Who Says That Sales Training Improves Sales Performance?

Mark Lindwall

Sales enablement professionals with responsibility for sales training clearly have a conflict: the desire to  help salespeople be successful, and  the demands of the organizational leaders who request multiple training activities for Sales. The fact is,  many sales training plans are massively diluted by a mish mash of uncoordinated  training activities. Training organizations are so bombarded by requests from Marketing, product groups, executives, sales management, and others, that they could deliver many months-worth of full day training events to salespeople every year -- if sales leadership would allow it. So managing demand, expectations, and results is a major challenge for training leaders.   

How Effective Is Sales Training?

Considering the amount of time that’s already invested in training, CEOs, sales leaders, sales managers are often asked how effective and impactful they believe sales training is. That’s reasonable given that they foot the bill, right? Nonetheless, their views are a distant second in importance to those whose opinion matter most. The people that best know how effective and impactful your sales training is are your buyers. 

Think about it. Salespeople are employed for the sole reason that you sell something complex enough that your customers need to talk with a salesperson to buy it. If that was not the case, they’d buy online and be done with it. Wouldn’t you? So every salesperson’s job is to create value for customers via their conversations. If they don’t accomplish that then there’s little chance of a sales because they’ll go elsewhere. So buyers, ultimately, are the purest judge of whether your sales training is effective in supporting selling (and consequently buying).

Sales Training Effectiveness According To Buyers

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How Top Marketers Use Customer-Centered Content To Make Their Message More Valuable

Laura Ramos

Quiz time folks: What is "90%"?

(No, it's not the percentage of professional football fans who could care less that the Seahawks trounced the Broncos at the Super Bowl ... although I would be counted in that number.)

It is the amount of marketing-produced content that sales DOESN'T use in selling, according to the AMA (and other sources)

This certainly doesn't mean most marketing is useless, but it's a telling statistic about the divide that separates marketing messages that operate at 30,000 feet from sales conversations that happen at 3 feet — the average distance between a salesperson and a prospect during a sit-down meeting.   

In this digital age, it's increasingly important for marketing to play a bigger role in helping sales not just get "your" message in front of a customer, but to make it "their" message — something that the buyer cares enough about to talk to your rep and to do something that upsets the status quo as a result. It's about creating content that can play dual roles: attracting and educating buyers while giving sales a deeper understanding about what's attracting that attention in the first place. To achieve both, marketers have to understand their buyers. Better. Deeply. Obsessively.

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Sales Leaders Are Ignoring An Effective Strategy To Gain Access To Executive Buyers

Mark Lindwall

In our research, executive buyers tell us that referrals are far more effective than other approaches for gaining access to them. Yet the referral strategy is ignored in most corporate sales organizations. If you want your salespeople to have greater success accessing executive buyers, then it’s time to consider this important yet forgotten strategy.

What Is A Referral?

In his recent report, “The Lost Art Of Referrals,” my colleague Norbert Kriebel defines referrals as: 

“A message strategy to transfer the value of your offerings from an existing customer to another; the existing customer is ‘vouching’ for you.”  

This report notes and describes four basic sources of referrals:

  • From a colleague in the company.
  • From a colleague outside of the company.
  • From a subordinate.
  • From a superior.
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What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?

Mark Lindwall

Do salespeople in different roles (e.g., strategic accounts, geographic, inside sales) and with different levels of experience have different perspectives on selling? Not significantly, according to our Q1 2012 North American Technology Seller Insight Online Survey.

Our recently published report “What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?” illuminates how similar the perspectives of sellers in different roles and with different levels of experience really are. If your company has one kind of sales role and one very consistent type of buyer, and they are well aligned, then this data may not much matter to you. But if you have different roles and types of buyer, then it’s worth examining the data in this report.

We found that three-fourths of salespeople agree that the most important aspect of a successful meeting with prospective buyers is their ability to understand the buyers’ business issues and share a way to solve them. The thing is, Forrester’s Q4 2012 Global Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey data, and interviews with executive buyers, clearly illuminate that the majority of buyers believe that salespeople are not successful in meetings with them. 

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Where Have All The Good Times Gone? The party is dying out for companies whose salespeople lack empathy for executive buyers

Mark Lindwall

In his recent report, Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, Forrester’s David Cooperstein notes that in regard to successful business strategy:

It's no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric" or "customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.

