Simplifying the Seller's Journey -- Real World Sales Enablement Experts Weigh In

Steven Wright

In this, the age of the customer, the value of simplifying the customer’s journey seems abundantly clear. But what is sometimes left in its shadow – especially as B2B marketers work to better align sales and marketing efforts – is how to simplify the seller’s journey.

For the new report, “Simplifying the Seller’s Journey,” I spoke with sales enablement practitioners at various companies, with from ten  to thousands of sellers, to investigate  how they are simplifying the seller journey – including using various sales enablement automation solutions.

Their experiences point to some key points to consider when planning on how to implement seller-focused projects for content management, training, engagement tracking and more:

  • Know your sellers: The more you understand a day in their life and where you can remove obstacles the better.
  • Understand how sellers – not just prospects – engage with content: This will help not only  marketers  to better target content, but sales  managers will be able to  better coaching their teams.
  • Improved efficiency opens the door to effectiveness: B2B marketers can then  measure how effective content and related sales actions can produce faster and larger sales.

That’s just the beginning – implementing solutions that are flexible and transparent so that they easily integrate with e-mail and your CRM helps ensure rapid adoption as well as rapid response to changes in your environment.

Continuously curious –

Steven

A Practical Approach To B2B Buyer Journey Mapping

Steven Casey

After a conversation with my colleague Lori Wizdo the other day about buyer journey mapping, she followed up by sharing the following cartoon – which I thought was perfect:

Perfect because it captured both our perspectives on the topic: Lori’s that buyer journeys are by their very nature hypothetical; and mine that you can never anticipate every buyer’s possible path to purchase.

This is not to say that buyer journey mapping is a futile exercise – or that the way to deal with its limitations is to ensure that your customers stay on the paths you’ve laid out for them, as appealing (and humorously absurd) as that reaction may be for all marketers.

As Lori pointed out in a recent blog post, you need to understand your buyer’s typical path to purchase to build an effective omnichannel marketing strategy that successfully engages with buyers at the right time with the right content through the right channel.

But be realistic in your goals and recognize that you will never be able to anticipate every possible buyer journey. When large companies with a wide range of solutions are documenting dozens, if not hundreds, of discrete paths to purchase, it’s too easy to get lost in the process and proceed well past the point of diminishing returns. 

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What's The Impact Of Content Marketing In The B2B Marketing Mix?

Laura Ramos
I have a confession to make.  I love talking with B2B marketers and clients, but there is one question I get occasionally that really makes me crazy. (And you will hear an earful if you are unfortunate enough to ask it.) 
 
“Laura, which B2B marketing tactic works the best?”
 
And I’m thinking, “Do I look like the Lone Ranger?”
(Silver bullets? Get it?)
 
To be fair, when marketers ask me "What works best?" I don’t really think they are looking for a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem. Most just want to validate their current choices and ensure they haven't overlooked other viable approaches. But when 87% of B2B marketers say they struggle to develop compelling content, no amount of messing around with the mix will create a significant improvement in results.
 
And now I have research to support that position.  Forrester’s recent report on the state of the B2B marketing mix reveals a couple of very interesting results:
 
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Sales Enablement Automation – A View Of The Landscape

Steven Wright

In the days before Waze, Google Maps, or even Mapquest, when I needed to figure out how to get somewhere in Southern California, I relied on the Thomas Guide. Still available for many areas, the thick, spiral-bound tome was the location bible. It was not the easiest thing to use. Everyone’s copy was dog-eared through constant flipping back and forth to compare the street name index at the back with the coordinates on the correct map-page at the front. It was time-consuming, and sometimes confusing if you didn’t know the exact version of the street – court versus place versus avenue – or what section of the street you were looking for.

The market landscape for sales enablement automation solutions has been in the Thomas Guide phase of finding solutions.  There are a wide range of vendors, with a correspondingly wide range of offerings and capabilities. That leads to the web-based equivalent of flipping back and forth trying to map what it is they really do to where you want to go.

The latest Forrester Vendor Landscape: Sales Enablement Automation Solutions and the related toolkit, which includes detailed profiles, looks at 18 vendors and calls out key functions and considerations when starting a search for a sales enablement solution. It discusses why B2B marketers should focus on content, understand how to present and recommend from the seller’s point of view, leverage engagement analytics for multiple audiences, and more.

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Millennials Arrive In Force!

Mary Shea
We’ve been hearing so much lately about the changing dynamics between B2B buyers and sellers. Not only are buyers engaging more and more online as part of their evaluation and purchase process, but sellers have the ability to track prospects’ behaviors and interests in order to contextualize their outreach as well. There is another exciting transformation underway...the arrival of the Millennials in force!
 
Today, Millennials make up a third of the workforce; by 2020, they will be half. This generation of employees may work more to your advantage than you think. Born in the digital age to tech-savvy parents, Millennials have experienced everything from the pseudo Y2K crisis to the 2008 downturn to the social media explosion in the mid-2000s. They don’t quite function or react in the workplace like Boomers and Gen Xers, and they have different needs. But, there’s an upside and a divergent side to be considered with them.
 
Not having the right tools or enforcing restrictive schedules can work against sales and marketing leaders…and don’t forget to give and take feedback at each step of the way. And what about the rest of your sales team? Is it possible for Millennials and more tenured reps to work synergistically? You bet! Make sure you encourage collaboration through reverse mentorship and in-tune management approaches, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The right tools and technologies are only the tip of the iceberg in thinking about how you can support your sales force both today and in the future. 
 
