Successful sales enablement reaches beyond just sales. Marketing functions such as customer and market intelligence (CMI) supply materials to your direct sales teams. This content can significantly improve sales impact if it is timely, relevant, and in-context, which for CMI means:
Timely - the right information available to sales teams at the right time.
Relevant - content that sales teams can easily adapt into customer content.
In-context - framed by the business outcomes that customers use to make purchasing decisions.
The words of "War," Edwin Starr's 1969 Motown classic, began ringing in my head this morning. It was brought on by a Harvard Business Review blog post by Steve W. Martin, "Why Sales and Marketing Are at Odds — or Even War." Within tech vendors, sales and marketing teams often fail to communicate or align go-to-market strategies. Forrester's sales enablement visionary Scott Santucci discussed the different languages of sales and marketing in his blog over two years ago. As for my own experience with sales and marketing:
A few years ago, I sat with the chief marketing officer and chief sales officer of a Fortune 100 tech vendor. The conversation didn't focus on customer problems, which should be the starting point for sales enablement professionals. The conversation didn't focus on sales efficiency issues such as sales cycle duration or win rates, which should be critical imperatives for all sales and marketing professionals. Each of these executives controlled massive budgets but neither one sincerely trusted the other. Their words were about aligning sales and marketing programs, but the real conversation, when read between the lines, was about control, boundaries, and politics. They were at war!
Technology vendors are disconnected from their customers. If the problem were simple, such as changing message themes, tech vendors could easily adapt.
When looking at tech vendors, the "problem" is long-standing, entrenched behaviors about how products and solutions go to market. The "problem" includes customers that now want to buy "business outcomes" rather than traditional products. The "problem" includes sales organizations that fail to learn about the customer's business or requirements. The "problem" includes marketing organizations that fail to recognize that while they get to aim the gun, only sales can pull the trigger. Across these three processes, companies are trying to shoot faster, shoot bigger bullets, or even aim at different targets when the real problem is eye-hand coordination - or aligning methods and messages.
Selling technology requires three processes to align: (1) the customer problem solving process; (2) the vendor selling process; and (3) the marketing processes for communicating solutions. Gaps in these processes will cause finger-pointing within the vendor, raise the average cost of sales, lengthen the sales cycle, increase turnover of sales and marketing employees, confuse customers, etc. Few tech vendors are changing their internal methodologies to align these processes.
How are these gaps in your organization? How is your company addressing these gaps? We'd love to hear your experience!
(Next in this series, Forrester will introduce "portfolio management" as framework to help sales enablement professionals align these silos.)
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.
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.
I love the saying “you get delegated to the people you sound like” - especially when it comes to selling.
At the end of the day, all of the work that goes on to build and support a product comes down to the discrete conversations your sales people have with customers.
This parody video is both incredibly funny (especially if you’ve ever carried a bag before, or work in a company dominated by engineers) and drives home an outstanding point – “you-centric”, jargon filled presentations more or less all sound ike this one.
On November 7th, I facilitated Forrester’s second sales enablement roundtable – this time in Foster City,California.Joining us were sales and marketing executives from:Intel, NetApp, Borland, Informatica, Sun, Interwoven, Microchip, Renesas, Juniper Networks, Trend Micro, and Thoughtworks.
Overall, we had an extremely high energy session, even though I lost my voice the previous week.It’s hard to summarize a whole day of intense discussion into a blog post, but I’ll give it a try.
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.