Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What a Buyer Wants: Personalized Advice, Business Value and ROI

B2B buyers are scrutinizing potential vendors more closely, with greater requirements for personalized advice, business value and ROI than ever before, this according to independent research results from the Sixth Annual Demand Gen Report: 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey,

Getting Personal

With buyers spending more time researching more choices than ever, Demand Gen Report’s research revealed just how important personalization ranked as crucial in the purchase decision-making process.

For corporate web sites and marketing content, respondents indicated the need for “relevant content that speaks directly to them and their company.” In fact, 69% said it was “very important,” while 27% said it was “somewhat important.”  

From these results, one can see that one-size-fits-all white papers, the crack cocaine of content marketing, don’t cut it any more. Instead, you need interactive content can help, providing buyers with personalized content, assessments and analysis based on a quick discovery and self-directed journey.

In an increasingly crowded B2B marketplace, B2B buyers are discerning, wanting to work with vendors that don’t just blindly pitch products and talk up features, but who deeply understand their business and how the solution can help solve real challenges. In fact, business knowledge and insights were a top reason why buyers chose the winning vendor. According to the Demand Gen Report research, 77% said it was “very important” that the vendor “demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape.

Of all respondents, 64% added that the vendors “demonstrating a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs” was “very important,” and 30% said it was somewhat important, according to Demand Gen Report. Overall, it was the second most influential reason why buyers chose the winning vendor.

Personalization means your sales reps and partners need to have superior discovery and assessment skills, to learn more about the buyer and their challenges, and leveraging these results to deliver personalized and provocative industry insights, customized benchmarks, and aligned solution recommendations.

What can you do for me?

It’s not enough for vendors to be familiar with their own product. Today, B2B
buyers expect solution provider to know exactly how any new product will ultimately benefit their business – the business value of the proposed solution.

Buyers are looking for solution providers who can help them identify and illuminate challenges, provide specific advice on how proposed solutions will address these pain points, and deliver tangible business value.

The ability for providers to tie the proposed solution to buyer pain points was key, the top deciding factor in the Demand Gen Report research for 84% of decision makers, over other key factors including ease of use, features / functionality and price.

Show me the Money

Of particular emphasis in the Demand Gen Report research, buyers reaffirmed that ROI remains a top consideration when selecting a new product or solution — especially as many respondents reported limited budgets, increases in the number of stakeholders involved in each decision, and more oversight from company leadership.

According to the research, one theme emerged loud and clear: Many buyers are facing tremendous pressure to prove new purchases will benefit their company’s bottom line.  When asked how their purchase process had changed over the past year, 61% said they “conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.”

And this requirement for ROI is having a tangible impact, with almost half of respondents citing the need for more comprehensive financial justification in stalling or delaying purchase decisions.

The Bottom-Line

The independent research from Demand Gen Report clearly shows how B2B buyers are evolving, and provides solution providers a good roadmap for guiding your content marketing and enablement strategies to help address these shifts in expectations.

With more budget pressure, executive scrutiny and buying committee involvement, the research highlights the immediate need for more personalized advice (not a one size fits all pitch), and the need to deliver more business value and ROI / financial justification content.

What are you doing differently today to address your evolving B2B buyers?

Source: 2016 B2B Buyer's Survey, Demand Gen Report -

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Five Pillars to Business Value / ROI Selling Success

A business value / ROI sales tool can be a fantastic foundation to business value selling success, but to elevate to greatness, you need more.

From our extensive client experience, we have found that implementing best practices from the following Five Pillars can be the key to reaching new heights with your business value-selling program:

1)  Deliver a superior user experience – Do your sales reps and channel partners love using your business value / ROI tools? They should.

Your business value / ROI sales tools should be simple, easy and fun to use, all while providing credible analyses and results.  Spreadsheets don’t cut it, and financially heavy interfaces present an immediate barrier for sales reps that don’t have degrees in accounting or finance.

The fact is that your sales reps and channel partners are spoiled by easy to use consumer applications, and expect every program they use to be visually stunning, intuitive to use, and not require any training or instructions.

A modern interface is critical, think interactive infographic or Powerpoint, engaging for both reps and prospects. It should have a mobile first mentality, and enable use on laptops for easy group presentations and on-line meetings, as well as tablets / mobile devices, for sitting next to prospects and engaging one-on-one.

If your user experience is traditional and financial, it may be time to rethink and retool.

2) Integrate with workstream– Do your sales reps and channel partners know where to find you business value selling tools?

