Friday, October 24, 2014

The new ABCs of Selling: Always Be Challenging!

This week, CEB held their annual Sales and Marketing Summit, with 1,200 celebrating all things  and revealing some of the latest research on how to more effectively evolve your sales and marketing for a new breed of buyer.

There were three powerful numbers discussed at the Summit that I believe will have a profound impact on your strategy and success in 2015:
  • 94
  • 5.4
  • 53

Engage me or lose me Forever

Did you know that 94% of customers have discontinued communication with a vendor because they received irrelevant promotions & messages?

Unfortunately too many companies are using outdated product pitches when trying to reach prospects, providing negative value-add to the engagement

A new study by The Economist bears this out; with 71% of business execs saying content from companies turns them off when it seemed more like a sales pitch than valuable information. At the same time, the survey found that 93% of marketers continue to tie their content directly to products and services,

Today, you need to engage buyers with a “teach and tailor” approach to marketing:
  • Teach: Educating the buyer not on features and benefits, but on insight, bringing a timely, unique and provocative perspective on the customer’s business, especially presenting new ideas that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed.
  •  Tailor: Delivering content that is tailored or dynamically interactive to address individual prospect challenges and value drivers.

The key? Delivering buyer-centric value: Putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and making sure that you consider what audiences would need and want from you to improve their business and outcomes, and not just what your company would like to say.

Many Points of Value

Did you know that the average deal now has 5.4 decision makers?

It is disheartening to think about, but you now have 5.4 potential “No’s” in every deal.

In years past, the mantra was “Selling to VITO “(Very Important Top Office), but this no longer holds true, as your customers have flattened and democratized the decision making process.

With more decision makers comes more dysfunction, as you try to get a larger and more diverse group to reach consensus.

And as the number of decision makers gets higher, group dynamics come into play; making it less likely you’ll get a decision and win the deal. CEB reports that buyer risk perceptions increase with the size of the group, as individuals feel a distinct risk of losing credibility (40%+), or even losing their job (10%+).

To be successful in this environment you need to ”teach” and “tailor” to each stakeholder differently, as each decision maker comes to the table with a unique “Point of Value”: a different perspective on the challenges they need help uncovering and solving, and the benefits / value drivers they deem most important and need help achieving.

Buying Experience is THE Differentiator

Did you know that 53% indicate customer experience in the sales process is more important than brand, product, service and price in creating meaningful differentiation and customer loyalty?

As one of the tweets from the conference indicated: “Today brand, product, service and price are table stakes.” The companies who excel are those who can sell better than the rest, creating a unique buying experience that provides real value.

Unfortunately, buyers indicate that:
  • 10% of sales reps are still pitching products right out of the gate, or pseudo-solution selling, asking a few questions before diving into a one-size-fits-all product pitch (Forrester).
  •  58% disengage because sales reps are not able to help them solve business challenges and articulate the value of proposed solutions (Qvidian).
Perhaps the time and budget dedicated to product related content and training would be better spent on developing the value messaging, tools, training and coaching needed to truly evolve the buying experience?

Laura McLellan, a Gartner analyst, indicates that in two years, 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of the buying experience, up from 36% two years ago.

With the buying experience so vital to sales success, it is clear that the time is right to help evolve sales reps from product-pitchers to Challengers.

The Bottom-Line 

As the success of the CEB Summit indicates, there are many believers. However, many researchers indicate that despite the belief, there are too few practitioners.

There remains a “Value Gap” between buyers who would like help in understanding challenges that should be addressed / value that can be derived, and traditional sales reps / marketing content that remains rooted in less than effective, old traditions.

A poll at the summit revealed that the biggest challenge to successfully implement challenger was “the difficulty in developing insights”. Indeed, sales and marketing must be armed with the right “fuel”, provocative insights + value messaging / quantification, to power the Challenger conversation.

So I open this to the group:

  • What research / metrics did you find most interesting from the CEB Summit?
  • What do you think are the biggest barriers in moving from believers to practitioners – to truly implementing the new ABCs of selling – Always be Challenging?

Join the discussion at: Value Marketing and Selling LinkedIn Discussion Group


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Sales and Marketing "CFO-Ready"?

A tectonic shift is occurring in IT decision-making, which if ignored will certainly shake up your sales and marketing strategy, and may even cost you your job.

A new survey by Accenture illuminates which executives are really in charge of making key, strategic technology decisions, and it’s not the CIOs. IT execs and managers your marketing campaigns have been targeting, and who your sales reps are comfortable talking to.

The study indicates that CFOs now have the ultimate say in IT spending decisions. 

