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Mind the gap! The Widening Gap Between Buyers and Sellers

March 01, 202453 min read

Mind the gap! On the next episode of The Digital Download we are joined by Kerry Cunningham, a renowned expert in B2B demand generation and management currently spearheading research and thought leadership at 6Sense, to discuss the widening gap between buyers and sellers.

Two recent reports, the 2023 B2B Buyer Engagement Report (released in December, 2023) and the 2024 State of the BDR Survey (released this past Monday) - both courtesy of 6Sense – tell a story of two divergent paths. Kerry will lead us through a discussion of the survey results, the implications when they are examined together, and most importantly what to do about it.

Join us as we ask questions like:

* What are the key findings?

* What surprises came out of the research?

* What happens when we look at the two reports together?

* What does the future of B2B look like?

Having run a third party BDR organization as the VP of Operations for 12, Kerry oversaw 500+ BDRs. As a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, he co-authored foundational frameworks like The B2B Revenue Waterfall. Now Kerry brings over 25 years of experience in B2B demand generation and management to 6Sense, where he focuses on bridging the gap between marketing and sales strategies.

We strive to make The Digital Download an interactive experience. Bring your questions. Bring your insights. Audience participation is highly encouraged!

This week we were joined by our Special Guest -

  • Kerry Cunningham, a renowned expert in B2B demand generation and management currently spearheading research and thought leadership at 6sense

This week's Host was -

Panelists included -

Transcript of The Digital Download 2024-03-01

Rob Durant [00:00:00]:

Good morning, good afternoon, and good day wherever you may be joining us from. Welcome to another edition of the digital download, which is The longest longest running weekly

Tracy Borreson [00:00:16]:

business business talk show

Rob Durant [00:00:18]:

on LinkedIn Live. Now syndicate Now globally syndicated on the IBGN Tracy Network. Yeah. We also getting there. Yes.

Adam Gray [00:00:30]:

But by the time we've learned that perfectly, you do know there'll be something else to add in, and we'll get back to square 1 again, won't we?

Rob Durant [00:00:37]:

Yeah. Oh, most definitely. And at this point, that's almost the challenge. Alright. So today, mind the gap. Today, we're talking about the widening gap between buyers and sellers. We have a special guest, Kerry Cunningham, to help us with the discussion. A renowned expert in b two b demand generation and management, Kerry currently spearheads research and thought leadership at 6th Sense.

Rob Durant [00:01:09]:

But before we bring Kerry on, let's go around the set and introduce everyone. While we're doing that, why don't you in the audience reach out to a Lorena, ping them, and have them join us. We strive to make the digital download an interactive experience. Audience participation is highly encouraged. Alright. So with that, Adam, would you kick us off, please?

Adam Gray [00:01:35]:

Hello, everybody. I'm Adam Gray. I'm cofounder of DLA Ignite. And this kind of current research and thinking of how buyers and people in the sales industry are actually behaving rather than how we think they are behaving is a fascinating topic and one that's been close to Tim in my heart since we started the company. So, I'm really looking forward to today.

Rob Durant [00:02:03]:

Excellent. Thank you. Tracy.

Tracy Borreson [00:02:07]:

Good morning, everyone. I am Tracy Borreson, founder of TLB Coaching and Events, a proud partner of DLA Ignite. And I'm really interested in this because I usually come from, like, the so I'm super interested to hear where we go today.

Rob Durant [00:02:31]:

Excellent. Thank you. Tim.

Tim Hughes [00:02:34]:

Hi. I'm Tim Hughes. I'm the CEO and cofounder of DLA Knight, and I'm famous for writing the book, Social Selling Techniques to Influence Bias and Changemaker.

Tracy Borreson [00:02:43]:

So famous. Thank you.

Rob Durant [00:02:46]:

And, Alex.

Alex Abbott [00:02:49]:

Good afternoon, all. Alex Abbott, AKA the bearded sales guy. Not quite famous just yet for that, but guessing there. Before I take before we kinda get onto a serious note of buyers and sellers and misalignment, there's no bomb. There's

Adam Gray [00:03:08]:

I think your lunch is ready.

Alex Abbott [00:03:10]:

My Live and water is ready. I know how, much you love that, Tim. And, Live it's been playing on my mind, Tracy. We were talking before we went live about Saskatoon. And is it Saskatoon? I think, where do I know that from? And it's the film Gray Ups. Do

Rob Durant [00:03:32]:

you Yes. Yes.

Alex Abbott [00:03:35]:

The Canadian lifeguard with a really high high pitched

Tracy Borreson [00:03:39]:

voice. Yes. Adam Sandler loves to have a good time with the Canadian accent. Yeah. I think Saskatoon Ross of us don't have, by

Rob Durant [00:03:48]:

the way.

Adam Gray [00:03:48]:

But Saskatoon is the state capital of Saskatchewan, isn't it?

Tracy Borreson [00:03:52]:

Saskatchewan. Provincial capital is how we refer to you.

Kerry Cunningham [00:03:56]:

You don't

Tracy Borreson [00:03:56]:

have states.

Adam Gray [00:03:57]:

Yes. I'm

Alex Abbott [00:03:58]:

sorry. William pronounced. I struggled with that one.

Tracy Borreson [00:04:02]:

Ross people struggle with Saskatchewan.

Alex Abbott [00:04:05]:

Yes. That

Rob Durant [00:04:05]:

one. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Abbott [00:04:08]:

I too am a proud PLA Ignite partner, and I'm looking forward to that today's discussion.

Tracy Borreson [00:04:14]:

And Alex is nowhere near Saskatoon, just in case you're wondering.

Alex Abbott [00:04:18]:

Okay. Okay. Now I know.

Rob Durant [00:04:23]:

Thank you for that, Alex. And myself, I am Rob Durant. I am founder of Flywheel Results. I too am a proud DLA Ignite partner, and I am not yet famous for anything. Yes. Yes. Yes. With that, let's bring on our guest.

Rob Durant [00:04:45]:

As I said, this week on the digital download, we'll speak with Terry Cunningham. Having run a third party BDR organization as the VP of operations for 12 years, Terry oversaw 500 plus BDRs. As vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, he coauthored foundational frameworks Live the b to b revenue waterfall. Now Kerry brings over 25 years of experience in b to b demand generation and management to 6¢ where he focuses on bridging the gap between marketing and sales. Let's bring Tim on. Kerry. Welcome. Kerry.