Your users need to know where to find you business value / ROI sales tools, and moreover, the tools should be placed right into the sales rep / partners’ normal workstream. This means providing:
1)   Authentication using their normal corporate or CRM single-sign-on identification, removing a barrier to access while still securing your IP
2)   Access to the tool and integration within the CRM, recommending use of the value / ROI tools from within the account and opportunity views
3)   Recommendations for the value / ROI tools from within the sales / channel enablement portal, setting up rules to recommend the tool for use early and often in the sales process, and providing a link for direct access.

With so much content available to your sales reps, the key is promoting direct and easy access, guiding users as to when best to use the business value / ROI sales tools in each unique engagement.

3)  Provide education and support – Do your sales reps and partners have the knowledge and skills to effectively use the tools in their engagements?

Even if you’ve made your business value / ROI sales tool so simple to use that it really doesn’t need any instructions, it doesn’t mean your sales reps and channel partners know when and how to use the tools in engagements, and how to best present results.

It is therefore important that your sales reps and channel partners are enabled with the 3 C’s: Competence, Confidence and Credibility.

To accomplish this, most of our customers first implement an introductory training program with us, a short training session / video to help show the sales reps and channel partners when best to apply the tools in sales engagements, illustrating the typical flow, showing a typical method to engage and present results and addressing the typical questions. 

Second, a Value Expert certification program is recommended, where users can use the ROI tool in a mock engagement, submitting to or recording a presentation to demonstrate and be graded (with feedback) on their capability.  

Subsequent to the mock engagement, first line managers or value consultants can sit in on one or two live engagements to provide meeting support as well as guidance to further refine the tool use can follow this up.  And the support shouldn’t stop there. You need an “ROI deal desk” of value specialists to help answer rep / partner questions, guide use and support engagements /presentations, to supplement and support rep / partner led value engagements.

With sales rep and channel partner turnover, it is vital that your introductory and certification programs aren’t just one time affairs, but continuous, educating the 10-20% of new reps / partners on-boarded each year.

4) Keep current – How up to date are the product / services info, benchmark metrics and pricing data in your business value / ROI tool?

If you’re not maintaining your sales tool content, metrics and pricing, your sales reps and channel partners figure this out pretty quickly (and don’t use the tools as much as they should as a result).

Your sales tool program should include regularly scheduled refreshes, recommended quarterly, to keep the product / services information current, adjust pricing and sizing modules, and refresh benchmark metrics / defaults.

With each release, the user base should be made aware that the tool has been updated and is being kept current with the latest content and metrics.

5)  Measure business outcomes – Is your business value / ROI program delivering the tangible results you anticipated?

Every aspect of your business is under constant scrutiny, so it’s vital to provide tangible measurement on each investment’s success. Your business value / ROI sales tools are no exception.

You should be proactively providing your executives with measurements on usage and adoption, and statistically proving that the tools are driving key sales performance metrics (to assure they don’t think these results can occur in other ways, perhaps without investing so much in your value / ROI program).

First it’s important to measure that your awareness building and education programs have worked, tallying and tracking the number of users and their activity (number of analyses and reports).  This should include reporting on the percentage of sales reps / partners adopting the toolkit, the number of business cases developed / delivered each month, and the percentage of opportunities towards which the tools are being applied.

Second, it’s vital to tie the program to “move the needle” metrics, tracking how the value / ROI analyses are driving key sales metric improvements, including:
1) Improved deal size / reduced discounting
2) Increased win rates (less competitive losses / deals ending in “No decision"
3) Reduced sales cycle duration
4) Number of reps meeting / exceeding quota
5)  Quota achievement
6) New rep ramp up time (time to effectiveness).

The Bottom-Line

Along with your investment in a solid business value / ROI selling toolkit, implementing best practices such as these Five Pillars are required to have a greater impact on your ROI from your tool investment and organizations sales performance.

It is for this reason that we have implemented formal Customer Success Workshops, led by Dave Stachura, the latest addition to the Alinean team. Dave leverages his expertise to help measure and drive program improvements for each Alinean client, formerly running AMD’s sales enablement programs and implementing a variety of successful sales tool, training and certification programs and most recently developing / delivering content enablement services for Accent Technologies.

For each Business Value / ROI Tool client, Dave and his team engage in an interactive quarterly review session with your value team, to collaboratively track performance and progress, and implementing various dimensions of the Five Pillars to Business Value Success.

Learn more about these five pillars and program success from an Alinean customer: David Caradonna from Splunk

See what leveraging these five pillars could mean from this Smart Selling Tools article: Taking your Value / ROI Selling Program from Good to Great

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Show me the Money: Financial Justification Remains a Requirement

Financial justification remains a requirement, this according to research by IDC’s Business Value Consulting Group, with a whopping 95% of decision makers requiring proof of business value outcomes prior to considering and approving a purchase. 