The numbers indicate that 40% of CFOs now drive IT spending decisions at top-performing organizations

This concurs with earlier studies by Gartner, revealing a 44% increase in CFO influence over IT purchase decisions, with:
  • Over 41% of CFOs indicating they are now the leader of the group responsible for IT investments.
  • 26% of IT investments directly authorized by CFOs (with only 5% directly authorized by CIOs).
"CFOs have expanded their role in evaluating, prioritizing and executing technology investments," says Scott Brennan, Managing Director of the Finance and Enterprise Performance Group within Accenture Strategy. "Many CFOs understand that technology—especially big data and analytics—presents an opportunity to inform actionable insights, improve efficiency and drive the growth and profitability of the organization."

Key to the findings, the highest performing companies are where CFOs are more actively involved with key IT decisions. Once competing organizations figure this out, the motivation for more CFO decision-making will only increase.

What to Do?

With the CFO taking more control in IT spending decisions, it becomes essential for you to:
  • Engage earlier with the CFO, in order to help them recognize important challenges they should be addressing (Why Consider a Change), and the tangible impact of “do nothing” (Why do so Now).
  • Speak the language of the CFO, including business objectives and challenges, risks, business benefits and financial impact / ROI - developing provocative content to fuel CFO engagement sand sales conversations.
  • Deliver CFO-ready business cases, to communicate the story of your value and quantify the investment versus benefits  / ROI.
Of course you shouldn’t stop marketing and selling to the CIO, IT exec and manager, but the team needs to be aware that decision making has significantly changed, with 40% more stakeholders involved in each decision and growing CFO influence and control.

More attention and investment should be spent developing the messaging, insights and financial justification needed to attract CFO attention and win CFO commitment and approval.

The Bottom Line

Are you ready to win in an environment where the CFO is at least more influential and at most in control of key IT purchase decisions?
  • Are your value messages speaking to the CFO and their unique “point of value”?
  • Are you arming your sales reps and channel partners with the provocative value storytelling, insights and quantification tools needed to gain early CFO access and gain their interest / commitment?
  • Do you proactively deliver CFO-ready business cases later in the decision cycle to gain CFO approval / sign-off?

The bottom-line, is your sales and marketing CFO ready?
If you answered no or even maybe, we should talk!

Join the discussion at the Value Marketing and Selling LinkedIn Group:

The CFO as Architect of Business Value: Delivering Growth and Managing Complexity," Accenture - 620 senior finance executives, with one-half being CFOs

CFOs are the New Technology Evangelists

Gartner Reports that CFOs are Large and in Charge

The CFO as Technology Evangelist

CFOs Alone Are Making 26% of IT Spending Decisions, Gartner Survey Finds

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Return on Sales Enablement: The Adoption Challenge

This weeks’ Dreamforce event, with some 135,000 attendees, brought home the enormous investment
organizations make in their CRM solutions and sales reps. But also begs the question – is the large investment in CRM and sales enablement delivering an adequate payback?

You are not alone if you are getting mixed results.

Forrester indicates that for each typical sales rep, $130,000 is spent annually on sales enablement, training and support, trying to make each rep smarter, faster and more powerful. The goal: the bionic sales rep ready for the 21st century customer.

Yet many are not seeing a return on sales enablement:
  • What about all the investments over the past decade in CRM?  Unfortunately 40% of sales reps still fail to achieve quota each year, and new rep ramp-up still takes 9 months or longer (CSO Insights).
  • What about the millions spent on new methodologies and sales training each year? 87% is forgotten and abandoned within weeks (CEB). Worse, less than 10% of sales reps are identified by buyers as focused on what matters to them most – value and outcomes – with 58% disengaging as a result (Forrester / Qvidian).
  • And what about all that great content? 90% of the content never gets used by typical sales reps, who instead spend 6 hours / week recreating or customizing content (IDC).

Whether its CRM, training or content, there seems to be a disconnect between today’s sales enablement investments and realized performance improvements. And most of it comes down to sales rep adoption, or lack there-of.

So how do we get better leverage on sales enablement investments and drive better adoption?

From a recent interview with Jim Ninivaggi from SiriusDecisions, we came away with 3 potential ways you can help drive sales rep adoption and improve the return your enablement investments:

What’s in it for Me – You are often frustrated by sales reps because they don’t adopt your CRM systems, new methodologies, training, tools or content.

Often, your sales reps don’t adopt because they don’t understand “what’s in it for me” – how the new initiative will deliver specific and personal benefits to them: increased commission checks, greater peer / executive recognition, or career advancement.

First, your sales rep has to buy in that the challenge is a serious one that affects their livelihood, and is worth addressing now. If your sales reps personally believe there is a high cost to the “pain” – lost deals, commissions and job risks – they’ll be more receptive to change.  

Guide each of your sales rep to quantify for themselves what “business as usual” is costing them each and every day, and how even a small improvement from what you are proposing can help them be more productive and effective, yielding better quota performance and success.

