Where Have All The Good Times Gone? The party is dying out for companies whose salespeople lack empathy for executive buyers

Mark Lindwall

In his recent report, Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, Forrester’s David Cooperstein notes that in regard to successful business strategy:

It's no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric" or "customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed — to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.

Through our ongoing conversations with executive buyers, professionals in sales enablement, and through survey responses from hundreds of global executive buyers, Forrester’s Sales Enablement practice has discovered a massive gap between buyers’ expectations of salespeople and what they’re actually experiencing when they meet with reps. In fact, less than 40% of executive buyers say that meetings with salespeople meet their expectations (see figure 1).  Further, only one in three IT executives said that sales meetings "usually" live up to expectations, and just over two of five business executives said that sales meetings hit that mark (see Norbert Kriebel’s report: Executive Buyer Expectations — The Bar Is Low).

 

Do meetings with salespeople meet executive buyer expectations?

Considering that perhaps 25% or less of the typical sales force is even capable of gaining access to executive buyers, consider the cost when these meetings miss buyer expectations and result in no further opportunity.

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Letter From Germany: Congratulations, Intershop And Hybris!

Peter O'Neill

Just as London buses seem to come down the road in a series, I’ve been very busy with several of Forrester’s German clients in the past weeks: running three separate “21st-Century Marketing System” client workshops (well, to be accurate, one was in Austria, but we spoke German). I also met with Germany’s two largest indigenous IT companies (though the meeting with SAP was in Istanbul). So this flurry of Germanic activity got me thinking about penning a new “Letter From Germany” blog.

Last month, I visit Jena, in Thüringen, the headquarters of Intershop. As I had worked very closely with this company back in my HP days in 1998 (Heh! I remember when they were NetConsult), even helping Intershop set up shop in the US as an ISV partner, it was a trip down memory lane. At the time, Intershop, led by its young CEO Stefan Schambach, was the darling of the German business press; the closest that Germany had to the AOL, Amazon, Google, or Yahoo founders. The eBusiness bubble-burst set Intershop back somewhat, but it is still around with a strong, loyal set of eBusiness customers around the world. My colleagues Peter Sheldon and Andy Hoar published their Forrester Wave on B2B Commerce Suites last week and we were all pleased to see Intershop earn a position as a leader in their analysis. And another German vendor, hybris (an SAP company),was also up there with them. Congratulations to them both.

Within the wave report, the colleagues also pointed out that customers who migrate to an online purchase environment actually end up spending more money per transaction and more money overall post-migration (see below). And they are less expensive to support once they migrate online.

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B2C Or B2B? That Is So The Wrong Question.

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here. Today, I was just polishing off my presentation deck for my upcoming workshop, “Achieve Revenue Acceleration Through Better Content Distribution,” at DMA 2013 this weekend and was debating whether I needed a slide that set the right expectations about B2B marketing versus B2C. This is a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. We even discuss this often within Forrester. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.

Scott Santucci and I are currently working on a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail — and suffice to say, I have selected the table below, from that report, to lead my discussion with my audience on Saturday in Chicago. As this is “research in progress,” I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, you now have the opportunity to give us some some feedback about this — do we use the right words? Is there something we have missed? In any case, please watch this space for the final version.

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Understanding Value for Buyers in Complex Sales

Mark Lindwall

Who do you sell to? That’s a simple question that we’ve asked thousands of salespeople over the past few years. The answers are always interesting and typically focus on either a description of a business segment (e.g., “I sell to Financial Services companies of over $1 billion in revenue”) or a business function (e.g., “I sell into IT security departments”). 

It is infrequent that salespeople tell us about selling to a network of decision-makers who are involved in making buying decisions for their organizations. Yet what we call “agreement networks” are the reality of a shift in how companies buy today.  Agreement networks have forever changed the rules on salespeople, requiring new levels of understanding of how multiple buyers perceive value during their buying process.

Why is selling getting more complex?

  • Business problems involve an interconnected web of domains and processes
  • Selling into an agreement network involves multiple people
  • Agreement networks require multiple “sales”
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Controlling What Your Vendor Demonstrates Will Better Inform Your Purchase Decision

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here and I hope you all had a great summer break. Many Forrester clients, and some vendors and consultants, have been asking me about the progress of our lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) Forrester Wave™ project — especially as many B2B marketing organizations are planning their investments in various marketing automation projects, as documented in a previous blog.

Lori Wizdo is leading this project, while I am the overall content editor for the various reports we will publish. Lori is being ably assisted in her analysis by Sheryl Pattek, with further contributions from other analysts and research associate Michael Schrumm. Our analysis involves several hoops, which we have invited our participating vendors to jump through. Hoop No. 1 is an executive presentation of the vendor's product and company strategy. Hoop No. 2 is a detailed questionnaire, with 80 questions about their product and company — the answers to which form the basis for our Forrester Wave scoring criteria. Hoop No. 3 involves each vendor providing us with at least three customer contacts that we can interview to verify their claims and collect experience reports.

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Vendors: Read On To Understand Your Partners' Issues With Cloud

Peter O'Neill

 

Peter O'Neill here with some observations about cloud computing and channel partners. While cloud computing has been a boon for the tech industry in general, for channel partners the story is different. Channel partners have to deal with shrinking product margins, skills shortages, and new competitor types (including tech vendors themselves!). 

