Peter O’Neill here. We held our annual research planning meeting the other week and ended discussing yet again the eternal question of B2B marketing versus B2C. This is also 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. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.
My colleagues and I are planning a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail. Here is a table which I have often used to lead discussions and which I would like to include in the report. As this is “research in progress”, I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, I am looking for YOUR feedback on this please.
I was talking last week with Neil Ringel, Executive Vice President at Staples Advantage as we continue to prepare for the Sales Enablement Forum in March where Neil is one of the industry keynote speakers. Staples Advantage, a division of Staples, is the world’s largest office products delivery business, serving everyone from the twenty-person office up to and including the Fortune 500 and the B2B sales team works with clients to develop customized programs with specialized pricing, dedicated account management, and a complete assortment of products and services at the lowest total delivered cost while ordering and fulfillment is a mixture of these direct meetings and eBusiness transactions. Although they are called sales, they are actually more responsible for delivering the company’s brand promise: “We make buying office products easy.” Here is our discussion.
Peter: Do you think that you will need less, more, and/or different salespeople in 5 years time?
We are working on a new report on how to prepare a business case for investment projects around the six goals of sales enablement, including investments in technology — there is a massive opportunity to help salespeople through the use of data analytics and content presentation tools, especially around mobile devices. This report is actually being authored by my colleague Kate Leggett, our research coryphaei on CRM projects who usually serves Application Development & Delivery Professionals. I have asked her to focus this report on the needs of Sales Enablement Professionals: marketers or sales training executives who may see the need for these investments but, because they are the business professionals, do not always have a technology budget to spend.
Our buyer data certainly tells us that this is a priority. Investing in sales technology is now the No. 3 priority among businesses. The following survey data was published in another of Kate’s reports. When asked which departments or business groups their firm are focusing on the most when considering their software strategy and investments, the priority sequence was
I spent some time last week with Paul Gottsegen, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Office at Mindtree. Paul is one of our guest keynote speakers at our Sales Enablement Forum in March and Mindtree is one of the fastest growing business services companies in the industry. Services marketing, let alone services selling is a particular challenge; and thought leadership and storytelling play an important role in ensuring success. Like many companies, Mindtree has had to learn to elevate its story to align to the needs of business executives.
Paul and I discussed his upcoming presentation and here is our dialogue.
Peter: How are you helping your own salespeople to better understand their buyers?
Now it is high time that I remind you of our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum on March 2 and 3 in Scottsdale, Arizona,where the overall theme this year is about the different approaches required to optimize your sales channels. Our research shows that more transactional buyers now prefer more automation and self-service (eBusiness); whereas executives who are involved in buying prefer (no, insist on) having conversations and engagement that match their problem-solving needs. So we have designed an agenda that covers direct selling, selling through channel partners, as well as selling through eBusiness interactions. More importantly, we will address the challenge of aligning each of these channels so that your buyers think you are one company regardless of the channel they choose to leverage at any point in time.
I had great fun presenting our sales enablement (SE) execution landscape to Forrester clients last week in a regular client webinar. The SE execution landscape is an idea partly based on a report we published in September. That report introduced the concept of “the supply chain for successful sales conversations” and categorized about 45 different vendors and service providers in terms of six SE business goals, as shown below. We see these goals as the bridge between marketing automation and sales operations processes. The vendor list was the state of our knowledge when we submitted the report to our publishing team in July. But since then, we’ve become aware of so many more vendors in the space; either they’ve briefed us or we’ve come across them in client discussions. So as of last week, Forrester is tracking a SE landscape numbering some 112 companies. This area of technology is positively exploding!!!
As sales forces in many organizations face a busy fiscal year-end, they are also planning for how to grow revenues in 2015. I’ve been working with clients who are looking for insights and ideas on how to increase their revenue footprint in their key accounts next year. In our discussions, we often discover that their organizations lack comprehensive understanding of where untapped opportunity resides in accounts – for example in other departments, divisions or business units, or other geographies. They also determine that they have operational barriers that inhibit sales teams from collaborating with each other to add more value to their customers. If you believe that your firm has untapped opportunities to better serve your customers across additional departments, business units, or geographies, now is the time to take action. But where should you start?
First, Figure Out Who Needs To Be Involved
To ensure that you maximize the potential of your key accounts, you need the participation of people beyond just your sales reps. To get this right, you need leaders from sales, sales operations, marketing, and potentially product groups and your tech management team, as well as front line sales teams, to come together to inventory your current key account presence or penetration.
Next, Ensure Your Sales Force Has Accurate Information . . .
To help your sales force plan and execute their key account growth strategies, you’ll need to ensure that they have accurate information about the legal and financial structure of accounts. Providers like Dun & Bradstreet utilize established legal and financial organizing structures (i.e., SEC) and data to gain accurate visibility into the legal, financial, and organizational structures of your accounts, as well as contact information.
Recently, I spoke with the CEO of a company who grumbled about the dozens of calls he receives from salespeople each week that land in his voicemail. He told me, “They clearly don’t even understand what business we’re in” and “They should know that their subject was for a person three layers below me.” When conducting a workshop on aligning their sales force with executive buyers later the same day, it was interesting to discover that this company’s own inside sales team has a performance metric of making a minimum of 100 outbound calls to targeted executive buyers per rep per day.
Does your company understand your buyers and how they want to be engaged?
When your salespeople are good enough — or lucky enough — to gain a meeting with an executive-level buyer, it’s a precious opportunity to create a revenue opportunity. Yet executive buyers tell us that only 20% of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value. Only one in four of these salespeople get agreement from executive buyers to meet again. Following are executive buyer responses to the question, “Are vendor salespeople frequently prepared for your meetings in the following ways?”:
I’m not a whiskey drinker, but I do love history, and selling. So when I read this quote from the October 16, 1861 Memphis Daily Appeal in a University of North Carolina blog recently, I couldn’t help get a chuckle and also make a connection to today’s sales enablement challenges.
“Times are tight here, as indeed they seem to be everywhere. Pea-nuts have advanced fifty per cent., and three-cents-a-drink whisky is now so diluted, I am told, that a good sized drink would come near to bursting a five gallon demijohn [a large bottle having a short, narrow neck, and usually encased in wickerwork]. I have noticed several who kept well soaked during the winter season have not been generally more than half drunk during the present, owing to the aqueous element present in the elevating fluids, thus preventing the stomach from holding enough to affect the head.”
This quote relates to sales performance in two ways. First, this article was written at a historically significant time in regard to how your sales force probably sells your offerings today. Second, a trending business strategy — in response to contemporary financial challenges — has diluted the potency of what, until recently, your buyers valued most about your salespeople.
I hear so much about how modern marketers are now content publishers and getting better and better at being able to engage with buyers much earlier in their buyer journeys – but what about your poor sales people? My experience from almost all of my client engagements is that many content marketers forget about them and ended up producing yet more “random acts of marketing” which ignore the sales enablement imperative. I remember asking when I presented “A Valuable Message Framework” at our Sales Enablement Forum back in March:
· “Do you let your sales people know what content is out there so that they can leverage it and distribute it for you?”
· “Do you want them meeting a customer and hearing what content they have already seen, and being surprised”
· “How do get feedback on your content?”?
Not a great contribution from marketing to the total customer experience - which definitely involves a sales conversation for some type of product or service (see last week’s blog).