Customer Confidence is Everything, but Brent Adamson Says We’re Doing it Wrong

5 minutes
Nov 05, 2021
Digital Marketing

If you’re a CMO and you aren’t already fully obsessed with Brent Adamson, you’re missing out big time. He’s not only a Distinguished VP, Advisory at Gartner, he’s also the...

Customer Confidence is Everything

If you’re a CMO and you aren’t already fully obsessed with Brent Adamson, you’re missing out big time.

He’s not only a Distinguished VP, Advisory at Gartner, he’s also the co-author of books that have become “bibles” to many of us in sales and marketing: The Challenger Sale and The Challenger Customer. He’s been redefining selling, marketing, and the customer experience since a lot of us were still trying to tell our CRMs from our CROs.

I vividly remember seeing Brent speak at Gartner’s Marketing Symposium a few years back and having my mind thoroughly blown. My hand is still cramping from all the notes I took. And my team still remembers the frantic deluge of a-has and snippets I bombarded them with during the presentation. Brent had such a perfect pulse of our customers and B2B marketing overall, and I walked away with real revelations about how we do business.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and picture me, total fangirl, hosting THE Brent Adamson as our guest speaker on CMO Coffee Talk, a weekly live broadcast presented by 6sense and Heinz Marketing.

Dream. Come. True. And not surprisingly, Brent is still bringing the knowledge. Once again, I spent the whole session scribbling furiously and nodding my head in agreement.

We don’t record our CMO Coffee Talks (it’s a way to keep the space safe and confidential), so I can’t share video clips or screenshots of my “OMG is this really happening” face, and I’m not going to quote Brent here. But what I can do is tell you that what Brent’s been working on lately is once again going to revolutionize how we sell and market — all in service of a better, more successful customer experience.

These were some of my key takeaways.

Customers are Overwhelmed with Good Content

In The Challenger Sale, Brent and his coauthors challenged marketers to become centers of commercial learning and thought leadership. And we rose to the challenge, putting out loads of high-quality, useful content. But the problem is, so did everyone else.

Now that more and more learning is occurring digitally, without the involvement of a sales rep, 55% of customers Gartner surveyed say they’re encountering an overwhelming amount of trustworthy information when trying to make a purchase — and much of it is contradictory.

So instead of helping customers through the process with our information, we’re actually nudging them toward inaction because they lack confidence in their ability to distinguish which of this high-quality information to trust.

Lack of Confidence Leads to Inaction

We talk a lot about customer confidence, but we’re looking at it the wrong way. Our goal shouldn’t be just confidence in us or our product. We need to foster customers’ confidence in themselves and their ability to make a big business decision based on the information they have.

Brent outlines three drivers of confidence, and they all have to do with customer perceptions:

  • The first is perception of consensus among the buying team. Are they aligned on what their business problem is and the possible solutions for the problem?
  • The second is perception of nuance. Are they confident in their ability to differentiate between the companies they’re considering?
  • And the third is the perception of their sales rep, including the rep’s ability to accurately diagnose the business problem, explain the technical aspects of their product, and integrate with the digital experience.

When buyers have these three building blocks of confidence, they’re more likely to make high-quality purchases without much regret. When they don’t, they get stuck and opt either for inaction or for what Brent calls “the new MVP” — minimum viable purchase.

We Need Next-Level Differentiation

So how do we differentiate ourselves in this environment? Clearly high-quality content is no longer a differentiator. By and large, neither is the digital experiencse we provide. According to Gartner’s research, 64% of B2B buyers say all our digital experiences look and feel the same. We’ve got to do better. But what does that look like?

My take-home was that winning in the future will require what Brent calls a “sense-making approach.” It’s all about being empathetic to your customers and prospects in light of the modern buying journey. We need to solve for this confidence gap not by churning out more content that shows how great we are, but by being the digital guides our customers need to sort through all the content that’s already out there.

When we help them do this — to organize, analyze, and prioritize the information that’s all around them — they’ll have the confidence they need to get off the fence and make a high-value B2B buying decision that they feel good about.

Get In on the Brent Adamson Fan Club

Our CMO Coffee Talk group was absolutely buzzing before, during, and after Brent’s visit — and not just because we’re all over-caffeinated. We were so thrilled to have him with us, and we’re grateful for the energy and knowledge he dropped into our Friday morning.

Sadly, I can’t time-travel you back in time to hear Brent’s presentation, but I can get you in on all the awesome content we have lined up in the weeks to come. If you’re a B2B CMO and you’re not already part of the CMO Coffee Talk group, I invite you to join me and 1,200+ of our peers who are dedicated to keeping on top of our game with awe-inspiring speakers like Brent.

And if you’d like to learn more about what Brent’s been up to lately, be sure to check out these resources: