My Top Take-Aways: Forrester Sales Enablement Forum

April 27, 2012

The energy was palpable among the 250 sales enablement professionals at the start of the Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012 — then Brad Holmes, VP, Practice Leader, Sales Enablement and Technology Marketing, Forrester took off his jacket, and then his shirt — to reveal his Sales Enablement HERO tee shirt.  He fortunately stopped there, but the enthusiasm didn’t!

Over the next 2 days my colleagues and I learned valuable new concepts and practical tips – connected with old friends, met some new.  In 3 posts I’ve summarized my three top take-away’s that build upon the two from last year’s Forum which deserve repeating: The Muscle Memory of Change and Differentiate to Create a Better Outcome.

Have a look at my three top take-away’s:

1)      “Start With Your Customer’s Customer”

If you start your sales enablement efforts and focus your company on what is needed to help your customer’s customer develop a better business outcome, you dramatically increase your chances for success.  This is a design point that everyone can rally around.  It is what your customer cares about.  If you help them provide what they require to better serve their customers, they will buy from you.  Customers don’t buy products; they buying what your products will do for their business.  Learn from Scott Santucci, Brian Lambert and others about how this more holistic perspective and value-based knowledge transfer will help companies successfully adapt to rapidly changing business imperatives.

2)      “Moving From ‘Go-To-Market’ to ‘Go-To-Customer’”

Ellen Daly, Managing Director, Technology Industry Client Group, Forrester, cites an IBM study, which says that in 5 years 80% of global CEO’s expect the world to change in unprecedented ways – these CEO’s expect the world to be ‘structurally different in all aspects from financial systems to centers of world power’. Thus it is very hard to predict AND keep up with the pace of change.  Customers are demanding we change to an outside-in ‘Go-To-Customer’ strategy to help them deal with their business uncertainties, improve profits and reduce risk.  And as Mitch Little, VP, Worldwide Sales and Applications, Microchip Technology, says quoting General Eric Shinseki, “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”  Mitch took this to heart.  Learn what he did to turn his company around.

3)      “How Do I Become Brilliant on 100 Different Topics On The Fly?”

Carol Sustala, Senior Director, Global Sales Force Enablement, Symantec, created this visceral picture of the sales enablement challenge: ‘How DO you become brilliant on the fly?’, in all of its complexity, depth and breadth. When it comes right down to it, this is what sales has to prepare for.  And this is the perspective we need when equipping sales to be successful.  How can we make it easy for sales to be articulate in helping their customer profitably solve their business issues?  What are the tools, content, training and processes needed to fully address this issue?  Carol has some key lessons for us to consider.

Maybe you came away with other ideas to help your sales enablement efforts?  Perhaps you weren’t able to attend but have some thoughts.  All comments are welcome — would love to hear them!

Start With Your Customer’s Customer

April 26, 2012

Many people ask: Where do I start my sales enablement initiatives?  Given all there is to do, how do I prioritize?  I need other people and organizations to be successful, how do I get them — and keep them engaged?  How do I communicate and sell the sales enablement vision to effectively manage the change we need to meet our customer’s imperatives? How can I enable my company to meet our strategic objectives?  HELP!

Design Point

In the summary session on Day 2 of the Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012 , one theme of the conference quickly rose to the top for me: ‘Start with your customer’s customer.’ Everything else is secondary.  This is a design point that everyone can rally around.  It is what your customer cares about.  If you provide what they require to better serve their customers, they will buy from you.

Information Overload Only Means Noise

Of course for most companies starting with your customer’s customer is easier said than done.  You have 100’s if not 1,000’s of products and services — and many types of sales, channel and support organizations.  Oftentimes there are product managers for each of these lines who are compensated for creating the plethora of selling materials. And then worldwide, regional and local marketing and training groups add their value to create more information, events, trainings and campaigns, etc., all with the goal of helping sales to sell.