Kerry Cunningham [00:05:29]:

Good morning. See you. Good afternoon. Thank you. Yeah. Good to see who's going on. Morning.

Rob Durant [00:05:33]:

Kerry, thank you so much for being here.

Kerry Cunningham [00:05:36]:

Yeah. My pleasure.

Rob Durant [00:05:38]:

Kerry, well, let's start. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and and how you got here?

Kerry Cunningham [00:05:45]:

Yeah. So right now I'm in the I'm in, one of the winter refuges for our Canadian friends. I live in Palm Springs, California, which is at this time of year Abbott 60% Canadian, I think, which is nice. It's a much more polite town this time of year than it is.

Tracy Borreson [00:06:04]:

Because it's, it was minus 27 degrees Celsius here yesterday.

Kerry Cunningham [00:06:08]:

That's why Yeah. And we're we're we complained because it was 72 Fahrenheit. It's a little cool this time of year. We actually have a minor league hockey team here in the desert, whereas a 115 in the summertime, so we can Jensen for that. But I spent most of my adult life in, San Francisco, and, that's where our, teleservices organization started. We expanded. We had a a company I spent, half my time for 5 years in, suburbs of Montreal in a town called Vaudreuil, which was, very fun to learn to pronounce. And then I spent the last, 10 years essentially, as an analyst.

Kerry Cunningham [00:06:47]:

So, 8 years with SiriusDecisions and then Forrester Research after Forrester bought SiriusDecisions, and virtually all of that time spent trying to help organizations improve their ability to convert leads into opportunities and revenue. And, it was during that very futile, period of time that we figured out that converting leads as such into revenue was the wrong thing to try to be doing. And that led to the development of, Durant unit waterfall, which was one of the goofy name things that we developed in the b to b revenue waterfall and a bunch of other stuff. Moved over to 6¢ about 2 and a half years ago doing the same thing, we actually have the solution to do it, which is, why I I finally made the move, like, tired of tired of talking about it without being able to say here, go do this. So that's me.

Rob Durant [00:07:40]:

Excellent. Thank you.

Kerry Cunningham [00:07:42]:


Rob Durant [00:07:42]:

So, Kerry, before we talk about results and takeaways, can you give us some background information on the two studies that we're going to be discussing today? The 2023 Abbott b buyer engagement report and the 2024 state of the BDR survey.

Kerry Cunningham [00:08:01]:

Absolutely. And, I'm I may bring in a couple of other, studies that we've done recently. Please do. We've we've been busy. So last summer, we surveyed, almost a 1,930 something, recent buyers in b to b, and that's people who've made a legit b to b purchase over the last 24 months at the time we surveyed them. And Sorry, Kerry.

Tracy Borreson [00:08:23]:

What do you mean by a legit b to b purchase?

Kerry Cunningham [00:08:27]:

10 10 k in annual value or more. Okay. And so we may actually drop that because, I've had a lot of complaints from, some of our some of our our customers and other folks that I've talked to that that number is a little too high, but we wanted to make sure that we were talking, to people who are, you know, who are making, considered purchases, let's say. And so we asked them about their their buying, Ross, and that's really where a lot of the insights we'll talk about, I think, today come from. We've followed that, with another study that I'll mention here. We haven't talked about, yet, but, last year, we did a study called the buying signals survey. This year, we renamed it, and we called it the buyer identification study for reasons that I could go into. But in any case, it's about how marketers identify buyers.

Kerry Cunningham [00:09:21]:

So we got this big study that says, here's what it looks like when buyers are buying, and we've got this other one that says, and here's what it looks like when marketers are trying to identify buyers who are buying. And, man, those things don't look very much alike. They don't intersect all that much. And then, we also just published on Monday our state of the BDR report, and benchmark, and there we surveyed, just under 300 BDRs this year, and asked them about their jobs and how they go about their jobs. We have some really good news, about the BDR function. A lot of lot of what we find is kinda like an antidote to what you read on LinkedIn every day. Love LinkedIn, but, man, the news on LinkedIn is, like, don't look at it in the morning. Right? It's, Live little depressing.

Kerry Cunningham [00:10:18]:

And what we find when we when we interview, individual people is it doesn't look like that. So, anyway, that's the the study that we just did on BDR. Some good news and lots of great news, but, what we find is that the BDR function is more aligned to the way buyers buy now than the way marketers are marketing. Let's put it that way.

Rob Durant [00:10:38]:

Yeah. And This is what

Tracy Borreson [00:10:39]:

I keep telling the world, marketers are the problem.

Rob Durant [00:10:44]:

What would you say are some of the the key findings of each?

Kerry Cunningham [00:10:49]:

So if we start with the buyer the, excuse me, the buyer experience study Pardon me. Live little morning little morning, frog.

Tim Hughes [00:10:56]:

It's early for you.

Kerry Cunningham [00:10:57]:

It is. If we start with the buyer experience study, what we find is that, buyers say that 70% of the time, or that they don't talk to sellers until they're 70% of the way through the journey. And I always say, you know, that's not new. We've known that for a while from other research. What I liked about seeing that was that it tells us we're talking to the same kind of people that everybody else has been getting data from in the past. These are normal buyers. What they also told us though is that when they do have contact with sellers for the first time, they initiate that contact 83% of the time. And so that's something I think we have to put in our little sales pipes and smoke a little bit because what that is telling us is that buyers really do control when they're going to interact with selling.

Kerry Cunningham [00:11:46]:

And to some extent, it doesn't matter how much you're pinging them, emails, phone calls, social touches. They'll respond when they're ready. So I said 83% of the time, was when I responded to a seller. That happened at 70% also, like, exactly at the same time. So what that tells us is that whether they respond or whether they initiate, it's gonna happen in about 70% of the way through the buying journey. So, we have that. We have buyers being completely in control, and then we said, no. When you had that first interaction, which now we know that you initiated, did you have the first interaction with the vendor that you ultimately bought from, or did you have your first interaction with some other vendor? And this was the staggering number.