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Channel Partner Business Models In The Age Of The Customer

Tim Harmon

I’ve been invited to present at several partner conferences this year on the topic of how channel partners should transform their businesses, specifically in light of declining discount margins and digital transformation.  Yes, you heard me right – declining discount margins.  It’s not happening across the board, but the general trend in the tech industry for the past couple of years is that vendors are reducing the discounts they are offering to partners (but some are rolling out programs that can boost partners’ profitability in other ways). 

To more than compensate for shrinking discount margins, I posted last year that there is a new wide world of value-added services opportunities for channel partners – particularly “away from the box” value-added services (as opposed to “close to the box” services involving installation and configuration), driven largely by the upsurge of line-of-business buyers: planning, adoption services, change management, risk management, multi-vendor management, and benchmarking, to name a few.  For example, we just interviewed a Google partner who is seeing significant growth with its customer success program.

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Planning Your Digital Reboot For A Go-To-Customer Strategy - Upcoming Webinar

Peter O'Neill

There has been quite a response to my comment in the last blog on planning a technology-focused track at our October B2B Marketing Forum. Thanks for your inputs. I am glad you are looking forward to it. I have the luxury of being able to invite many different experts to the Forum, not just the B2B Marketing analysts; so that track in Miami will focus on how to deal with the current marketing-technology offerings as an enterprise: how to architect, compare and procure, and manage the business case – through the full life cycle.

I’ve recently enjoyed Ajay Agarwal’s article in TechCrunch “Marketing Tech’s Bumpy Road”. Ajay talks about the trends from the investor point of view of course; but his comparison of B2C being weighted 10:1 in marketing and sales resources compared to B2B being the other way around is succinct -- that is why sales enablement is so important in our B2B Marketing research portfolio. But that ratio of 1:10 will swing more and more across to marketing each year of the Age of the Customer, as empowered buyers engage with suppliers digitally and redefine their expectations of face to face meetings.  Andy Hoar is just starting his new survey of business buyers, a project he does with eRetailer each year, so expect to see us updating our sales archetypes forecast, as reported here by Mary Shea, later this year.

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Change Is Afoot For The Modern B2B Seller

Mary Shea

Everybody is telling us this: Today's modern B2B buyer is soooo empowered! Well, that’s because they can use digital and mobile channels to get access to competitive, pricing, reference and other information they need. Not only that, they even prefer to transact anywhere, anytime, and anyhow they want. So, the pressure is on for sales people to raise their game. Those who can only communicate in terms of product and service capabilities will see their messages fall flat.

Go-to-market leaders that fail to empower their sellers will see their selling organizations commoditized by those that do and their businesses surpassed by disrupters. While change is clearly afoot - I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in Sales! B2B sellers who embrace change, who are adroit at leveraging new technologies to support more contextual engagements, and who seek out less cluttered channels such as social - will not only remain relevant but will be wildly successful!

To hear and see more, watch the below Animated Interview And Podcast with Chad Quinn, President and Founder of Ecosystems.

Look Forward To The B2B Marketing Forum In October

Peter O'Neill

For the past six years, Forrester has held its Sales Enablement Forum for B2B marketing professionals in March, the first two years in San Francisco and then down in Scottsdale (see here for my debrief from the successful 2015 event). I've already had a few calls and emails asking me about this year’s Forum: What is the agenda? Where and when is it being held?

So, here is a timely reminder that we have reconfigured our events calendar this year and the 2016 B2B Marketing Forum is now scheduled for October 18 and 19 in Miami, Florida. Planning is well underway: We are recruiting guest speakers and planning the track sessions. Without giving too much away, I can report that our current thinking is to set the overall agenda across these five themes:

1.  Go-To-Customer  - How to inform and configure your marketing, channel, content and sales plans so that they are customer obsessed.

2.  Blending Art And Science - Use data to set sales and marketing activity based on the ultimate predictive metric: propensity to buy.

3.  Contact In Context - Use voice-of-the-customer/social listening/predictive analytics to be able to speak to customer issues more directly and authentically.

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Advocate Marketing Turns Goodwill Into Valuable Customer Engagement

Laura Ramos

Ah yes, the obligatory customer logo slide. As an analyst you get to see a lot of these. (Too many, perhaps.) Any more, these slides mean less and less.

What matters in the digital world -- what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer" -- is not how many companies or organizations you serve, but how much they appreciate working with you -- and whether or not they are willing to tell others that they do. 

In B2B marketing, sharing customer logos is one small way of validating that you are an effective supplier of products and services. References are another. So are referred business and a host of other marketing programs aimed at turning customer goodwill into testimonial gold. In this digital age, where information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your advocates because:

  • Social opens up a new world of advocacy opportunities. Most B2B marketers and technology suppliers point to social sharing as the primary driver in making advocate marketing more important and effective today.
  • A subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. B2B firms must continue to demonstrate value to customers long after the ink dries on the contract to retain their business. Keeping the relationship fresh and top of mind is a key way to do that.
  • Operationalizing advocate marketing scales outcomes. B2B marketers are investing in advocacy to expand reference programs and encompass other aspects of the customer relationship beyond sales support. For little investment, many are seeing bigger returns.
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