In October, we were once again proud sponsors for CEB’s Annual Sales and Marketing Summit.  The Summit is one of the best events of the year, bringing together sales and marketing leaders to discuss alignment, the buyer’s journey and of course, their most recent, always-on-point research. If you didn’t attend this year, put it in your 2017 budget now. Here are my top takeaways from the Summit and why they should matter to you.

1.    Sales complexity is up – again. 

CEB’s previous research showed that on average, 5.4 decision makers are involved in every B2B sale. As every salesperson knows, this makes selling infinitely more difficult, as the value of their products and services must be demonstrated across multiple departments and stakeholders. The 2016 research shows that now an average of 6.8 people are involved. By one view, that means deals are 25.9% more complex and are likely taking longer to complete. Sales cycles for most B2B organizations were already too long, making revenue, billing and cash flow projections even more challenging.

Why it matters: Sales people need to be more disciplined, and more resourceful, than ever. Being single threaded in a sales cycle didn’t cut it before and today, it spells disaster.  Sales people need to engage higher in accounts, and bring more sophisticated insights to the table in order to succeed. This doesn’t mean you need more tools or more manpower—you just need to ensure your reps consistently position themselves as problem-solvers for an organization’s challenges, not just an individual’s.

2.    The Challenger Sale isn’t just about sales.

The CEB team pays close attention to Sales AND Marketing, and has an acute understanding of the importance of alignment. When CEB came out with The Challenger Sale, I admit I was a skeptic.  Not that The Challenger Sale didn’t make sense; it made total sense. But despite the fact that the Challenger Sale was being hailed as a revolutionary approach, many reps tried it and failed. Why? Because the original Challenger Sale was a study and you cannot implement a study.  To CEB’s credit, they have turned Challenger into a methodology with actionable content and tools.

Why it matters: Last year, CEB launched the Challenger Marketer and quickly added tools and resources to help firms build and choreograph their commercial insights. Instead of educating B2B organizations about the problem they’ve already identified and how to solve it, Challenger Marketing helps organizations create content that unteaches. The focus is on disrupting the purchase process, cutting through the noise and positioning an organization as the unique solution. When it comes to strengthening the all-too-elusive alignment of Sales and Marketing, this is as close as it gets to a true solution. Kudos to the CEB team!

3.    Account Based Marketing is the new “fad”.

Well, the concept isn’t really a fad, just the name. There were no fewer than a dozen firms at the Summit touting the virtues of ABM.  Really?  Developing a list of your Ideal Client Profile (ICP) accounts, figuring out what is important to them and making them aware that you can help is a new idea? That’s hardly revolutionary. I’ve built my entire company on that simple premise. As I wrote in “Account Based Marketing New or Retro”, it’s a new name for a tried and true concept. Whoever created the official ‘ABM’ title is coming late to the party.

Why it matters: As I said, the concept of ABM is absolutely sound. But it’s time companies start recognizing how critical it is to complement ABM strategies with a proven, studied and repeatable Account Based Sales Development effort. Andy Paul has a great podcast on this and a Google search will bring up dozens of articles, but the bottom line is this: reps must be more strategic in their sales approach and ABSD is, and always has been, wildly successful. Give it a try.

4.     Bob Moesta stole the show.

Bob was the Keynote on day 3 of the Summit and that was, by far, the most impactful session of my week. Bob is an expert on the process of innovation and has been involved in innovating more than 3,000 products and services, ranging from the Stealth Bomber to the Snickers Bar. Bob’s opinion is that the process of innovation is severely broken and together with a group that includes Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, they developed a unique methodology to improve innovation, called “The Theory of Jobs to Be Done”.

Why this matters: The Theory of Jobs to Be Done is a blueprint for understanding that customers don’t buy products or services; they “hire” them to do a job. The revelation of this theory is that often times, your job isn’t what you think it is and the competitors you think you are competing against, aren’t the real competition after all.

I was one of the lucky few who were fortunate enough to have breakfast with Bob the next day, continuing his insightful (and potentially business-altering) theories. I highly suggest you go out and get the book Competing Against Luck to learn more about it. It is a fascinating read.

Year after year, the CEB Summit is one of the most engaging conferences for B2B organizations, as it consistently stirs the creative juices, provides tactical, on-point research and ensures every attendee walks away with a renewed enthusiasm about their business. Hope to see you there next October!