It's a shame to get old! My oldest child recently announced that he and his wife are having a child themselves. On one hand, I am thrilled at the prospects of having a smiling infant in the family - that I can hand off for unpleasant tasks. On the other hand, I am in complete, 100% denial about the word that will define my relationship with this child - the "G" word - shhhh, don't say it!
This made me reminisce about work. I remember my years in marketing at Sequent Computer Systems. The sales organization sold products based on "feeds and speeds" that became possible from "symmetric multi-processing." It was exciting stuff. We lived on the cutting edge of technology. Customers bought "products."
My next move placed me in the outsourcing industry. Rather than buying products, customers looked for solutions - usually a functional combination of hardware and software to solve a technical problem. Acronyms such as ERP and CRM were common, and the services industry exploded. Customers bought "solutions."
Now I am at Forrester and witnessing another fundamental change in the market. The financial pressures of the recent (and continuing?) recession changed customers. They now align business investments with technology costs. Customers want "outcomes."
The problem is that tech vendors are going to market the same way that we did 20+ years ago. In today's market, vendors must understand the customer - not in the abstract - but understand current problems and desired outcomes. Adapting your products and messaging to a customer point of view is called "portfolio management." Forrester's sales enablement team would love to hear about your experiences, perspectives, or insights.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost
In today’s dramatically changing world, many of you are also at a metaphorical fork in the road.
The path most traveled represents squeezing that last ounce of productivity from the tried-and-true practices that got you to where you are today.
The other path is being set by trailblazers who recognize that the economy is resetting itself and new go-to-market models are emerging.
Simply put, it’s a race to see who can develop a selling system that allows client-facing people to add more value to clients, at every interaction. These value-exchange patterns are different based on your customer types, the problems you help address, and the role your organization plays in solving them.
I am excited to be telling you about our first sales enablement conference, which will be held in downtown San Francisco February 14th and 15th. Over the summer, our team has been at work putting together a truly exciting and innovative agenda for our forum. Here are a few of the great topics we are working on:
What do buying executives actually think of how they are engaged by sellers? There’s a lot of talk about getting sales and marketing to sing off the same page, but what is the song? Any kind of alignment should start with buyers, and we are going to present a mountain of buyer insights that in many ways are jaw-dropping.
In Rob Reiner’s 1984 “rockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap, one of the main characters, Nigel Tufnel, proclaims that they are different than other bands because their amplifiers “go to ll.” (You have to watch this clip if you don't know what I am talking about).
What a perfect analog of how B2B companies are trying to differentiate themselves today. I have the opportunity to work with sales and marketing professionals on the topic of competitive preference, and here are some actual quotes from vendors about how they think they separate themselves from “other blokes”:
“But we are truly global and our competitors are not” – a managed services provider
“We are much more scalable than them” – a software provider
“We deliver our services in the cloud” – a software-as-a-service provider
Translation? “These go to 11.”
You know the show MythBusters?
Forrester’s Sales Enablement team is testing the conventional wisdoms of sales and marketing by asking executive level buyers what they think.
Why are sales and marketing professionals 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 enterprise-wide strategic procurement initiatives under way. 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:
The line from Shakespeare, "What's past is prologue" has always resonated with me. History does have a funny way of repeating itself and people who can learn from what’s happened before have an advantage over those that don’t. As we celebrate Memorial Day here in the States, I thought I’d use the time to share some useful insights about one of America’s most successful generals and how they relate to sales enablement professionals today.
General George Patton’s unparalleled ability to execute in WWII sometimes gets overshadowed by his colorful (and stupid) public relations. Because of his quick strike abilities, the Axis leaders feared him more than any other Allied general. What made him truly unique, and someone still studied in military academies throughout the world today, was his formula for success. Patton had a voracious appetite for history and believed that humanity already had a master inventory of all of the strategies and tactics for winning a battle. All one had to do was apply that knowledge to a given situation. His success can be summed up by his ability to model, map, and match.
He was able to model the various elements of a particular battle (from tactics, troop movements, level of aggression of his opponent, terrain, initiative, strengths, weather patterns, etc.) to recognize patterns from an engagement of antiquity. Having identified patterns, he was able to associate (or map) the actions of the victorious general to his situation, giving him a powerful competitive advantage -- the trial-and-error wisdom of thousands of successful and failed tactics and strategies of the other generals of the ages. Armed with the best advisor (the collective wisdom of centuries of peers), Patton was able to rapidly and effectively match winning tactics from the past to his specific circumstances.