Responding To Change With A Sales Talent Management Strategy

As a sales leader, it’s difficult to help your sales team overcome the complexity around them. When buyers change and market forces change as well, there is no doubt that salespeople need to change their approach. In fact, many salespeople are recognizing that they need to adjust their approach to the buyer and change the way they sell in order to stay relevant. And, let’s face it, changing the way the sales team sells isn’t easy. As a sales leader, you have some choices to make. On one hand, you can retool sales processes, content, or tools to focus more effectively on the customer. On the other hand, you can retool the skills of your sales team members to have more effective sales conversations with buyers. The best approach may be to accomplish both. Either way, retooling the skills of the sales team requires a strategic approach.

Retooling the skills of the sales team can be broken down into two phases. One phase is the pre-hire phase, where your strategy should help you identify, select, and hire the right people into the right jobs. The second phase is the post-hire phase, where your strategy should help you develop and retain the people you hire. In an ideal world, both of these pre- and post-hire phases would be aligned to a solid understanding of the customer. Working backward from the customer’s needs, challenges, and business drivers, a sales talent management strategy can more effectively link business objectives to individual results.

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Making Competitive & Market Intelligence (CMI) Relevant Again

Competitive & marketing intelligence (CMI) leaders are currently being torn between two points of view.  But, these two views cannot be reconciled, and CMI leaders cannot sit on the fence! I know because I tried!

As a CMI leader, I participated on a team to restructure the company's approach to pricing. On one side of the table sat the "corporate" team who wanted to simplify the product catalog, making it easier to manage.  On the other side sat the "field" team, who wanted to simplify pricing when talking with customers. I wanted to find an "elegant negotiable" that would achieve both objectives.

A talented sales engineer put me in my right mind! One day, she came into my office, closed the door, and proceeded to "school" me. She rightly pointed out that there could not be two different design points - we needed to decide whether the company would design around back-office operations or frontline conversations with customers. 

CMI leaders across the tech industry face a similar choice, albeit with less drama! 

Earlier today, the CEO of a sales-tool provider made this point: "In the past, salespeople for tech vendors had to educate customers on what a product could do, how it worked, and process orders. In today's Internet economy, customers already know what your products do from your web site, have already compared it to your competitors, and probably spoken to some of your existing customers through social media links. What is the role of a salesperson?"

CMI leaders need to reposition their organizations back to the place where competition matters - the frontline.

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Channels In The Era Of Cloud: Vendors And Channel Partners Are Jockeying With Each Other For Position

Cloud computing has arrived on the market in a big way, with virtually every tech vendor, regardless of size, geography, or solution, vying for a cloud position. But in the race to the cloud, many tech vendors have forgotten that ever-critical customer relationship vehicle: the channel. Or, if they haven’t forgotten it, they’ve coaxed channel partners with the pat mantra, “Do more consulting” (“… while we take care of delivery”). To get channel partners’ perspectives on how the technology value chain is changing in an as-a-service delivery model world, Forrester recently teamed with Outsource Channel Executives (OCE) to survey executives of channel companies across 39 countries, from the local level to the global.

The results of the survey are in, and they tell quite a story: that there is a good deal of angst and confusion among channel partners over their role/value in the cloud services technology value chain; that they aren’t sitting on their hands, waiting for tech vendors to tell them what to do; and that they need a lot of help in transforming their marketing and business models in this new era of cloud computing.

Now, not all channel companies are going to be able to make that transformation (nor should they – after all, cloud computing will never represent 100% of the technology market). But there are going to be many that will try and fail, ultimately resulting in a 12%-15% channel company washout. So think about it – supply (the number of channel companies) goes down; demand (for channel partner assets) remains high. It’s those tech vendors that amp their channel game to enable their partners’ cloud aspirations that are going to come away as the new “channel chiefs.”