When Three's A Crowd: Navigating An Agreement Network Is Key To Sales Success In The Age Of The Customer

In most cases, the answers to life’s more complex questions have really simple answers. In today’s selling environment it’s often hard to determine who exactly is “the buyer.” Your salespeople are given a lot of inputs:

  • Your executive leadership want them calling on “business people” or “executives.”
  • The sales training courses they have been to instruct them to find “champions,” “decision-makers,” and “influencers.”
  • Marketers produce information about “personas.”
  • Business unit leaders and other subject matter experts talk about “users” or “doers.”
  • Sales managers tend to be more interested in understanding the opportunity (Access to power? Is it qualified? Is there budget allocate? When is the account going to make a decision?).
  • Their contacts within an given account give them different people or process steps to follow, or kick them over to procurement.

With all of the different voices – “You should do this,” “You should say that,” “You need to present this way” – echoing  in the heads of your salespeople, things can get very confusing.

A Tale Of Two Sales

The thing is – the buying environment for most of us has changed, leaving us with two distinctively different buying patterns:

  • On the one hand, the customer knows what they want and have developed fairly sophisticated procurements steps to acquired what they need at the best possible price.
  • On the other hand, the customer is looking for the expertise to help them get value from their investment and solve a problem.
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Conversations Are The Fuel For The 21st-Century Selling System

Why are sales and marketing professionals working harder and longer than ever before? Why are they seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another?

We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprisewide strategic procurement initiatives underway. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.

In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:

  • Training salespeople to get access to executives.
  • Creating "solution selling kits" (in marketing).
  • Developing return-on-investment tools.
  • Focusing on demand-generation campaigns.
  • Developing sales-coaching frameworks.
  • Creating more structured opportunity identification and account scorecards.
  • Fine-tuning the customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve reporting and forecasting processes.
  • Pricing and packaging exercises and corresponding negotiation training.
  • Reinventing product marketing functions into "solution" marketing roles.
  • Investing in branding and messaging programs.
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Sales Enablement And The CEO: Partners To Drive Growth In The Age Of The Customer

There sure are a lot of often-quoted factoids/observations about the state of affairs among sales forces. We are hearing and reading how:

  • Fewer salespeople are hitting quota.
  • Buyers are much more knowledgeable before they meet with salespeople.
  • Improving the volume or quality of leads boosts marketers’contribution.
  • Making it easier to access sales information helps.
  • Sales managers are not effectively coaching their sales teams.
  • Lots of spending is dedicated to better equipping sellers.
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Closing the Divide between Sellers and Executive-Level Buyers – A PLEA!

I hate to admit it, but I need to quote a line from the movie “Beaches”.   In the attached clip (its only 4 seconds) CC Bloom, the self-absorbed actress played by Bette Midler, utters a fantastically relevant quote for today’s sales and marketing professionals. 

“But enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.  What do you think about me”

This one quote best sums up the state of affairs in the trenches.  Your firm is sending your sales force to talk about your company and not the needs of the people who have the wallets to compensate you.   Ulitmately, sales forces are being prepared with a variety of messages about how great your company is (but enough about me) and they are getting a few hours of executive-skill training  in a day or two of genric executive selling courses (lets talk about you.).  Unfortunately, most lack the empathy of those executives to engage in a converation about the clients real business issues and revert back to talking about things they know (what do you think about me).  

What proof do we have of this? 

Each year for the past 5 years, Forrester has conducted an executive buyer study comprising of two parts.  The first part is a 38 question survey gathering the opinions of executives across the globe in different functions (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, IT, etc) and at different levels.  We follow up these survey questions with at least 100 interviews with roles that fit our profile to catch the color commentary that really brings richness to the insights. 

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CEO lens on the revenue performance problem – Psst…it’s about the system

 

Three years ago, we asked our CEO, George Colony, to interview other CEO’s about their opinions of their sales force.   One of those questions he asked was “are you satisfied that your sales force is getting your company to its strategic objectives?”

What do you think the answer was?

Out of 40 CEO’s he interviewed, 39 said “No.”

We spent a lot of time asking our clients – who are Sales and Marketing leaders – what they thought that meant, and the bulk of them believed it was about the sales force not delivering quarterly results. 

This highlighted a big gap in perspective. 

You see, in many ways what the CEO is selling is different than what the rest of the organization is – he’s selling the stock, which is a reflection of the future, whereas the rest of the organization is focused on selling the various products and services in the company’s portfolio with a quarterly event horizon.  Thus, if the people carrying out the strategy are more focused on the here and now and the CEO has a more forward lean in his head – you can see how this can create the recipe for major friction in the execution of the business strategy.

At the beginning 2011 we framed this problem like this:  The selling system is not adapting quickly enough to accommodate the changing business strategy.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, we spent a tremendous amount of time investigating what a “selling system” really means and the implications of the rate of adaptation.  Here are some highlights:

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Bending the Sales Productivity Curve in the Right Direction - Examples in our "cross selling" Track at our Forum (March 4-5)

 

During my keynote presentation, I will talk about new ways to bend the sales productivity curve and take a more strategic view of sales enablement – as always, the goal is to focus on bridging the gap between strategy and execution. 

