The Forrester Blog For Sales Enablement Professionals
This blog is a roll-up of all the posts from analysts who serve Sales Enablement Professionals. Individual analyst blogs are listed below. Visit Forrester.com to learn how we make Sales Enablement Professionals successful every day.
Peter O'Neill here with my next edition of the somewhat regular blog in which I highlight something important for you about B2B marketing in Germany. This time, I’ll give you some exclusive German market details from our new report “Interactive Design Agency Overview, Europe 2013” published by my illustrious colleague Jonathan Browne. In the report, fully available to Forrester clients, Jonathan analyzes and compares 54 European agencies according to various criteria:
1. The type of work that the agencies do — from market strategy through web design to app development.
2. Geographic and industry-sector coverage (see below for a specific cut for Germany).
Lots of leaders believe that their salespeople (and marketers, product developers, salespeople, etc.) know their buyers. I disagree. Well, they may know their names and titles and a bit more. But let’s get real. Do the majority of your salespeople really understand how their buyers actually perceive value in what you provide?
Look, I love the sales profession and am committed to keeping it relevant in the new economy. So I am not bashing Sales. But "Houston, we have a problem" with selling, because too many of our sellers don't understand how buyers really calculate value.
What’s to Understand?
As a sales manager, sales leader, and business coach prior to joining Forrester, I’ve had thousands of opportunities to observe professional B2B salespeople from many companies and industries in meetings with prospective customers and clients. I’ve reviewed countless business proposals and presentations before they were put in front of IT and executive buyers. This experience has informed me that far too many (and I mean FAR too many!) salespeople lack understanding of the basis for which a prospective customer is really making a decision. Let's not point fingers. Let's just help salespeople figure this out.
Think about your own buying experiences. Out of all of the salespeople who you’ve ever interacted with, how many can you think of who asked the right questions to really truly understood what you were trying to accomplish and what you and your company were most concerned about (other than price)? For me, just a small percentage of salespeople stand out in my mind. And they do stand out, even after many years. How about you?
Like many other sales leaders, the sense that tectonic shifts in the dynamics between buyers and salespeople are happening has been palpable to me for a number of years. Researching these changes is why I joined Forrester just weeks before this year’s Forrester Research Sales Enablement Forum. At the Forum, I had a number of surprise learnings or “aha moments” gained from colleagues and members of our Sales Enablement Council who are learning in real time as sales enablement practitioners.
A Cross-Organizational System Issue
The seemingly endless search for the right “solution” to improve sales performance feels like a continuous plodding pilgrimage for many sales leaders. What I learned at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, and have experienced with new illumination since, is why the silver bullet solutions (i.e., tools, programs, training, materials, promotions, technology) that leaders in sales, sales operations, HR, and sales training invest in really ever meet our expectations for delivering better overall top-line performance.
There is true chaos that exists in the selling systems of most companies. Various business functions scurry to support the effort of increasing sales. My core learning from the Forum was that we have to ask whether we even have a selling system. My realization in working with clients over the past five months is that most companies “enable” their sales forces through dis-integrated, costly, inefficient, and ineffective multifunction (as opposed to cross-functional) silos of investments that have a poor performance improvement yield.
When we use the word “customer” who exactly do we mean?
I was speaking with a CMO and a VP of Sales this week - discussing their go-to-market strategy behind a product launch that is not performing anywhere near expectations. The symptoms they are facing are not uncommon - despite a flurry of sales and marketing initiatives, sales cycles are too long, win rates are low, and the deals that are coming in are too small.
When I asked, “Who do you currently sell to?” The CMO promptly responded, “We know our customers, it’s that the market that is changing too fast.” The VP of Sales agreed, “Our competition is catching up and our products are not as differentiating as they used to be.”
I had to pause and think before I could respond: “When did ‘market’ and ‘customer’ become two different things? Said differently, when was that last time your organization received a purchase order that was signed, ‘The Market’?”
Then the VP of Sales said, “We segment by company size, industry, and geography – and we certainly DON’T get purchase orders signed that way. We DO get purchase orders when we connect to people’s problems and build relationships by solving those problems. If we are focused on Markets and Products, we are focusing on the wrong thing; both Markets and Products are ultimately defined by the people who use them.”
To which the CMO added, "This is like trying to see something clearly after putting frosted glass in your own way."
I couldn’t agree more. Knowing your customer means clearly understanding:
The people who measure the value of your offering(s) with their wallets
Have you ever been in a client meeting that started with all of the elements of success and then, without warning, augured into the ground? These situations have all of the characteristics of a TV sitcom except a TV sitcom is explicitly designed to cause discomfort for the audience, while a meeting is not.
Or are they? I need to tell you about a meeting that went horribly wrong and how the Value Equation would have made a very big difference. While this seems like a worst-case scenario, elements of this story happen much more often than we might believe and they undermine the value we create in the minds of buyers.
