Leaders of competitive and market intelligence teams know that something is wrong. They tell Forrester this every day. They describe it as being similar to when your car doesn’t drive quite right, but the mechanic can’t find a problem, or when you feel sick, but the doctor gives you a clean bill of health.
You know that something needs to change, but can’t seem to find a point of view to guide you toward the right way to change.
The most frequently used word to describe this problem is “credibility” — and is usually couched in questions such as “how can we build credibility with sales?” or “why isn’t our content credible with sales teams?” Forrester’s practice serving sales enablement professionals will discuss the challenge of building CMI credibility with sales during our February teleconference.
Across the tech industry, marketing and portfolio teams place massive amounts of content into sales portals and measure their success from the usage data — views, downloads, prints — from these repositories. During a recent research interview, one sales rep at a leading software company said, “I know that a lot of materials are supposed to be on our sales portals, but in my nine years, I haven’t ever taken the time to look.”
Your supply chain is broken if a sales rep can succeed for a decade without ever using your materials or even visiting the primary site holding your content!
Now here is some “earned media” for Cisco. In the context of full disclosure, let me first say that Cisco invited me to its Partner Velocity conference in Barcelona last week, full expenses paid. I stopped by for two nights and one day while traveling home to Stuttgart after a client workshop and meetings in Paris. But this is earned, not paid, media because I was truly excited by what I saw and heard. I’d like to share it with all of you tech marketers; whether you are at Cisco, or a competitor, or a partner-player in one or more of the ecosystems in our industry, you need to sit up and take notice of this event. To close my first point — a trip to Barcelona may sound attractive, enough to merit a “reward” for any organization that took me there. But I actually turn down more than 60% of my briefing and event invitations: I have to produce work as well (and who wants to go to Las Vegas eight times a year). And I certainly do not promise anybody that I will write any type of reports in return.
This was Cisco’s third Partner Velocity conference, and I’d heard great things about it from its partners, so I was eager to see what would happen. This is a conference for partners worldwide (first held in the US, last year’s was in Paris) and here’s the reason I was excited: Its focus was purely on MARKETING. Nobody presented about Cisco products, the sessions had titles such as:
Stand out and move up while your competition fails.
Effective paid search strategies.
How to build engaging customer relationships through CRM.
How to design a lead nurturing program that drives sales.
In the novel A Bad Man, author Stanley Elkin deconstructs the word salesperson as “sales is person." In other words, individuals have perceptions -- about themselves and about others -- and (in this case) those perceptions about salespeople matter. How you view the sales channel influences your approach. For example, are you trying to become more empathetic with the sales team (or not)? Your strategy drives how you provide the content, skills, and tools that salespeople need to have a valuable sales conversation at higher altitude levels within the buying organization.
About once per quarter, we hold a Sales Enablement Roundtable. The roundtable event is cool because we bring portfolio, marketing, and sales executives into a room to tackle specific sales enablement challenges. During the course of one of our most recent events, we heard different points of view from a seasoned group of sales enablement professionals. For example, in our most recent roundtable, we heard statements like:
"Our sales teams are hitting their numbers, but getting them to do something different is a challenge."
"We're finding that it's not about what to sell, it's about how we sell."
"Sales and marketing have to work together. To do that, someone has to bring the two together."
We are counting down to power up the Sales Enablement Forum 10 short weeks from now. Please hold the dates, February 14-15, so you can join hundreds of your peers and a bunch of Forrester analysts, executives, and our own CEO George Colony in San Francisco to explore our theme, "New Buyers, New Demands: Accelerating Sales Performance."
We worked hard on that one, by the way, because the stark reality that buyers have changed already and that technology sales people, and the supply chains behind them, are scrambling to catch up is leading to a real sense of urgency amongst our clients. The economy is thawing, and sales enablement professionals are looking for the disciplines and practices they can seed and nurture in their organizations to drive the volume, velocity, and quality of sales' pipelines. Hard challenge, that. Change, cross-functional work, new thinking, new behaviors.
Now imagine the range of perspectives that bear on that challenge. Do we change the message, the messenger, the portfolio, or maybe all of it, to get the outcomes we desire?
I am writing this blog sitting comfortably in an ICE express train travelling from Berlin, where I have just spoken and, more importantly, listened at the B2B Marketing Europe conference, where the conference motto was “Next Generation Marketing.” This two-day conference offered a truly inspirational mixture of presentations by:
B2B marketing gurus Chris Brogan and Rick Segal. Chris, who is president of New Marketing Labs, stood up front for 45 minutes with neither notes nor slides and casually threw out dozens of valuable comments, tips, and examples taken from his latest marketing 2.0 tome, Trust Agents. Rick is the founder and chief practice officer of GyroHSR, a firm that has won 20 Agency of the Year awards over the past 15 years from Advertising Age, BtoB magazine, and the Business Marketing Association, and he is the exact opposite of any of the characters in Mad Men. Rick explained how work and private activities are now really mixed up — people no longer go to work physically; they switch on the work state of mind anywhere and at any time, which means that marketing to this audience must change. It is one of Rick’s insights that I’ve cited in the title of this post, and his concept of “the new @work state of mind” makes Forrester’s data on tech buyer Social Technographics® so obvious and logical (I presented the European data at the conference). From now on, I will be using his concept whenever tech vendor clients doubt our numbers on how socially active their customers are.