 

One of those “new ways” involves thinking about “different patterns of perceived value” that your customers have about your organization and the role it plays in solving their problems.  Based on those patterns, you can create segments of “revenue streams.” 

Why break it down like that?  Well - not all of your clients want you to be their strategic partner – some even just want you to supply them with the same old products and services that you have been selling them for years.  You bend the productivity curve by matching the right sales model to these patterns of buyers and then optimizing the value chain behind sales to meet that value exchange requirement.  

Here’s what tends to happen – it’s one thing to realize this kind of segmenting is necessary, to move past the fantasy world that they are the strategic, trusted advisor for a majority of their customers, and realize they are stuck in different pockets (for example – in reality, they struggle to move outside of procurement, are stuck inside groups of IT buyers, or sales teams are told they don’t have permission to speak with executives).

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Getting Zen about Sales Enablement

 

When you put the word “sales” and “enablement” together – it sure can mean a lot of different things – to a lot of different people. 

As the Research Director on Forrester’s Sales Enablement team – it’s a problem I see every day. 

What’s entertaining about this (or aggravating, if you are a sales enablement professional inside a large company) is that not only do many people view those two combined words differently – many of those people are extremely confident their own perspective is the right one.  Given what we publish, the number of presentations we give, all of the cross-functional group settings we run into – you might imagine we’ve heard our fair share of strong opinions.

Here are a few highlights of my favorite “certainties:”

·         Sales enablement is just lipstick on a knowledge management pig.

·         Sales enablement is the new label for sales training.

·         Product marketers have been enabling sellers for years, what’s the big deal?

·         Sales people should be enabling themselves with all of the resources we provide them.

·         Marketing should own sales enablement, because it is clearly a content issue, and the sales force doesn’t have access to good content.

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Why You Should Attend Forrester's Sales Enablement Forum – March 4 and 5

 

Yes, the headline is a bit blunt…we are working so hard these days, weaving together our program for you, that my creative juices are a little fried. 

If you’ve been to one of our Sales Enablement forums – you know we put a lot of effort into ensuring a core event theme and message that’s solid, consistent, and woven throughout every presentation and session.  You also know we strive to create a cohesive community experience where you and your team can leave with strong new perspectives, a rolodex of new contacts, and a sense of purpose to help drive success at your company.

What I’d like to do is share with you some of what we have in store.

The title of our forum is: Accelerating Revenue in a Changed Economy.  Is this just hyperbole, or are we really up to something?

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Why You Should Attend Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum – March 4 and 5

 

Yes, the headline is a bit blunt…we are working so hard these days, weaving together our program for you, that my creative juices are a little fried. 

If you’ve been to one of our Sales Enablement forums, you know we put a lot of effort into ensuring a core event theme and message that’s solid, consistent, and woven throughout every presentation and session.  You also know we strive to create a cohesive community experience where you and your team can leave with strong new perspectives, a rolodex of new contacts, and a sense of purpose to help drive success at your company.

What I’d like to do is share with you some of what we have in store.

The title of our forum is: Accelerating Revenue In A Changed Economy.  Is this just hyperbole, or are we really up to something?

As you know, we’ve been researching the growing divide between buyers and sellers now for the last four years.  Recently, however, we’ve been shining a brighter light into this chasm…and illuminating the gaps between the articulation of the corporate business strategy and the different tactics used by members of the executive committee to execute that strategy

What have we uncovered?

Well – to put it kindly – many of the tried-and-true tactics, successfully used by these leaders in the past, no longer work in today’s changed economy. 

Why? 

Major tectonic forces – such as the emergence of our “do more with less” economy and the increased empowerment of buyers – are having fundamental and transformative impacts on how B2B companies sell and market their products and services. 

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Q&A With Tamara Schenk, Vice President Of Sales Enablement - T-Systems

Many of our clients are building named account or strategic customer programs in order to drive more revenue from their existing customers.   Unfortunately, few are even close to realizing their expected results. Understanding the challenges associated with cross-selling within large account structures is one of the track sessions at our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum

Joining me in my track will be Tamara Schenk, VP of sales enablement at T-Systems. Tamara has definitely followed the path of the manager of “broken things” to evolving sales enablement as a more strategic function within her company.  Here are some of her thoughts:

1. How has the role of sales enablement changed inside your company?

The role of sales enablement changed fundamentally inside T-Systems. We started with sales enablement three years ago after the consolidation of many different portfolio views to ONE portfolio. Consequently, we also consolidated the variety of different sales portals by implementing one cross-functional multidimensional sales enablement platform called SPOT ON. The hard work behind SPOT ON was to analyze existing sales content, to be brave enough to throw away thousands of documents and to define everything else in terms of target groups, content, purpose, mapping to sales outcomes, RACI matrix for each content type, content generation and content publishing activities including a content localization process.

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