For the sales person, it is unmanageable, and it all becomes just noise, according to Daniel West, VP Education and Enablement, Informatica, and from my personal knowledge.  And as Scott Santucci, Principal Analyst and Research Director, Forrester, says the lack of customer focus results in random acts of sales enablement that causes information overload, a lack of accountability, inconsistent processes, wasted time, excess expense and an inability to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

Flipping the Model

If you flip the model it on its head and build a chart each of your customer’s customers business, you will begin to see what they need from your customer to be successful. Once you understand this, map how your offerings help your customer service their customer.  This will be the start of your end-to-end information value chain required to provide real value to your customer. Your perspective will become more ‘holistic’ (the ‘H’ in HERO).  And your view will change from the old product-focused ‘inside-out’ view to the customer based ‘outside-in’ perspective.  And as Brian Lambert, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research, recommends, ‘Build your selling around solving customer problems’, this analysis includes their:

  • Buyer decisions
  • Buying patterns
  • Communication required up and down the buying process

Portfolio Rationalization

This effort could result in a significant change in how product portfolios are designed.  And it was for T-Systems. Tamara Schenk, VP Sales Enablement, discussed how they re-architected their product portfolio to align with their customers’ requirements.  This rationalized portfolio provided a more solid and aligned foundation from which to build their sales enablement tools, processes and content. It takes a strategic view, persistence and executive approval for this significant a change.  Many companies unfortunately need to make do with their Rubik’s cube of offerings, creating workarounds downstream and a less than ideal sales enablement environment.

Information Value Chain and Knowledge Transfer

According to Ken Powell, VP Global Sales Enablement and Marketing, Sungard, ‘Customers only buy outcomes’.  They are not buying your products; they are buying what your products will do for their business.  In order to communicate how your offerings provide the most value, it is imperative that you map your offerings to the customer’s business outcomes.

The next step is to understand the information required to close the gap between sales’ current nowledge level and what they need to know to fully understand – and then explain — the value to their prospect.  This is the information value chain.  According to Forrester, and others, there is a need for knowledge transfer in each step of this chain.  The amount and type of information needed depends on the business strategy and selling model, correlated with the level of complexity of the offerings.

Mapping Offering Complexity and Knowledge Transfer—The Reality of Selling: the ‘R’ in HERO

The reality is that a great deal information and expertise is needed to sell at the higher levels required for the more strategic initiatives.  Many of your offerings are complex and require in-depth discussions and time to be understood by sales and the prospect.  If you have an aggressive quarterly-driven sales model, there will be a mismatch between your business strategy and the selling model.  As a result, the knowledge transfer needed to ensure the prospect understands your value doesn’t have time to be communicated and absorbed.  Sales will not sell your offering effectively, and the prospect who is not receiving value from you, will buy elsewhere or not at all.

On-Going Operations: The ‘O’ in HERO

Complicating the situation is that most companies have a multitude of offerings, some of which are simple to sell, and others are far more complex.  This necessitates multiple knowledge transfer strategies, ranging from the ‘quick and easy’ to more in-depth deep dives.  Scott calls this the multiple levels a ‘hybrid’ approach.  In order for these approaches to really be effective, these process can’t be a one-off, they have to be repeatable and on-going (the ‘O’ on HERO).

Managing Change

In addition it is critical to understand the negative impact of Muscle Memory in these change  management efforts.  People are used to conducting business in a certain way.  Change will only occur if people understand the systemic nature of the issue and how they fit within.  Therefore it is key is for each function in the information value chain to understand their role relative to the customer, as well as their relationship to one another. This is true regardless of whether they are in product management, training, marketing or sales, etc.  It is a selling system. This perspective will help make the quality of their contributions much clearer.  Brian also suggested that certification by customer role would add accountability to the process.

The change management component is huge and its success critical to CEOs who want to reduce risk and create greater adaptability to address their business strategies.  39 out of 40 CEOs agreed with the statement that ‘they are not satisfied that their sales force is getting their company to their strategic objectives’.  CEOs believe that ‘the selling system is not adapting quickly enough to accommodate our business strategy’.  George Colony, CEO, Forrester, 2011.

In Summary

To adapt the selling system, begin with the end in mind.   Start with your customer’s customer requirements and create the organization that will deliver the repeatable knowledge transfer necessary to support the variety of business imperatives for your company.   Build in the change management and communication strategies necessary for success.  Prioritize projects with small but effective wins to build credibility and be a HERO to sales and your CEO.

And don’t forget to have fun!

Your thoughts?

Moving From ‘Go-To-Market’ to ‘Go-To-Customer’

April 25, 2012

Just substituting the word ‘customer’ for the word ‘marketing’ could seem to be a superficial move, but in fact it is a fundamental change in strategy as was highlighted at the Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012.  Remember ‘One To One’ marketing?  The idea of GTC isn’t new – Don Peppers and Martha Rogers coined their term in their 1995 book, The One to One Future.