And the funny thing is: many vendors still haven’t internalized what predicament their partners are in. How else can you explain Microsoft executives berating their partners that “only 2% of you are in the cloud business” at their recent Worldwide Partner Conference – and then adding insult to injury by suggesting calmly that the partners could host future customer visits in Microsoft Stores, where they can see those MS cloud products (I count the Surface tablet in that list) they cannot even sell!

Forrester Principal Analyst Tim Harmon and myself are discussing these issues almost every day with technology vendors; in fact with B2B vendors in general, because cloud computing is affecting every sector now (including insurance, health care, etc.). Channel partners are changing their business model stripes — in myriad directions, and oftentimes as ungrounded "experiments."

In our new Forrester report, “The Shape-Shifting Tech Industry Channel Ecosystem”, we write about how the successful channel partners of the future will be those that operate under a hybrid business model umbrella, combining on-premises and cloud delivery, and IT and business value.

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Are You Doing Enough Customer Research? Yes, But . . .

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here: I attended a meeting of our FLB Sales Enablement Council earlier this month in San Francisco. The Council meeting included sales operations and content marketing executives from B2B companies Avaya, Cisco Systems, Haworth, HP, IBM, and Polycom. While the meeting is a facilitated discussion among peers, as per our standard FLB model, it is also more than that. It actively helps us analysts create new IP for our clients — we get their point of view and we test our own hypothesis before publishing reports. This meeting focused on the very important topic of defining the audience for our message (i.e., content and conversations) and messenger (i.e., the content channels, including sales). In an introductory exercise, the attendees listed all the groups and initiatives that they know are doing research with their customers. If you look at this photo, I think you’ll agree with what the Council attendees said after this exercise: “It’s absolutely frightening and quite chaotic!”  This photo shows the list of people or departments - the list next to it is by "initiative" and it is just as long.

I am reporting this because Forrester has just published my latest report for B2B marketers on content marketing, Establish Your Content Marketing Life Cycle; in it, I discuss some critical success factors around content marketing. One of the most important is doing enough of the right research about your buyers in the first place. However, the research I describe in the report isn’t even on these lists!

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Why Growing the Sales Force May Not Be Your Best Investment Strategy for Revenue Growth

Mark Lindwall

In a recent post, I introduced on a common scenario that sales leaders encounter whereby the CEO asks the chief sales officer to substantially add salespeople to the sales force to grow the bottom line. We see this strategy repeated over and over again and, unfortunately, it very frequently leads to deeply disappointing results for the CEO, investors, the board of directors, and the sales leader. Growing the sales force to grow the bottom line seems to make common sense, right?  Well not exactly. Here’s why.

 

What is the desired impact of adding salespeople?

First, let’s look at what impact the stakeholders envision with the “add salespeople” strategy.   Driving increased revenue and bottom line growth is anticipated from more salespeople acquiring more new customers.  These representatives may be deployed in new geography to broaden the company’s footprint, or they may be added within the existing footprint where, with more salespeople, the company can reduce the number of accounts per salesperson with the expectation that those reps will invest more time with each buying customer to sell more offerings (cross-selling) per company.  

 

Why doesn't adding salespeople produce increased revenue and bottom line growth?

There are really three factors for why significantly increasing the number of salespeople often doesn't result in expected financial growth.  These are:

  • Unrealistic timelines associated with the expected results 
  • Unanticipated expenses with adding and supporting salespeople 
  • Unanticipated risks
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Categories:

The CEO Says Hire Salespeople! What's Next?

Mark Lindwall

Your CEO just gave you your marching orders.  “We’re going to organically grow the top line and profits by 30% over the next year.  We’re going to grow the sales force to make this happen.  I’ve discussed this with the Board and they agree with the strategy.  So tell me what you need to accomplish this and let’s move forward.” 

As a sales leader the opportunity to rapidly grow sales seems exciting.  You’ve got the backing of the CEO, and the Board of Directors.  You’ve got air cover.  You’ve got a mandate.  This is the stuff that great success stories are written about (and great resume’s), right?  Yes it’ll be hard work, but you can just envision a year from now when your boss recognizes your success in growing the business on a big stage.  

As the Chief Sales Officer, one of two options is now available to you.  

Option #1

Your boss, the CEO, told you to jump and you answer “How high?”  You’re going to do exactly what your CEO told you to do.  So you gather your management team and enthusiastically communicate the challenge and opportunity ahead.  They’re all for it and will help rapidly put the plan together.  You talk with your counterparts in Human Resources, Training, and Sales Operations (who will coordinate with Facilities and IT for the required resources).  They’re all behind you (after all, this comes from the CEO).  A week later, you present your formal plan to the CEO and tell her that interview scheduling is already in process.   You’re on your way to growing sales and being a visible leader in a great success story.

Option #2

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“Letter From Germany” – Interactive Design Agencies In Germany

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here with my next edition of the somewhat regular blog in which I highlight something important for you about B2B marketing in Germany. This time, I’ll give you some exclusive German market details from our new report “Interactive Design Agency Overview, Europe 2013” published by my illustrious colleague Jonathan Browne. In the report, fully available to Forrester clients, Jonathan analyzes and compares 54 European agencies according to various criteria:

1.        The type of work that the agencies do — from market strategy through web design to app development.

2.        Geographic and industry-sector coverage (see below for a specific cut for Germany).

3.        The size of projects, even by project type.

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