Is Your Sales Force Performing Like Watered-Down Whiskey?

Mark Lindwall

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.

Your Selling System Is Outdated

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Check Out These Tools Linking Content To Sales Conversations

Peter O'Neill

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). 

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Sales Enablement Will Become A Customer Experience Imperative

Peter O'Neill

I co-presented a Forrester webinar this week with Senior Analyst Mark Lindwall on “A Structured Approach To Elevating Sales Training Value” – Forrester clients can download the slides and/or webinar file and replay it at their leisure.   Now doing the webinar actually provided me with two very important insights.  Firstly, it is much better when a couple of people present a webinar together – monotony is relieved for the webinar listeners (there is nothing worse than listening to the same voice for 45 minutes non-stop); and the speakers themselves feel more energized by each other’s  contributions. It requires a little planning (who speaks to which topics and how to handover) but not really more than should be invested in a webinar presentation anyway.  If you did attend or plan to replay the webinar, please let me know whether you agree with me.

The second insight came out of my considering what to say as a conclusion to the webinar. The structure we presented was all about making sure that everybody who delivers sales training re-orients their materials to the buyer journeys and buyer’s needs. We recommended using the documented Forrester four selling objectives (see this report) intrinsically within the training materials. And we suggested using them to measure the effectiveness of the training itself, by answering these questions:

  • Do “trained” salespeople gain more access to productive meetings?
  • Are the meetings more successful?
  • Do the salespeople succeed more in creating a shared vision of success?
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Sales Enablement Is Coming Of Age And Becoming Clearer

Peter O'Neill

These are exciting times for me, Peter O’Neill, as I ramp up my new position here at Forrester.  I must say, my Research Director predecessor was very visionary to use the sales enablement (SE) term at all over three years ago - the first thing I’ve learned is that our sales enablement clients are hardly ever called that .  As Scott Santucci writes in his new report: Clarity Is Key To Sales Enablement Success, “The number of sales enablement positions and interest in the topic have exploded over the past five years, yet many questions remain about what it is or which organization should own it “.  Even at the SE Forum this March, only 25% of the attendees had SE in their job title - other job titles that appear in the attendees list include various marketing positions, strategic roles such as CEO, CIO or chief strategy officer, and even sales management themselves.  Ultimately, we are helping all business people involved in enabling their client-facing employees to have valuable conversations with various sets of customer stakeholders.  I am sure that the attendee list at next year’s Forum will also be mixed: it is early days but I suggest you block your calendar now. Colleague Mark Lindwall  has just published the first of several reports on the topic of sales force development activities such as hiring, training

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Who Says That Sales Training Improves Sales Performance?

Mark Lindwall

Sales enablement professionals with responsibility for sales training clearly have a conflict: the desire to  help salespeople be successful, and  the demands of the organizational leaders who request multiple training activities for Sales. The fact is,  many sales training plans are massively diluted by a mish mash of uncoordinated  training activities. Training organizations are so bombarded by requests from Marketing, product groups, executives, sales management, and others, that they could deliver many months-worth of full day training events to salespeople every year -- if sales leadership would allow it. So managing demand, expectations, and results is a major challenge for training leaders.   

How Effective Is Sales Training?

Considering the amount of time that’s already invested in training, CEOs, sales leaders, sales managers are often asked how effective and impactful they believe sales training is. That’s reasonable given that they foot the bill, right? Nonetheless, their views are a distant second in importance to those whose opinion matter most. The people that best know how effective and impactful your sales training is are your buyers. 

Think about it. Salespeople are employed for the sole reason that you sell something complex enough that your customers need to talk with a salesperson to buy it. If that was not the case, they’d buy online and be done with it. Wouldn’t you? So every salesperson’s job is to create value for customers via their conversations. If they don’t accomplish that then there’s little chance of a sales because they’ll go elsewhere. So buyers, ultimately, are the purest judge of whether your sales training is effective in supporting selling (and consequently buying).

Sales Training Effectiveness According To Buyers

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Stealing Ideas from Baseball to Change the Game of Sales Enablement

Scott Santucci

I’ve been covering the sales enablement space here at Forrester for six years.  While the concept is certainly more common than it was “back in the day”, I’m not really sure we as a community have a lot of clarity about how to get various Marketing, Human Resources, IT, Finance, and Sales groups on the requisite same page required to drive the desired effectiveness and efficiencies of most sales enablement initiatives across the selling system. 

The problem today?  Sales is Getting Too Much Well Intended Help and Not Enough Real Support

One of the important realizations that we continue to illuminate for business leaders is that when all of these groups are working independently to support sales, a tremendous amount of uncoordinated, redundant, or conflicting investments are made.   Corralling these “random acts of sales support” is job #1 of any strategic sales enablement initiative…but how do you determine whose efforts are the random ones?  Whether you are in a small or large organization there are many different people are certain they know what salespeople need to be successful, resulting in an avalanche of sales enablement deliverables, but few real results. 

