Thursday, March 16, 2017

Storytelling: Use it to Control Your Buyer’s Mind?

Storytelling in sales and marketing has long been touted as effective, and we now have the science to prove why. 

According to a new study, when presented with a story, the storyteller and listeners brains actually synchronize – termed brain coupling.

Brand new research from Drexel University, using new tools to more easily and accurately measure real time brain activity between different subjects, found that a listener’s brain activity (in brain areas associated with speech comprehension) mirrors the speaker’s brain when he or she is telling a story, with about a five-second delay.

The mirrored areas of the brain are responsible for discerning beliefs, desires, and goals of others. In fact, the study measured better comprehension when storytelling was leveraged as compared to other communication methods.

Used in a selling situation, the coupling effects of storytelling are incredibly effective at sympathetic alignment of beliefs, desires, goals and understanding. Your storytelling and brain mirroring literally means you and the buyer are in synch – at the brain level.

When it comes to articulating value, key to busting through status quo and getting positive purchase decisions going your way, storytelling is equally key. Your value needs to go beyond ROI, TCO, NPV and payback. The numbers are important, however, if you want synchronicity with your buyer, the storytelling around your value is equally important. So the next time you have an opportunity, don’t just communicate insights, metrics, features and price: tell your value story.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Top 12 Sales Enablement Movers and Shakers

The Miller Heiman Group  just published their list of the 'Top 12 Sales Enablement Movers and Shakers', folks that you should read, listen to and follow on social media and online.

Was honored to be listed amongst some great analysts, authors and experts including Tamara Shenk, Peter Ostrow, and Brian Lambert.

Check out the list and connect with these thought leaders at:

Monday, March 06, 2017

Business Value Summit Interview – Getting The Most from your Business Value Program

A great group of product marketers, value consultants and ROI practitioners gathered in Santa Clara last week for the first ever Business Value Summit – West.

I had the opportunity to lead a Thought Leaders panel from the best business value solution providers, including our own, Mark Schlueter, who shared his great experience from decades of enterprise selling and team leadership at HPE, and business value tool development Microsoft, Intel, Dell and many other B2B firms.

Here’s some of our conversation:

Tell me a little about one of your favorite Business Value campaigns / programs you’ve developed and rolled out recently?
Recently I had the chance to work with Microsoft on a business value campaign and ROI tool for Window 10 Software Assurance and Enterprise.

The situation facing Microsoft was, that after a very successful Window 7, adoption and sales of Windows 8 and 8.1 were low and considered less than successful for the enterprise market. So, with the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft’s expectations were high, while many enterprises remained frugal and skeptical.

Even though Windows 10 offered great business value, enterprises were in no rush to upgrade.

For the enterprise, there are 2 versions of Windows 10: (1) Pro and (2) Enterprise with Software Assurance.  Initially, the upgrade to Window 10 Pro was free, however there is fee to upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise with Software Assurance. Communicating the value of Windows 10 Enterprise, beyond a features discussion, is essential to justify the additional license fee.

To help make the business case, Alinean developed:
  1. A Windows 10 Enterprise Value Calculator for use by sales reps and partners in conversations with enterprise accounts
  2. A self-service Marketing Version of the Calculator, helping capture and deliver leads and more qualified opportunities into Microsoft’s Marketo instance
  3. Several ROI case studies (developed using the ROI Tool with accounts to validate ROI realization).
The campaign was a success, with 100 assessments delivered a month, fueling large enterprise migrations and software assurance licensing deals, and accelerating migrations by 6 months or so.

What’s the top challenge in delivering a successful Business Value program?
When developing a business value sales or marketing program, one of the greatest challenges I see is unnecessary complexity in the programs and tools.  As in most things in business and life - when there is a choice, simpler is better than complex in Business Value Programs.

I see unnecessary complexity revealed in several ways:

First and fundamental, is defining the value criteria. On one end of the spectrum is the seller’s perspective, rooted in product / service details. On the other end of the spectrum is the buyer’s perspective, heavily influenced by the key business issues and pain points they face.  Both are important, but the balance of value justification should be much more rooted in the buyer’s perspective.

Our clients our proud of their products and services – and rightly so.  Product marketers and sales specialists live and breathe their solutions every day. They are experts, and know the features and capabilities better than anyone on the planet.  Mistakenly, they sometimes conclude that conveying more details about the solution establishes better credibility in the eyes of buyers. That’s not the case and results in unnecessary complexity.

Buyers often don’t care, and instead want to know “What’s the Value for Me in addressing my high priority issues pain points?”, rather than delivering an endless features pitch about your solutions.

We find that often it takes someone from outside the company to help product marketers and sales specialists lose their product focused blinders and the complexity of the inside-out approach. Simplicity is rendered, not from the benefit of a complex set of solution features, but the value to buyers, from an outside- in customer perspective.

Second unnecessary complexity is a negative drag on tool adoption.  Sales reps and channel partners will resist using a complex business case / ROI tool with customers. And with today’s short attention spans, a complex self-service assessment or calculator will not be used by prospects.

