Some of you were looking for me, Peter O’Neill, at Forrester’s IT Forum 2011 in Las Vegas last week. My apologies; I was originally advertised as speaking at this event, but we decided to keep me in Europe after all, where I contributed to the first of a series of two-day partner trainings being run by Dell around the region (see my previous blog post on the topic). I will definitely be at the Forrester’s IT Forum EMEA 2011 in Barcelona next week though: I have four presentations to make and look forward to many interesting one-on-ones with tech marketers in between that packed schedule.
I wasn’t too upset about missing Las Vegas; ‘tis not my favorite place — did you know that I am invited to visit Las Vegas around six times a year? Clearly, I cannot attend everything as I must also do my day job: working inquiries, writing reports, and providing advisory; so my rule is to visit each vendor’s event every two years. Missing Las Vegas also meant I could go to the Ariba Live 2011 customer conference in London last Wednesday, which fascinated me because Ariba was one of the software vendors I worked with very closely back in my HP days in the late 90s. I was involved in several exciting eBusiness joint ventures then (BroadVision, Intershop Communications, and Yahoo were my other projects) most of which were really too visionary for those times. Ariba’s, and HP’s, vision was of an electronic procurement process running as an intranet application supported by Internet-wide directories and exchanges of suppliers.
This week, I presented a session on "How to Drive Sales Coaching Results" at the International Conference for the American Society for Training and Development. While ASTD doesn't publish the actual number of attendees, my guess is there between 7,000 to 9,000 people in attendance. Session topics run the gamut with topics related to change management, performance management, instructional design, talent management, e-learning, performance improvement, and of course, sales training.
It was interesting to attend the conference this year and experience it as someone who spends a lot of time thinking through human performance, HR, training, learning, and coaching with Forrester's definition of "sales enablement" in mind. At Forrester, we define sales enablement as "a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system." With this top-down view in mind I participated in a panel discussion on the future of sales training, delivered a session on driving sales coaching results, and also chaired the day-long ASTD Sales Training Committee meeting to help chart ASTDs course for the next few years in the sales training and development space.
I asked a series of questions to a room of 200 attendees. Here's what I asked:
If organizations are changing their go-to-market strategy, do sales managers and leaders need to help the sales team transform? The answer... a resounding "yes"
If sales managers and leaders need to transform, do sales reps and managers need to change their behavior? The answer... a resounding "yes"
Earlier this week, our Sales Enablement team hosted a teleconference about building battle cards that better line up with sales reps’ needs. If you missed the teleconference, you can download the slides and recording; we wrapped up with the following questions asked by CMI professionals:
Question No. 1: What's the best way of collecting intelligence from within our company?
CMI leaders often want to discuss how they can harvest the expertise that lies within the heads of sales reps. We at Forrester haven’t seen any silver bullets, but we are documenting common experiences and planning research on the process of gathering insights and building them into compelling battle cards.
A few methods that we see across the industry include: 1) A CMI leader facilitates calls for reps to discuss issues with sales peers; 2) structured sessions with reps who recently encountered the competitor; and 3) retaining a “panel” of sales managers who meet quarterly to reassess a competitor’s tactics.
Question No. 2: Is the Forrester battle card a competitive document, selling points document, both, or more?
Our recommendations do not outline a specific length, whether the battle card is integrated with product messages or customer pain points (i.e., selling-points document), or what kind of software you use to deliver battle cards to sales reps.
A week doesn't go by when I haven't talked to someone who is in sales or marketing about the work they're doing to help the sales team change how they communicate value. It seems that many marketing and sales leaders are working hard to "help salespeople sell higher" or "help salespeople differentiate the messages they deliver." A couple of patterns are emerging; like moving the sales conversations from being transaction-focused to a more consultative one, or moving a consultative conversation to a more outcome-focused conversation.
There is no doubt that changing the sales conversation means changing the behavior of the sales team -- many sales leaders believe that change can't happen fast enough. When it comes to making the shift, you have a short list of choices:
1) develop or expand the existing skill set of the current salespeople you have, or
2) work with the sales leadership team and HR team to hire the right salespeople who have the right skills and connections to have the right conversations you need to be successful
3) a combination of both 1 and 2
More and more technology vendors are deciding to invest in the salespeople they have. For most technology vendors, hiring for skill just isn’t working. One sales leader said, “We are realizing that the talent shortage in the profession overall is working against us. Many salespeople just haven’t been trained like they used to, and they have picked up some bad habits along the way."
This is Peter O'Neill (often the name is not displayed when you get a blog alert). I was in Austin, Texas, last week, meeting Dell executives at their 2011 Analyst Conference. We analysts always compare notes and discuss our impressions at these meetings and we were pretty unanimous this time about Dell’s consistency and clarity of message. Some of my illustrious research colleagues were quicker than I in documenting our impressions, so I’d refer you to Ray Wang’s comments. Colleague Roger Kay even got his blog into Forbes.com! My personal highlight was the fact that the whole event was introduced and moderated by Dell’s SVP and chief marketing officer, Karen Quintos. This is not a given at these events — often I get the impression that marketing is not really part of the vendor’s story or strategy at all. Karen even had a keynote presentation on her plans for the Dell brand and marketing initiatives in 2011 — I have never heard the word “brand” used so often by a tech vendor in the B2B context. Kudos to Karen.
It is with significant pleasure and great excitement that Forrester today announced the acquisition of Springboard Research.
By acquiring Springboard, we further our commitment to serving Technology Industry leaders — especially those in the Vendor Strategy role — with rich data and in-depth analysis of key emerging markets, particularly those in Asia Pacific. Springboard builds upon our Vendor Strategy team’s mission to help our clients predict and quantify tech industry growth and disruption.
As an established brand and well-respected firm with primary offices in Singapore, New Delhi, and Beijing, Springboard’s experienced team of professionals brings valuable insight, a rich body of IP, and a culture of innovation. We are thrilled to be bringing Dane Anderson, Springboard’s CEO; Chris Perrine, Springboard’s COO; and the rest of the team into the fold. Combining Forrester and Springboard will enable us to:
Expand our global coverage.
Strengthen our presence in the region.
Improve our ability to support our TI clients with successfully planning, marketing, and selling globally.
Forrester’s Tech Industry clients are making decisions on when — and how — to tackle Asia Pacific and other emerging markets. The acquisition of Springboard allows us to speak with much greater depth, authority, and intimacy regarding these decisions. In keeping with our vision of “Every Leader, Every Decision,” we are now able to provide greater client value in a wider range of regions: North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
To learn more about this exciting development, including the establishment of a Forrester entity in mainland China, read the press release here.