertise and authority, and are able to change the way buyers see their world.

How can marketers better relate their value to customers?

It’s sounds cliché, but it’s all about being in the buyer’s shoes. Understand their challenges, and bring them a fresh perspective. Buyers are inundated with pitches that promise cost savings and revenue increases. That’s great, but it’s only the entry ticket. Sellers must understand the strategic goals of the buyer and relate their value to those goals, not just to the quantified benefits of cost savings and revenue increases.

What’s the importance behind B2B companies telling their Viewpoint story?

The importance of connecting your value to the strategic goals of the buyer can’t be overstated. The Viewpoint story does just that. It’s a magical transformative journey that we take the buyer on. To motivate change, we need to paint a before and after picture that is worth the journey to the buyer, and our magical gift to them, our product or service, must seem magical when compared to how they do things today. I realize this sounds a bit hokey, but this storytelling technique is used by Spielberg, Disney and Lucas, and it works!

How do companies move from a Flashmob to a Parade to a Movement?

First, create and tell your story. Make your customer the hero and your product or service offerings the magic.

Second, within the context of your story, articulate the unique value that you can deliver that your competitors can’t. The real secret is that when you define and own the market narrative in the first step, it tilts all of the value the customer sees to your favor. That’s how you define and own the market parade.

Lastly, we live in a “show me” economy. Demonstrate your value to customers early and often in the buying and usage cycles. Don’t tell, show!

B2B companies that tell an awesome story, focus on unique value and show instead of tell become market leaders and have up to a 10 times improvement in sales and marketing metrics, like leads to revenue. When you do this, your momentum grows like a snowball rolling downhill while your competitors are pushing a boulder up a mountain. Which would you rather be?

Learn more at kenrutsky.com.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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