Occam’s Razor, is a principle attributed to 14th century English philosopher William Occam.  The principle is “when you have two competing hypotheses’ that make the same predictions (in our case – business value), the simpler one is the better”.

Occam’s Razor applies to developing business value tools.  Simpler value messaging and calculations are just what the buyer ordered.

How do you best measure and assure Business Value program success with your clients?
At Alinean we conduct, customer success reviews with our clients, quarterly.  This is baked into every agreement as a deliverable, so we don’t leave it to chance.

To drive the success reviews, we work to understand success measures from clients and review the success against these goals to see if we are exceeding expectations, or perhaps falling short.

For marketing programs, measurement should track the number of leads captured, opportunities generated and conversions to deals.

For consulting and sales tools, measures in the beginning should track the number of registrants, analyses and report counts, to assure awareness and adoption, but quickly needs to move to move the needle KPIs, including win rate improvements (both a reduction in stalled deals and more competitive wins), sales cycle accelerations, average deals size improvements. Quota achievement and new hire effectiveness acceleration should also be tracked.

Moreover, to drive improvements, Alinean has developed the Five Pillars of Business Value Success, a set of best practices collected from the best BV sales and marketing programs, that teams can use to improve their programs.

The Five Pillars provide a systematic checklist the organization can use to drive success, and includes:
  1. Superior User Experience – Do your users love using your business value tool?  What changes, if any, should we make to improve the UX?
  2. Work stream Integration – Do your users know where to find your business value selling tools and when to use them?
  3. Education and Support – Do your users have the knowledge and skills to use the tools in their engagements effectively?
  4. Keep Current and Evolve – How up to date is information, messaging and data in your business value tool?
  5. Measurable Outcomes – Is your business value program delivering tangible results?

Give us an idea of what a successful Business Value program can actually achieve?
Let me talk about one of our customers that most of you know, ADP.

Many people think that ADP just does payroll.  However, ADP offers a wealth of human capital management (HCM) services to help clients build a better workforce. These services include human resources, talent management, benefits administration and more.

ADP wanted clients to see them as an integrated HCM provider. So, their sales teams were instructed to discuss and recommend the portfolio of HCM solutions, not just payroll. 

But just talking about the features of these solutions wasn’t enough, as approximately 60% of these newer portfolio deals stalled. When it came time to get a second meeting or advance the sales process, it just wasn’t happening at the rate ADP needed it to to achieve their growth goals.

To help ADP transition sales from pitching these new products to selling business value, ADP engaged Alinean to create a value­-based marketing and sales tool.
The interactive online tool was used by account managers, inside sales teams and even self service by customers to dynamically assess HCM challenges, recommend solutions to solve the most pressing issues, and quantify the potential business value of such improvements. A 10-page personalized assessment report was delivered to each client, to spark and accelerate decisions.

The Alinean-powered tools were very well received, and even won a Killer Content Award at the B2B Content Conference – great personal recognition for the ADP team members.  They accepted their award on stage at the conference in NYC.

And more importantly, the tool delivered on its goals with:
  • Over 300 analysis reports generated each month
  • Decreasing stalled deals from 60% to 30%
  • Over $1 million of new opportunities & $250k in closed deals in just the first 3 months from initial launch
  • $80 million in direct attributable margin contribution / year
  • Outstanding ROI of well over 1,000%

What do you see as a big trend in Business Value tools / programs over the next year or two?
One of the keys to success is integration of the Business Value tools and programs into the workflow of both marketing and sales. Getting this right is the most important aspect of success over the next couple of years.

With regard to Sales, what business application get the most use by sales reps?  CRM systems such as Salesforce.  It’s a critical application sales reps use to track and manage their deals. We see more companies integrating value selling tools into the CRM workflow, rather than it residing stand alone, as yet another tool. 

Integration in CRM is important, so reps can launch new value engagements / ROI analyses directly from accounts and opportunities, and have ready access to analyses for those accounts and opportunities.

As visibility to management often drives behavior, integration into CRM also helps sales management to know whether business value has been part of the deal, invaluable when it comes to pipeline validation.  After all, “Why is this sales rep forecasting this deal without a clear understanding of the economic benefits to the customer?”

Integration into Playbooks and Channel Portal can help as well, promoting the business value tools as content – at the right time and place in the selling process.

For Marketing, speed and knowledge is often the difference between a lead languishing, or moving more quickly to a deal. Leads are like avocado’s – they spoil if you let them sit too long.  So, when a self-service prospect shows interest by using your interactive assessment or value / ROI calculators, it is essential for the proper channel (direct sales, inside sales, a partner) to within minutes to follow-up with the lead.  This means capturing and sharing the lead in real time with your Marketing Automation platform such as Eloqua, Marketo or Pardot.

And the follow-up needs to be more than a shout out – “hey you visited our website, how can I help”.  With proper customer intelligence and workflow / MAP integration of the assessment or calculator, the rep or partner can promptly follow-up armed with a copy of the analysis report and key results that were delivered to the client. This results in a more informed and effective consultative, value-focused follow-up and conversation.