Kerry Cunningham [00:12:47]:

84% of the time, buyers said that their first interaction was with the vendor that they ultimately bought from. And so when I say that to folks, I always say, look. There's 2 possible explanations. 1 is after I've gone through 70% of my journey with a team of 10 people having had thousands of interactions already, digital interactions, I picked a a vendor at random from my list, and that first conversation was so compelling that I bought from that vendor 84% of the time. Like, I don't think that's too likely of an explanation. What I think the explanation really is is it takes 70% of the journey for the buying team to decide what they want and who they wanna buy it from, and then, like, all the rest of us when we're going out to buy a car or look at houses or something, we've got our list of favorites, and we start with the one that we wanna buy. And and we hope that we don't have to do anything else. Right? No.

Kerry Cunningham [00:13:45]:

That that that's where we start and we go first, and that that decision doesn't change very much after that, and that that last 30% of the buying journey is not about deciding what to buy. It's about validating a decision that we've already made.

Rob Durant [00:14:02]:

So Now may I

Adam Gray [00:14:03]:

ask, does that data because I used to be in marketing, and now I see marketing as being

Alex Abbott [00:14:16]:

A prompt.

Adam Gray [00:14:17]:

Tim Tim gave me this phrase, the coloring in department.

Rob Durant [00:14:21]:


Kerry Cunningham [00:14:21]:

And and and

Adam Gray [00:14:22]:

I love that because for the most part, they are going through the the motions of of creating messaging for people. And

Tracy Borreson [00:14:29]:

I'm offended by that, just so you know.

Adam Gray [00:14:31]:

I I know. And I'm partly saying it for your benefit, Tracy. And 9 times out of 10 people don't read the stuff that's sent to them anyway because too much sent by too many different people that were arriving at the same time. Yeah. So if if 84% of the time, the buyer reaches out to me to buy from me because they want to buy from me, I don't need to be a salesman. I need to be a shopkeeper. Is that what that research is telling me?

Kerry Cunningham [00:14:59]:

If this were b to c, I would say yes. But because it's not, I think there are some other considerations. And by the way, your your reaction is the first reaction of a lot of the salespeople that I've I've talked with about this. And the first thing I did when we saw these numbers was I said, holy, you know, and I I went and talked to our own salespeople, including our, head of sales about this. That's their first reaction. But then when we think about what what enterprise, especially, kind of mid market enterprise on up sales Ross do in b two b is they spend a lot of time mapping the accounts, understanding who's inside them, and whether they're thinking about it this way or not, delivering useful content to buyers without having conversations with you know, every sales rep and SDR, BER knows that you make a 1,000,000,000 phone calls and send a 1,000,000,000 emails without getting any response, Borreson thing to know is that they're not responding to you, but they are looking at your content, and they are engaging with whatever it is you give them. Now what I would say is if what you're delivering to them is a request for a meeting and nothing else, then you're not doing anything to help them buy from you. But if what you're doing is engaging in the practices that I that my understanding, from talking with lots and lots of, sales reps, is if what you're really doing is you're delivering value in those one way interactions.

Kerry Cunningham [00:16:38]:

You're saying, hey. We've got this content over here. We've got this event over here. We have subject matter experts you could talk We have a community that we sponsor. We do all of these things. If you're if you're delivering those kinds of experiences, then you are influencing those buyers, but you're not gonna get the meeting until they've decided that you're you're on the Shorten and you're one of the vendors that they're gonna talk to. I that's the big difference in the understanding, that and and by the way, so this dovetails with the BDR report. So we did the buyer experience study before we did the BDR Shorten, and so when we did the BDR survey, we put in a bunch of questions Abbott, do you, in the course of your job, invite prospects to communities your company sponsors? Do you deliver value added content of various kinds? Do you Live do you invite them to events of kinds? You know? So we we give this long list of things that we ask BDRs, do you do? There are things other than asking for a selling.

Kerry Cunningham [00:17:40]:

And what we found is, I think more than 50% of the BDRs are already doing lots of those things all the time. In other words, they are doing things that are delivering value to potential buyers, on the way to trying to get a meeting. And to me, that's what's really, really critical here. Yeah. So does that does that help at all? I I hope it does.

Adam Gray [00:18:05]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And and I think that selling your insight of this because because a lot of the the percentages that we see in in your reports, indeed, all research research, begs some obvious questions. And for the people viewing this and for us on the panel, you know, it's a good idea to ask the obvious questions because that's what everybody's thinking.

Kerry Cunningham [00:18:26]:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.

Rob Durant [00:18:29]:

We have a a question from our audience selling of questions

Kerry Cunningham [00:18:32]:

from the audience.

Rob Durant [00:18:34]:

Robert Jensen asks, is that 70 cent 70 percent point the start of the shortlist?

Kerry Cunningham [00:18:41]:

It's the start of engagement William shortlist. So the 70% so the the the way I think about this, so the average b to b buying process in our survey was 11 months long, which corresponds pretty nicely to what a typical enterprise b to b process is. So in that 11 month process, first interactions with sellers are happening at the 8 month mark, roughly, and that's when, so that that first 8 months is about doing the research to understand who's on the Shorten and then putting that shortlist in an order. Right? So it's not just that there is one, that shortlist is ordered. And so at the time you get to that 70% mark and you start interacting with vendors, you're now you're now validating that Shorten and the order in which it exists is what buyers are doing.

Alex Abbott [00:19:32]:

And this is the this is from the buyers. So this is buyers answering questions related to the processes they're following.

Kerry Cunningham [00:19:40]:

That's right.

Adam Gray [00:19:41]:


Alex Abbott [00:19:42]:

So so is there a period of time before they decide, you know, they're still doing some evaluation, chatting to people before they go, right, now the clock Shorten?

Kerry Cunningham [00:19:54]:

Well so yeah. I mean, there there's 8 months where they're out looking around and and deciding. And I think, you know, one of the other things that's really, important to understand is they're talking to all kinds of people. So it's Live 70%. I forget the exact number that's in the report, but a very large percentage of buyers say that, for instance, they work with consultants and analysts in helping them, buy. Right? It's Live a very high number, which is totally gratifying because that's what I used to do, but it's a very high number. And and of course, they love talking to existing customers of vendors that they're, that they're evaluating, and that's one of the recommendations that we make very strongly is, you know, if if you've got customers who are advocates for you, make them available to your buyers without having to go through your sales reps. If they have to go through your sales reps, they're not gonna do it prior to 70%.

