Asking The Right Questions: A Socratic Approach To Sales Enablement Automation

Steven Wright

 “The answers you get depend on the questions you ask.” 
― Thomas S. Kuhn

The Socratic method proposes that you can learn much by asking questions to test the logic of various facts and beliefs to stimulate critical thinking. Forrester's 30-minute inquiries often become a miniature version of the Socratic approach, usually with the client having an initial set of questions and the analyst then having a few questions in return to clarify the topic.

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.” 
― John Ruskin

After 11 months, I have engaged in dozens of inquiries with customers from many industries — all of them asking about sales enablement automation (SEA). Questions range from what technology to use to how to organize and support it, among other areas. As you'd expect, certain questions come up more than others. My latest report, “Brief: Six Sales Enablement FAQs — And Three More That Should Be On Your List,” presents the most common questions (and answers), which — I hope — stimulate some critical thinking about how B2B marketers can use SEA to sell better and more.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” 
― Attributed to Voltaire

It’s worth looking at the first six questions and determining how you would answer them for your own organization:

  1. What should SEA include?
  2. What are the benefits of SEA?
  3. Who should be responsible?
  4. Who else should be involved in SEA projects?
  5. What are other companies doing successfully?
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Account-Based Marketing (ABM): Let’s Move From Cacophony To Euphony

Peter O'Neill

In the spring of 2015, we began to hear a curious cacophony around ABM. ABM stands for “account-based marketing,” a marketing concept that’s been around for decades. All of a sudden, it was being used in reams of promotional copy distributed by marketing consultancies, data service providers, and software automation vendors alike.

Marketing-led prophesies can sometimes be self-fulfilling. So now, B2B marketers everywhere are busy researching, launching, and conducting ABM initiatives — ostensibly to engage prospects at target accounts with personalized messaging, content, and offers. And as a growing number of product vendors, service providers, and event organizers enter this gold rush, B2B marketers are in danger of falling for the “fool’s gold” of unrealistic revenue windfalls and investment returns.

It is time to take stock and sieve this topic more effectively. The musicians among us would prefer to hear more harmony than discord. But the truth is that ABM means different things to different people; our recent survey of 120 B2B marketers on their strategies and tactics shows that:

“73% agreed that ABM is a term that lacks specific meaning and is used inconsistently today.”

The same survey showed that four out of five found ABM effectiveness falls short of their expectations.  So much for 18 months of marketing spend by all those vendors! 

Forrester’s research, in comparison, can be somewhat boring: We have long been talking about the age of the customer, the need for customer obsession, and post-digital marketing — and, of course, we tell our B2B marketing clients that customer obsession should be account-based if that aligns with their business strategy.

We do not make markets; we observe and provide insights about them, so we have been quiet on ABM in that respect.  

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Forrester’s First B2B Marketing Forum Is Also Our Sixth Sales Enablement Forum

Peter O'Neill

We are getting ever-closer to our first Forrester Forum for B2B marketing professionals. It is great to see so many of you registered for the event, and I look forward to seeing you in Miami. While Forrester does have another Forum for marketers, which is held in New York each spring and in which we cover some B2B topics, Miami is the one where we focus only on your needs. Why? Because B2B marketing is different!

Of course, as the research director for the role that meets your needs, I get asked that question a lot — both within Forrester and by clients (especially the ones who want to sell to you). “How is it different?” Well, here’s some key data to illustrate that difference.

Take a look at the go-to-market spending of consumer companies: They have a rough ratio of 10:1 – 10 times as much is spent on marketing as on their sales force. Let’s compare that to the numbers we collected in a recent survey of B2B marketers (see below).  Statistically, another way of saying this is that, on average, B2B firms spend eight times (7.9 to be exact) as much on sales as on marketing. That is why, for the past five years, this event was called the Sales Enablement Forum.

Sales enablement is a fundamental part of all things that B2B marketers do: collecting customer insights; doing content management; managing leads. Where would account-based marketing be without sales enablement processes? As such, this Forum is full of sales enablement topics:

  • Most of the presentations at the Forum will include sales enablement elements.
  • Day 2’s keynote sessions focus on transforming the B2B sales force.
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The Weather Company VP Global Marketing: ".. help everyone in the company tell stories that compel action & serve our customers"

Peter O'Neill

I was talking last week with Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, VP, Global Marketing at The Weather Company as we continue to prepare for the B2B Marketing Forum in October where Michelle is one of the industry guest speakers. The business solutions (B2B) division of The Weather Company, an IBM Business, provides weather and related data-driven products and services to more than 5,000 clients in industries including media, aviation, energy and utilities, retail, insurance, and government.  

Peter: What two or three B2B marketing improvements over the past year are you most proud of? Why?

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B2B Marketers Should Gate Later And Less To Improve Engagement And Success

Steven Casey

Today’s business marketers and their prospects are engaged in a frustrating content “dating” game. To get the content they want – and avoid the inevitable follow-up sales call or nurturing emails – more and more buyers are populating your gating forms with false, incomplete, or non-business information. They get the whitepaper, but all you get is another useless “lead.”

To assess the current state of content gating and uncover innovative solutions to this problem, we reviewed 35 B2B websites and interviewed 15 B2B marketing practitioners across four industries, the results of which are available in my latest report, entitled Unlock Content Gates To Support Self-Educating Buyers. Here are a few of the high points:

  • Gating practices vary across industries, but the pendulum is clearly swinging back to more open access. The early adopters of content marketing have learned the hard way that too many forms too early in the buyer’s journey do more harm than good.
  • Business marketers have reached a consensus on what content to gate and not gate. The dividing line is determined by the buyer’s need and purpose, whether they are in education mode or seriously evaluating your offering.
  • To improve the buyer’s experience, innovative marketers are experimenting with progressive profiling, personalizing content based on form data, augmenting minimalist forms with third-party data, and even profiling anonymous site visitors before they fill out a form.
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EO + 6: The B2B Marketing Playbook Has Launched!

