When Three's A Crowd: Navigating An Agreement Network Is Key To Sales Success In The Age Of The Customer

In most cases, the answers to life’s more complex questions have really simple answers. In today’s selling environment it’s often hard to determine who exactly is “the buyer.” Your salespeople are given a lot of inputs:

  • Your executive leadership want them calling on “business people” or “executives.”
  • The sales training courses they have been to instruct them to find “champions,” “decision-makers,” and “influencers.”
  • Marketers produce information about “personas.”
  • Business unit leaders and other subject matter experts talk about “users” or “doers.”
  • Sales managers tend to be more interested in understanding the opportunity (Access to power? Is it qualified? Is there budget allocate? When is the account going to make a decision?).
  • Their contacts within an given account give them different people or process steps to follow, or kick them over to procurement.

With all of the different voices – “You should do this,” “You should say that,” “You need to present this way” – echoing  in the heads of your salespeople, things can get very confusing.

A Tale Of Two Sales

The thing is – the buying environment for most of us has changed, leaving us with two distinctively different buying patterns:

  • On the one hand, the customer knows what they want and have developed fairly sophisticated procurements steps to acquired what they need at the best possible price.
  • On the other hand, the customer is looking for the expertise to help them get value from their investment and solve a problem.
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Conversations Are The Fuel For The 21st-Century Selling System

Why are sales and marketing professionals working harder and longer than ever before? Why are they seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another?

We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprisewide strategic procurement initiatives underway. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.

In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:

  • Training salespeople to get access to executives.
  • Creating "solution selling kits" (in marketing).
  • Developing return-on-investment tools.
  • Focusing on demand-generation campaigns.
  • Developing sales-coaching frameworks.
  • Creating more structured opportunity identification and account scorecards.
  • Fine-tuning the customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve reporting and forecasting processes.
  • Pricing and packaging exercises and corresponding negotiation training.
  • Reinventing product marketing functions into "solution" marketing roles.
  • Investing in branding and messaging programs.
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Discussing The Message In The New Selling System

I spent some time today with Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions. Eduardo is one of our guest speakers at our Sales Enablement Forum in March – in fact he is the keynote for the track which I have put together with a focus on the message within our 21st-century sales system equation. This graphic should give you a hint of what we mean:

 

If you’d like to know more, and what MMA and VPM mean, come to the Forum and find out. Eduardo and I discussed his presentation and this is our dialogue.

PETER: Eduardo. What will be your three key takeaways from your speech at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum?

EDUARDO: When considering how to move your company from a product company to a solutions provider, reexamine your brand and what it means to you and your customers in the lens of purpose, voice, promise, and values. Through a collaborative effort with sales, you need to examine the people, process, and tools/systems you are currently utilize to address your customer’s business challenges. A dynamic mix customer messaging to sales enablement tools reinforces how you can help your customers solve their toughest challenges and can position your company as a trusted advisor and not just a product company.

PETER: How important was it to link your content to sales conversations and how did you do that?

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Buyer Insights Are The Rosetta Stone Of Enablement

These days, it's harder and harder to skate ahead of business buyers who are more informed and fickle than ever before. We all experience the same dynamics, our buyers know a lot about our capabilities before we meet, or they have a point of view on where we fit that may or may not be what we would want them to think of us, but there it is. They move around a lot, and they work in teams that form and break apart on projects or programs that span days or years. And they have options, lots of them, so what used to be a clear competitive landscape is now muddled with new alternatives. It's just hard to sell your value these days when buyers are so well informed and on top of your stuff -- and changing all the time.

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Sales Enablement And The CEO: Partners To Drive Growth In The Age Of The Customer

There sure are a lot of often-quoted factoids/observations about the state of affairs among sales forces. We are hearing and reading how:

  • Fewer salespeople are hitting quota.
  • Buyers are much more knowledgeable before they meet with salespeople.
  • Improving the volume or quality of leads boosts marketers’contribution.
  • Making it easier to access sales information helps.
  • Sales managers are not effectively coaching their sales teams.
  • Lots of spending is dedicated to better equipping sellers.
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