A Healthy Future Welcomes Consultative B2B Sellers

Caroline Robertson

 

Mark Twain unknowingly echoed the state of today’s B2B sellers when he said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” As Mary Shea writes in her newest report, “B2B Consultant Sellers Reign In The 21st Century,” it’s a selective sickness that ails today’s sales professionals. Those at greatest risk of the displacement as we described in another recent Forrester report, “Death Of A (B2B) Salesman: Two Years Later,” are those high-volume, low-value transactional sellers who suffer listless interest from self-educated buyers who are purchasing online at an increasing pace. But for customers who are uncertain about solutions that best suit their needs or ones with complex challenges, there remains healthy growth for sellers who possess the right attributes and who adopt the rigor of a new regimen.

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The Financial Services Focus On Sales Enablement

Steven Wright

In the past few months, we’ve seen a big uptick in inquiries from financial services firms, including life insurance. They are becoming much more focused on sales enablement automation and sales enablement in general. At the same time, sales enablement automation vendors are highlighting their successes with financial services companies. Based on discussions with practitioners, financial services firms should keep in mind a few key challenges as they tackle better enabling their sellers:

  • Agents and advisors are both sellers. Many financial services organizations seem reluctant to use the terms “sales” or “sellers” when talking about those who sell to customers. This often slows awareness and understanding of how sales enablement automation can help them leverage content, better engage with customers, and ensure that sellers play by the rules in a highly regulated industry. The same applies to independent advisors. They are business partners — another part of the channel — and need the same kind of sales enablement, especially because they may also sell competitive offerings.
  • Managing seller-focused content in a highly regulated environment is complicated. Financial firms have dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of content creators. Those creators cover a wide range of content including promotional, marketing, and reporting. Some content, such as investment updates, require tightly controlled processes for creating and updating frequently. All of that content creation takes place in an environment where a strong need for tightly controlled processes exists to create, produce, and manage how sellers can and should use content.
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B2B Marketers Need To Apply The Lessons Of Customer Obsession To Seller Development

Steven Wright

“We need to train the sales force!” comes the cry. Whether marketing or product management, sales ops or finance, IT or legal, everyone wants to train the sales force. The reasons are always good: efficiency, effectiveness, and excellence. But frequent and tactical training can distract sellers from and delay them in performing their most important task: selling.

My newest report, "Build A Seller Development Framework," updates Forrester’s Seller Development Framework (formerly Forrester’s Sales Training Solution Framework) to take a fresh look at how to plan for and evaluate the training needs of sellers to move beyond defining needs based on "Who's asking?" to "What’s the right approach?"

Sales enablement vendors have also taken note of the need to embed seller development within sales enablement automation. Brainshark has announced partnerships with Highspot and Seismic to leverage Brainshark’s solutions for sales mastery and continuous training as part of overall sales enablement automation. Allego, a mobile video sales learning platform, just announced a partnership with Wilson Learning to provide more continuous sales development. These announcements are in line with our predictions of increased partnering in the sales enablement and development market.

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The Missing Step To Maximizing Your B2B Content Marketing Investments

Daniel Klein

You hear this advice everywhere: B2B marketers need to do more with less. Nowhere is that more true than with your cornerstone content. Unfortunately, B2B marketers underutilize their cornerstone content studies such as whitepapers backed by data and ROI/business case analyses. 43% of marketers in North America and a staggering 69% of marketers in Europe who attended recent Forrester webinars said they create four or fewer content  assets from a single cornerstone study. This is a travesty. It is a lost opportunity to maximize the value you get from an existing content investment. Creating too few assets limits the reach of this important content, and your prospect base won’t find the content unless some of the key information is in a format they prefer to use.

Activating your cornerstone content using a range of formats that align with how your prospects want to consume it and how your organization can deliver it greatly extends its value and longevity. For example, let’s say you posted a report for download on your website based on a survey of 200 IT/LOB professionals about their digital transformation adoption priorities, challenges, and desired outcomes. Typically, we see marketers building some of the same data into a landing page, an infographic, and a webinar. But that only adds up to four content assets. The best practice among top marketers we work with is to repurpose cornerstone content into at least 10 or more different formats. Here’s a list of additional assets you can use to activate cornerstone content, with limited additional effort or expense:

  • Data points in executive keynote presentations.
  • Sales presentations.
  • Investor pitches.
  • Click fodder for online ads or social media.
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Advocating For Bespoke Content For Sellers

Steven Wright

If you’re a B2B marketer and take responsibility for building content for sellers, here's one of those déjà vu moments that you’ve come to dread. During a presentation, a slide comes up. You’ve seen this slide before. In fact, you built that slide — a few years ago. What is it doing in this presentation? How out of date is it?

Oh, you know the story. The seller had some version of the original presentation and mixed this and other slides with newer content. Or the original presentation with additional slides is still findable somewhere on a shared drive. But someone changed — customized — it without regard to current positioning, messaging, or branding. From the seller’s point of view, nothing is more natural than to fit content to the needs of the buyer, which progresses the sale. But from the marketer’s point of view, carefully crafted messages are garbled or — worse — just plain wrong.

What do we do? For B2B marketers, the answer is not to just clamp down on customizing. Sellers will always have ways to download or screen-capture content and alter it. The answer is to think about how and why the content sellers use should be customized.

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Are You Using A Content Marketing Platform?

