Now Available: Forrester’s First Wave™ Evaluation Of Lead-To-Revenue Platform Providers

Lori Wizdo

We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms.  In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them.  I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.  

In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.   

Forrester clients can read the full report here.

The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
 

The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection

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To Win Against Increasing Competition, Equip Your Salespeople With A Deeper understanding Of Your Buyers

Mark Lindwall

Last week I spoke with the VP of Sales for a tech company that used to have the hottest product in his market.  In housing terms, they used to be an exclusive and much sought after neighborhood, but now the competition has moved in on all sides and sales are down.  His sales force is facing a vastly growing number of competitors. Some are much larger and have broader portfolios that give them better presence in customer accounts. They’re getting squeezed and are finding it harder to compete in deals where they used to be the only solution.

Your only true differentiation comes from how your reps interact with your buyers

What’s interesting is that the vendor mentioned above is still experiencing consistent success when his company’s salespeople gain access to executive buyers early in their decision process and work in a consultative manner with those buyers to shape a vision of a solution.  When that happens, salespeople are confident discussing the business issues faced by those buyers.  They’ve found certain industries that they know well where they are able to do this consistently.  They are not getting squeezed by competitors and they are winning. But often, they're chasing deals that competitors started and reps are drawn into an RFP frenzy that chews up time and resources.  After all, they used to win these deals, but now they're pretty demoralized and reps are starting to leave.  

It's all about empathy for buyers

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Closing the Divide between Sellers and Executive-Level Buyers – A PLEA!

Scott Santucci

I hate to admit it, but I need to quote a line from the movie “Beaches”.   In the attached clip (its only 4 seconds) CC Bloom, the self-absorbed actress played by Bette Midler, utters a fantastically relevant quote for today’s sales and marketing professionals. 

“But enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.  What do you think about me”

This one quote best sums up the state of affairs in the trenches.  Your firm is sending your sales force to talk about your company and not the needs of the people who have the wallets to compensate you.   Ulitmately, sales forces are being prepared with a variety of messages about how great your company is (but enough about me) and they are getting a few hours of executive-skill training  in a day or two of genric executive selling courses (lets talk about you.).  Unfortunately, most lack the empathy of those executives to engage in a converation about the clients real business issues and revert back to talking about things they know (what do you think about me).  

What proof do we have of this? 

Each year for the past 5 years, Forrester has conducted an executive buyer study comprising of two parts.  The first part is a 38 question survey gathering the opinions of executives across the globe in different functions (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, IT, etc) and at different levels.  We follow up these survey questions with at least 100 interviews with roles that fit our profile to catch the color commentary that really brings richness to the insights. 

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Due Diligence Required: L2RM Vendors Are Great At Marketing

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here, to tell you: we’ve finally made it! Yes, our Forrester Wave™ evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms is finally published for Forrester clients. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop —and researched, analyzed, and scored them. Lori Wizdo and I, ably supported by reviews from colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics. Note that we sub-titled the report “Due Diligence Required: These Vendors Are Great At Marketing”.  This is not our frivolity: buyers really do need to firstly evaluate their own needs and then select the vendor that best fits that specification.

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Sales Experience — An Obsolete Hiring Criterion

Mark Lindwall

Sales Managers Err In Biasing Toward Years Of Sales Experience In Making Hiring Decisions

Thousands of sales managers, and the human resources (HR) teams that support them, consider years of relevant sales experience to be a key criterion for recruiting and hiring salespeople. In the new economy, however, sales experience is an unreliable indicator of future success versus another key characteristic. In fact, assumptions about sales experience that have guided sales hiring for more than a hundred years should be discarded in the age of the customer, in which buying dynamics have radically changed.

Successful sales managers, now, will focus on hiring salespeople who are best able to deeply understand their customers and align with their buyer's communication needs and preferences, as opposed to their product or vendor-industry expertise. Buyer empathy may be found in highly experienced salespeople or developed in inexperienced salespeople.

