It's Been A While, Why — And What's Going On With Sales Enablement These Days?

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, and it’s been brought to my attention by many of you as we discuss the sales enablement topic at: conferences, meetings, over peaking duck Peking duck (wow, this is what happens when you trust Word too much in your edits and try to get something out too quickly over the voices of children who want you to go downstairs and play Wii with them), or during inquires.   (NOTE: guys, if you add comments, I know you are reading!!)

Most of you already know that the 4th quarter is by far our busiest time at Forrester. Most of our business is subscription based, and these contracts have annual terms which are more often than not — January to December.  So, in addition to my normal workload of: writing reports, fielding inquires, and delivering on consulting engagements — I’ve been out in the field working with our sales force to help drive contract renewals.

Additionally, I’ve done a lot of speaking engagements as well.  Since our last post on October 2, I have:

  • Conducted a Webinar for Forrester entitled “Are you mounting a value selling engine on a product selling chassis?”
  • Was the keynote speaker at Savo’s Sales Enablement Executive Summit
  • Was a keynote speaker for ASTD’s Sales Training Drivers virtual conference
  • Facilitated an invitation-only executive roundtable on sales enablement sponsored by XFI
  • Participated in a Webinar for SAP about the need to improve business intelligence systems for knowledge workers like sales, marketing, and finance professionals
  • Participated in a sales enablement analyst day at our Foster City office
  • Gave a presentation at Forrester’s Marketing forum in London introduction our “model-map-map” vision
  • Participated in an analyst day in our London office

While this has been going on, we’ve also been reaching out to our clients — asking them where they would like us to take our research agenda, how we can improve how we deliver value, and what topics they want us to cover moving forward.  The demographics of our sample of technology industry clients included:

 

  • Company size:
    • 13 (50%) $1B or more in revenues
    • 7 (27%) Under $1B, but more than $100M
    • 6  (23%) Under $100
  • Altitude level (our term for the level of authority in the organization)
    • 8 (31%)  C-level (CEO, Chief Sales Office, CMO, etc)
    • 10 (38%) VP-Level (Sales, Marketing, Sales Enablement, Field Ops)
    • 7 (27%) Director-Level (Sales Operations, Field Marketing, etc)
    • 1 (NA) Manger level (Sales Enablement and Field Communications
  • Department (which functional group did the people report in to?)
    • 13 (50%) Sales
    • 8 (31%) Marketing
    • 5  (219) Other (field operations, both, office of CEO, etc.)

Obviously, there is a lot of information I can share with you — but in the interest of getting something out right now, I wanted to give you a status report on what’s been going on and why I’ve not updated the blog in a while.

I think the single thought I can leave you with (if you promise to really think about what it means) that best summarizes all of these conversations would be. . .

“Focus ON the system, not IN the system.”

Too often people are focused on very tactical, short-term things to boost sales or improve skills, but a year later have very little to show for that effort. Why?

Enterprise selling is complex, and that complexity creates a paradox (hey, I warned you that you will need to think deeply) where making things simple for customers and sales requires you to confront the fact that you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to solve them.

Declaring you need better sales people (or smarter sales people), or focusing on more activity (more leads, more calls); misses the point entirely.

Your customers have access to more information now (thanks to Google and Live) than they have ever had before in the history of mankind. Preparing your sales people with more product knowledge is not suitable today as you are arming your field with the vary information customers can get themselves. 

Buyer/seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste systems of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end; and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other. Addressing this issue requires a fundamentally different way to go-to-market than we have had in the past and it means we’ve got to confront the mismatch in our business unit construct and product-centric view points with the new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcomes.

I understand from your vantage point, this might seem a big task; others might feel like this is “boiling the ocean”.  If you feel this way, all I can say is that you would be very surprised at the number of your competitors who are building strategic programs right now to address these exact issues.  The trick is to first understand this is a holistic problem, and then break it down into a set of manageable projects where you can “fix the plane while it’s flying”.

Comments

re: It's Been A While, Why — And What's Going On With Sales Ena

Okay, Scott. I DID read this. And I will ignore the reference to "peaking" duck :-)I like your strategy of breaking down what seems like a huge problem into manageable projects.Could you say more about what you see as the difference between focusing ON the system vs. IN it?

re: It's Been A While, Why — And What's Going On With Sales Ena

Scott stated “you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to [help] them.”So true. In your presentation Scott you refer to this as blind men describing an elephant challenge. All the blind me see the elephant differently depending on which part of the animal they happen to be touching.Recently, having grown tired of the elephant metaphor, I’ve begun calling it the Mexico Dilemma. How one defines Mexico is largely dependent on where in Mexico they’ve visited. If someone vacations in Cancun then Mexico is a series of endless beaches and resort. On the other hand someone who has spent most of their time in Mexico visiting Mexico City is likely to view Mexico as a congested metro with a pollution problem.My point being you’ll have widely different views of Mexico if your experience is doing the bars of Tijuana at 2 AM on a Saturday night (Oh the stories some could tell) versus visiting the Mesoamerican ruins under the hot noonday sun. Its all Mexico but the look, feel, climate and experience vary significantly.So it is within any sales system. To someone tasked with ramping new sales people, knowledge management is an essential element in helping new recruits find the material and best practices needed to make a make a c-level call or position the company’s wide portfolio of products and services in the first meeting with that executive. But the Chief Sales Officer, with a singular focus on closing deals and meeting quarterly objectives, objectives the CFO and Wall Street are counting on, may not place the same emphasis on knowledge management. Instead knowledge management becomes just another SG&A line item to that CSO, one that is easily paired back in tough economic times.

re: It's Been A While, Why — And What's Going On With Sales Ena

A good key for any sales team to focus on is the "customer lifecycle." Rather than focus on deals per se, a sales team should focus on moving the customer through an "adoption plan" that keeps moving the customer into more value from the vendor.

The value-added vendors adds value by doing more and more for the customer. The customer might start with a small buy, find success, and then gradually add on additional products and services. The vendor is continually auditioning to earn more business and add more value.

Sales teams need to identify these valuable customers and make sure their salespeople are moving them through the "adoption lifecycle."

I blogged on this more at: http://www.sellinghasvalue.com/2010/01/05/commodity-vs-value/

re: It's Been A While, Why — And What's Going On With Sales Ena

Scott, thanks for sharing your ideas! Your following statement hits the nail on the head: "...Addressing this issue requires a fundamentally different way to go-to-market than we have had in the past and it means we’ve got to confront the mismatch in our business unit construct and product-centric view points with the new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcomes."
Starting with given sales enablement technology is mandatory from my point of view, but only the first step to be used to establish governance, processes, content quality, transparency, communication and change management. The more complex step will be to align the product and market view with the account specific view especially in major accounts. That's getting more and more important to establish a competitive value proposition and/or a consultative selling approach to solve the customer's problems with solutions based on current offering elements. Solution design should not mean to create complete individual solutions, it should mean to design smart solutions based on current offering elements with a minimum of individual development. To get these results, all employees touching the account need to have access to the same portfolio, offering, market and competitor information to get consistent key messages (sales enablement technology). And don't forget the tremendous complexity the account executives have to manage in the entire organization (selling big deals internally is often harder than selling it to the customers). All that means that people in sales, marketing and portfolio management have to change their behavior and to develop their skills at the same time. That's hard work and takes time. So let's get started, we already did.