• Simon Boardman

The Sales & Marketing "gap" between ability and reality in "creating demand."

Updated: Jul 29


Part of the "Go to Market" helps us agree when the sales team should engage with a “prospect" and when they shouldn't. One of the common misconceptions is when we think we can (or want to) "create" demand rather than finding "active" demand. In Part 1 of this discussion we once more encourage you to use the seemingly ageless Sirius Demand Type Model, ultimately arguing that "creating" demand is aspirational for most of us. We don't have the patience, budgets or capabilities to consistently create demand and should therefore use the modern technologies available to detect and harvest active demand.


We have to decide and agree whether we are pursuing active, or passive demand. In other words, whether we are looking for existing (active) demand and then managing it, or whether we are going to create passive (or inactive) demand. In plain English the former are those already starting to look for a solution to a problem they’ve identified, the latter, are those that don’t even realize they have a problem. Whichever we decide dictates fundamental marketing and sales approaches, right down to who you recruit in both sales and marketing. Our decision is also influenced by the availability of technology that delivers on a promise to succeed…Buyer Intent is just that.


Last Years’ Model

What is your demand type? This was one of the first questions Sirius Decisions asked B2B companies back in the early 2000’s. They encouraged firms to ask this question of themselves, to identify what type of demand they are dealing with. It’s a foundational question, and while it remains as valid today as twenty years ago, in most cases it also remains as unanswered as it was twenty years ago.


Sirius maintains that "all b-to-b demand creation is not created equal; there are three core demand "types." Determining the demand type drives several fundamental marketing and sales decisions. If sales and marketing can't agree on-demand type, systematic demand creation is impossible.”

In the Established Market, the dynamics look more transactional and commoditized. Nearly all companies have already made a choice with an entrenched supplier and must see the value in switching. Because value and feature-benefits are premium here, differentiation is vital. Differentiation is challenging these days, so while we used the word transactional earlier, (implying buying and selling here is all about price and delivery) this category could be most dependent on relationships as they might be the only way to achieve any differentiation.


In the New Paradigm "offerings must show how their approach is better than solutions currently being employed." Companies need to compete with the existing model as opposed to specific competitors. Sellers must focus on disrupting the status quo with confident sellers able to reassure wary buyers.


According to Sirius “New Concept" offerings require work to get buyers to recognize a need they didn’t know they had.” This takes longer and requires engaging external advisors to spread the word and POC's for beta customers. Companies must be willing to assume a thought leadership role and act accordingly to raise awareness, attracting interest in problems companies didn't know they had. Sellers must be evangelists, willing to lead with insights and challenge conventional thinking.

It's obvious where we fit in some cases, but confusing when we fit into multiple categories. Then you must consider recruiting and managing a hybrid sales force where some sellers are comfortable creating demand (by providing insight to prospects thereby provoking reflection and reaction) and other sellers that are deployed to manage existing demand. The Sirius Demand Type grid is an excellent tool to frame the problem and guide your thinking, but it doesn't provide any easy answers (here's the news…there aren't any). It does help you ask a different set of questions, however. The reality is that most companies don't fit neatly into one area, and therefore neither do the answers.


The Vantage


Here’s what we see (and say):


  • Other than those companies firmly in Sirius’ “New Concept Demand Type” (like the iconic consulting outfits) most of the rest of us should stop kidding ourselves and find better ways to identify existing demand, harvest it and engage with it in an optimal fashion. Challenger Selling is generally a failure and trying to adopt it for most of us is an exercise in futility. No one will admit this, and everyone will claim they’re doing it and it’s a righteous solution. This is mostly aspirational smoke, nothing more. The only place it exists is when we go back to the Sirius Demand Model in the New Concept area. We have no choice but to create demand in that part of the market, but for the rest it remains impractical.

  • Early stage buying activity has been happening on the down low for some time now. We’re all painfully aware that according to Sirius Decisions “67% of the buyers’ journey is now done digitally.” If this is so, why are we advising sellers to engage “before?” (i.e. when buyers gather their own information, independently online). This seems like strange advice. Surely sellers should be preparing better to engage in what would look more like the latter stages of the sales process.


  • Start to embrace the buyer intent and social listening technology out there, so you can detect, track, and begin to market to emerging demand. We’ve called this “trawling the waters” in the past, knowing that the waters are vast and deep. Buyer intent and social listening technology is to selling what sonar was to submarine detection. So now, you not only have a bigger boat, but it’s crammed full of “detection” technology.

Minding the Gaps in B2B Sales and Marketing Involves Finding Them First

The gaps in sales and marketing have gotten wider thanks to the "new" normal. As a result, B2B leadership needs to do more with less. Demand generation, digital marketing, and sales enablement should work together, be simpler, cost less, and produce more.


We make it happen.

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