The Portfolio Track View From Forrester's Sales Enablement Forum 2011

In addition to the sessions mentioned by Brad Holmes and Brian Lambert in their blog entries, we dedicated an entire track to sessions that discussed how the decisions made by portfolio teams relate to the efficiency (or not) of sales teams.

Participants in the portfolio track all consider themselves to be sales enablement professionals, but have job titles that include product management, sales operations, competitive intelligence, and marketing communications.

Despite this wide range of responsibilities, each person shares a common goal of improving their areas of responsibility in ways that improve sales efficiency.

Attendees who look at sales enablement through a portoflio lens expressed the following thoughts about the Forum:

  • We feel empowered by seeing and hearing so many sales enablement professional come together.
  • We need to make our company executives aware of the industry changes in sales enablement.
  • We have entrenched behaviors that we need to overcome (i.e. muscle memory).
  • We face a complex amount of change and need a way to communicate it clearly.
  • We need to understand how e can overcome organizational silos that increase complexity.

A key statement made during a portfolio sessions came from a product manager: "Before today, I never though about how my messages about product features confuse the sales reps when they are trying to sell higher."

A highlight of the Forum was a keynote about portfolio management by Hagen Rickmann and Tamara Schenk of T-Systems. Their story is remarkable because the sales reps at T-Systems were being blasted with products and messages from 35 different portfolio groups, essentially making it impossible for reps to understand the full array of products or sell them effectively.

The T-Systems journey consolidated their portfolio messages and shifted their metrics from market share to wallet share - both yielding tremendous improvements in sales efficiency. The transition was not simple, however, requiring an executive champion to back the project and encourage adoption by sales reps. And the T-Systems journey is not over - at the capstone session , Tamara Schenk added that her next steps are to:

 

  • Continue building a cross-functional agreement network within T-Systems (selling internally needs an agreement network just as selling to a customer does).
  • Work to define sales enablement metrics and a systematic way to measure them.
  • Measure and monitor the quality of sales content, working to improve the materials and provide them to sales in a more dynamic way.

The portfolio track also featured a panel of executive technology purchasers - Todd Mazza of Levi Strauss & Company  and Anu Gardiner of Kaiser Permanente. Both shared many experiences about their working relationships with vendors, including a general trend of having a smaller number of strategic providers that get more and more of their business. 

Two other sessions by Forrester analysts, including examples of portfolio management by companies in unifed communications and an introduction into external stakeholder impact as a dimension that customer will increasingly evaluate when purchasing your products.

At the conclusion of the forum, participants from the portfolio track indicated the following as their priorities to tackle after returning to the office:

  • Begin with the customer as the design point - as a solution for reconciling the cross-functional silos - to drive portfolio strategy.
  • Start creating a vew of customer problems, including causes of those problems, and defining a standard view of their problem solving process.
  • Include salespeople in creating and evangelizing new capabilities to the sales organization.
  • Figure out how to organize sales content and manage its complexity, including a push versus pull strategy when providing content to sales.
  • Review or messaging to determine if we are encouraging reps to solve customer problems.

What were your experiences from the Forum? Is your organization looking at the relationship between portfolio and sales? Is your sales force overwhelmed with products, offerings, and messages to the point that they cannot possible sell all of them to customers?