We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them. I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.
In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.
The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection
Last week I spoke with the VP of Sales for a tech company that used to have the hottest product in his market. In housing terms, they used to be an exclusive and much sought after neighborhood, but now the competition has moved in on all sides and sales are down. His sales force is facing a vastly growing number of competitors. Some are much larger and have broader portfolios that give them better presence in customer accounts. They’re getting squeezed and are finding it harder to compete in deals where they used to be the only solution.
Your only true differentiation comes from how your reps interact with your buyers
What’s interesting is that the vendor mentioned above is still experiencing consistent success when his company’s salespeople gain access to executive buyers early in their decision process and work in a consultative manner with those buyers to shape a vision of a solution. When that happens, salespeople are confident discussing the business issues faced by those buyers. They’ve found certain industries that they know well where they are able to do this consistently. They are not getting squeezed by competitors and they are winning. But often, they're chasing deals that competitors started and reps are drawn into an RFP frenzy that chews up time and resources. After all, they used to win these deals, but now they're pretty demoralized and reps are starting to leave.
I hate to admit it, but I need to quote a line from the movie “Beaches”. In the attached clip (its only 4 seconds) CC Bloom, the self-absorbed actress played by Bette Midler, utters a fantastically relevant quote for today’s sales and marketing professionals.
This one quote best sums up the state of affairs in the trenches. Your firm is sending your sales force to talk about your company and not the needs of the people who have the wallets to compensate you. Ulitmately, sales forces are being prepared with a variety of messages about how great your company is (but enough about me) and they are getting a few hours of executive-skill training in a day or two of genric executive selling courses (lets talk about you.). Unfortunately, most lack the empathy of those executives to engage in a converation about the clients real business issues and revert back to talking about things they know (what do you think about me).
What proof do we have of this?
Each year for the past 5 years, Forrester has conducted an executive buyer study comprising of two parts. The first part is a 38 question survey gathering the opinions of executives across the globe in different functions (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, IT, etc) and at different levels. We follow up these survey questions with at least 100 interviews with roles that fit our profile to catch the color commentary that really brings richness to the insights.
Peter O’Neill here, to tell you: we’ve finally made it! Yes, our Forrester Wave™ evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms is finally published for Forrester clients. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop —and researched, analyzed, and scored them. Lori Wizdo and I, ably supported by reviews from colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics. Note that we sub-titled the report “Due Diligence Required: These Vendors Are Great At Marketing”. This is not our frivolity: buyers really do need to firstly evaluate their own needs and then select the vendor that best fits that specification.
Brad: What does the Forum theme "Driving Growth With a 21st Century Selling System" mean?
Peter: It means several things around my research area, particularly in terms of the challenges marketers are having in developing content that customers find valuable and making sure the right message gets to the right buyer, and, of course, at the right time as well. I’ll be running a trackthat addresses the Message component of the 21st century selling system; we’ll talk through several examples of how to develop and tune the Message to each member of the buyer team, what we call the Audience, and then of course how to think about different content delivery programs. Most importantly, we’ll discuss combining content that is mostly output from marketing programs, with conversation, which is what salespeople deliver in front of their contacts in the accounts – that all needs to be fully aligned to what the buyer needs for the Message to be effective.
The Age of the Customer is upon us. And that is not hype as you know too well yourself if you have been trying to satisfy B2B buyers over the last few years.
B2B buyers today are more demanding, informed, value sensitive, and have more choices available to them than at any other point in history. After taking a beating in 2008, and over the protracted course of this recovery, a permanent change has taken place in how B2B companies buy (think groups pooling their resources to solve big business problems), why they buy (to get a result you can prove you are able to help them achieve), and what they expect in the conversations and interactions with the companies who aspire to meet their needs (in a word, empathy).
For now, let me just say the answer is not better, yet. Last year, when we asked respondents about their perception of the agenda of the sales people with whom they meet, 20% said either “they try to understand our challenges and offer suggestions” or “they are genuinely interested in partnering with us make sure our initiative is a success”. In our recently completed survey that result dropped to 14%.
Sales Managers Err In Biasing Toward Years Of Sales Experience In Making Hiring Decisions
Thousands of sales managers, and the human resources (HR) teams that support them, consider years of relevant sales experience to be a key criterion for recruiting and hiring salespeople. In the new economy, however, sales experience is an unreliable indicator of future success versus another key characteristic. In fact, assumptions about sales experience that have guided sales hiring for more than a hundred years should be discarded in the age of the customer, in which buying dynamics have radically changed.
Successful sales managers, now, will focus on hiring salespeople who are best able to deeply understand their customers and align with their buyer's communication needs and preferences, as opposed to their product or vendor-industry expertise. Buyer empathy may be found in highly experienced salespeople or developed in inexperienced salespeople.
Sales Experience Is Not An Inherent Advantage For Engaging With Executive Buyers