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Two Upcoming Reports On Marketing Automation Made In Europe

Peter O'Neill

Forrester is about to publish two of my reports discussing the state of marketing automation in Europe; one focuses on European buyers and the other on European vendors (they are currently with the vendors mentioned as what we call a  “courtesy copy” – they get a day or so notice before publication). Which will be great timing because we’re holding the EMEA edition of Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders in London next week. I will enjoy showing these reports to clients there to demonstrate how we pay attention to their needs.

What I did in the first report, entitled “Which L2RM Platform Vendors Have an Edge in Europe? The L2RM Platform Forrester Wave™ From a European Point Of View,” was pretty simple. I took our January 2014 Forrester Wave™ analysis, which Lori Wizdo wrote and I edited, and focused on criteria that I know are more important for European marketers. I also considered whether or not each vendor was represented in each of the numerous European countries — and if so, how. Many lead-to-revenue management automation vendors with a global reach have still not seriously set up shop in Europe, because they consider firms here to be late adopters of marketing automation. European marketers, most of whom market internationally by necessity, do have different requirements than those who market primarily to a domestic market. Vendors that focus on those special requirements have a significant opportunity to thrive in the reviving European market.

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Myth-Busting At The Upcoming London Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here. I’ve just finished the last peer-review of my presentation at the upcoming Forum For Marketing Leaders in London on May 13. All presenters go through a thorough review process before these events where other colleagues check through our outlines, drafts, and slide decks — all to ensure that Forrester delivers a concise and consistent story to the Forum attendees.  The Forum will be all about going beyond the marketing campaign and delivering visible value in context and on an ongoing basis. There were some interesting discussions about our strong opinion about marketing campaigns a few weeks ago during the US version of the Forum in San Francisco and we all look forward to continuing these discussions in London.  

Actually, most of the creative work for my session was done by Lori Wizdo, who presented her version in San Francisco (see here for some comments on that session). We had decided to do some “myth-busting” to help B2B marketers make better decisions about how to structure their lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) process based on their buyer journey research.

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I Created A Message Framework On The Way To The Sales Enablement Forum

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here, now back in my home office after our successful  Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona.  First, I must be totally honest with you, and selfish, my absolute highlight at the event was the day before when eight clients played golf with us on the famous TPC Stadium Course, which was where our event hotel was situated.

But the event itself was also quite spectacular for me.  I led a breakout track where we focused on how to create the right message for the target buyers you have in mind with your marketing and sales efforts. I had a great keynote speaker in Eduardo Conrado, from Motorola Solutions and I had my illustrious analyst-colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek as further guest speakers in the track to present other best practice examples.

Laura and Sheryl had also helped me to prepare for my own presentation which revolved around proposing a Message Framework and was based on the following agenda:

Ø  Buyer Expectations Are Different In The Age Of The Customer 

Ø  You Need One Consistent Message In Marketing Content And Sales Conversations

Ø  Your Message Must Stick In All The Right Places At The Right Times

Ø  So Pour The Message Into A Content Portfolio

Ø  Use Forrester’s Message Framework To Tune Or Rebuild Your Portfolio.

 

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Beware The "Buyers Already Know What They Want" Myth

Mark Lindwall

A new and pernicious myth as taken hold in many B2B Sales and Marketing organizations.  The myth - that buyers are 60-70% of the way through their buying cycle before they talk with a salesperson - is an intentional fallacy based on a false generalization that “buyers” means “all buyers”.  Search the web for phrases around this topic and you’ll find a substantial volume of vendors selling the myth as truth, much to their short term benefit.  In my discussions with both vendors and practitioners (leaders in Sales and Marketing), it is disturbing when they throw out the "60-70% ..." statement as if it were "fact" when, in reality, it is not only false but damaging to the revenue engine of companies who sell in the B2B space.

Not All Buyers Know What They Need

Our point of view is that not only are there different types of B2B buyers (we've identified four categories we call archetypes), but that in today's economy there are multiple buyers involved in decisions and they operate in what we call agreement networks. Some of these buyers - especially most executive buyers - want help in understanding complex problems in their business (including “unrealized opportunities”) before they ever think about products.  They may not yet be aware of a problem they are faced with, or they may know that they have a problem but don’t yet understand its patterns or implications or impact on their organization. They are (appropriately) weeks or months away from a search for a product or service.  It is these buyers who set the direction, before asking others in the agreement network (e.g. their teams) to get deeper into the details, including acquiring solutions.  

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