Keep it About the Customer – The job of your sales rep has changed. The buyer is now in control. It’s not about traditional selling anymore, but about:
·      Challenging the status quo, getting today’s frugal buyer to realize that business-as-usual and the high cost of “do nothing” is not tenable,
·      Adding value to each engagement, delivering valuable insights and advice beyond what your buyer can easily find on the Internet or via social media
·      Facilitating the more complex customers buying process, nowadays involving an ever-growing cadre of decision makers,  40% more than 3 years ago, all with a different challenge / value perspective (IDC).

You want your sales reps to adopt the latest CRM, training and content – but if the investments don’t help fuel and elevate the 21st century customer conversation, and you don’t get more customers to stay engaged / perceive sales reps as value focused, then what are all your investments ultimately for?

If you want adoption, you have to be sure to focus on investments that are less about your products or adding overhead (tracking, managing and forecasting) and more about evolving the customer conversation. For each unique selling situation, the right value storytelling, insights, quantification and content are all essential. Ultimately, more customer success will drive adoption.

Sales Enablement and Golf – Whether because of the focus on quarterly results, budget or resource constraints, often you are forced to focus on a particular short-term initiative: For you, the right now might be all about that CRM upgrade, or that new hot sales methodology, rolling out that new training program, or overhauling your messaging.  But success doesn’t come from just the latest silver bullet.

In our interview, Jim used a helpful golf metaphor to describe why you need to take a more comprehensive approach.

To be a successful professional golfer, where just like in sales it’s a couple of strokes that separate a champion from someone who doesn’t make the cut, you need multiple elements in concert to elevate your game: First, you need the help of a Golf Pro to teach you the proper method and guide your practice. Second, you need a good set of Clubs with which to play.  And finally, you need a good Caddy, to recommend the right shot and clubs.  

If you invest in just one of these elements without the other, you won’t have all the elements needed to help your sales reps win.

In Sales Enablement you too need a cohesive investment in several elements in order to provide the winning formula:
Golf Pro = Methodology / Training
Clubs = Messaging / Sales Tools
Caddy = Playbooks / Coaching.

The Bottom-Line
You invest a lot in your sales reps’ success, striving to make them more productive, capable and effective. However, your investments may not be delivering all they can.

Unfortunately, lack of sales rep adoption remains a significant issue, driving much of the shortfall. We suggest three potential ways you can bolster adoption today, in particular:
  • Making sure your sales reps knows what the “cost of do nothing” and “value of change” mean to their personal performance and goals.
  • Driving success with a focus on evolving sales rep’ customer conversations from product pitches to value selling
  •  Implementing programs in concert to be sure your sales reps have the methods, tools and coaching to achieve success.

These three sales adoption strategies should give you a good start, but we want to know how you have addressed the sales adoption challenge?

Join the discussion and share your valuable ideas with the community in the Value Marketing and Selling Discussion Group.

A more extensive roundup of some adoption ideas for content / sales tools:

Friday, October 10, 2014

MarketingProfs Article: Three Ways You Can Demonstrate Your Value to Customers

Many of your sales reps struggle to meet their quota. In an environment where sales leaders must use existing resources to drive profitable revenue growth, sales teams are burdened to "do more with less."

Moreover, customers indicate that they are not getting what they need, so they are choosing to delay purchase decisions, disengage, and "go it alone."

When we take a closer look at why customers disengage, we find many contributing factors. One of those is the Value Gap.

Find out the impact this is having on your sales and marketing in this new article from MarketingProfs:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Mind the Value Gap: Driving B2B Sales with Value Messaging, Insights & Justification

We just wrapped up a great webcast session with Qvidian about the Value Gap (the divide between buyer's need for value selling and sales reps product focused approach) what the opportunity is costing most firms, and what you can do about it today.

You can view the deck here:

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Are White Papers Dead?

Traditional white papers are likely the staple of your content marketing portfolio, and for good reason.

According to several recent studies from IDG and DemandGen Report, buyers still leverage white papers to help make B2B purchase decisions.

Across the buyer’s decision-making journey, white papers are leveraged during the:
  • Early Discovery phase, for finding new ideas and potential solutions – helping answer “Why Change?”
  • Middle Consideration phase, assessing the priority of the issue and creating a short list of vendors, helping answer “Why Now?”
  • Final Decision phase – determining which solution can best deliver the lowest cost, least risk, and best value solution, helping answer “Why Your Solution?”
Although white papers are still a workhorse, there is a dirty little secret you may not know - The effectiveness of white paper fueled campaigns has been on the decline for the past six years – with the number of responses / downloads declining 5% each year.

It now takes significantly more reach to generate the same amount of lead responses from white paper fueled campaigns. This at a time when IDC reports that it takes 50% more leads to generate the same amount of revenue as just two years ago!