The CIO of a large global organization had called an all-day offsite meeting of incumbent technology providers with the objective of each provider presenting the CIO and three senior members of his IT team - Application, Infrastructure and Architecture - with information on new capabilities that will add value to the CIO’s strategy. Having clearly set the stage with this objective, each provider was given 60 minutes to present, and the host of the session went first.
Peter O'Neill here. Several people have asked me to re-post this blog from a few years ago. Here it is .....
It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.
Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!
Funny question. The answer seems so obvious, right? True that when it comes to tangible stuff with clear intrinsic attributes which are, well, easy to value. Gold goes for $1,390 as of 3:16 pm Eastern time today, and we all know why. It's a commodity, a scarce one at that, and gold here, same as gold where you are. Obvious.
But what about intangible stuff? How valuable is fame, how valuable is professional success, leadership, or maybe a strategy? Well, we also know that depends on who is doing the buying and why, which means that value is in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. So putting a price on some things is tricky. How much were you looking to pay for that success? And maybe price is not really an issue when a strategy for turning around your $15b company is the goal and its your head if that strategy does not work in the next 18 months, so that will cost you $6m, few questions asked.
So why am I asking such a simple question?
In our research with business and IT executives we ask them simple questions, like what's valuable to them, and they are quite clear. And their answers tend toward the intangibles versus the tangibles. For example, when we ask, "What would you consider to be a valuable meeting with a vendor salesperson?" the number one reply is "The salesperson clearly shows they understand my business issues and can clearly articulate to me how to solve them." That's an intangible value forged in the cauldron of empathy, credibility, expertise, experience. Also obvious, but perhaps not so easy to deliver.
Funny question, until you think about it a bit more. With all the focus on the changed buyer who finds online or from peers much of what she needs to make a decision, on just about everything, including what to buy, why do we still have salespeople on the payroll?
Because your customers require them.
Funny answer, until you think about it a bit more.
Work with me here. If your company is in the business of converting assets, like a patent, or skilled craftspeople, or molten metal, or a process you understand well, into something of potential value to others, that is step one. Next, you have to communicate that value to other people so they can decide to get some, or not. To do that, you have people crafting all sorts of messages about your value; some of those messages you send out to the world online, some in traditional ads, others on blogs, some into communities, maybe a book, and those messages are the simpler ones. Simpler because these are messages the target recipient must be able to decode, absorb, and assimilate unaided into his or her personal value equation. Does the value I perceive exceed the cost and is the risk to realizing that value manageable and acceptable? "I like what I hear and read about this iPhone well enough, the cost seems worth it, and I think I can figure out how to make it work." Like that.
Then there are more complex messages, to go with more involved decisions, for stuff, the value of which you created to solve more involved problems than retrieving and sending texts or booking a table for dinner.
I was encouraged to see that Huawei had a proper track session on its channel strategy during its 10th Global analyst summit in Shenzhen. The track is another sign that the company’s enterprise division is maturing and taking the right steps to expand its activities in China as well as globally.
In 2012, Huawei recruited 1,289 distributors, VAPs, and tier 2 channel partners to reach around 3,789 worldwide, which represents growth of 52% in China, Europe, and 26 other key countries globally. Huawei’s enterprise share of channel sales was around 55% (excludes Operator resale) of its total revenue in 2012, a 32% revenue growth through channels from 2011. Huawei is also starting to build its services and software ecosystems with 700 authorized service partners and 200 ISVs.
Overall, three key things that stood out to me about Huawei’s partner programs are:
A more structured and well-defined partner program: The partner program has evolved considerably since last year and Huawei is working towards mapping its key accounts and streamlining the account management process. Through the segregation of 5000+ named accounts (key accounts based on deal size) and defining the customer engagement model for high value accounts, Huawei can bring about the clearer channel architecture that will be required to build an open and successful channel ecosystem.
Channel partners are bullish about their growth prospects. In fact, in a recently conducted Forrester survey in North America (NA) and Europe, 59% of channel partners expect to grow by more than 10% in each of the next two years. However, partners will need help and handholding as they aim for greater sophistication and higher growth targets, especially around cloud based services. Forrester research indicates that three-quarters of channel partners in NA and Europe now sell cloud-based solutions (up dramatically from two years ago). These solutions now make up 26% of their overall revenue, a percentage they expect to increase in coming years.
In my recent report, Seeding the Cloud Channel, I highlight three key areas where the partners will need support from both their tech vendors and their distributors:
Diagnostic tools and services to assess current maturity and set a transformation road map. Partners will first have to collaborate with their principal vendors to gauge the fitness of their organizations for an annuity-based business model — and whether they can sustain that model in long run. Vendors need to create assessment tools to evaluate their partners' business model transformation potential. For example, Cisco Systems built its OnPlus ROI Tool expressly for partners to model the myriad business model options and scenario decisions they face. This will not only help partners identify their pertinent strengths and weaknesses, but will also help them plan their future growth strategy.