What Must Still Be Distributed When We Have A Cloudy Industry?

Peter O'Neill

By Peter O'Neill

I have an exciting engagement next week; I will moderate a session during an annual review meeting of a leading tech distributor with its leading vendor. The topic we’ll discuss is the cloudy future of our industry and what that could mean for the roles and responsibilities of vendors, distributors, and resellers. I’ll have a presentation prepared, of course, but all analysts operate under the principle of “two ears, one mouth,” so I’ll also expect to hear much insight from both distributor and vendor on this topic —  and both parties will be represented by their top executives.

My colleague Tim Harmon and I have just submitted a report that explores this topic, based on a recent survey of 165 executives of channel companies across the world (only 52% in North America). We talked to resellers, distributors, systems integrators, managed service providers, and other channel players — in fact, no single executive was prepared to say that just one of these titles applied 100% to their company. We did the survey in collaboration with the organization Outsource Channel Executives. Interesting facts that we gathered in the survey include the fact that nearly two-thirds of these firms employ applications developers; most resellers are attracted to becoming managed services providers to their client base. Tim also went into some of these findings in his recent Forrester teleconference.

So, here are the title and agenda of my session next week:

                The Coming Upheaval In Tech Industry Channels

  • Diverse forces align to change the business of IT.
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Is Your Sales Force Really That Dumb ... Or Are They Just Misunderstood?

Scott Santucci

Ah, that pesky sales force. Why don’t they:

  • Follow the selling methodology you’ve developed with much expense and rolled out with great sweat?
  • Call on more senior-level buyers, for goodness sake — don’t they realize those are the people with adult money and fat wallets?
  • Just use the tools you’ve developed for them — all they need to know has already been figured out.
  • Sell more stuff to their existing customers — with so many things to sell, how can they NOT be successful?
  • Stay on your brand message? It’s like each rep has created their own version of the truth.
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A Shared Vision Of Success - With Customer & Market Intelligence

Dean Davison

Successful sales enablement reaches beyond just sales. Marketing functions such as customer and market intelligence (CMI) supply materials to your direct sales teams. This content can significantly improve sales impact if it is timely, relevant, and in-context, which for CMI means:

  • Timely - the right information available to sales teams at the right time.
  • Relevant - content that sales teams can easily adapt into customer content. 
  • In-context - framed by the business outcomes that customers use to make purchasing decisions.
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War!

Dean Davison

The words of "War," Edwin Starr's 1969 Motown classic, began ringing in my head this morning. It was brought on by a Harvard Business Review blog post by Steve W. Martin, "Why Sales and Marketing Are at Odds — or Even War." Within tech vendors, sales and marketing teams often fail to communicate or align go-to-market strategies. Forrester's sales enablement visionary Scott Santucci discussed the different languages of sales and marketing in his blog over two years ago. As for my own experience with sales and marketing:

A few years ago, I sat with the chief marketing officer and chief sales officer of a Fortune 100 tech vendor. The conversation didn't focus on customer problems, which should be the starting point for sales enablement professionals. The conversation didn't focus on sales efficiency issues such as sales cycle duration or win rates, which should be critical imperatives for all sales and marketing professionals. Each of these executives controlled massive budgets but neither one sincerely trusted the other. Their words were about aligning sales and marketing programs, but the real conversation, when read between the lines, was about control, boundaries, and politics. They were at war! 

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Getting Ready For The Marketing And Strategy Forum EMEA In November

Peter O'Neill

By Peter O' Neill

Our internal deadlines are looming for Forrester’s Marketing And Strategy Forum EMEA 2010, to be held in London on November 18 and 19. Pretty soon, all of our presentations have to be reviewed, content-edited and fact-checked, and then submitted. In case you hadn’t noticed, we have put together a special track at this event for marketing professionals in the tech industry; this runs on the Friday from 11:40 till 15:30. I will kick off and moderate this “conference within a conference,” where we will explore the idea that tech industry marketing should no longer be communicating product differentiation; it should be the difference. As technology becomes commoditized, customers take control of the vendor-user interaction, and social media becomes a standard interaction channel, marketing must move its contribution from just educating customers and persuading them to accept the product to a more strategic role of enabling interactions with customers to solve their problems -- an engagement model that Forrester calls "customer enablement."

We will also be talking about community marketing, marketing in a global economy, and aligning sales and marketing. Some of the presentations are based on our previous Marketing Forum held in Los Angeles back in March. But I have cajoled my colleagues into making sure that they illustrate their presentations with EMEA-based case studies and examples. I have been particularly energized to do this in the past few weeks as I have been looking forward to attending the bi-annual Ryder Cup golf contest between the USA and Europe, held this weekend in my home town in Wales. 

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Tech Vendors Are Disconnected Across Three Silos

Dean Davison

Technology vendors are disconnected from their customers. If the problem were simple, such as changing message themes, tech vendors could easily adapt.