Alex Abbott [00:20:52]:

Yeah. If you

Kerry Cunningham [00:20:53]:

want it if you wanted to help them make a decision for you, you've gotta get them out in front so that your buyers can see and find and talk to them prior to that. They're gonna talk to analysts, so if you don't do anything and you don't think analysts and consultants are important for you to market and sell to, then you should change your attitude about that right now. Right. The same thing would, you know, would also go to agency partners and folks like that that that they work with. I mean, they're relying on a Ross of people to help them make decisions and their peers, but they're just not They don't want to be sold. They want to make a decision and then do their final evaluations. Yeah. We we talk a lot.

Alex Abbott [00:21:37]:

Sorry. Go on, Rob. Go on.

Rob Durant [00:21:39]:

I I was just going to ask, do you do, do you have any questions to the BDRs regarding outreach to the consultants and analysts in the industry?

Kerry Cunningham [00:21:50]:

We didn't. That's a really good question. I don't think we've ever, you know, Live, I've never seen that, and I don't think I would, and no offense Rob BDRs with whom I spend a lot of my life, but I don't think I would have a BDR SDR kind of level resource doing that. Right. That's usually, you know, Live, your, analyst relations person is usually a pretty senior, person because, you know, analysts are and consultants are are pretty tough. And they ask tough questions and, you know, you've got to be on your game and really know your stuff. But I think it's important, you know, developing better programs to make sure that even if you're outside like, I don't know anybody who actually outside, analyst relations conversations has marketing programs directed at them. I don't know anybody does that.

Kerry Cunningham [00:22:44]:

Maybe maybe folks do, but I think folks should. You know? And whether whether analysts say they're they're looking at it or not, they'll look at it. You know, they wanna know.

Alex Abbott [00:22:57]:

Yeah. So so what you're saying, Kerry, is it's, it's almost it's almost too late. So if the salesperson hasn't engaged with the buyer prior to them deciding that they have a need, if if they're not the first one to be contacted, it's essentially too late because they've they've only got a very small chance of winning winning that deal.

Kerry Cunningham [00:23:24]:

Well, you you may have a really big one or you may have a really small one, but you won't know which and you won't have controlled that or you won't have managed that to the extent that you can. So, you know, at the point where a buyer so in a couple of other really, to me, fascinating stats, you know, 3 out of 10 people who are part of a buying team that will buy from you will fill out a form on your website to see content. Right? So just 3 out of those 10 people, but we know that statistically, anyway, all 10 of them will come to your website, and there's not much difference, like, from senior executive on down. There's really not very much difference in how much activity they engage in during that buying process. The differences between, like, 18 for director level and 14 for, the most senior folks. They're all doing a bunch of research on their own. You can you can bet that the more senior folks are never gonna fill out a form, Abbott 7 out of those 10 people are on your website, and never filling out a form. But 50% of buying team members will, at some point, reach out to somebody on the seller Live for more information, right, when they need something.

Kerry Cunningham [00:24:40]:

So they're more likely to go ask you for it than they already go to your website and fill out a form to get it because everybody is so formed.

Tim Hughes [00:24:50]:

Kerry, can I can I ask a question? To go back to what Alex said, if we're in this situation where people are now 70% of the way through the buying process before they ask, except if we the flip side of that is in the world of SaaS and cloud. Current VC advice is to only go for organizations that are in market.

Kerry Cunningham [00:25:19]:


Tim Hughes [00:25:19]:

That means that there's a big disconnect.

Kerry Cunningham [00:25:21]:

Well, not necessarily, and that would be our advice too, but I think we have to we have to define terms. So when we say so when we say in market, and not to pitch, but, like, the thing that 6 Jensen does is it tells you not only which ones are showing signs of being in market. Like, basic intent data says, here, they look like they're in market because there's a surge of Abbott. But what we really wanna know is, Gray, where? Because, like, statistically and just by logic, most of those that are just making some noises and now doing some research are not gonna be very far into a journey and most of those will not even complete it, so what we really want to know is which ones are really serious. And so if you think of 8 months of research, there's a spectrum from poking around and doing a little bit to, holy crap, this thing's getting serious, we're actually probably gonna buy something, we've built a business case already, We still got a lot of work to do to decide which vendor. So where you wanna be is understanding which ones are somewhere between the, Gray. This is real, and we just decided which vendors are on the Shorten, and you need to be blowing out your marketing budget and have your selling, where possible, in those accounts, mapping them and influencing the way you talked about for that set of accounts. Now the good news is that's gonna be a small set of accounts, you know, relative to your total addressable market.

Kerry Cunningham [00:26:42]:

That isn't gonna be very many, and and that's kind of the whole point. Like so, you know, you've got all of these accounts that are kind of in market, and that's a small fragment of all of the accounts. So for the ones that are kind of in market, brand and awareness content, maybe light lead gen, you know, high high scale, low cost stuff, but then for that very small fragment that is, say, between 30 60% of the way through their journey, they need to know that you love them deeply and William be a great, great partner for them. Right? And they need to if you have content that is behind the form, then seller's job is to get that content and get it out from behind the form and get it into the inbox of whoever needs to see it. Yeah. You know, if you have customers that they could be talking to, any of that stuff has to happen in that case. Now I so

Alex Abbott [00:27:37]:

I think I'm playing devil's advocate. I have a I have a kind of an issue with this idea of intent data. I hope you don't mind this,

Kerry Cunningham [00:27:45]:

this discussion Kerry. Let's have

Alex Abbott [00:27:48]:

a good debate. Because, you know, the the signal comes. Right? There's intent within these accounts, and then the salesperson goes tooth and nail to get into that account by hook or by crook. Yeah. But there is no trust or relationship yet. And therefore, does the intent data not carry the value that it could have? Should should the reps not be building relationships in their accounts anyway and finding this stuff out?

Kerry Cunningham [00:28:20]:

They should. So I, you know, and I think what you're pointing to is a big disconnect, in the way that the market has thought about intent data, and it's mostly default of the people who sell intent data, who've been overselling it for now 7 years. Right. And, I I first wrote a report framework about this 6 years ago at SiriusDecisions. So intent data is is a social, the same way your leads are a signal. Now if your leads are a signal, they're a very bad one. 1 out of a 100 of them turn into revenue. But intent data is a much worse signal by itself.

