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As one of Forrester’s European-based analysts, Peter O'Neill here, I like to show a little continental patriotism every now and then. I work on a worldwide basis, but it is always great fun to discover a European startup, or even established vendor, and help it out into the big wide world. I actually did this in the early 1980s in a previous work-episode – any of you know of SAP? Now to put myself into perspective e, I also championed the cause of Intershop and Softlab in those years, which were not that successful, so I am not claiming any credit for SAP’s prominence.
So I am always watching out for news about the European IT industry, and I was initially tempted to tweet or retweet a recent report by the German VC firm Earlybird that argues that although the European venture industry is a quarter of the size of the US market, proportionally speaking, it is outperforming the US VC industry in returns. But I found that I didn’t understand it well enough to attach my name so I left it untouched. The report is actually quite controversial as it twists statistics around this way and that so that it remains ambiguous at best. TechCrunch has now had a real go at it, calling it “nothing more than wishful thinking” !
Forrester’s sales enablement team is launching a collaborative effort with our clients and other experts to establish standards for competitive battle cards and I invite you to participate – send me an email to join.
If you are on the receiving end of battle cards today, you know the big challenge intimately because I hear you daily in my inquiries saying things like, “how can we standardize battle cards that come from dozens of different teams?” and “How do we equip our sales reps to anticipate and respond to competitive obstacles more effectively?” For those of you on the supply side, I hear you too, saying, “every sales rep asks for different things” and “we don’t have a way to measure the impact of our work, so we keep doing what we think is best.”
Stuck in the middle are the folks battle cards are supposed to be helping in the first place – sales reps – who tell me, “it takes too much work to find and use our battle cards” and “I need competitive insights, but I tap other sources that are more reliable.”
Consider the size of this opportunity! When we get this right, we will be able to connect battle cards with real business outcomes – like faster sales cycles and win rates against key competitors – and isn’t that why we build battle cards in the first place? Opportunities will advance through the pipeline more quickly when sales reps have tools to anticipate and effectively respond to obstacles created by competitors.
During my daily conversations with technology vendors about battle cards, I am encountering leaders that are taking a different approach. Sales leaders are taking responsibility for the portfolio of battle cards – some larger vendors have hundreds – and assigning someone to “fix the problem.”
Individuals who get assigned to fix “the battle card problem” sometimes report into sales operations and other times into corporate marketing. Sometimes this individual has a background in competitive intelligence, but other times the person is completely unacquainted with battle cards. The one trait that these individuals do share is that they have empathy for sales teams.
Battle cards come from a variety of internal groups including product managers, competitive teams, partner alliances, industry groups, or others who want to educate sales reps to handle obstacles caused by competitors. Each group packages up battle cards differently so that sales reps experience differences in the quality of content every time they use a battle card. As I talk with individuals tasked with fixing “the battle card problem,” they tell me that when they look at their current collection of battle cards, they don’t even know where to begin.
Before becoming an analyst serving technology marketers and focusing on the organization and automation of marketing processes, I (Peter O'Neill) had the more traditional orientation of covering a specific market — IT management software (ITMS) in my case. I remember being engaged with several ITMS vendors in the last months of that previous life discussing the same thing: how to address other market segments. Many of them selling in the enterprise segment tended to be tempted into what they call the "midmarket," which is companies with 500 to 999 employees and is perhaps more enterprise-like than small-business-like, so it seems like a safer bet. Forrester names this the "medium-large" segment in our data reports. Some were even ambitious enough to consider the SMB segment.
I was always pretty clear in my recommendations on how to market to the midmarket or SMB segments if you’re an established enterprise software vendor: Develop segment-specific solutions; use a different brand if possible; and know your channels well. None of these things are easy though and, to be honest, most enterprise vendors take the easy way out. They merely:
· Design some cut-down version of their enterprise products
· Tweak their pricing model but then worry obsessively about “cannibalizing” enterprise sales
· Go looking for channel partners but usually end up with the same ones from their enterprise segment
For this reason, enterprise software vendors that have failed miserably to scale down their products or sales channels litter the tech industry.
I’ve had a difficult year, business-wise (this is Peter O'Neill). Oh, I have certainly been busy and travelled a lot — I‘m not complaining about that. But I have found myself too often in the position of “let’s shoot the messenger.” Remember? I already complained about this back in May 2010, but the situation still hasn’t changed yet: Many tech marketers still refuse to believe our numbers. Well, our 2011 Business Technology Social Technographics® results are now ready: I presented the European data in a Forrester Teleconferencea few weeks ago and soon our excellent English-language editors will finish off two reports from me:
Showing the 2011 European data (see below).
Discussing the question: Does age matter in social media usage?
During the first week of June, we had one of our quarterly Sales Enablement Leadership Council meetings in Barcelona, Spain. (A leadership council is comprised of executives from leading companies who work with us to set the direction for the near-term and long-term role of sales enablement.) For an entire day, we discussed the application of Forrester’s SIMPLE framework, which is a model designed to help combat the random acts of sales support that persist within most B2B companies, to common sales enablement leadership challenges.