What’s different now is that we have a less siloed perspective — ‘a selling system’– not just sales or marketing or training.  Our analytics are better and of course our customers are creating demand for this change to help them deal with business uncertainly, improve profits and to reduce risk.

The shift to Go-To-Customer (GTC) including the change to an ‘outside-in’ view changes the perception from a market segment to an individual company, and potentially to a specific role.  With this solid understanding of the customer, companies are able to create more relevant offerings, marketing and selling models to meet the needs of the customer. But how do you make these changes in a difficult and extremely unpredictable business environment?

Consider these imperatives:

Customer Knowledge: Change is constant, the rate unprecedented and it takes longer than you think to understand your customer. And the process has to be on-going with built in continuous improvement.

- Business Strategy Integration:
To be effective, this deep customer insight and the resulting business strategy has to be to be integrated within your overall organization.

Value Creation: Customers ONLY care about the value you bring to them. They REALLY do not care about your products. They want to know: how do you and your offerings create a better business advantage for them?  This will be your competitive advantage.

Customer  Knowledge: Change is constant, the rate unprecedented and it takes a long time to understand your customer.  And the process is on-going.
Ellen Daly, Managing Director, Technology Industry Client Group, Forrester, cites an IBM study, which says that in 5 years 80% of global CEO’s expect the world to change in unprecedented ways – these CEO’s expect the world to be ‘structurally different in all aspects from financial systems to centers of world power’.  Thus it is very hard to predict AND keep up with the pace of change.  They, interestingly, are most ‘freaked out’ (Ellen’s phrase) by their customers.  Their customer is not as brand loyal, is digitally native and 86% of the time sources their buying information from someplace other than the salesperson!

Given the new level of change and complexity, it is helpful to frame the issue with the new 4 P’s from Scott Santucci, Principal Analyst and Research Director, Forrester: Problem, Pattern, Path and Proof.  You may remember that the old 4 P’s are Product, Place, Price and Promotion.  Here
they are mapped to a more customer-centric view.

  1. Product Problem: the business need as expressed by the customer
  2. Place – Pattern: common ways that customers solve these problems
  3. Price – Path : best practice path for solving their complex problems
  4. PromotionProof: given the expanded number of people involved in the buying decision, help the customer to internally sell the recommended solution.

Business Strategy Integration: To be effective, this deep customer understanding and the resulting business strategy has to be to be integrated within your overall organization.
This includes your offerings, tiering, compensation, partnerships, acquisitions, selling models, etc.  Essentially this is ‘running sales enablement as a business within a business’ to quote Scott, Carol Sustala, Senior Director, Global Sales Force Enablement, Symantec and Daniel West, VP, Education and Enablement, Informatica.  What value do you bring to your customer, and how is that value generated by each employee – how is each motivated and incented to think and then behave in ways that support the business value for your customer? And how is this value provided even as your customer’s world (and yours!) is changing at an unprecedented rate?

Value Creation: Customers ONLY care about the value you bring to them.  They REALLY do not care about your products. They want to know: how do you and your offerings create a better business advantage for them?  This will be your competitive advantage.
How do you provide value despite this unpredictable change and churn?  Ellen and Scott say: ‘inject a little customer DNA in your organization’.   Not surprisingly, it takes time, recognition of the issue, focus and a push from the top. 

Mitch Little, VP Worldwide Sales and Applications, brought the 3 imperatives: customer knowledge, business strategy integration and value creation, to life at Microchip Technology.  At the Forum he shared how the competitive threat posed by Google search impacted his rapidly commoditized business.  He realized he needed to really understand his customer and budgeted a month for this project.

Turned out to be 18 months!  This is not a knock against Mitch, but more the realization that knowing your customer isn’t a short term proposition.  Mitch was able to maintain the focus across many quarters and reap excellent results – not everyone is that skilled!

Armed with their new knowledge, Microchip aligned their tiering model, sales engagement and market strategy for each customer/customer segment with the new business strategies. In order to make this a reality, Microchip determined HOW their customers:

  • Made decisions, and the processes they used
  • Wanted their services delivered

Most customers wanted self-service. Microchip built them a ‘seamless’ website to quickly buy what they wanted, when they needed it.  This self-service model freed up resources for those who required a more hand-on approach.

