Leaders of competitive and market intelligence teams know that something is wrong. They tell Forrester this every day. They describe it as being similar to when your car doesn’t drive quite right, but the mechanic can’t find a problem, or when you feel sick, but the doctor gives you a clean bill of health.

You know that something needs to change, but can’t seem to find a point of view to guide you toward the right way to change.

The most frequently used word to describe this problem is “credibility” — and is usually couched in questions such as “how can we build credibility with sales?” or “why isn’t our content credible with sales teams?” Forrester’s practice serving sales enablement professionals will discuss the challenge of building CMI credibility with sales during our February teleconference.

Across the tech industry, marketing and portfolio teams place massive amounts of content into sales portals and measure their success from the usage data — views, downloads, prints — from these repositories. During a recent research interview, one sales rep at a leading software company said, “I know that a lot of materials are supposed to be on our sales portals, but in my nine years, I haven’t ever taken the time to look.”

Your supply chain is broken if a sales rep can succeed for a decade without ever using your materials or even visiting the primary site holding your content!

What is credibility? According to Wikipedia, “Credibility refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.” CMI teams lack credibility because they:

  • Hire analysts from non-sales professions. Few CMI analysts have experience in field organizations or even in working with customer-facing groups such as sales or customer support.
  • Prioritize work projects from a “staff” point of view. Individuals from staff roles have different assumptions about which projects should be prioritized than people in “line” positions with revenue responsibility — sales reps, for example.
  • Measure CMI performance using volume, rather than value, metrics. CMI leaders fall into the trap of measuring their teams’ performances by using ancillary data sources, such as the number of documents published or usage statistics from sales portals.
  • Focus analysis on products rather than customer problems. CMI teams have a deep-seated orientation of researching competitors and markets based on products.
  • Construct content differently than sales teams need to use it. When your CMI team builds analysis around products, reps must conduct their own analysis of your research before they can determine when and where to apply it in customer conversations.

Forrester’s customer conversation framework (CCF) is a tool to lead non-sales professionals to the right audience and the correct context for sales-ready content.

The framework provides a common set of terms and references for CMI analysts and sales reps to speak clearly with each other about what research they need. Forrester’s framework has two dimensions:

  • Sales objectives. Every sales process, no matter how complex or simple, includes four common objectives across the sales cycle — a rep must 1) get access; 2) have meaningful conversations; 3) establish a shared vision; and 4) help the client make the business case to justify the purchase. 
  • Customer stakeholders. Forrester’s framework uses four roles that typically constitute the agreement network of people who participate in any technology purchase decision — business leaders, CIOs, IT managers, and subject-matter experts.

This link will take you to the research document that outlines the CCF and how to apply it to your CMI organization: Make Competitive Intelligence Sales-Ready Using Forrester’s Customer Conversation Framework.

“I would never use content from marketing for an important customer meeting — I rely only on my trusted, vetted sources for critical insights.” (Hardware industry sales rep)

These challenges are complex — and they become complicated further as customers change how they purchase technology – and vendors change their selling methods in response. These moving targets make it increasingly important that your sales content provide value to selling rather than getting lost among the random acts of sales support!

Forrester will delve deeper into the topics of credibility, sales content, and CMI capabilities at our Sales Enablement Forum in February 2011.

How are you dealing with these challenges in your organization? How do you create sales-ready content? How do you build and maintain credibility? How are you making your sales organization more efficient?