Sales Experience Is Not An Inherent Advantage For Engaging With Executive Buyers

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Understanding How Customers Buy Will Better Inform Your Sales And Marketing System

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here. We had an interesting discussion with a Forrester client this year, a business unit that sells computer storage hardware and software. Focusing on just one of its major accounts, we asked how much storage the vendor had sold to that account. The number reported was impressive, and the vendor also felt it had a significant market share in that account based on its own addressable market analysis. Well, Forrester talks to marketing professionals and to the IT organization. So we researched the true spending on storage in that company. The actual spending on storage was well over three times the amount assumed by the vendor. There were many business initiatives in progress (ran by business executives, of course, not IT), to optimize business processes or improve their outcomes. All of these projects end up deploying technology including storage, but there is no actual storage purchase — that is “lost” in the project budget. The reality was that this vendor had a miniscule market share because most of the spending on storage technologies passed over its head.

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Sales Leaders Are Ignoring An Effective Strategy To Gain Access To Executive Buyers

Mark Lindwall

In our research, executive buyers tell us that referrals are far more effective than other approaches for gaining access to them. Yet the referral strategy is ignored in most corporate sales organizations. If you want your salespeople to have greater success accessing executive buyers, then it’s time to consider this important yet forgotten strategy.

What Is A Referral?

In his recent report, “The Lost Art Of Referrals,” my colleague Norbert Kriebel defines referrals as: 

“A message strategy to transfer the value of your offerings from an existing customer to another; the existing customer is ‘vouching’ for you.”  

This report notes and describes four basic sources of referrals:

  • From a colleague in the company.
  • From a colleague outside of the company.
  • From a subordinate.
  • From a superior.
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What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?

Mark Lindwall

Do salespeople in different roles (e.g., strategic accounts, geographic, inside sales) and with different levels of experience have different perspectives on selling? Not significantly, according to our Q1 2012 North American Technology Seller Insight Online Survey.

Our recently published report “What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?” illuminates how similar the perspectives of sellers in different roles and with different levels of experience really are. If your company has one kind of sales role and one very consistent type of buyer, and they are well aligned, then this data may not much matter to you. But if you have different roles and types of buyer, then it’s worth examining the data in this report.

We found that three-fourths of salespeople agree that the most important aspect of a successful meeting with prospective buyers is their ability to understand the buyers’ business issues and share a way to solve them. The thing is, Forrester’s Q4 2012 Global Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey data, and interviews with executive buyers, clearly illuminate that the majority of buyers believe that salespeople are not successful in meetings with them. 

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Your New #1 Competitor

Mark Lindwall

Who is your company’s Number One competitor?  Actually, it’s not who you think it is. In fact, it’s probably not “who” at all, but rather “what” that is taking away the most sales from your sales team(s).

We recently asked 180 IT salespeople with greater than three years of experience this question: “Thinking about the opportunities you’ve lost in the last 12 months, what is the most common reason for the loss?”  They replied that in 43% of losses the reason was “Lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.” 

 

Your Real #1 Competitor

Your company’s “competition,” more often than not, is actually buyers deciding not to make a decision at all.  You lose to a “no decision.” Your perceived competitors didn’t win either.  No transaction happened, no value was created; only cost was incurred by all parties involved. OK, so is this really a "new competitor."  No.  However, due to changes that I'll discuss below, it is a competitor that has gained far more of a foothold on business that you would like to have.  So what happened?

 

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Where Have All The Good Times Gone? The party is dying out for companies whose salespeople lack empathy for executive buyers

Mark Lindwall

In his recent report, Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, Forrester’s David Cooperstein notes that in regard to successful business strategy:

It's no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric" or "customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.

Through our ongoing conversations with executive buyers, professionals in sales enablement, and through survey responses from hundreds of global executive buyers, Forrester’s Sales Enablement practice has discovered a massive gap between buyers’ expectations of salespeople and what they’re actually experiencing when they meet with reps. In fact, less than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations (see figure 1).  Further, only one in three IT executives said that sales meetings "usually" live up to expectations, and just over two of five business executives said that sales meetings hit that mark (see Norbert Kriebel’s report: Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low).

 

Do meetings with salespeople meet executive buyer expectations?

Considering that perhaps 25% or less of the typical sales force is even capable of gaining access to executive buyers, consider the cost when these meetings miss buyer expectations and result in no further opportunity.

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