Peter O’Neill here, to tell you: we’ve finally made it! Yes, our Forrester Wave™ evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms is finally published for Forrester clients. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop —and researched, analyzed, and scored them. Lori Wizdo and I, ably supported by reviews from colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics. Note that we sub-titled the report “Due Diligence Required: These Vendors Are Great At Marketing”. This is not our frivolity: buyers really do need to firstly evaluate their own needs and then select the vendor that best fits that specification.
Sales Managers Err In Biasing Toward Years Of Sales Experience In Making Hiring Decisions
Thousands of sales managers, and the human resources (HR) teams that support them, consider years of relevant sales experience to be a key criterion for recruiting and hiring salespeople. In the new economy, however, sales experience is an unreliable indicator of future success versus another key characteristic. In fact, assumptions about sales experience that have guided sales hiring for more than a hundred years should be discarded in the age of the customer, in which buying dynamics have radically changed.
Successful sales managers, now, will focus on hiring salespeople who are best able to deeply understand their customers and align with their buyer's communication needs and preferences, as opposed to their product or vendor-industry expertise. Buyer empathy may be found in highly experienced salespeople or developed in inexperienced salespeople.
Sales Experience Is Not An Inherent Advantage For Engaging With Executive Buyers
Peter O’Neill here. We had an interesting discussion with a Forrester client this year, a business unit that sells computer storage hardware and software. Focusing on just one of its major accounts, we asked how much storage the vendor had sold to that account. The number reported was impressive, and the vendor also felt it had a significant market share in that account based on its own addressable market analysis. Well, Forrester talks to marketing professionals and to the IT organization. So we researched the true spending on storage in that company. The actual spending on storage was well over three times the amount assumed by the vendor. There were many business initiatives in progress (ran by business executives, of course, not IT), to optimize business processes or improve their outcomes. All of these projects end up deploying technology including storage, but there is no actual storage purchase — that is “lost” in the project budget. The reality was that this vendor had a miniscule market share because most of the spending on storage technologies passed over its head.
In our research, executive buyers tell us that referrals are far more effective than other approaches for gaining access to them. Yet the referral strategy is ignored in most corporate sales organizations. If you want your salespeople to have greater success accessing executive buyers, then it’s time to consider this important yet forgotten strategy.
Do salespeople in different roles (e.g., strategic accounts, geographic, inside sales) and with different levels of experience have different perspectives on selling? Not significantly, according to our Q1 2012 North American Technology Seller Insight Online Survey.
Our recently published report “What Do Reps Believe Makes A Meeting Successful?” illuminates how similar the perspectives of sellers in different roles and with different levels of experience really are. If your company has one kind of sales role and one very consistent type of buyer, and they are well aligned, then this data may not much matter to you. But if you have different roles and types of buyer, then it’s worth examining the data in this report.
We found that three-fourths of salespeople agree that the most important aspect of a successful meeting with prospective buyers is their ability to understand the buyers’ business issues and share a way to solve them. The thing is, Forrester’s Q4 2012 Global Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey data, and interviews with executive buyers, clearly illuminate that the majority of buyers believe that salespeople are not successful in meetings with them.
Who is your company’s Number One competitor? Actually, it’s not who you think it is. In fact, it’s probably not “who” at all, but rather “what” that is taking away the most sales from your sales team(s).
We recently asked 180 IT salespeople with greater than three years of experience this question: “Thinking about the opportunities you’ve lost in the last 12 months, what is the most common reason for the loss?” They replied that in 43% of losses the reason was “Lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.”
Your Real #1 Competitor
Your company’s “competition,” more often than not, is actually buyers deciding not to make a decision at all. You lose to a “no decision.” Your perceived competitors didn’t win either. No transaction happened, no value was created; only cost was incurred by all parties involved. OK, so is this really a "new competitor." No. However, due to changes that I'll discuss below, it is a competitor that has gained far more of a foothold on business that you would like to have. So what happened?
“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).
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.
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.
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.
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