As sales forces in many organizations face a busy fiscal year-end, they are also planning for how to grow revenues in 2015. I’ve been working with clients who are looking for insights and ideas on how to increase their revenue footprint in their key accounts next year. In our discussions, we often discover that their organizations lack comprehensive understanding of where untapped opportunity resides in accounts – for example in other departments, divisions or business units, or other geographies. They also determine that they have operational barriers that inhibit sales teams from collaborating with each other to add more value to their customers. If you believe that your firm has untapped opportunities to better serve your customers across additional departments, business units, or geographies, now is the time to take action. But where should you start?
First, Figure Out Who Needs To Be Involved
To ensure that you maximize the potential of your key accounts, you need the participation of people beyond just your sales reps. To get this right, you need leaders from sales, sales operations, marketing, and potentially product groups and your tech management team, as well as front line sales teams, to come together to inventory your current key account presence or penetration.
Next, Ensure Your Sales Force Has Accurate Information . . .
To help your sales force plan and execute their key account growth strategies, you’ll need to ensure that they have accurate information about the legal and financial structure of accounts. Providers like Dun & Bradstreet utilize established legal and financial organizing structures (i.e., SEC) and data to gain accurate visibility into the legal, financial, and organizational structures of your accounts, as well as contact information.
Recently, I spoke with the CEO of a company who grumbled about the dozens of calls he receives from salespeople each week that land in his voicemail. He told me, “They clearly don’t even understand what business we’re in” and “They should know that their subject was for a person three layers below me.” When conducting a workshop on aligning their sales force with executive buyers later the same day, it was interesting to discover that this company’s own inside sales team has a performance metric of making a minimum of 100 outbound calls to targeted executive buyers per rep per day.
Does your company understand your buyers and how they want to be engaged?
When your salespeople are good enough — or lucky enough — to gain a meeting with an executive-level buyer, it’s a precious opportunity to create a revenue opportunity. Yet executive buyers tell us that only 20% of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value. Only one in four of these salespeople get agreement from executive buyers to meet again. Following are executive buyer responses to the question, “Are vendor salespeople frequently prepared for your meetings in the following ways?”:
I’m not a whiskey drinker, but I do love history, and selling. So when I read this quote from the October 16, 1861 Memphis Daily Appeal in a University of North Carolina blog recently, I couldn’t help get a chuckle and also make a connection to today’s sales enablement challenges.
“Times are tight here, as indeed they seem to be everywhere. Pea-nuts have advanced fifty per cent., and three-cents-a-drink whisky is now so diluted, I am told, that a good sized drink would come near to bursting a five gallon demijohn [a large bottle having a short, narrow neck, and usually encased in wickerwork]. I have noticed several who kept well soaked during the winter season have not been generally more than half drunk during the present, owing to the aqueous element present in the elevating fluids, thus preventing the stomach from holding enough to affect the head.”
This quote relates to sales performance in two ways. First, this article was written at a historically significant time in regard to how your sales force probably sells your offerings today. Second, a trending business strategy — in response to contemporary financial challenges — has diluted the potency of what, until recently, your buyers valued most about your salespeople.
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
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.