During the past few months, our sales enablement team has researched and written about battle cards. We've spoken with more than 40 companies, including CMI leaders and sales professionals, to understand how sales reps use battle cards, what role a battle card plays in fueling customer conversations, and what CMI organizations can do to build more value into their battle cards.
During our interviews, sales reps told us that they need battle cards for effective selling today. Reps spend their time identifying a customer’s problems and building a shared vision to solve them. Competitors also engage in a similar journey, and sales reps told us that battle cards help them to:
Anticipate traps. Sales reps need to be aware of ideas that competitors will suggest to the customer early in the sales cycle, but that the customer won’t bring up until the final stages of a purchase. One rep told us of a situation: “A competitor’s rep told the customer that we have a lot of hidden costs – that we don’t include them in our early proposals, but that we will ‘change our tune’ later.” How do you prepare your sales reps for competitive traps?
Respond to questions. Sales reps must be able to answer their customer’s questions and recognize the more subtle issue behind the question – especially those issues that originate with statements from a competitor. A simple dialog shown in the graphic illustrates how a competitor will influence the questions that customers ask. How do you anticipate competitor’s questions and equip sales reps to respond?
This is Peter O’Neill and I had a very busy Forrester Marketing Forum last week in San Francisco: two presentations (well, two halves, I suppose, because I was the co-presenter) plus dozens of one-on-ones with Forrester clients. While I would have preferred to talk about differentiation in the customer lifecycle, the theme of my first Forum presentation and my most recent report, the incorporation of social media into the marketing mix continues to be the hottest topic for most tech marketers. It was exciting to be able to share our brand new Tech Buyer Social Technographics data which has just come in. BTW, the level of social media activity in European buyers is still ahead of American buyers – I will be presenting the European data in my planned Forrester teleconferences on May 9th: once in German for local clients, prospects and press; and once in English for other Forrester clients.
If the overarching tech marketing theme in the ’90s was all about marketing as branding, and in the ’00s, marketing as lead generation, then the ’teens are shaping up to be about marketing as education. But not about educating customers about your product, per se. No, what I mean is educating customers about the business process/function and best practices that underlay your product, i.e., that your product supports.
In our recent B2B Social Technographics survey, fielded in Q1 2011, we asked customers, “Which are the most important vendor action factors when selecting the best vendor for a technology purchase?” By far, the No. 1 response was “how well the vendor can supplement our knowledge on the business process/function its product/technology supports.” [Other response options included “vendor’s demonstrated ability to communicate the economic benefit of implementing its product/technology” and “vendor salesperson’s demonstrated ability to understand our business problem.”]
An example is called for. I began my career as a programmer analyst (that title ages me!) for an aerospace and defense firm. I had the opportunity to “rotate” through all of the IT groups, including business applications, engineering systems, CAD/CAM, and IT operations. I won’t say I became a wizard in aeronautical engineering (although I know more than I ever wanted to about downwash), but by the time I wrapped up my stint in biz apps, I’m pretty certain I knew more about most of the company’s business processes than anyone other than, perhaps, the COO.
A lot of tech vendors – and channel partners – are struggling over what channel partners’ play in the cloud services demand chain is going to be. Technology is decreasingly delivered/consumed in the form of on-premise installation (a function performed by and the original raison d’être of channel partners), and increasingly delivered as-a-service by a service provider. In the software sector, that service provider is typically (but not always) the software vendor (think: salesforce.com).
And, in most cases, for good reason. Software has bugs. Early versions of software can be unstable and unpredictable. In the classic channel-partner-sells-and-installs-software model, the product (the software) remains in the control of the software vendor, i.e., the vendor assumes the risk of customers’ unmet expectations. The license is between the vendor and the customer, and the vendor is on the hook for providing bug fixes and tier-2 and -3 support.
As much as many channel partners would like to act as application hosters (and many of them do – approximately 15% of software is delivered via a hosting model today, and 20% of channel partners today have a hosting business [see “Channel Models In The Era Of Cloud”]), when it comes to early-version or mission-critical software, vendors simply can’t risk putting the as-a-service service level/performance responsibility in the hands of channel partners. Service failures, over which the vendor would have no control, would result in egg (or worse!) on the vendor’s brand, not the channel partner’s. Until tech vendors’ partner programs mature to the point where they can certify partners’ data centers, those vendors are going to be reticent to hand over the data center reins to partners.
