On November 7th, I facilitated Forrester’s second sales enablement roundtable – this time in Foster City,California. Joining us were sales and marketing executives from: Intel, NetApp, Borland, Informatica, Sun, Interwoven, Microchip, Renesas, Juniper Networks, Trend Micro, and Thoughtworks.
Overall, we had an extremely high energy session, even though I lost my voice the previous week. It’s hard to summarize a whole day of intense discussion into a blog post, but I’ll give it a try.
Facts about our group
- If you added up all of the revenue we represented (over $100B) we would have been the 56th largest GDP in the world. To frame this out, that’s more revenue that every single business transaction, import, and export for the entire country of Morocco. Wow!!
- Our roundtable earlier in Virginiahas over ($350 B represented), which is more than the GDP of Denmark, and would have ranked 27th in the world.
- All told, we’ve facilitated open dialog among executives who control and influence over $450 Billion – that’s close to bail out money folks.
- Attendees were mostly VP-Level, with a few director level folks mixed in. Some reported directly to the CEO, others VP’s of Sales, or VP’s of Marketing – but all are at a level close enough to know what the big boss cares about.
- We had a nice balance of people there from both sales and marketing backgrounds. This allowed a very rich exchange between sales enhancement programs (like training, compensation plans, sales engineering, etc) and marketing’s role in sales enablement (content and program development, creating message architectures to help connect sales to content, adoption issues, etc)
- Even though our group sold: chips, hardware, software, and services – all of our challenges were very similar.
- Our attendees represented very complex businesses: multiple business units, various channels, global footprints, etc.
What exactly did we all have in common?
- There was passionate agreement over the key challenge being “overcoming random acts of enablement”. As the economy gets tighter – everyone is trying to prove how their “thing” is helping sales. This results in a flood of noise and random activities that typically work against the objectives of the business.
- We talked through the common challenges and centered on the problem – we are trying to run a value communications process across individual silos. We spent the first 90 minutes talking about common issues in each group – here were some of the highlights:
What is the problem?
Lacking an organizing model or group, various activities to “help sales sell” create virtual chaos in the field.
What are the implications of this problem?
Huge wastes in marketing expenditures and inefficiencies at the point of sales contribute to performance strains; both create major barriers to execute business strategy.
Too much risk in the selling model as 20% of the sales force generates between 60% and 80% of the revenue.
What’s the risk?
The IT market is shifting away from a siloed, command and control, model optimized to manage assets; to a more cross-functional, adaptive model optimized to provide service to business constituents. As this shift occurs, we are seeing an engagement gap between those that have “cracked the code” to adding value to customers – and those who only provide capabilities. As shift from IT to BT widens – we are going to see a new buyer / seller caste system emerge.
If you can address the product, marketing, and sales gap challenges – your company can effectively compete in the higher-order caste that will be rewarded with sustainable margins. If not, you should start looking for efficient ways to begin radically reducing the overall cost of sales because pricing pressures will not support current selling models.
What’s the answer?
Develop coordination across product, marketing and sales groups to facilitate valuable conversations, by creating a customer-centered framework to guide alignment, standardization, and consistency across traditional silos.
- Model (the customer)
- Map (products, messages and processes to customer model)
- Match (create a simple platform to help sales identify patterns in accounts and match then to appropriate plays)
As one of our clients told us, “It’s far easier to use our customers as our design point because they change a lot less frequently than we do!”
Implied by this approach – get off the deliverable mentality and develop a more service-oriented construct to supporting the sales force. Invest in programs to achieve specific outcomes – like increase average deal size, rather than measuring usage patterns of tools, web clicks of advertisements, or other derivative metrics. The key is working backwards from core business problems that can be measured in terms that move the dial on the balance sheet.
The current state of sales support related efforts has reached a level of diminishing return. You can only make so much improvement in product, marketing, and sales silos before you run out of room to have an impact. The next frontier of sales enablement lies in the development of truly outside-in designed programs, created specifically to help customers drive adoption and are executed cross-functionally. Significant rewards await those that accomplish this transformation before their peers in the market as they will be able to achieve “strategic vendor” status in more large accounts, more quickly than their rivals – relegating those competitors to the commodity heap.