Kerry Cunningham [00:28:58]:

So it doesn't have a name attached to it, doesn't have people that you can call, by itself. It's terrible. The anonymous traffic on your website is another one where you can deanonymize the traffic on your website. That's intermediate between a lead and third party intent. But if your lead is bad, then the anonymous traffic is also bad and slightly worse, and then the third party intent is worse than that When you think about just sending sales reps after them. I mean, doing that is a last resort. It's much better than saying, here's a set of accounts we think are good. Go after them.

Kerry Cunningham [00:29:35]:

I mean, if you can know which ones of those are showing some intent, then that's better than just sending them into the account naked. But what you really wanna do is combine those signals, with whatever other signals that you have. Right? Because none of them are very good by themselves. When you combine them and triangulate on which accounts are showing signals across all of these different channels, now you have a signal that is much, much more reliable. And that's what we really want. And so, ultimately, what we'd really want is we want a full accounting, and this is the way I talk about it. Nice accounting language. We want a full accounting of where all of the accounts in your ICP are relative to a buying journey.

Kerry Cunningham [00:30:15]:

And we know that most of them will not be in 1, and that's the first thing we wanna know. Which ones are not? And then let's little brand awareness or whatever, leave them alone. Even if they come to your website and fill out a form, if one guy from one of those ICP accounts comes to a website and fills out a form and there's no other signal, leave them alone. They're not in market. Let them look at your stuff. But then for the rest of them, we wanna know where are they in that journey. And if they're early in the journey, that's marketing's job. Engage them, high scale, low cost until we know something more than higher cost and lower scale when we know something more until we know that this is one where they're gonna buy from somebody and our sales reps need to be in there.

Kerry Cunningham [00:30:59]:

If they're really big accounts, strategic accounts for you, then your sales reps are gonna get in there much earlier than that. They're gonna map the accounts. They're gonna try to develop relationships. They're gonna do all kind you know, they're gonna be in there all the Tim. And so they're probably they'll end up having some more conversations that that happen earlier in a buying process because you've developed relationships with them, and that that changes the game. If they're enterprise or mid market where you can't have that kind of relationship with every account, then you're probably not gonna be having conversations with them, but you will be able to map the accounts, understand who they are, and do the kind of stuff we talked about earlier. Does that make sense in terms of the intent data and its use? So last last last ditch is always using it to to have sales reps chase after it.

Adam Gray [00:31:45]:

So I've I've I've got a couple of questions which are kind of interlinked, and I kind of know what I want the answer to be. But but I'm gonna ask them to you as a question.

Rob Durant [00:31:55]:

Adam, can I interrupt before you ask? I just wanted to make sure we Ross some of the comments from the audience. Robert Jensen says, analysts are really busy and rely on vendors to update them. If vendors don't do it proactively, then they have no one but themselves to blame. Hashtag commenting for a friend.

Kerry Cunningham [00:32:15]:

It's fair.

Rob Durant [00:32:16]:

And then Dan Rockwell shares with us intent can model with time and seasonality. Thank you both for, sharing your insights there. Adam, the microphone is yours.

Adam Gray [00:32:28]:

Yeah. So, a little while earlier, Gray, you said that, pretty much everybody that's gonna buy from you is gonna come to your website. And some people, 30%, will fill out a form. So they'll they'll kind of expose who they are, and the other 70% won't. But across all of that 100%, 50% of them will reach out to somebody in in the seller. So the first question is this. How do they decide who they're gonna reach out to? So Alex and Tim and myself used to work for Oracle. It's a company of 220,000 staff.

Adam Gray [00:33:03]:

Yeah. I'm thinking of buying a new I don't know. Accounting system. Yeah. Accounting system. How am I gonna pick the one person? I'm look I'm looking for the Tim Hughes. Yeah. But how can how can I pick the Tim Hughes rather than the Alex Abbot out of the 220,000 people? That's the first question.

Kerry Cunningham [00:33:23]:

Okay. A couple of possibilities on on that first because I won't remember this the first if you tell me the second. So a couple of possibilities there. One is a lot of that reaching out is probably happening after the 70% pull. So we're already now in that validation phase, and I needed a piece of information. And I know who the sales rep is, so I'm reaching out. Some of it is probably happening because I've been getting emails and phone calls from these people for a long time now that I've been ignoring. And so I know who they are because they've been reaching out to me, and I reach out to them when I need something.

Kerry Cunningham [00:33:57]:

Now that what we, you know, would have a very difficult time teasing apart is somebody who says, I reached out proactively, but I did it because I got an email 3 months earlier. Right? And, you know, that happens with that happens in social all the time. Right? You you're emailing somebody, you're emailing somebody, and then 6 months later, they respond. Well, in their mind, they're not responding. In their mind, they're proactively reaching out to me because now is the time when they

Rob Durant [00:34:24]:

need to.

Adam Gray [00:34:25]:

Right. Okay. That's kind of what I thought was was Gray situation. So so the other one is this. And, actually, I'm I'm quite militant on this view, and this view may prove Tim prove to be wrong. So buyers are 70% of the way through the buying journey before they reach out to the seller to say, I'd like a little bit of help with this. And during that time, they've specified the solution to the problem, and they've identified who are the prospective vendors of that or providers of that service. And they've ranked those vendors from whatever criteria they determine to be important from most attractive to least attractive, and then they reach out to those in turn.

Adam Gray [00:35:12]:

That makes perfect sense. The problem is that most people in the b to b space are selling something which is incredibly complex, and the buyer, by virtue of the fact that they're not a seller of this product, are relatively ignorant about what the scope of the possibilities looks like and indeed what the solution is. So isn't this like giving giving a child a a a a series of components and saying, well, all the bits you need there are to put the computer together are are in the box. Put them together and make a computer when the child can barely speak. Mhmm. So how how do we get to the point where we know what the right solution is? How do I get to the point where I can educate the buyer enough that the right solution is my solution, given that every vendor in the marketplace says my product's best, my product has got these 150 different functions, and we are market leader.

Kerry Cunningham [00:36:09]:

No. Well, I think, so I think one of the things at this point so as much as salespeople were initially not happy with me, brand people absolutely Live, this research.

