I’ve been covering the sales enablement space here at Forrester for six years. While the concept is certainly more common than it was “back in the day”, I’m not really sure we as a community have a lot of clarity about how to get various Marketing, Human Resources, IT, Finance, and Sales groups on the requisite same page required to drive the desired effectiveness and efficiencies of most sales enablement initiatives across the selling system.
The problem today? Sales is Getting Too Much Well Intended Help and Not Enough Real Support
One of the important realizations that we continue to illuminate for business leaders is that when all of these groups are working independently to support sales, a tremendous amount of uncoordinated, redundant, or conflicting investments are made. Corralling these “random acts of sales support” is job #1 of any strategic sales enablement initiative…but how do you determine whose efforts are the random ones? Whether you are in a small or large organization there are many different people are certain they know what salespeople need to be successful, resulting in an avalanche of sales enablement deliverables, but few real results.
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.
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.
Within the modern applications era, regardless of whether new software applications are being developed and delivered for mobile, tablets, or the Web, the truly successful app-dev leaders will be those who focus on delivering constant value and incremental improvement to their business. That is a totally different perspective from “I need to keep control of my team’s productivity to make sure that we stick to our estimated costs, scope, and project dates.” Of course, the interest in cost is never going away, but app-dev leaders today have a great chance to enhance their conversation with executives and business stakeholders and add value to the conversation.
However, as the recent research I just published, Agile Metrics That Matter, proves, while some of the most advanced Agile teams do use new progress, quality, efficiency, and value/benefits metrics (these to a lesser degree), some software development industry luminaries have worked and are working on new methods to measure value in software development. But it’s still early days!
I’d like to summarize here some good old practices on establishing metrics that count together with some of the new findings of the research:
Tablets drive worker productivity in part due to their hyper-portability, as I argued in a recent blog post. Workers can (and, we showed with data, do) use tablets in more places, places where they wouldn’t (and don’t) take their PCs.
The top question I’ve received about tablet hyper-portability is this one: “Tablets are very portable, sure, but are people using them as creation devices or as (mere) consumption devices?” The general assumption behind this question tends to be that “creation” activities are equal to “productivity,” while “consumption” activities are not. I believe this is a false dichotomy, however. Consuming the right information at the right time can increase worker productivity in and of itself. Let me offer a few examples showing how that can work:
Retail sales associates using tablets with customers. Retailers are equipping sales associates with tablets to use on the retail floor, creating richer interactions with customers – and driving higher sales.
Physicians conducting patient rounds with tablets. Physicians can gain rich, immediate insight into their patients’ health records – saving time and driving more accurate diagnoses in less time. They also use the tablets to show patients results (like x-ray images), creating a better patient experience.
Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.
Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one day a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.
We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.
Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.
There is growing evidence of a harmonic convergence of Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) with Security and it is hardly an accident. We often view them as separate worlds, but it’s obvious that they have more in common than they have differences. I live in the I&O team here at Forrester, but I get pulled into many discussions that would be classified as “security” topics. Examples include compliance analysis of configuration data and process discipline to prevent mistakes. Similarly, our Security analysts get pulled into process discussions and other topics that encroach into Operations territory. This is as it should be.
Some examples of where common DNA between I&O and Security can benefit you and your organization are:
Gain economic benefit by cross-pollinating skills, tools, and organizational entities
Improve service quality AND security with the same actions and strategies
Learn where the two SHOULD remain separate
Combine operational NOC and security SOC monitoring into a unified command center
Develop a plan and the economic and political justifications for intelligent combinations
My colleague and friend Mike Gualtieri wrote a really interesting blog the other day titled "Agile Software Is A Cop-Out; Here's What's Next." While I am not going to discuss the great conclusions and "next practices" of software (SW) development Mike suggests in that blog, I do want to focus on the assumption he makes about using working SW as a measurement of Agile.
I am currently researching that area and investigating how organizations actually measure the value of Agile SW development (business and IT value). And I am finding that, while organizations aim to deliver working SW, they also define value metrics to measure progress and much more:
Cycle time (e.g., from concept to production);
Business value (from number of times a feature is used by clients to impact on sales revenue, etc.);
Productivity metrics (such as burndown velocity, number of features deployed versus estimated); and last but not least
Quality metrics (such as defects per sprint/release, etc.).
During the first week of June, we had one of our quarterly Sales Enablement Leadership Council meetings in Barcelona, Spain. (A leadership council is comprised of executives from leading companies who work with us to set the direction for the near-term and long-term role of sales enablement.) For an entire day, we discussed the application of Forrester’s SIMPLE framework, which is a model designed to help combat the random acts of sales support that persist within most B2B companies, to common sales enablement leadership challenges.
The sheer volume of insight, ideas, new research topics, and techniques shared during that session was tremendous – far too much to share in one blog post. So, I am going to pick two issues that came up.
First off, Tamara, I hear you. I was told point blank that I need to participate in the social community more. I’m going to make a more dedicated effort to do this moving forward, but I need your help. Please tell me what you’d like me to share and how. Honestly, I get a little caught up around the axle about the many deliverable formats I’m responsible for (research reports, teleconferences, conference presentations, facilitating council meetings, client deliverables, etc.) so I would love the coaching from the community on what would be the most useful.
Secondly, at the beginning of our council meeting, we had a good discussion about where the sales enablement profession is heading. I’ve written a very detailed document defining the scope and role of sales enablement strategically, but there is an easier way to summarize the trends based on how you define the word “sales.”