Several members of my team participated in this month’s Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, an annual conference where sales enablement professionals from around the world gather to discuss industry trends and best practices. This year’s theme: Drive growth with a 21st-century selling system, centered on strategies for surviving and thriving in “the age of the customer.”

With information virtually at their fingertips, buyers are more informed, savvy and selective than ever before. And, the old approaches to sales and marketing no longer produce the results we need to grow revenue.

Here are three key takeaways from last week’s conference:

1.      Customer Modeling

Buyers today expect you to understand their business needs, and come to the table with solutions to their unique problems. They want to be educated, not sold to.

This affirms the customer-in strategy we’ve set in motion at Cisco. The first step in any content development plan, whether in marketing or sales, is “know your audience.” What problem is the customer trying to solve?  Do they know they have a problem? What are their information needs at that particular moment in time?  Only then can you move on to…

2.      Message Development

At the end of the day, companies sell products. But customers buy solutions. So throw away the 4P’s of traditional marketing—product, place, price and promotion—and replace them with the new 4P’s of customer-centric content: Problem, Pattern, Path, and Proof.

What is the urgent problem that your customer must address?  Provide common reasons or trends (pattern) why this problem is not unique to their organization.  And, therefore, why an “outsider” such as you may be qualified to help solve it.  Show them the path – a prescriptive approach for solving their problem.  And, provide the proof—positive results that other companies have achieved by following this path.

3.      Sales Force Development

The right message to the right audience can still miss the mark if the messenger fumbles the delivery.  Our top-performing sales people have the experience, acumen and rapport necessary to navigate the most complex selling environments.  They listen to the needs of their customers, and strategically lead them to the next step in the buying process.

Our job in marketing, together with our partners in sales operations will be to continue to extract that knowledge from the top and bake it into our sales collateral, demos and training.  And, continually raise the bar of the entire sales team.

Everyone at Cisco has a part to play in becoming the #1 IT company in the age of the customer.  We are all marketers.  We are all sales.  And, it all starts with understanding the needs and challenges of our prospects and buyers.


Laura Fay

Vice President

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)