Through our ongoing conversations with executive buyers, professionals in sales enablement, and through survey responses from hundreds of global executive buyers, Forrester’s Sales Enablement practice has discovered a massive gap between buyers’ expectations of salespeople and what they’re actually experiencing when they meet with reps. In fact, less than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations (see figure 1).  Further, only one in three IT executives said that sales meetings "usually" live up to expectations, and just over two of five business executives said that sales meetings hit that mark (see Norbert Kriebel’s report: Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low).

 

Do meetings with salespeople meet executive buyer expectations?

Considering that perhaps 25% or less of the typical sales force is even capable of gaining access to executive buyers, consider the cost when these meetings miss buyer expectations and result in no further opportunity.

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Strengthen Your B2B Brand With Better Content Distribution

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.

Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.   

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Why You Should Attend Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum – March 4 and 5

Scott Santucci

 

Yes, the headline is a bit blunt…we are working so hard these days, weaving together our program for you, that my creative juices are a little fried. 

If you’ve been to one of our Sales Enablement forums, you know we put a lot of effort into ensuring a core event theme and message that’s solid, consistent, and woven throughout every presentation and session.  You also know we strive to create a cohesive community experience where you and your team can leave with strong new perspectives, a rolodex of new contacts, and a sense of purpose to help drive success at your company.

What I’d like to do is share with you some of what we have in store.

The title of our forum is: Accelerating Revenue In A Changed Economy.  Is this just hyperbole, or are we really up to something?

As you know, we’ve been researching the growing divide between buyers and sellers now for the last four years.  Recently, however, we’ve been shining a brighter light into this chasm…and illuminating the gaps between the articulation of the corporate business strategy and the different tactics used by members of the executive committee to execute that strategy

What have we uncovered?

Well – to put it kindly – many of the tried-and-true tactics, successfully used by these leaders in the past, no longer work in today’s changed economy. 

Why? 

Major tectonic forces – such as the emergence of our “do more with less” economy and the increased empowerment of buyers – are having fundamental and transformative impacts on how B2B companies sell and market their products and services. 

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Categories:

Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

Lori Wizdo

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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Join Me On September 7th For A Discussion On Building Better Battle Cards

Dean Davison

For months, I’ve blogged about the reasons why battle cards are important, ways to evaluate battle cards, and most recently, the need for standards to tighten their value and give battle card creators and users common ground. In an upcoming webinar, that is open to the public and free of charge. I will tie this theme together with a focus on business impact.

Join me on September 7 for a public webinar by Forrester – Register here.

On the webinar, I’ll tackle a straightforward question:

“How do sales enablement professionals work cross-functionally to optimize sales content about competitors for reps so they can improve the win rate in competitive deals?”

I’ll outline the path forward for sales enablement professionals to collaborate with their peers in marketing, product management, and competitive intelligence to build better battle cards by:

  • Focusing on the problems that buyers are trying to solve
  • Prioritizing the criteria that drive buyer choices in purchase scenarios
  • Shaping your content based on how buyers perceive your company and competitors
  • Communicating the benefits and results that buyers care about

I hope you will join me on the 7th.

Why Standards For Battle Cards Are A Good Idea

Dean Davison

During the first week in August, Forrester launched the Battle Card Standards Group to address head on the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating competitive battle cards for sales teams. This group is meeting weekly to outline industry standards to help sales enablement professionals bridge the gap between what a myriad of groups create and what sales reps actually need to win in competitive deals.

Some challenges mentioned by participants include:

“Sales reps often ask for negative information about competitors - FUD (fear, uncertainty, or doubt) – but, customers usually react negatively when reps say derogatory things about competitors.”

 “We struggle to map our battle cards to (1) different selling situations or engagement models (transactional vs. consultative) and (2) the levels of stakeholders that we are addressing (influencers, decision-makers, or purchasing professionals).”

“We structure battle cards in a way that reps can use directly in their conversations with customers.”

As a next step, on August 9, 2011, I will be hosting a Forrester teleconference to address how:

1. Organizational silos result in battle cards that are mashups of product and competitive intelligence rather than assets that help improve win rates in competitive deals.

2. Gaps between battle card users (sales reps) and creators (corporate groups) are too wide to remedy by having sales “tell corporate what they need.”

3. Industry standards for battle cards become a common ground for creators and users of battle cards to line up their expectations and delivery.

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