As you’d expect from a Forrester analyst, this is Peter O'Neill by the way, I travel a lot— about 40% of my working days. But it is also amazing how a full week spent in the home office can still feel so busy! These days, social media keeps you in the discussion mainstream – perhaps even more so than if you are on the road because you have more time to engage. Bob Apollo, at the UK-based consultancy even tweeted me privately this week with the message, “And you a VP at Forrester, reading my stuff, an 'umble blogger... I'm not worthy...” after I told him that I enjoyed his tweets and found them useful. Well, even as a fully fledged analyst for tech marketers, I continue to be eager to learn from anybody else. And I do this without any fear of appearing to copy others — here in Germany a popular government minister has now resigned because he plagiarized the majority of his doctorate dissertation years ago; bad enough itself, but he initially denied it when discovered.
In addition to the sessions mentioned by Brad Holmes and Brian Lambert in their blog entries, we dedicated an entire track to sessions that discussed how the decisions made by portfolio teams relate to the efficiency (or not) of sales teams.
Participants in the portfolio track all consider themselves to be sales enablement professionals, but have job titles that include product management, sales operations, competitive intelligence, and marketing communications.
Despite this wide range of responsibilities, each person shares a common goal of improving their areas of responsibility in ways that improve sales efficiency.
Attendees who look at sales enablement through a portoflio lens expressed the following thoughts about the Forum:
We feel empowered by seeing and hearing so many sales enablement professional come together.
We need to make our company executives aware of the industry changes in sales enablement.
We have entrenched behaviors that we need to overcome (i.e. muscle memory).
We face a complex amount of change and need a way to communicate it clearly.
We need to understand how e can overcome organizational silos that increase complexity.
I was invited to speak at the annual Distree XXL event in Monte Carlo last week. Now in its ninth year, Distree XXL gathers together top executives from tech industry vendors and distributors plus, in recent years, retailers from around EMEA for three days that include a trade show, presentation sessions, and meetings to discuss industry-specific channel topics. The 2011 event drew 950 delegates from 127 tech vendors and over 400 distributors. One of the event highlights for everybody is a process to request and set up formal one-on-one meetings between the various players, similar to our own one-on-one sessions at the Forrester Forums (only their software is better). A total of 5,000 such sessions were scheduled: some at tables in larger rooms around the trade show, many others in private meeting rooms elsewhere in the conference center.
The keynote presentation I gave was a clone of my recent Forrester Teleconference , where I use the word “changes” both as a noun and a verb: I describe what changes we see happening in the channel due to recent industry trends, and I propose how channel resellers and distributors must also change their business model for continued success. The most common comment I heard from attendees after I presented was, “It was good to hear somebody outside our business make these points. We’ve been discussing this for a while now, but not everybody is convinced this is happening or knows what to do about it.” I must say, I have never, ever collected so many business cards after a presentation where I must follow up by sending slides as well as two relevant reports (one on channel resellers and one on distributors) by my esteemed colleague Tim Harmon and myself.
There were two important pieces of Nokia news of interest to mobile platform developer partners leaked today. First, Nokia’s MeeGo platform, designed to replace Symbian, will likely be killed before ever reaching the market. Second, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop purportedly sent a 1,300 word memo to all Nokia employees that includes key sections such as: “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning”; and “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”
This dovetails with what we predicted in a November 2010 report, “The Feeding Frenzy Over The Mobile Developer Channel,” in that it would not be the quality of the underlying platform software (Nokia has remained strong there), but the ease of development, viability of the platform, size of the market, and availability of distribution channels that would settle the mobile platform battle. In all of these factors, Nokia has been steadily falling behind its competitors, led by Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and Microsoft (Windows Phone).
It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.
Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!
Well, they give us much better leads now.
Yes. Compared to before, they’re really qualified. I can certainly close my deals much quicker than I used to. To be honest, I didn’t even look at leads five years ago — they were a waste of my time.
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
And those contact profiles.
Oh, yeah, the contact profiles. Remember what it used to be like? We’d have no idea who we were visiting. Had to ask all those questions about family and hobbies. Now, before I see someone, marketing give me a full profile — I see their Facebook, I know how LinkedIn they are. I even see their last 20 tweets.
Yeah. All right. I'll grant you: Leads and the contact profiles are two things that marketing has done for us.