Sales enablement professionals with responsibility for sales training clearly have a conflict: the desire to help salespeople be successful, and the demands of the organizational leaders who request multiple training activities for Sales. The fact is, many sales training plans are massively diluted by a mish mash of uncoordinated training activities. Training organizations are so bombarded by requests from Marketing, product groups, executives, sales management, and others, that they could deliver many months-worth of full day training events to salespeople every year -- if sales leadership would allow it. So managing demand, expectations, and results is a major challenge for training leaders.
How Effective Is Sales Training?
Considering the amount of time that’s already invested in training, CEOs, sales leaders, sales managers are often asked how effective and impactful they believe sales training is. That’s reasonable given that they foot the bill, right? Nonetheless, their views are a distant second in importance to those whose opinion matter most. The people that best know how effective and impactful your sales training is are your buyers.
Think about it. Salespeople are employed for the sole reason that you sell something complex enough that your customers need to talk with a salesperson to buy it. If that was not the case, they’d buy online and be done with it. Wouldn’t you? So every salesperson’s job is to create value for customers via their conversations. If they don’t accomplish that then there’s little chance of a sales because they’ll go elsewhere. So buyers, ultimately, are the purest judge of whether your sales training is effective in supporting selling (and consequently buying).
Forrester is about to publish two of my reports discussing the state of marketing automation in Europe; one focuses on European buyers and the other on European vendors (they are currently with the vendors mentioned as what we call a “courtesy copy” – they get a day or so notice before publication). Which will be great timing because we’re holding the EMEA edition of Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders in London next week. I will enjoy showing these reports to clients there to demonstrate how we pay attention to their needs.
What I did in the first report, entitled “Which L2RM Platform Vendors Have an Edge in Europe? The L2RM Platform Forrester Wave™ From a European Point Of View,” was pretty simple. I took our January 2014 Forrester Wave™ analysis, which Lori Wizdo wrote and I edited, and focused on criteria that I know are more important for European marketers. I also considered whether or not each vendor was represented in each of the numerous European countries — and if so, how. Many lead-to-revenue management automation vendors with a global reach have still not seriously set up shop in Europe, because they consider firms here to be late adopters of marketing automation. European marketers, most of whom market internationally by necessity, do have different requirements than those who market primarily to a domestic market. Vendors that focus on those special requirements have a significant opportunity to thrive in the reviving European market.
Peter O'Neill here. I’ve just finished the last peer-review of my presentation at the upcoming Forum For Marketing Leaders in London on May 13. All presenters go through a thorough review process before these events where other colleagues check through our outlines, drafts, and slide decks — all to ensure that Forrester delivers a concise and consistent story to the Forum attendees. The Forum will be all about going beyond the marketing campaign and delivering visible value in context and on an ongoing basis. There were some interesting discussions about our strong opinion about marketing campaigns a few weeks ago during the US version of the Forum in San Francisco and we all look forward to continuing these discussions in London.
Actually, most of the creative work for my session was done by Lori Wizdo, who presented her version in San Francisco (see here for some comments on that session). We had decided to do some “myth-busting” to help B2B marketers make better decisions about how to structure their lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) process based on their buyer journey research.
Peter O'Neill here, now back in my home office after our successful Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. First, I must be totally honest with you, and selfish, my absolute highlight at the event was the day before when eight clients played golf with us on the famous TPC Stadium Course, which was where our event hotel was situated.
But the event itself was also quite spectacular for me. I led a breakout track where we focused on how to create the right message for the target buyers you have in mind with your marketing and sales efforts. I had a great keynote speaker in Eduardo Conrado, from Motorola Solutions and I had my illustrious analyst-colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek as further guest speakers in the track to present other best practice examples.
Laura and Sheryl had also helped me to prepare for my own presentation which revolved around proposing a Message Framework and was based on the following agenda:
Ø Buyer Expectations Are Different In The Age Of The Customer
Ø You Need One Consistent Message In Marketing Content And Sales Conversations
Ø Your Message Must Stick In All The Right Places At The Right Times
Ø So Pour The Message Into A Content Portfolio
Ø Use Forrester’s Message Framework To Tune Or Rebuild Your Portfolio.
A new and pernicious myth as taken hold in many B2B Sales and Marketing organizations. The myth - that buyers are 60-70% of the way through their buying cycle before they talk with a salesperson - is an intentional fallacy based on a false generalization that “buyers” means “all buyers”. Search the web for phrases around this topic and you’ll find a substantial volume of vendors selling the myth as truth, much to their short term benefit. In my discussions with both vendors and practitioners (leaders in Sales and Marketing), it is disturbing when they throw out the "60-70% ..." statement as if it were "fact" when, in reality, it is not only false but damaging to the revenue engine of companies who sell in the B2B space.
Not All Buyers Know What They Need
Our point of view is that not only are there different types of B2B buyers (we've identified four categories we call archetypes), but that in today's economy there are multiple buyers involved in decisions and they operate in what we call agreement networks. Some of these buyers - especially most executive buyers - want help in understanding complex problems in their business (including “unrealized opportunities”) before they ever think about products. They may not yet be aware of a problem they are faced with, or they may know that they have a problem but don’t yet understand its patterns or implications or impact on their organization. They are (appropriately) weeks or months away from a search for a product or service. It is these buyers who set the direction, before asking others in the agreement network (e.g. their teams) to get deeper into the details, including acquiring solutions.
I spent some time today with Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions. Eduardo is one of our guest speakers at our Sales Enablement Forum in March – in fact he is the keynote for the track which I have put together with a focus on the message within our 21st-century sales system equation. This graphic should give you a hint of what we mean:
If you’d like to know more, and what MMA and VPM mean, come to the Forum and find out. Eduardo and I discussed his presentation and this is our dialogue.
PETER: Eduardo. What will be your three key takeaways from your speech at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum?
EDUARDO: When considering how to move your company from a product company to a solutions provider, reexamine your brand and what it means to you and your customers in the lens of purpose, voice, promise, and values. Through a collaborative effort with sales, you need to examine the people, process, and tools/systems you are currently utilize to address your customer’s business challenges. A dynamic mix customer messaging to sales enablement tools reinforces how you can help your customers solve their toughest challenges and can position your company as a trusted advisor and not just a product company.
PETER: How important was it to link your content to sales conversations and how did you do that?
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.
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
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.
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.
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