Budgets are tight and buyers are risk averse, demanding diligence and assurances that proposed investments deliver a tangible bottom-line impact, positive returns and a quick payback.

As project size grows, it should be no surprise that the demand for financial justification increases, in proportion to the risk. Over 85% of projects over $50,000 now require a formal business case.

Although financial justification / ROI is required, most buyers struggle with the numbers. According to IDC, 2/3rds of buyers indicate they don’t have the knowledge, research metrics or tools needed to do ROI / business value calculations. Relying on the prospect to on their own develop the business case can lead to significant delays in the decision cycle, and results in more deals ending in “no decision”.

Without the knowledge and metrics on their own, the task of articulating value and financial justification falls to you, the vendor.  In fact, 81% of buyers expect vendors to quantify business value of proposed solutions, but require 3rd party proof in order to trust results (IDC). Independent research, models, success stories and tools are required.

Making value selling & marketing more difficult, IDC indicates that the number of stakeholders involved in each decision has steadily increased, 43% over the past 2 years. What used to take a couple of stakeholders, now includes 8-10 decision makers for enterprise purchase decisions. What used to be driven by technical is now driven by the business and finance.

As a result, one-size-value doesn’t work with so many different groups and perspectives involved. Each of these stakeholders has their own “point of value” – what issues they are challenged with and the value they uniquely perceive from your solutions.

At the same time, buyers perceptions on the "value-gap” haven’t changed, with most prospects indicating that vendors come up short on their value approach:
  • 74% of providers are too focused on features versus value (Gartner)
  • 48% of providers don’t do a good job w/ business value articulation (Gartner)
  •  #1 reason sales reps fail to make quota = inability to communicate & quantify unique value (SiriusDecisions)

Arming your sales reps and value consultants with the research metrics and tools to quickly and easily collaborate with decision makers and create financial justification / ROI proof is essential, and managing this effort as a comprehensive program crucial to revenue growth and sales success.

However, we have seen a recent trend, with several large Sales organizations cutting back on pre-sales support (sales commoditization) and some crucial value consulting / financial justification programs getting their budgets slashed.

With financial justification so critical, are you investing enough time and effort in your sales content and enablement to meet buyer financial justification needs and close the “value gap”?

Source: IDC Business Value Consulting Group – Randy Perry

Monday, July 18, 2016

Get a $120M revenue boost from partnering with customers on Value Selling & ROI / TCO? Splunk tells you how.

David Caradonna is the Director of Global Business Value Consulting (BVC) for Splunk, and with his team, they’ve achieved some incredible results from their value selling programs.

David was recently interviewed by the not-for-profit Value Selling and Realization Council, and the results of their Splunk BVC program are amazing.

With just a handful of resources, the Splunk team leverages the Alinean platform and analyst services to deliver a simple self-service catalog of ROI/TCO Tools. The program has resulted in sales reps engaging more often and partnering with customers and prospects on value analysis and delivery, with:
  • Over 1,500 business cases to prospects last year
  • 730 business cases in this last quarter alone
  • Influence on over $120M in annual new business wins each year.

The tools have been essential to get the company value-focused, with the Splunk BVC team able to quickly educate and train 150 sales reps and 300 field resources each quarter. The adoption has been incredible, with David reporting a whopping 60% adoption not just in sales, but across ALL employees.

Where most value engineering organizations have ratios of 24 sales reps for every value engineer, the Splunk BVC team runs lean and mean, leveraging the self-service tools to achieve an astounding 50:1 rep to consultant count.

David when asked about the top critical success factor for the BVC program at Splunk, indicated that “the vendor you choose to work with is vital to the program, turning your innovative ideas into a reusable tool that is going to be accessible and adopted by the masses in a self service mode so you can drive as much adoption as possible.“

David indicated that “In our case, we chose to work with Alinean, an amazing small company run by Tom Pisello.  They really understand value consulting; they live and breathe that. It was a no brainer to use these guys."

Discussing why the choice of Alinean was so critical, David adds: "You cannot succeed without a platform t that is not just to be used internally, but used with customers who are exposed to the process – one that is extremely simple yet creates and delivers comprehensive and credible deliverables.”

Developing and delivering this program with Alinean over the past three years, David and team have some poignant advice to assure a good rollout, adoption, usage and outcomes.

See David’s on-demand session here (from the VSR Council) to see what best practices he recommends >>>