Peter O’Neill here. We held our annual research planning meeting the other week and ended discussing yet again the eternal question of B2B marketing versus B2C. This is also a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.
My colleagues and I are planning a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail. Here is a table which I have often used to lead discussions and which I would like to include in the report. As this is “research in progress”, I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, I am looking for YOUR feedback on this please.
I was talking last week with Neil Ringel, Executive Vice President at Staples Advantage as we continue to prepare for the Sales Enablement Forum in March where Neil is one of the industry keynote speakers. Staples Advantage, a division of Staples, is the world’s largest office products delivery business, serving everyone from the twenty-person office up to and including the Fortune 500 and the B2B sales team works with clients to develop customized programs with specialized pricing, dedicated account management, and a complete assortment of products and services at the lowest total delivered cost while ordering and fulfillment is a mixture of these direct meetings and eBusiness transactions. Although they are called sales, they are actually more responsible for delivering the company’s brand promise: “We make buying office products easy.” Here is our discussion.
Peter: Do you think that you will need less, more, and/or different salespeople in 5 years time?
We are working on a new report on how to prepare a business case for investment projects around the six goals of sales enablement, including investments in technology — there is a massive opportunity to help salespeople through the use of data analytics and content presentation tools, especially around mobile devices. This report is actually being authored by my colleague Kate Leggett, our research coryphaei on CRM projects who usually serves Application Development & Delivery Professionals. I have asked her to focus this report on the needs of Sales Enablement Professionals: marketers or sales training executives who may see the need for these investments but, because they are the business professionals, do not always have a technology budget to spend.
Our buyer data certainly tells us that this is a priority. Investing in sales technology is now the No. 3 priority among businesses. The following survey data was published in another of Kate’s reports. When asked which departments or business groups their firm are focusing on the most when considering their software strategy and investments, the priority sequence was
I spent some time last week with Paul Gottsegen, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Office at Mindtree. Paul is one of our guest keynote speakers at our Sales Enablement Forum in March and Mindtree is one of the fastest growing business services companies in the industry. Services marketing, let alone services selling is a particular challenge; and thought leadership and storytelling play an important role in ensuring success. Like many companies, Mindtree has had to learn to elevate its story to align to the needs of business executives.
Paul and I discussed his upcoming presentation and here is our dialogue.
Peter: How are you helping your own salespeople to better understand their buyers?
I would like to take the opportunity to remind you of our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum on March 2-3 in Scottsdale, Arizona,where the overall theme this year is about the different approaches required to optimize your B2B sales channels. Our research shows that more transactional buyers now prefer more automation and self-service (eBusiness); whereas executives who are involved in buying prefer (no, insist on) having conversations and engagement that match their problem-solving needs. So we have designed an agenda that covers direct selling, selling through channel partners, as well as selling through eBusiness interactions. And, as this is a strategic topic, over and perhaps above the discipline of selling itself, most of the presentations will be made by marketing leaders in the B2B companies we have invited.
Now it is high time that I remind you of our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum on March 2 and 3 in Scottsdale, Arizona,where the overall theme this year is about the different approaches required to optimize your sales channels. Our research shows that more transactional buyers now prefer more automation and self-service (eBusiness); whereas executives who are involved in buying prefer (no, insist on) having conversations and engagement that match their problem-solving needs. So we have designed an agenda that covers direct selling, selling through channel partners, as well as selling through eBusiness interactions. More importantly, we will address the challenge of aligning each of these channels so that your buyers think you are one company regardless of the channel they choose to leverage at any point in time.
I had great fun presenting our sales enablement (SE) execution landscape to Forrester clients last week in a regular client webinar. The SE execution landscape is an idea partly based on a report we published in September. That report introduced the concept of “the supply chain for successful sales conversations” and categorized about 45 different vendors and service providers in terms of six SE business goals, as shown below. We see these goals as the bridge between marketing automation and sales operations processes. The vendor list was the state of our knowledge when we submitted the report to our publishing team in July. But since then, we’ve become aware of so many more vendors in the space; either they’ve briefed us or we’ve come across them in client discussions. So as of last week, Forrester is tracking a SE landscape numbering some 112 companies. This area of technology is positively exploding!!!
I hear so much about how modern marketers are now content publishers and getting better and better at being able to engage with buyers much earlier in their buyer journeys – but what about your poor sales people? My experience from almost all of my client engagements is that many content marketers forget about them and ended up producing yet more “random acts of marketing” which ignore the sales enablement imperative. I remember asking when I presented “A Valuable Message Framework” at our Sales Enablement Forum back in March:
· “Do you let your sales people know what content is out there so that they can leverage it and distribute it for you?”
· “Do you want them meeting a customer and hearing what content they have already seen, and being surprised”
· “How do get feedback on your content?”?
Not a great contribution from marketing to the total customer experience - which definitely involves a sales conversation for some type of product or service (see last week’s blog).
I co-presented a Forrester webinar this week with Senior Analyst Mark Lindwall on “A Structured Approach To Elevating Sales Training Value” – Forrester clients can download the slides and/or webinar file and replay it at their leisure. Now doing the webinar actually provided me with two very important insights. Firstly, it is much better when a couple of people present a webinar together – monotony is relieved for the webinar listeners (there is nothing worse than listening to the same voice for 45 minutes non-stop); and the speakers themselves feel more energized by each other’s contributions. It requires a little planning (who speaks to which topics and how to handover) but not really more than should be invested in a webinar presentation anyway. If you did attend or plan to replay the webinar, please let me know whether you agree with me.
The second insight came out of my considering what to say as a conclusion to the webinar. The structure we presented was all about making sure that everybody who delivers sales training re-orients their materials to the buyer journeys and buyer’s needs. We recommended using the documented Forrester four selling objectives (see this report) intrinsically within the training materials. And we suggested using them to measure the effectiveness of the training itself, by answering these questions:
Do “trained” salespeople gain more access to productive meetings?
Are the meetings more successful?
Do the salespeople succeed more in creating a shared vision of success?
These are exciting times for me, Peter O’Neill, as I ramp up my new position here at Forrester. I must say, my Research Director predecessor was very visionary to use the sales enablement (SE) term at all over three years ago - the first thing I’ve learned is that our sales enablement clients are hardly ever called that . As Scott Santucci writes in his new report: Clarity Is Key To Sales Enablement Success, “The number of sales enablement positions and interest in the topic have exploded over the past five years, yet many questions remain about what it is or which organization should own it “. Even at the SE Forum this March, only 25% of the attendees had SE in their job title - other job titles that appear in the attendees list include various marketing positions, strategic roles such as CEO, CIO or chief strategy officer, and even sales management themselves. Ultimately, we are helping all business people involved in enabling their client-facing employees to have valuable conversations with various sets of customer stakeholders. I am sure that the attendee list at next year’s Forum will also be mixed: it is early days but I suggest you block your calendar now. Colleague Mark Lindwall has just published the first of several reports on the topic of sales force development activities such as hiring, training