Rob Durant [00:36:20]:


Kerry Cunningham [00:36:22]:

because one of the things I think it does say is that people are not and this is true, you know, this is this was part of the genius of of Steve Jobs is, yes, you know, when people were buying, PCs, for the first time in their lives, they're very machines who have lots of different functions and all of that, but what Steve Rob' insight was, but yes, they're gonna want the pretty Jensen, and that is true. It's the same with a car. It's the same with a lot of things. They're very complicated enough, all kinds of things, but we buy the ones that we think are pretty or our whatever our version of pretty is for that thing, whatever we we we instinctually like on a gut level. Now we may go through all kinds of decision trees on our own with the stuff that we can know to come to that decision, Abbott, ultimately, we're gonna buy based on the the consensus that a buying group has about which vendor is gonna be the best partner for us in accomplishing whatever it is that we want this technology or machine or whatever to do. And the extent to which you can help your buyers understand what that that relationship is going to be like is the extent to which I think you win deals or lose them if you do a crap job of it. But, like, if you do a good job of enabling buyers to get all of the information they need and you talk about things in a way that they can understand, your content delivers the information in in language that's familiar to them and and formats and structures and channels and media that is, that is friendly to them, then you will feel like a really good partner even if your buyer isn't explicitly saying that. And I think that that's one of the things that we haven't really thought nearly enough about in b two b is, you know, all of the stuff that's on your website, every bit of content, all of that sales process, it's all auditioning to be a business partner, which is what your buyers need.

Kerry Cunningham [00:38:27]:

They need somebody who's gonna help them solve a problem. Yeah.

Adam Gray [00:38:32]:

Yeah. I I I love the fact that you said, the genius of Steve Jobs is that they're gonna buy the pretty one. And, you know, when we are talking to help clients with their customer acquisition, We're often saying to them, people will make the obvious choice. You need to make sure that you look obviously better than everyone else. Whether you are or not isn't the issue. It's whether they think whether you look better. That's the key

Kerry Cunningham [00:38:56]:

thing here.

Tracy Borreson [00:38:57]:

William I'm wondering too if there is, like, this alignment or belonging component. Because one of the things that I find very impactful from a marketing storytelling and community building perspective is going out and selling, like, hey. We're this Fintech, and, yeah, there's 800 other Fintech companies, but this was the gap that we saw in all the other Fintech companies. And so we are here filling this gap. If this is the gap that you have, then here we are, the only one filling that gap. And that is messaging that aligns with specific people because they're like, oh, we too have experienced that Gray, so now this makes sense. But you can also be saying that same message to people who have not experienced that gap, and they will be Live, meh. Yeah.

Tracy Borreson [00:39:47]:

And so it's it's about ident it's interesting because when we were talking about intent data, these are the types of things that I always recommend people to, like, put out into the market to allow people to show. Maybe I wouldn't necessarily call it intent, but it would be alignment, that they are aligned with your business purpose, aligned with your business ideas, why you do what you do. And so maybe they need what you have right now, which is a small group of people, or maybe you're the person who now is, like, fixing that gap in the market in their minds, and then they can now go out and be like, hey. Did you know that these people are doing this over here?

Kerry Cunningham [00:40:26]:

Yep. Yep. No. Totally. And, yeah, I think, you you kinda touched on this early, on, but it's cliche to say that, people, want and crave connection, and that's true even of introverts, especially in a world in which you can be connected digitally and on your own terms. It's what you're doing here right now with this show is you're connecting people around common things. I think that that's been really undervalued in b to b. And if there are 2 vendors that do the same thing, and one of them connects you to the rest of the world of people who practice what I practice, who do the job that I do, I'm gonna wanna be with that vendor.

Kerry Cunningham [00:41:09]:

Right? These two things do the same thing, but with this one, I get connected to all of my peers and resources and all of that stuff. With this one, I get the job done. Okay. You know, which of those two things am I gonna want? And I think that's, very undervalued so far in b2b.

Tim Hughes [00:41:28]:

Kerry, can I ask you a question about the the the, the BDR report?

Kerry Cunningham [00:41:33]:

Yeah. Go ahead.

Tim Hughes [00:41:34]:

It it there was a number of things that that came out to me. One was that, and you said at the beginning about LinkedIn, because everybody there's lots of people on LinkedIn saying the BDR, SDR is is dead.

Kerry Cunningham [00:41:46]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Hughes [00:41:47]:

Or we fired or our BDRs or whatever, whereas your report shows that, actually, it's not.

Kerry Cunningham [00:41:54]:


Tracy Borreson [00:41:55]:

Oh, yeah. I would love to hear how they have not yet been replaced by AI.

Tim Hughes [00:42:00]:

And and, and and and, also, it was interesting that the amount that people were investing in that was actually going down. But the more you invested in it, the more successful the people were.

Kerry Cunningham [00:42:15]:

Alright. So if you start first, we found, I think, I may not get these numbers exactly because I'm not looking at it right now, but, like, 52 percentage of, organizations, Gray BDR Tim stayed the same Live, another, 25 or so grew, and but that leaves, you know, about 25% that did shrink. So 25% shrinking is not insubstantial, and for years, we would have seen, you know, close to 0 or, you know, 10% or something like that. So a bunch of shrinking, but the vast majority are staying the same or growing, and, their quotas either grew or stayed the same 80% of the time. So what that tells you is most organizations were expecting to grow. Right? So it's not just that we're we're doing more with less, but we're actually expecting and trying to grow with the teams. And then what we saw is that BDRs who had so BDRs, by and large, did a better job of hitting their quotas in this past year than they had in the prior year. We compare year over year.

Kerry Cunningham [00:43:20]:

And so the there were more of them, their quotas were higher, and they actually did better. Great news there. We also saw that the BDRs who had higher quotas than the year prior were the ones who were more likely to exceed, or attain their quota. Right? So higher expectations, and that probably points to the companies expecting to grow and being in a position to grow, having higher quarters, and then their reps went out and got it done. So, man, that to me, that's that's great news, and it does counter the narrative of what you see concrete. Now if you have a market where there's 25 percent of BDR teams are shrinking, you're gonna hear a lot about that, and that's gonna drown. You know, people don't come on LinkedIn to say we just added 2 people to our BDR team. That's just not, you know, not a thing not a thing people talk about.