Microchip was then able to deliver the knowledge and insight from across their company – their added value – to these customers tailored specifically to them.  Microchip’s success was measured by the value they brought to their customer, as well in the increase in profitable sales, particularly during the downturn!

Customer focus as demonstrated by Microchip – the ‘outside-in’ view across the organization – is a significant change and requires executive level management to stay the course over the long term.  This brings up two critical aspects to consider as you build your Go-To-Customer strategy within your company:

  1. ‘Understanding the customer’ is an ongoingprocess – how do you make it sustainable over many quarters?
  2. How does your company stay nimble enough to respond, and proactive to provide the right value in this tumultuous economic environment?

Your value isn’t about sharing information your products; your prospects already know this.  Your value is based upon the knowledge and insight developed of having done 100’s of installations, 1,000’s of deployments across many industries and/or engaging with luminaries in the field.  If this knowledge is able to be instilled in the conversation your sales people have with their prospects built upon a foundation of how their business operates, it will be clear how your company can help them succeed in creating a better business advantage.

I don’t know THE answer; it will be different for every company depending on the industry, offerings and customers.  But whatever the change, it needs to be institutionalized within the overall company in order to have a lasting effect on the long term profitability of the company.

Summing up, Mitch Little quotes General Eric Shinseki, Retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army:

If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.’

How Do I Become Brilliant on 100 Different Topics On the Fly?

April 24, 2012

Key points from Carol Sustala, Senior Director, Global Sales Force Enablement, Symantec
Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012

In looking over ALL of the presentations, notes and insights from the Forum, Carol’s daunting challenge to ‘become brilliant on the fly’ hit me as a visceral picture of the sales enablement challenge — in all of its complexity, depth and breadth.  When it comes right down to it, this is what sales has to prepare for.  And this is the perspective we need when equipping sales to be successful.

How can we make it easy for sales to articulately help their customer profitably solve their business issues?  What are the tools, content, training and processes needed to fully address their issues within their buying process?  You cannot really understand what is required to be successful in this effort without a true partnership with sales.

Carol takes a very people-focused practical approach.  She views her organization as the account team, and sales as the customer.  With this strategy she was able to move her organization from a ’30 minute guest presentation’ at sales meetings to a trusted advisor whose organization was recognized as the most valuable player to the sales team.

According to Carol, it is not just a seat at the table; it is about the seat at the bar, at dinner, and a quick ‘pick-up’ phone conversation.  Over time, Carol’s team became ‘joint stakeholders’ in sales’ successes.  For example, they now write the sales strategy business plan together — detailing what it will take to enable and equip sales.  So yes, one needs to be strategic in the overall plan, but this type of connection and trust has to be earned in small wins to be credible.

Also critical is to move with the cadence of sales and to fundamentally understand what it is like to be in the field — a ‘Day-In-The-Life’ from the perspective of the sales person.  Sales moves at a different pace; become familiar, adapt and support them in the most effective way.

Carol has some key lessons for us:

  1. Get your own house in order build credibility with sales, marketing and training. Even with her focus on streamlining, Carol found there were stray acts of sales enablement in her own organization which needed to be brought under one umbrella.
  2. Spend an inordinate amount of time building relationships to develop the credibility
    needed to be viewed as a peer, and as someone who adds value to the sales process over the long term.
  3. Actively develop relationships with sales leaders. They are very busy – bring ‘innovation’ to them.  Don’t just forward a white paper; share your thoughts about how it would be beneficial. Summarize the main points so they don’t have to read the whole paper.  Add value in each interaction.
  4. Understand your company’s 3-year plan and financial objectives.  Drive quantifiable results for your initiatives.  And make sure your objectives match the company’s plan.  Align your measurements back to the results, otherwise people really won’t care –they do not have time to care.
  5. Be accountable.  Use an easily understood scorecard to show your results to the busy visually-oriented executives.  Create this accountability across the entire sales supply chain.
  6. Never stop selling.  Create and sell the vision.

Great advice…any lessons you would like to share?

Differentiate to Create a Better Outcome

March 17, 2011

Remember in the early dark days when sales training courses focused on overcoming ‘objections’ and the mode was ‘never met an objection I didn’t like’?  Back then I was part of an organization that focused on creating business results for our customers.  Industry marketing was closely tied to sales, training….and customers.   We had a very active customer advisory board, and as a result our go-to-market strategy matched their needs.  We also had robust industry sales councils made up of a cross section of salespeople to guide our training efforts.