Peter O'Neill

At Forrester, “EO + 6” is code for the publication status of a playbook. It stands for Executive Overview plus six reports – at which point, we formally launch the playbook with its special links and landing page on Forrester.com. Playbooks are designed to help clients succeed with complex programs, such as organizational transformation.

Get Ready For The B2B Marketing Renaissance

The next wave of competitive advantage for B2B companies will come from deepening customer knowledge and taking action based on an obsessive desire to deliver what their customers want before their competitors do. This fundamentally changes the role of B2B marketers; they need to evolve from brand stewards, lead generation machines, and sales supporters to architects of customer engagement across the customer life cycle. The B2B marketing playbook provides practical guidance for B2B professionals who are leading and living that transformation. 

The Playbook Report Titles Tell The Story

Executive. Overview:  Turn B2B Marketing Into A Customer-Obsessed Organization

Landscape:  Get Ready For The B2B Marketing Renaissance

Tools And Technology: TechRadar™: B2B Marketing Technologies, Q3 2016

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Passing the Lead And Dropping The Ball: B2B Marketers And Sales Operations Need To Play Well Together

Steven Wright

It’s tempting to think that with all the power of automation for marketing, sales enablement and a multitude of sales processes that marketing and sales work together smoothly.  The vision is one of a well-oiled machine generating leads, qualifying opportunities, and winning deals.

The reality is somewhat different. While marketing and sales have moved closer together, there are still significant gaps in understanding between the two. For B2B marketers, the challenge is to better understand how Sales Operations, as a set of processes more than technology, drives sellers behavior.

In my newest brief, “Mind The Gap: What Marketers Need To Know About Sale Operations,” I take a closer look at what unites and divides marketing and sales. Starting with Forrester’s Q2 2016 International B2B Marketing Strategies and Tactics Online Survey and incorporating input from dozens of inquiries and interviews, it’s clear that marketers need to make an effort to better understand what happens after the lead has been passed:

  • Process and organization trump technology – Once a lead is accepted by sales, a whole new set of qualification actions take place, often based on concerns of territory and account planning not visible to marketing.
  • Compensation, configuration and contracts correlate to closing: Sellers, and Sales Operations, use a different lens to determine the quality of an opportunity, driven by considerations of how the seller gets paid, what product configurations help drive compensation, and how contracts are negotiated.
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Start Making Sense: The 17 Most Important Technologies For B2B Marketers

Steven Casey

We've all seen the ubiquitous martech slides: Thousands of company logos crammed into a single graphic that is both useless and illuminating. Useless as any sort of planning or evaluation tool — but also illuminating because it shows what we all know to be true from first-hand experience: The B2B marketing tech landscape is confusing and getting worse every day.

To help B2B marketers make smart technology choices in the midst of such chaos, Forrester has just published the TechRadar™: B2B Marketing Technologies, Q3 2016. In this report, we evaluate the current state and future potential of the business value provided by 17 distinct technology categories, after surveying dozens of vendors and end users and consulting with the entire roster of analysts on the Forrester B2B marketing team.

In surveying the B2B marketing technology landscape, we uncovered a few noteworthy trends:

  • The technologies that drive customer acquisition and retention are thriving.
  • Social has become a tactic for all functions, but ROI is proving elusive.
  • Early adopters see long-term potential in sales optimization.
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Get Ready For The B2B Marketing Forum In October

Peter O'Neill

"At my mid-year marketing summit, when I was pontificating on our transformation to customer obsession, I looked out at the sea of nodding heads and spotted my direct reports each mentally stepping up to the challenge of getting customer-obsessed in their product, industry, channel, and geographic silos. And I realized the problem was not vision, but strategy."

(CMO, global technology vendor)

 

We know you B2B marketing execs are not in denial. You get that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase — and that 59% of those same business buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as their primary source of information. You need to transform from an inside-out (company, product service) perspective to an outside-in (customer, outcome, context) view. Like all transformations, this is brilliant in theory but daunting in practice.

Well, come to the Forrester B2B Marketing Forum on October 18 and 19 in Miami, Florida to learn how to do this.

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Has L2RM Now Become A CMO Imperative?

Peter O'Neill

Last week, my colleague Lori Wizdo and I were discussing our most recent advisory engagements on the topic of lead-to-revenue management (L2RM). Lori is kicking off the latest research for her next Forrester Wave™ evaluation of L2RM automation, and we were considering how we should modify the evaluation criteria from the previous Forrester Wave published in 2014.

As we wrote three years ago in the Forrester playbook on this topic, L2RM is not “demand gen on steroids”. It is marketing's chance to catch up with an already evolved buyer. Lori noted that we are observing the transformation of B2B marketing from a

"supplier of leads to the load-bearing sales force to the architect of customer engagement across the life cycle”.

Initially, we discussed L2RM, our playbook, and the associated Forrester Wave with marketing ops staff and with the marketing executives responsible for demand generation. But in recent months, we have noted a step change in our engagements. We are currently working with three chief marketing officers (CMOs) on this topic. They are using L2RM to transform their organization and culture.  

And our L2RM playbook is not just high-level strategy advice (I remember a B2B marketer telling me at a conference this year “We see you analysts at Forrester as the high priests of B2B marketing”). Heh! We do details as well - here is one of the graphs from the playbook, where we leverage the concept of that business school classic, the results chains. 

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