Who is your company’s Number One competitor? Actually, it’s not who you think it is. In fact, it’s probably not “who” at all, but rather “what” that is the taking away the most sales from your sales team(s).
We recently asked 180 IT salespeople with greater than three years of experience this question: “Thinking about the opportunities you’ve lost in the last 12 months, what is the most common reason for the loss?” They replied that in 43% of losses the reason was “Lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.”
Your Real #1 Competitor
Your company’s “competition,” more often than not, is actually buyers deciding not to make a decision at all. You lose to a “no decision.” Your perceived competitors didn’t win either. No transaction happened, no value was created; only cost was incurred by all parties involved. OK, so is this really a "new competitor." No. However, due to changes that I'll discuss below, it is a competitor that has gained far more of a foothold on business that you would like to have. So what happened?
“It's no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric" or "customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.
Through our ongoing conversations with executive buyers, professionals in sales enablement, and through survey responses from hundreds of global executive buyers, Forrester’s Sales Enablement practice has discovered a massive gap between buyers’ expectations of salespeople and what they’re actually experiencing when they meet with reps. In fact, less than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations (see figure 1). Further, only one in three IT executives said that sales meetings "usually" live up to expectations, and just over two of five business executives said that sales meetings hit that mark (see Norbert Kriebel’s report: Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low).
Considering that perhaps 25% or less of the typical sales force is even capable of gaining access to executive buyers, consider the cost when these meetings miss buyer expectations and result in no further opportunity.
Just as London buses seem to come down the road in a series, I’ve been very busy with several of Forrester’s German clients in the past weeks: running three separate “21st-Century Marketing System” client workshops (well, to be accurate, one was in Austria, but we spoke German). I also met with Germany’s two largest indigenous IT companies (though the meeting with SAP was in Istanbul). So this flurry of Germanic activity got me thinking about penning a new “Letter From Germany” blog.
Last month, I visit Jena, in Thüringen, the headquarters of Intershop. As I had worked very closely with this company back in my HP days in 1998 (Heh! I remember when they were NetConsult), even helping Intershop set up shop in the US as an ISV partner, it was a trip down memory lane. At the time, Intershop, led by its young CEO Stefan Schambach, was the darling of the German business press; the closest that Germany had to the AOL, Amazon, Google, or Yahoo founders. The eBusiness bubble-burst set Intershop back somewhat, but it is still around with a strong, loyal set of eBusiness customers around the world. My colleagues Peter Sheldon and Andy Hoar published their Forrester Wave on B2B Commerce Suites last week and we were all pleased to see Intershop earn a position as a leader in their analysis. And another German vendor, hybris (an SAP company),was also up there with them. Congratulations to them both.
Within the wave report, the colleagues also pointed out that customers who migrate to an online purchase environment actually end up spending more money per transaction and more money overall post-migration (see below). And they are less expensive to support once they migrate online.
Peter O’Neill here. Today, I was just polishing off my presentation deck for my upcoming workshop, “Achieve Revenue Acceleration Through Better Content Distribution,” at DMA 2013 this weekend and was debating whether I needed a slide that set the right expectations about B2B marketing versus B2C. This is a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. We even discuss this often within Forrester. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.
Scott Santucci and I are currently working on a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail — and suffice to say, I have selected the table below, from that report, to lead my discussion with my audience on Saturday in Chicago. As this is “research in progress,” I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, you now have the opportunity to give us some some feedback about this — do we use the right words? Is there something we have missed? In any case, please watch this space for the final version.