Your current white papers just don’t have the same impact they once had … but why?

Here are a couple of reasons we may be seeing the change:

1)  Marketing overload – Buyers now receive 32% more marketing campaigns than they just a few years ago (SiriusDecisions).  How many white paper campaigns were in your inbox today alone? Likely your white paper fueled campaigns are getting lost in a sea of look-alikes, with little to differentiate your white paper from the hundreds of others.

2)  Short attention span theater – The typical white paper is just too long. The typical white paper is now more than 10 pages according to IDG, lengthened to address a wider range of buyer roles and industries, more buyer challenges and more complex solutions.  Studies indicate even 5 pages might be too long today. And the content, its just too text heavy for today’s more visually stimulated audience.

3)  More empowered – The Internet and other consumer technologies have spoiled B2B Prospects with the expectation of customization - that they can get any content they want fully customized and tailored to their personal preferences.  However, traditional whitepapers are one-size-fits-all with little personalization and lagging relevance.

4)  More skeptical – Today’s buyer has heard it all before, and they are wary. They most trust content recommended by peers, and authored by a third party. Only 13% said they view content that is created directly by a vendor as credible.

5)  More frugal – Buyers today are inflicted with Frugalnomics, a “do more with less” focus on the bottom-line like never before.  Buyers don’t want another product pitch. They want to know the positive business outcomes you can deliver, unfortunately most white papers remain product focused versus value centric.

So how do you overcome these issues with traditional white papers? Are there perhaps other more modern / effective ways to generate more, higher quality leads? 

What if …
  • You could dynamically personalize the right content - to connect with each prospect on their particular challenges, and communicate your value aligned with their unique perspective on what's valuable to them?
  • You could communicate your value message using visuals versus words - leveraging dynamic visual storytelling, whiteboard animations, embedded video and interactive infographics?
  • You could collect and leverage benchmarks and discoveries from prior prospect engagements to dynamically deliver unique insights to each prospect
  • You could quantify the cost-of-do-nothing and value-of-change to each buyer, interactively  based on hie or her unique opportunity?
Technology has come a long way and can definitely be leveraged to deliver a more compelling and effective connection with your prospects. The white paper may not be dead yet, but it is certainly time to deliver marketing content more effectively and evolve white papers for the 21st century.

Join the discussion: click here
Learn more about potential solutions:

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

New Sales Training Helps Evolve B2B Vendors from Product Pitches to Value Selling

Alinean Launches Value Expert™ Sales Training to Help Reps Engage Earlier and Sell More Effectively
Today we announced the launch of Value Expert™ Sales Training, an important milestone.
Consisting of how-to training videos and advancing to a one-day instructor led workshop and certification program, the Value Expert Sales Training is designed to help sales reps improve their customer conversations, evolving from a typical company / product-focused pitch to a more collaborative and effective challenge / value-focused approach.
“A Value Gap exists today between sales reps and prospects, with 60% of buyers disengaging because their sales rep failed to effectively articulate value,” says Tom Pisello, CEO and Founder of Alinean. “Our launch of Value Expert Sales Training provides the skills that reps need to bridge the Value Gap and advance to a more effective value-selling approach.”
Value Expert Sales Training starts with videos designed to teach sales reps and channel partners new value conversation techniques, storytelling, quantification and tools.
The training advances to instructor-led workshops, including the following important topics:
  • Why is Value Selling Important to You?
  • The Neuroscience of Decision Making
  • Anatomy of a Business Decision
  • How to Communicate Your Value?
  • Value Messaging for Provocative Prospecting
  • ValueStory® Tool Basics
  • ValueStory Certification
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Resources and Help

“Much has been invested in new methods, trying to shift sales reps and channel partners from product pitches to value selling,” says Jim Ninivaggi, Practice Director of Sales Enablement for sales / marketing advisory firm SiriusDecisions. “Unfortunately, a new method is not enough alone to drive change, as sales reps also need the messaging, tools and hands-on training to evolve customer conversations and sell more effectively.”
Alinean offers two additional services to the Value Expert Sales Training, which are key to improving the adoption of the value selling skills taught in the classroom:
  •  Value Messaging, developing the storytelling, insights and justification to fuel value conversations, and
  •  ValueStory® Sales Tools, used by sales reps and channel partners interactively with customers, to bring the Value Messaging to life, providing guided value storytelling and quantification.

“When evolving your selling approach, sales reps and channel partners need capability, competence and confidence in order to be successful,” says Tom Pisello, CEO and founder of Alinean. “The Value Expert Sales Training course, combined with Alinean Value Messaging and ValueStory® solutions, provides a full set of value content, conversations and third-party credibility to ensure success.”
You can learn more about the Value Expert Sales Training at:

Click here to see the press announcement.