Kerry Cunningham [00:44:13]:

So to me, phenomenal moves there.

Alex Abbott [00:44:16]:

Yeah. So I I'm, I haven't read the full report. I've read the summary, Kerry, and, I'm curious to know whether or not you've seen a change in role or a change in responsibilities with BDRs because, traditionally, BDRs have folk you know, their their job is to search and qualify or manage inbound, Abbott, essentially, search and qualify. So they're always looking for that 5% of people that might be in market. But I kind of feel Live especially when I think about Matt Dixon's Jolt Effect and him he talks about kinda, the importance of developing one's personal brand. Are you seeing the role change? Are you seeing BDRs making a move towards developing their personal brand and actually trying to build relationships? Are they still stuck in this kind of insight driven that search and qualify mode?

Kerry Cunningham [00:45:14]:

A lot more of the relationship building. We have a, we have a BDR for our company. It's got, like, I don't know, 17,000 followers or something like that, on LinkedIn. We see a lot more of that, and that's why, you know, we asked the question about think you know, so we know that you go out and you you ask for meetings and you try to qualify potential opportunities, and that's everybody's doing that. But what are the other things that you do, or do you do any other things? So back in my day running these functions, which would have been more than, 10 years ago but I also you know, when I was at SiriusDecisions, I I consulted with dozens and dozens of companies, on this, and still the majority, of BDRs were really only trying to get a selling, trying to get a meeting, trying to set up, discovery calls. That's it. But more than 50% of reps are now doing a lot of other stuff that I would put in the category of relationship building. Whether it's relationship building for them, not as much, but relationship building between their company and people within the target accounts, and they're multi threading like crazy, Live, overdoing it a little bit.

Kerry Cunningham [00:46:22]:

So, you know, we, we saw an average of, I think, 6 ish, people that BDRs are reaching out to in every account. Now the really wonderful thing is here, they're doing that even if they're just following up on inbound leads, which to me, I wrote a brief about that 7 years ago at SiriusDecisions. Like, never follow-up on a lead again if that's all you're gonna do. I did there's no reason to call into a single person inside an account if you're not gonna do anything else. Like, if they ask you to call them and they don't pick up the phone, you should still try to find somebody else and find out what's going on. Why would that person have asked for that? Otherwise, leave them alone. So everybody's doing that now. That's the really good news.

Kerry Cunningham [00:47:04]:

The and the average was 6 people, which is which is great. I think that's actually now excessive, for a lot of companies and a lot of buying group sizes. If there's 10 people on a buying team and you're reaching out to 6 of them, Gray, you know, maybe that's Gray. But if there's if you're in a smaller deal environment and your buying team is 5 or 6 people and you're reaching out to all of them, you know, there's probably a pretty good chance you're wasting time. If you get through 4 or 5 of them, and they're not responding or 3 of them and they're not responding at all over the course of a few weeks. Yeah. I don't know. You're probably, chasing your own tail at that point.

Kerry Cunningham [00:47:39]:

But in any case, I'm I'm really glad to see that multithreading has taken hold, that BDRs are are the vast majority of BDRs are passing opportunities to sales now, like the opportunity object and not a lead. So now that opportunity object can contain a lot more information, including multiple contacts, and so they're and they're delivering content. They're inviting contacts to events and doing all kinds of things that build relationships with those folks even if they're not getting the meeting right away. So the next thing that has to happen is we've gotta look at compensation strategies, because all of the incentives are about getting meetings and discovery calls. Right? So and I think that's where I'm I'm gonna be focusing compensation with folks who's probably their best purpose is in selling enabling all of these folks inside these accounts, but not getting immediate meetings. And how do we how do we account for that?

Alex Abbott [00:48:45]:

Especially especially as we think about the importance of developing trust between, you know, buyer and seller or buyer and vendor, and how, you know, how do you compensate for that? Right? Because if you're still compensating on getting the meeting and the BDR is burning the opportunity because they're trying too hard Yeah. It's having a negative effect on your business.

Kerry Cunningham [00:49:11]:

And it and it does. We saw that in the data. So we asked the question, so, you know, we know that the average first contact happens at 70%, but we asked, Alright, so if a buyer said that they initiated contact, when did that happen? If a buyer said that they responded, and that was the first contact, when did that happen? What we expected was that, first contact, if they initiated it, would be later than if they responded. That's not the case. They're both 70%, right? So initiated responded, it happens at 70. And then the other one was if I said that I had my first contact with the winning vendor, when did that happen? If it was with somebody else, when did that happen? Winning vendor, 70% because that's almost all of them, so that's the average. But if I had my first contact with a vendor who wasn't the winning vendor, it happened at 61% through the journey, 9 percentage points through the journey earlier, a month or so earlier, which tells you that getting them on the phone or getting them to respond an email earlier does not help your case, and it may be hurting it, that if you're hammering them so much that they respond, it's probably to tell you to buzz off.

Alex Abbott [00:50:27]:

Unless unless you've provocated their thinking earlier about a a need, a problem they didn't realize they had, and you started that.

Kerry Cunningham [00:50:39]:

It could be some of that, but then, you know, the numbers say, yeah. But, you know, they they were less likely to choose you if you ended up having a conversation earlier. So, I think it just means we have to put the buyer first. We have to, think enablement buyer to choose us, not enable me to get a a meeting. And I don't think it's bad to say, hey, and I'd love to chat or to put a meeting link at the end of the email or whatever it is. Of course, do that. No problem. But lead with what I'm doing for you who are who are the buyer on the other end, and leave leave with it hard.

Kerry Cunningham [00:51:20]:

Like, don't make it an even even balance. It's gotta be about the buyer, and enabling them. You'll get you'll get the meeting. You'll get the call if you do that well.

Alex Abbott [00:51:31]:

Yeah. I I can almost imagine it going into businesses qualification criteria now. So what percentage are you through the buying process? Okay. Hold on. I can't speak

Rob Durant [00:51:41]:

to you yet.

Tracy Borreson [00:51:43]:

Because buyers are so good at answering that question.

