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.
I hear you! My earlier post about battle cards, and my title in particular, confused some readers. By outlining some of the problems with battle cards that have surfaced in our current research on the topic without providing a clear context of where battle cards are headed, I did not play out my cards effectively. My bad; thanks for the feedback.
Here is what we are up to and why: We are in the process of interviewing competitive intelligence professionals and reviewing a raft of tech industry battle cards. Our research to date shows that the wide range of purposes -- and the inconsistency of content -- in battle cards are undermining the value to sales reps at many tech vendors. This lack of a clear design point and focus on content that will be useful to the buyer -- and thus usable by the rep -- is making many battle cards mushy -- but not all of them!
At companies where battle cards are successful, they are very successful.
Effective battle cards provide valuable talking points that lie at the intersection of buyer expectations and needs and the product advantages and competitive differentiators that satisfy those needs. Great battle cards don’t deluge sales reps with facts out of context, but rather equip reps with usable insights to engage customers about meeting their needs. That is what we are finding so far.
Our purpose in researching battle cards is to identify what makes them successful and to develop a design point and methodology for creating great ones. Our research indicates that as the tech industry moves toward outcome selling, sales battle cards will become one of the important vehicles that portfolio teams will use to enable their sales channels.
We recently interviewed dozens of sales enablement professionals within the tech vendor community. These interviews painted a less-than-ideal picture of how sales teams value and use competitive battle cards – that competitive battle cards are a relic from out-dated selling models.
Battle cards still focus on products – just as they did in the days when customers purchased one product over another based on a side-by-side comparison of their features. In those days, competitive intelligence teams created battle cards about competitors – their company financials, products, sales tactics, and weaknesses – literally for sales reps to keep in their pocket.
A sampling of battle cards that we collected from across the tech industry confirms that battle cards are fashioned from a product point of view and often created because they are among the checklist of items for product managers when creating sales content. Today, portfolio managers also use the term “battle card’ for almost anything prepared for sales teams. In addition to competitive battle cards, we uncovered materials labeled as battle cards that talked about:
Industry overviews. How a vendor’s products can combine into a new solution to meet the needs of customers in an industry that the vendor does not currently service.
Technology profiles. How the capabilities of a new or emerging technology will allow it to displace the products or solutions that customers currently use.
Leaders of competitive and market intelligence teams know that something is wrong. They tell Forrester this every day. They describe it as being similar to when your car doesn’t drive quite right, but the mechanic can’t find a problem, or when you feel sick, but the doctor gives you a clean bill of health.
You know that something needs to change, but can’t seem to find a point of view to guide you toward the right way to change.
The most frequently used word to describe this problem is “credibility” — and is usually couched in questions such as “how can we build credibility with sales?” or “why isn’t our content credible with sales teams?” Forrester’s practice serving sales enablement professionals will discuss the challenge of building CMI credibility with sales during our February teleconference.
Across the tech industry, marketing and portfolio teams place massive amounts of content into sales portals and measure their success from the usage data — views, downloads, prints — from these repositories. During a recent research interview, one sales rep at a leading software company said, “I know that a lot of materials are supposed to be on our sales portals, but in my nine years, I haven’t ever taken the time to look.”
Your supply chain is broken if a sales rep can succeed for a decade without ever using your materials or even visiting the primary site holding your content!
Now here is some “earned media” for Cisco. In the context of full disclosure, let me first say that Cisco invited me to its Partner Velocity conference in Barcelona last week, full expenses paid. I stopped by for two nights and one day while traveling home to Stuttgart after a client workshop and meetings in Paris. But this is earned, not paid, media because I was truly excited by what I saw and heard. I’d like to share it with all of you tech marketers; whether you are at Cisco, or a competitor, or a partner-player in one or more of the ecosystems in our industry, you need to sit up and take notice of this event. To close my first point — a trip to Barcelona may sound attractive, enough to merit a “reward” for any organization that took me there. But I actually turn down more than 60% of my briefing and event invitations: I have to produce work as well (and who wants to go to Las Vegas eight times a year). And I certainly do not promise anybody that I will write any type of reports in return.
This was Cisco’s third Partner Velocity conference, and I’d heard great things about it from its partners, so I was eager to see what would happen. This is a conference for partners worldwide (first held in the US, last year’s was in Paris) and here’s the reason I was excited: Its focus was purely on MARKETING. Nobody presented about Cisco products, the sessions had titles such as:
Stand out and move up while your competition fails.
Effective paid search strategies.
How to build engaging customer relationships through CRM.
How to design a lead nurturing program that drives sales.
I am writing this blog sitting comfortably in an ICE express train travelling from Berlin, where I have just spoken and, more importantly, listened at the B2B Marketing Europe conference, where the conference motto was “Next Generation Marketing.” This two-day conference offered a truly inspirational mixture of presentations by:
B2B marketing gurus Chris Brogan and Rick Segal. Chris, who is president of New Marketing Labs, stood up front for 45 minutes with neither notes nor slides and casually threw out dozens of valuable comments, tips, and examples taken from his latest marketing 2.0 tome, Trust Agents. Rick is the founder and chief practice officer of GyroHSR, a firm that has won 20 Agency of the Year awards over the past 15 years from Advertising Age, BtoB magazine, and the Business Marketing Association, and he is the exact opposite of any of the characters in Mad Men. Rick explained how work and private activities are now really mixed up — people no longer go to work physically; they switch on the work state of mind anywhere and at any time, which means that marketing to this audience must change. It is one of Rick’s insights that I’ve cited in the title of this post, and his concept of “the new @work state of mind” makes Forrester’s data on tech buyer Social Technographics® so obvious and logical (I presented the European data at the conference). From now on, I will be using his concept whenever tech vendor clients doubt our numbers on how socially active their customers are.
Competitive & marketing intelligence (CMI) leaders are currently being torn between two points of view. But, these two views cannot be reconciled, and CMI leaders cannot sit on the fence! I know because I tried!
As a CMI leader, I participated on a team to restructure the company's approach to pricing. On one side of the table sat the "corporate" team who wanted to simplify the product catalog, making it easier to manage. On the other side sat the "field" team, who wanted to simplify pricing when talking with customers. I wanted to find an "elegant negotiable" that would achieve both objectives.
A talented sales engineer put me in my right mind! One day, she came into my office, closed the door, and proceeded to "school" me. She rightly pointed out that there could not be two different design points - we needed to decide whether the company would design around back-office operations or frontline conversations with customers.
CMI leaders across the tech industry face a similar choice, albeit with less drama!
Earlier today, the CEO of a sales-tool provider made this point: "In the past, salespeople for tech vendors had to educate customers on what a product could do, how it worked, and process orders. In today's Internet economy, customers already know what your products do from your web site, have already compared it to your competitors, and probably spoken to some of your existing customers through social media links. What is the role of a salesperson?"
CMI leaders need to reposition their organizations back to the place where competition matters - the frontline.