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persona marketing challenges
October 22, 2021

Why You Must Defeat the Sales and Marketing Status Quo

persona marketing challenges

“You can even take marketing and sales out of the equation and, I know it sounds trite to say, put the customer at the center.”

This may seem like an unconventional comment coming from the Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions, a company that—at its core—provides sales and marketing training. But Tim Riesterer doesn’t follow conventional wisdom, he listens to the research: “decision science, brain science, behavioral science research, about how humans frame value, make choices.”

That’s the foundation for their sales training program; one that has yielded considerable success.

Riesterer joined us on The Adapter’s Advantage podcast to share his wisdom—conventional and otherwise—which focused on:

  • Decision science, particularly the decision-making process of prospective customers
  • The importance of tailoring your marketing strategy across different situations
  • How to find and encourage curiosity and an investment in understanding
  • The successes of virtual training when reimagined for the needs of the digital learner

#1 Connecting to the Core Psychology of the Buyer

“And I had this profound moment, because I was hired by marketing, going, ‘Holy cr*p, we have it all wrong. The customer lives in their story, and we live in our story, and we keep trying to force the customer to love our story, when we need to figure out how to live in a relevant way in theirs.’”

Again and again, Riesterer returns to this idea of “studying the brain of the buyer, instead of the actions of the marketer or seller.” As he explains, there’s always some level of disconnect between the conceptual thinking of the marketing teams and the lived experiences of those in the field—you have to focus on the latter.

Riesterer talks about this through a human lens; it’s not about selling a thing, but what that thing will do for you. Host Mark Magnacca likens this to peddling “life insurance” versus “the ability for children to go to college because their mother or father died prematurely.”

“And I started to realize,” Riesterer continues, “that it isn’t about marketing and sales, it’s about … what the customer is trying to accomplish and do, and what their mission is, and how we do or don’t impact that.”

This kind of strategic shift in thinking is just one of the ways that Riesterer has used decision science and buyer psychology to make decisions of his own.

#2 Marketing to the Situation, Not the “Buyer Persona”

“And again, it sounds obvious now, but what we discovered is that status quo bias must be defeated in one case, and reinforced in the other.”

After more than ten years of provocation-based sales technique—destabilizing the customer’s current status quo in favor of this new product or service—some of their customers realized they were the status quo.

Through extensive research and studying the buyer psychology, Riesterer and his team replaced the idea of targeting the “persona of a CFO we’re selling to” with strategies aimed towards the unique situation that CFO might be in. Provocation seemed to work in soliciting new clients, but why would they want to disrupt and dislodge the status quo bias with existing clients?

They needed an entirely new playbook for building on, not dismantling, their current relationships:

  • Reiterating previous success – “Use your incumbent advantage to say, ‘Hey, we’ve accomplished this so far’… So, you’ve anchored them on positive results.”
  • Reinforcing their apprehension to leaving – By emphasizing the mutual investment and effort they’ve put in, “it reminds them of all the startup costs that they’ve sunk now, that they don’t have to go back and do again, the onboarding, the systems integration, the process change.”
  • Guiding them towards new and improved – “You take them on a little journey that says, ‘While we’ve been working with you, we’ve observed these things, and then we’ve compared it to the things we’re seeing when we work with others like you.’”
  • Emphasizing your distinctive vantage point – “This is a unique perspective… You have a view of inside and people like them, because you work with them outside. And now you bring them the story of here’s what needs to happen next.”

#3 Hiring for Curiosity and a Desire to Understand

“How well do they demonstrate the ability to be curious about you and your organization, versus just share their triumphs?”

Riesterer exhibited an innate sense of curiosity thanks to his educational background in journalism, but how does he go about finding like-minded people in interview settings? In some cases, he says, these skills are coachable, but some are foundational:

  • “How well can they articulate the business problems they solved for their clients at their previous jobs?”
  • “Have them tell you a story, not of their best sale and how they ran that deal cycle, but how they ingratiated themselves to the customer, and just see if they light up with enthusiasm for the impact that they were able to have.”
  • “Do they talk about their entrenchment and enrichment of the customer experience, and their impact, and outcomes? Or is it all just about the sales conquest, and putting another notch in their belt?”

#4 Virtual Education Works, If You Rethink and Redesign the Model

“So, I believe there’s a bit of unexamined folklore when it comes to the idea that there’s more behavior change in the classroom, and it comes from the fact that people have done virtual in a pale imitation of the classroom format, versus rethinking the experience.”

Not only is virtual training faster and cheaper, but through controlled field trials, Riesterer and his team of data scientists concluded that “virtual can be as good or better than live—KPIs, personal scores, et cetera.”

But only because of the calculated shift in curriculum, rather than offering a “pale imitation” of classroom training, as Riesterer repeated time and time again.

Riesterer’s model included a “capstone moment” assignment that each participant completed at the end of a virtual session, which yielded the following positive results:

  • “Confidence goes up, because they practiced more” – They discovered that, on average, people practiced 6.8 times before submitting, rather than hopping up on the spot for in-person role play.
  • “Competence goes up, because they did a complete assignment” – Individual assignments require everyone to do the full scope of work, in place of quickly-thrown-together group exercises in classroom training.
  • “They become more compelling, because they’ve gotten detailed feedback they can respond to” – Every single person can move forward with purpose and clarity, as opposed to in-person trainees who are simply “thinking about a beer at that point, because you survived the role play,” Riesterer half-jokes.

The other difference is in the integration of these new learning models. Before, Riesterer notes, there were silos of individual modules. Now, “by getting somebody ready for that situation, and then integrating the message, the content, and the skills into a relevant moment, we were able to see a lot more uptake and adoption, and we were comfortable they were going to be successful, because there was a level of “Fit for Duty” attached to it.”

The Adapter’s Advantage: Moving Forward With Intention

“You actually have to rethink this thing.”

Between his story of evolution from provocative-based sales, his effective pivot into virtual training, and his constant curiosity that acts as a driving force, Tim Riesterer is no stranger to the value of adaptation.

Learn More

To learn more about Tim’s work in sales training, decision science, and must-win conversations, listen to the complete interview on The Adapter’s Advantage podcast.

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