This training allowed sales to experience a day-in-the-life of their customers.  What was it like to be in their shoes, and what was getting in their way of making a profit?  In a relevant and interactive way sales learned how to advise their prospects on what would improve their business results.

Prior to these industry trainings, salespeople knew the products and their feeds and speeds.  Through these courses sales became knowledgeable about their business challenges and how our offerings could resolve.  This took time to understand and practice, and required lots of involvement with the experts.  We provided 2 ½ day case study based training including tours of the paper mill or food warehouse to understand at a very practical level how things worked.  We developed glossaries, specific success stories, and provided subject matter experts to share the nuances and context of ‘why’ it mattered to their customer. And how for example, using our offerings, they could improve inventory turns, or create less waste when making paper.

I am not saying it was nirvana, but we were getting there. We were gaining traction in new and profitable markets.  It was expensive and time consuming, but was worth it. Customers noticed the salespeople’s ability to have the appropriate business level conversations, and sales people were able to call higher and feel more comfortable in that new realm.  Just as the momentum was building, we had a tech crash.  Budgets were slashed and the focus on industry all but disappeared. We lost the gains we had made.

Why am I mentioning this example?

Because it takes leadership, time and a sustained commitment across many organizations, to make this shift real.  Customers are demanding this level of knowledge or risk not being part of the conversation where the deals happen.  Forrester’s client summed it up nicely:

“We do not care about what you do; we care about how you make us successful.”

Forrester found that only 20% of the conversations were aligned to the goals and agenda of the buyer, while 80% are focused on products and the vendor.  And according to IDC, only 1/3 of the buyers are satisfied with the quality and value of the information from sales reps.  It is very difficult to be an active part of your customer’s success if you are only talking about you and your stuff. But it does take leadership and focus to make this evolution occur.

‘Outcome Selling’, as described by Scott Santucci, Forrester, is the embodiment of this transition.  It starts when a company rationalizes and aligns its portfolio to produce measurable business results for their target customers.  By design, downstream, the company’s messaging and tools for sales and customers are simplified and more concrete.   This simplification enables sales to internalize and convey the messages more effectively as a part of their selling efforts. Also, this change necessitates a systemic and cross-functional approach including sales, marketing, services, and training organizations — all organizations that touch sales.  To net it out, Santucci says:

“Outcome selling is a go-to-market approach where you design your value communications system to optimize the value your customers realize.”

As an example, at the Forrester Forum the Allant Group discussed how they embraced the Outcome-based approach.  Their strategy was to focus their product development and selling/marketing efforts on the CMO role, show how their software provided measurable benefits to the CMO and drive growth through their strategic account team.  Given this alignment, the company was able to provide the type of products CMOs need together with the messaging and tools to effectively sell to the target CMO.  As a result, they were able to close multi-million dollar deals in significantly less time than in the past.

At a time when many other companies experienced a precipitous downturn, Allant Group achieved increases in 5 critical areas between 2007 and 2010, average YOY performance increases, without increasing headcount:

  • 22% average annual revenue growth
  • 45% average annual profitability increase
  • 32% average annual contract sold
  • 33% average annual pipeline increase
  • 52% average annual top 10 account revenue

Key learnings for the Allant Group were:

  1. Systemic thinking: Selling is a system, based upon the customer’s requirements and buying cycle.  It’s a cross-organizational issue, and therefore requires a cross-organizational solution.
  2. Transparency: The more transparent your approach, the more the client will react positively.
  3. Adoption: Their largest miscalculation was that they severely misjudged the organization’s ‘muscle memory’. They learned to secure buy-in from the top down to get rid of the obstacles.

The Allant Group, from initial strategy to sales execution, focused on producing measureable outcomes for their customers, which in turn produced similarly impressive results for their company. The result of their systemic approach was to simplify and align their offerings.  This portfolio rationalization created easier to understand messages and, of course, tools.  Consequently sales were equipped to have the conversations their customers’ require to create better business outcomes.

The analysts: Forrester, IDC and SiriusDecisions — and customers — are in agreement what makes a meeting valuable, and according to Santucci:

“The salesperson clearly shows they understand my business issues and can clearly articulate to me how to solve them.”

And how often does that happen?  13% of the time!

Your thoughts?

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