The sheer volume of insight, ideas, new research topics, and techniques shared during that session was tremendous – far too much to share in one blog post. So, I am going to pick two issues that came up.
First off, Tamara, I hear you. I was told point blank that I need to participate in the social community more. I’m going to make a more dedicated effort to do this moving forward, but I need your help. Please tell me what you’d like me to share and how. Honestly, I get a little caught up around the axle about the many deliverable formats I’m responsible for (research reports, teleconferences, conference presentations, facilitating council meetings, client deliverables, etc.) so I would love the coaching from the community on what would be the most useful.
Secondly, at the beginning of our council meeting, we had a good discussion about where the sales enablement profession is heading. I’ve written a very detailed document defining the scope and role of sales enablement strategically, but there is an easier way to summarize the trends based on how you define the word “sales.”
While the emerging disciplines and practices of effective sales enablement are taking shape as I type, a gut check now and then on progress makes sense. Stories are what I like to hear, because I can judge pretty well whether my organization could do what another did. It's a lot like science – do you think you could duplicate that experiment and get the same results?
This Friday, June 3rd, in Burlington, Mass., I will push some peers on the main stage, and folks in the audience as well, to make real for each other the pains and progress they have experienced in tackling the SE challenge at their organizations during the Mass Technology Leadership Council Summit. To get the conversation started, I will tee up what Forrester is seeing and suggesting, and afterwards we will turn to two panels for more of our collective reality check. The first features two pairs of sales and marketing executives working as a sales enablement team at their respective companies who will share what alignment means in practical terms, and more importantly, what it gets them in the way of enablement results.
The second panel will go deeper into the tools and techniques each is using to drive some measurable success. And yes, I will push them to get specific . . .
If you have a story to share here, what you did, how you did it, please do. If you want to hear some others and can make it to Burlington, Mass. on Friday, I will look for you.
Some of you were looking for me, Peter O’Neill, at Forrester’s IT Forum 2011 in Las Vegas last week. My apologies; I was originally advertised as speaking at this event, but we decided to keep me in Europe after all, where I contributed to the first of a series of two-day partner trainings being run by Dell around the region (see my previous blog post on the topic). I will definitely be at the Forrester’s IT Forum EMEA 2011 in Barcelona next week though: I have four presentations to make and look forward to many interesting one-on-ones with tech marketers in between that packed schedule.
I wasn’t too upset about missing Las Vegas; ‘tis not my favorite place — did you know that I am invited to visit Las Vegas around six times a year? Clearly, I cannot attend everything as I must also do my day job: working inquiries, writing reports, and providing advisory; so my rule is to visit each vendor’s event every two years. Missing Las Vegas also meant I could go to the Ariba Live 2011 customer conference in London last Wednesday, which fascinated me because Ariba was one of the software vendors I worked with very closely back in my HP days in the late 90s. I was involved in several exciting eBusiness joint ventures then (BroadVision, Intershop Communications, and Yahoo were my other projects) most of which were really too visionary for those times. Ariba’s, and HP’s, vision was of an electronic procurement process running as an intranet application supported by Internet-wide directories and exchanges of suppliers.
Earlier this week, our Sales Enablement team hosted a teleconference about building battle cards that better line up with sales reps’ needs. If you missed the teleconference, you can download the slides and recording; we wrapped up with the following questions asked by CMI professionals:
Question No. 1: What's the best way of collecting intelligence from within our company?
CMI leaders often want to discuss how they can harvest the expertise that lies within the heads of sales reps. We at Forrester haven’t seen any silver bullets, but we are documenting common experiences and planning research on the process of gathering insights and building them into compelling battle cards.
A few methods that we see across the industry include: 1) A CMI leader facilitates calls for reps to discuss issues with sales peers; 2) structured sessions with reps who recently encountered the competitor; and 3) retaining a “panel” of sales managers who meet quarterly to reassess a competitor’s tactics.
Question No. 2: Is the Forrester battle card a competitive document, selling points document, both, or more?
Our recommendations do not outline a specific length, whether the battle card is integrated with product messages or customer pain points (i.e., selling-points document), or what kind of software you use to deliver battle cards to sales reps.
This is Peter O'Neill (often the name is not displayed when you get a blog alert). I was in Austin, Texas, last week, meeting Dell executives at their 2011 Analyst Conference. We analysts always compare notes and discuss our impressions at these meetings and we were pretty unanimous this time about Dell’s consistency and clarity of message. Some of my illustrious research colleagues were quicker than I in documenting our impressions, so I’d refer you to Ray Wang’s comments. Colleague Roger Kay even got his blog into Forbes.com! My personal highlight was the fact that the whole event was introduced and moderated by Dell’s SVP and chief marketing officer, Karen Quintos. This is not a given at these events — often I get the impression that marketing is not really part of the vendor’s story or strategy at all. Karen even had a keynote presentation on her plans for the Dell brand and marketing initiatives in 2011 — I have never heard the word “brand” used so often by a tech vendor in the B2B context. Kudos to Karen.