Peter O'Neill

At last October’s B2B Marketing Forum,Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at Forrester, delivered one of the more resounding messages — and gave us a serious wake-up call on our content marketing work to date. He told us, “Too much, not enough quality.” And our greatest quality issue is in our content distribution strategies.

This is indeed a serious challenge for B2B marketing organizations, which spend an average of 12% of their budgets on content marketing. We dedicate three times as much headcount to this as our cousins in consumer marketing. But Forrester’s recent survey of technology buyers revealed that 60% of these buyers believe that content that vendors provide is “useless.”

That’s a wastage of$4.3 million for a business with, say, $1 billion in revenues!

Now when they say “useless,” they don’t mean badly written. The content’s useless because it is usually the wrong information that gets delivered at the wrong time and probably to the wrong person.

What do you do if you have so many resources and so much waste? Well, consider a process improvement program such as outsourcing or even automation. No, not automatically generated content (though we do talk about the emergence of content intelligence and intelligent agent tools in the recent Forrester report “The Top Emerging Technologies For B2B Marketers”), I am thinking here of how to improve your content management and dissemination.

Enter the concept of content marketing platforms.

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Martech That Matters - And For Marketers Who Actually Use It

Peter O'Neill

(this is a modified version of a blog posted by my colleague Carl Doty on our B2C Marketing page)

Sick of scouring sector landscapes with thousands of vendor logos organized into loosely defined categories?  I mean, do you really need to know the names of scores of predictive analytics vendors out there?

What’s the total Martech ecosystem going to tally this year – 7000+ vendors?

Actually, yes. Yes it is. As my colleague Joe Stanhope wrote in a recent blog: “it’s hard to remember a time when there was such an unhealthy and unsustainable technology ecosystem.”

At Forrester, we’ve covered marketing technology and the now overused term – “left-brained marketing” - for nearly fifteen years.  We've come a long way as an industry since then, and today Forrester's B2B marketing clients now enjoy step-by-step playbooks like the Lead-To-Revenue Management (L2RM) Playbook that help them get more out of their technology investments. This is becoming more important every day. Why? Because marketing technology now commands one-fifth of overall marketing budgets for B2B marketers. That’s already a sizable chunk, and we expect it to climb quickly because 41% of these marketers tell us that they still lack the technology they need to grow their business.

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Channeling My Inner Millennial

Mary Shea

As a very late Boomer or — as The New York Times columnist Richard Pérez-Peña likes to call us — a Boomer reboot, I find that I have Millennials on my mind all the time! I’m not on social networks for 3 hours a day; I’m just an avid user. I sleep with my smart phone on my bedside table, and I’m a pretty good multitasker. I work with a group of phenomenal Millennials at Forrester, and I now clock more than a year in terms of researching, writing, and speaking about Millennials in the workplace. As I think about our team of researchers, I’m reminded of a Forbes quote of the day that Caroline Robertson shared with me recently: “If you put Boomers and Millennials together in the same place and with the right setting and conditions, it’s amazing how they spark each other.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Check out our most recent report, “Millennial B2B Buyers Come of Age,” and see if you agree. Shanta Samlal-Fadelle and I coauthored this report, which looks at the impact that the heads-down generation is having on purchasing decisions for their firms. Although 73% of Millennials in B2B organizations tell us that they have involvement as influencers or decision makers, our research shows that B2B marketing and sales leaders are not paying enough attention to this increasingly present and influential constituency. In the report, you’ll hear directly from Millennials regarding their engagement and channel preferences, while Shanta and I provide actionable advice on how to fine-tune your approach to attract, rather than repel, Millennial buyers.

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B2B Marketing Is More Than Just Marketing

Peter O'Neill

At the B2B Marketing 2016 forum last October, we had several sessions when we reflected on some external forces that affect our work as marketers. Trends included the movement toward as-a-service business models (our CEO once famously predicted that every business will eventually become a software business), the increasing use of video content in marketing, and the leverage of social channels. These sessions had great attendance, and the feedback was very positive. We had made attendees aware of possibilities that they may not have yet discussed in their own companies.

Similarly, we often pleasantly surprise our B2B marketing subscribers with research reports that appear on our landing page. We provide powerful buyer and buyer-journey data to technology vendors, and we continue to explore the as-a-service theme through a series of reports from Duncan Jones, vice president and principal analyst, who normally publishes for sourcing and vendor management (i.e., procurement) professionals.

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How Is Your B2B Marketing Garden Growing? Prune And Plant With Our B2B Marketing Spring Webinar Series

Caroline Robertson

My former neighbor bought the house next door primarily due to its 9-acre potential. Over the years, I got to see his garden develop from a razed backyard to a well-orchestrated, nearly year-round landscape of seasonal beauty. He’d continually prune out the anemic and plant new varietals that he deemed would more likely thrive in our climate. I was amazed at the ongoing evolution of his garden — and how much of it ended up on his burn pile. But he focused on the success of his garden overall and didn’t overly invest in any one plant, bush, or tree.

Despite his move to the West Coast, I was reminded of my neighbor as I sought a theme that would adequately represent Forrester’s spring webinar series. Today’s marketing leaders’ success depends on their ability to continually balance their investments and programs. So we’ve selected five areas of focus for Forrester’s B2B marketing spring webinar series that balance planting new ideas with pruning existing programs. I hope that you can join us live for them all!

Planting New Ideas: Social Selling And Programmatic Ad Platforms

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