Kerry Cunningham [00:51:46]:

Yes. If if you get if you if you get a hand Gray or you get somebody who says contact me or they download a demo, you should absolutely ask them, were we the first vendor you contacted? Because if the answer is yes, 84% to win. If the answer is no, some fraction of 16%.

Alex Abbott [00:52:06]:

But you just said if they're too early, if they're first and too early, that has a negative effect.

Kerry Cunningham [00:52:12]:

That is. But I'm saying if if they've raised their hands so if if the buyers initiated that contact already, now now we're at 70% already. So that they're they've initiated that contact. Got it. And so if they initiate that so then ask them, are we the first one you talk to? Because, and then you could have a frank conversation with them. If they say no, then you say, oh, okay. Where do we kinda sit on your on your priority list?

Tracy Borreson [00:52:36]:

Yeah. Am I just comparing to your favorite vendor? Because I'm not gonna put that much effort into giving you a quote.

Kerry Cunningham [00:52:42]:

Well and, you know, depending upon the the kind of account it is, then you can prioritize. Right? If it's a strategic account and one you really wanna have or you're desperate, then you're gonna put your best foot forward anyway. But it'd be good to know.

Tim Hughes [00:52:57]:

Rob, Elizabeth Walker has asked the question, how can we add a taste of service along the way at this stage?

Kerry Cunningham [00:53:05]:

I think that's what you ought to be doing. So every way that you can audition how you provide value to the buyer is what you ought to be doing early on. So in terms of, you know, very specific techniques, I think it will depend on what kind of solution you offer, you know, what it is that you do. Abbott I would always be thinking about, 1, making sure that they have access to your your Verity reference customers so that they can tell you those customers can tell them what it's like. But I know companies that have done, you know, customer for a day kinds of things. You know, what's it what's it like to be a customer of us here? Let's let's show you let's bring you in and show you what it's like or give you a video that shows you what it's like. Whatever it is that you can do that's going to audition, help them help you audition for being that partner. And I think, you know, first of all, just get your content out in front of gates.

Kerry Cunningham [00:54:02]:

Make it good. Use language that's common to your buyers that they understand. Focus on clarity in everything that you do so that your buyers your buyers have to this is a staggering stat to me. If if they're evaluating 4 vendors, that's 4,300 interactions for a buying journey. If they're evaluating 5, it's 8,000. That's how much harder just having one more vendor is. They gotta double the work. Right? So it's incredibly hard.

Kerry Cunningham [00:54:27]:

We make it very hard because we talk about things in different ways. We differentiate ourselves by the obscurity of our language and all of that stuff. Focus on being clear, and and where you've got comparisons with other vendors, make those comparisons, but make them very clear. Right? And use the language that everybody else uses. And since they're talking to analysts and consultants, know what your analysts and consultants say about the solutions in the category and how they talk about it and use that language.

Rob Durant [00:54:58]:


Tracy Borreson [00:54:58]:

I know we're, like, right on the edge, but I just have a quick

Rob Durant [00:55:01]:

on the edge.

Tracy Borreson [00:55:03]:

Quick question for Kerry. Because if we're talking about relationships and BBR is building more of the relationships, do you also see this as a shift for marketers to be investing more in those kind of relationships?

Kerry Cunningham [00:55:16]:

A 100%. And I'll use 6¢ as a as an example. So, we sponsor a CMO community that meets twice on Friday mornings every Friday. We've sponsored that community for years. It has 100 and 100 of CMOs who attend that community every Friday morning. They're our chief buyer. We don't pitch. There's 0 pitching in that.

Kerry Cunningham [00:55:39]:

What we do is establish a way for those CMOs to have relationships with each other, and that's that's our role there. We have a community for BDRs. Exactly the same thing. Right? We we just promote a space where they can hang out.

Tim Hughes [00:55:55]:

It was interesting, Kerry. Derek, Weeks, in his recent book, actually talks about your CMO community.

Kerry Cunningham [00:56:06]:

And we have others, and and we'll continue to have others. Everything that I do is published in front of a gate. You don't have to go behind the gate, and, you know, my my job is to be out and about and talking to folks and doing these kinds of things as well. I have lots and lots of conversations on LinkedIn, online, offline with, marketers and sellers who are not prospects or customers now. I'm part of our service to the community. As you know, that's that's my gig. And so marketers can do all of those things and a whole bunch more. Right? All of the events that you put on or don't now Abbott should, all of those things, I think, are are wonderful ways of of building yourself into the community and and making that community better.

Rob Durant [00:56:55]:

Rob? Kerry, this has been fantastic. Actionable insights, some tips that we can apply right away. Thank you for that. How can people get in touch with you? How can they learn more?

Kerry Cunningham [00:57:08]:

So, backslash research, and we got a lot of it as you probably will have gathered by now, and it's all there, freely accessible, no gates. And then you can find me on LinkedIn, KerryCunningham. I'm I'm I'm LinkedIn the invite. If you're if you're on this, your my name is, LinkedIn there. You'll be able to find me pretty easily, and, I post very frequently about the research and then other comments, gripes, and those kinds of things as well.

Rob Durant [00:57:38]:

Hello, Nicholas.

Tracy Borreson [00:57:39]:

Jensen Nicholas is here.

Rob Durant [00:57:44]:

So thank you all for being a part of this. We now have a newsletter. Don't miss an episode. Get show highlights. I know there will be plenty from this one and some beyond the show insights. You can also get reminders of upcoming episodes. Scan the QR code on screen or visit us at digital download dot live slash newsletter. On behalf of our panelists, to our guest, Kerry, and to our audience, thank you all for being a part of today's show.

Rob Durant [00:58:13]:

Thank you, Kerry.

Kerry Cunningham [00:58:14]:

Yeah. Thank you very much.

Tim Hughes [00:58:15]:

Thank you for stepping in a very short notice as well. Yes.

Kerry Cunningham [00:58:18]:

Yeah. Thank you so much. Brilliant.

#B2BBuyers #B2BSellers #DemandGen #socialselling #digitalselling #LinkedInLive #Podcast

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The Digital Download is the longest running weekly business talk show on LinkedIn Live. We broadcast weekly on Fridays at 14:00 GMT/ 09:00 EST. Join us each week as we discuss the topics of the day related to digital transformation, change management, and general business items of interest. We strive to make The Digital Download an interactive experience. Audience participation is highly encouraged!

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