When looking at tech vendors, the "problem" is long-standing, entrenched behaviors about how products and solutions go to market. The "problem" includes customers that now want to buy "business outcomes" rather than traditional products. The "problem" includes sales organizations that fail to learn about the customer's business or requirements. The "problem" includes marketing organizations that fail to recognize that while they get to aim the gun, only sales can pull the trigger. Across these three processes, companies are trying to shoot faster, shoot bigger bullets, or even aim at different targets when the real problem is eye-hand coordination - or aligning methods and messages. 

Selling technology requires three processes to align: (1) the customer problem solving process; (2) the vendor selling process; and (3) the marketing processes for communicating solutions. Gaps in these processes will cause finger-pointing within the vendor, raise the average cost of sales, lengthen the sales cycle, increase turnover of sales and marketing employees, confuse customers, etc. Few tech vendors are changing their internal methodologies to align these processes.

How are these gaps in your organization? How is your company addressing these gaps? We'd love to hear your experience!

(Next in this series, Forrester will introduce "portfolio management" as framework to help sales enablement professionals align these silos.)

Tech Vendors Are Disconnected From Customers' New Reality

Dean Davison

It's a shame to get old! My oldest child recently announced that he and his wife are having a child themselves. On one hand, I am thrilled at the prospects of having a smiling infant in the family - that I can hand off for unpleasant tasks. On the other hand, I am in complete, 100% denial about the word that will define my relationship with this child - the "G" word - shhhh, don't say it!

This made me reminisce about work. I remember my years in marketing at Sequent Computer Systems. The sales organization sold products based on "feeds and speeds" that became possible from "symmetric multi-processing." It was exciting stuff. We lived on the cutting edge of technology. Customers bought "products."

My next move placed me in the outsourcing industry. Rather than buying products, customers looked for solutions - usually a functional combination of hardware and software to solve a technical problem. Acronyms such as ERP and CRM were common, and the services industry exploded. Customers bought "solutions."

Now I am at Forrester and witnessing another fundamental change in the market. The financial pressures of the recent (and continuing?) recession changed customers. They now align business investments with technology costs. Customers want "outcomes."

The problem is that tech vendors are going to market the same way that we did 20+ years ago. In today's market, vendors must understand the customer - not in the abstract - but understand current problems and desired outcomes. Adapting your products and messaging to a customer point of view is called "portfolio management." Forrester's sales enablement team would love to hear about your experiences, perspectives, or insights.

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Forrester's Sales Enablement Conference Will Be About Selling In The New Economy

Scott Santucci

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”   

        -  Robert Frost

In today’s dramatically changing world, many of you are also at a metaphorical fork in the road. 

The path most traveled represents squeezing that last ounce of productivity from the tried-and-true practices that got you to where you are today. 

The other path is being set by trailblazers who recognize that the economy is resetting itself and new go-to-market models are emerging. 

Simply put, it’s a race to see who can develop a selling system that allows client-facing people to add more value to clients, at every interaction. These value-exchange patterns are different based on your customer types, the problems you help address, and the role your organization plays in solving them.

I am excited to be telling you about our first sales enablement conference, which will be held in downtown San Francisco February 14th and 15th. Over the summer, our team has been at work putting together a truly exciting and innovative agenda for our forum. Here are a few of the great topics we are working on:

  • What do buying executives actually think of how they are engaged by sellers? There’s a lot of talk about getting sales and marketing to sing off the same page, but what is the song? Any kind of alignment should start with buyers, and we are going to present a mountain of buyer insights that in many ways are jaw-dropping.
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What Is “Sales Enablement” And How Did Forrester Go About Defining It?

Scott Santucci

There are other definitions floating out there about sales enablement – some are from our competitors, there is a Wikipedia definition, and several vendors in the space are promoting the phase pretty heavily.

  • So why did we just publish a huge research document on the topic? 

Let’s start with how we decided we needed to invest a lot of cycles writing a big report about defining something some could argue was already defined.

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Want To Be Bought? Then Talk Cloud

Peter O'Neill

Continuing my musings about the impact of cloud on our industry (see last week’s blog), I’m in the middle of a cloud project where we are identifying and profiling potential channel partners for an ISV that is about to launch a systems management product for cloud environments. I must say, I’m surprised by the number of channel partners already talking about cloud.

It reminds me of a conversation with staff at Nimsoft, a company recently acquired by CA, about how they were promoting their cloud offerings. My personal view is that Nimsoft managed to complete their exit strategy so quickly and successfully because they focused all of their new product announcements and general positioning toward the cloud. Coincidentally, CA had decided to turn up the heat on its own cloud campaign and promptly bought three technology companies to strengthen the cloud offering and show their commitment — Nimsoft, Cassat, and 3Tera.

While Cassat and 3Tera were cloud-specific solutions, Nimsoft was already successful as a provider of systems monitoring software to enterprises and managed service providers. My theory is that their cloud image was the result of a considered repositioning exercise that culminated in their placement on CA’s wish list. Here’s another example: Yesterday, Adobe announced its intention to acquire Day Software, the Swiss content management ISV. Day Software had a consistent ECM business with modest growth, but I notice that they turned up the cloud messaging over the last months — I suspect this is what got them into Adobe’s sights.

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