We chose the lead image for this year's Sales Enablement event to grab your attention because we believe you can truly be a HERO to your CEO. But it won't be an everyday task – it will take new skills and strong powers!
Vendor CEOs today are communicating strategies that depend on winning deeper relationships with customers. And that is putting pressure on sales teams to cross-sell at higher levels. So how is that working?
Our Buyer Insight study found that on 13% of executive buyers believe that a salesperson can clearly show they understand their business issues and articulate a way to solve them. And when we ask vendor CEOs, "Are you satisfied that your sales force is getting your company to its strategic objectives?" the answer is a resounding "No."
This is the strategy to execution gap that today is filled with well-intentioned but uncoordinated activity all intended to help sales sell.
From within that chaos, an emerging discipline is taking hold. Leaders assigned to "fix the broken things" and their teams are beginning to approach the gap with a new vision and some practical ideas. Making the move from random acts to purpose built plans, and shifting their focus from products and services to customer problems, they are making customer focus a new discipline, not just a catchphrase.
What we are seeing and saying is that it's not about how you go to market, it's about how you go to customer. And if you can get that right, you will be a HERO to your CEO.
While the emerging disciplines and practices of effective sales enablement are taking shape as I type, a gut check now and then on progress makes sense. Stories are what I like to hear, because I can judge pretty well whether my organization could do what another did. It's a lot like science – do you think you could duplicate that experiment and get the same results?
This Friday, June 3rd, in Burlington, Mass., I will push some peers on the main stage, and folks in the audience as well, to make real for each other the pains and progress they have experienced in tackling the SE challenge at their organizations during the Mass Technology Leadership Council Summit. To get the conversation started, I will tee up what Forrester is seeing and suggesting, and afterwards we will turn to two panels for more of our collective reality check. The first features two pairs of sales and marketing executives working as a sales enablement team at their respective companies who will share what alignment means in practical terms, and more importantly, what it gets them in the way of enablement results.
The second panel will go deeper into the tools and techniques each is using to drive some measurable success. And yes, I will push them to get specific . . .
If you have a story to share here, what you did, how you did it, please do. If you want to hear some others and can make it to Burlington, Mass. on Friday, I will look for you.
Something quite remarkable happened in San Francisco this week. Counter to the tectonic norm in this amazing city, sales enablement came into alignment. How so?
Our team gathered with some 250 fellow SE professionals at our inaugural event focused on making those people in the role more successful. Over the course of two days, we talked about what buyers want from tech today, which is not tech but, rather, the end results that tech plays a role in delivering. We heard from George Colony, Forrester's founder, chairman, and CEO, that the majority of tech CEOs he interviewed don't believe their sales teams are keeping pace with their companies' strategic goals.
We learned from Principal Analyst Scott Santucci about outcome selling as a strategy to deliver on buyers' new demands for results, not more stuff. We shared stories about changing the focus of our efforts and investments in supporting sales by starting with customers' problems and using the sales conversation as the key design point. We shared stories about how to build consensus and win executive sponsorship for our initiatives and programs. We shared stories about things we have tried that worked -- and some that didn't. We heard from some remarkable sales enablement leaders, like Marci Meaux of CISCO and David Irwin of Allant Group, both blazing a path of success. In the halls and into the evening, we compared notes, we traded cards and contacts, we learned, and we laughed.
In the end, what was clear to me from both the main stage and the halls is that:
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?
Dean Davison, whom I trust some of you know from his time as the head of the outsourcing practice at Meta Group or Customer Intelligence at EDS, has joined the Forrester team supporting Tech Sales Enablement professionals, and we are launching new research as a result. Dean is going through some big life changes (check out his blog here) among which is the realization that the old ways of selling have to change and, well, so does his research to keep up. Now that is all good, and Dean needs your input. To start, he is asking you to help him home in on the right research around how you manage a portfolio to support the delivery of business outcomes to your customers. Please take a moment to vote in the Client Choice panel to the right of this post, and please also visit Dean's blog and give him your comments and input on this important area of our research, and you can be sure he will get back to you.
With only a few days left before we close the vote, I'd like to encourage everyone to participate in our current Client Choice poll. This month's question is, "Which characteristic of a buyer is most important for having a great sales conversation?" We want to know, in your experience, which aspect of the buyer do you want to understand best heading into a sales conversation? We want your input, and we will write a piece of research based on your responses.
Recent client interactions with a wide range of tech vendors leads me to believe that sales enablement will move from good idea and experimentation to real action in 2010. Of course that will be an uneven thing as leaders set the pace with big transformation efforts to align what sales and marketing do together (that is the operative word here, together) to center their activities around clients' business problems with all the organizational angst and habit breaking associated with such an undertaking, while others tackle smaller bites, like messaging and measurement changes. But to me, it feels like 2010 will be the year when we see real progress, exemplary cases, and hard evidence that tackling effective sales enablement does drive sales efficiency. Are you sensing the same thing?
So why now? I think in no small part it's because tech is maturing and so are the business people whose job success depends on it. So the two have begun to talk like adults about the business outcomes tech enables, not just the adjective-laden virtues of some engineering breakthrough. And those conversations are more meaty, grounded, and accountable; there is a solid transfer of value both in the discussion and in the outcomes from a transaction. Or there better be, else the buyer will drop the vendor like a stone. In a recent Forrester survey (we will publish this soon and will let you know how to find that data) of bus and IT folks involved in tech buying, 75% of the business people said they were involved in choosing or recommending vendors. More than half of those same business people said that their strategic vendors were the ones that understood their business and how to help them execute, and two thirds had a formal process to identify those vendors among their suppliers. You get the picture, cool tech is dead, business outcomes are a must.
We announced today that Forrester is acquiring a business some of you already know called Strategic Oxygen. From where I sit, this deal is a great fit for both organizations. For those of you who don't know the Strategic Oxygen offering, it's a data-driven tool that gives marketers rich, detailed insights to inform their marketing mix and spending decisions across markets and media. Given the shift to social, the return to tech spending growth, and the explosion of channels available to marketers, this is the kind of data tech marketers can use to make more confident decisions about how to maximize the return on their marketing spending. I am interested in any comments or questions the Forrester and Strategic Oxygen deal bring to mind for you, so feel free to post a comment and I will respond.
We announced today that Forrester is acquiring a business some of you already know called Strategic Oxygen. From where I sit, this deal is a great fit for both organizations. For those of you who don't know the Strategic Oxygen offering, it's a data-driven tool that gives marketers rich, detailed insights to inform their marketing mix and spending decisions across markets and media.