Join us in person at Business Value Summit – East on March 9th in Boston (adjacent to the IDC Directions event) -

You can join the group to stay connected and continue the conversation here:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Are you Ready to Sell to the Business vs. just to IT?

As the Cloud and SaaS make technology more accessible to the business, purchased like a utility instead of a capital intensive project, IT is being left out of the decision, or involved just to assure security, compliance and governance.

According to the latest research from IDC, 58% of technology purchases are now driven by the business, versus only 42% controlled by IT.

In the past, IT professionals would generate all the innovative tech ideas, investigate options, and play the decisive role in solution selection. Now, the ability to understand and procure complex technology is pervasive, and as a result, it’s the business leaders who now control most of these steps in the decision process.

This shift in control presents as significant challenge for solution providers, as what used to work, doesn’t resonate any more.

Unfortunately, the majority of marketing content still speaks to technical buyers rather than business leaders, focusing too much on the “how” versus the “why”. Business leaders say that the content vendors are pushing doesn’t speak their language, too tech, features and price centric. Instead, they want more research insights,  comparative benchmarks and competitive advice, as well as a focus on, not what the solution does and how it works, but what unique business value your solution can deliver.

When business buyers engage with your sales reps and channel partners, these conversations are perceived no better.  The business buyer says your sales reps and channel partners know how to pitch and demo solutions, doing a good job explaining how the solution works, but not how the solution solves critical business challenges and the business value delivered.

So the big question:
1.     Is your marketing providing the business value-focused content business leaders require to motivate journey and facilitate business decision making?
2.     Are your sales reps and channel partners equipped to go beyond pitching solutions to IT, to instead, connect and engage with business leaders on challenges and value?

So how do you market and sell better to “large and in charge” business leaders? Join us at the Business Value Summit (#BVSummit) in Santa Clara, March 1st and Boston, March 9th, to see the latest research, and most importantly, learn from your peers who have successfully transitioned from pitching technology to articulating business value.

Attendees will receive complimentary access to IDC Directions (contact us for details), and a signed copy of the book: Frugalnomic Survival Guide: How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Sales Tech Simplified: How Sales Can Articulate Business Value

As part of the series "Sales Tech Simplified",  I had the honor of being interviewed by Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools on the importance of business value tools, and where they fit in the Sales Tech stack.

Check out the interview here:

Hit Your Channel Sales Goals with ROI Selling

Rightly or wrongly, a growing number of companies perceive direct sales as ever more expensive. As a result, many companies are looking to channel partners as a more efficient revenue source. A survey reveals that the majority of B2B firms are now generating 60% of their revenue through indirect channels (The 2112 Group).

If you are in tech, Accenture reports an even more significant 70% of revenue now comes from the typical channel program, with this expected to grow to 80% or more over the next 12 months. To attract and enable partners, tech firms are investing more towards channel Incentives, now one of the largest marketing expenditures, with the typical technology provider allocating 3% to 5% of revenue to indirect channel incentives (Accenture).

As being responsible for Channel Marketing and Enablement, you know the pressure is on to make sure these investments pay off, and that your programs deliver. You have to attract more, retain better and enable further – providing the best go-to-market partner programs and enablement tools, but these efforts face challenges.

The obvious, is that your partners aren’t dedicated just to you. If you want to advance partner sales and marketing capabilities, you have to fight it out with your competitors just to get a little mindshare or engage in costly deal specific discounts just to win more business. Often, you have to invest more in time, market development funds, content, tools and training than the other guys. But budgets aren’t endless, and more isn’t more, so nowadays you have to be more creative and different than ever to stand-apart.

The second challenge, is that many of your channel partners haven’t kept pace with changes in buying behaviors. For example:
  1. Engaging earlier is a requirement, with 74% of deals going to the provider setting the buying agenda (according to Forrester), but most partners are notorious at engaging late in the sales cycle, and merely responding to solution requests and RFPs.
  2. Engaging higher is essential, with 80% of budgets now controlled by executives, however most partner reps are most comfortable with pitching to technical staff and line managers versus business leaders.
  3. Value is a requirement, with 90% of purchase decisions requiring ROI justification, however, 93% of channel reps just “show up and throw up”, selling on features and price vs. value.

Your channel partners have to do more than just “pitch”, instead challenging buyers to change and articulating the unique value of your solution. They are looking to you for help, so you have to enable them to do more, better with your solutions, than the competition.

You need to make it easy for channel partner sales reps to communicate with confidence the value of YOUR solutions to prospects with guided story telling tools.  Help them lead conversations that establishes their personal credibility better than your competitors.  Provide them the tools and content so that you are their “go to” vendor in challenge solving discussions with their customers.

To help your channel partners market and sell more effectively, and give your program the campaigns and tools needed to stand apart, we recommend the following three step program:
  1. Engage Earlier – developing turnkey marketing campaigns for your partners, not around your solutions / services, but around the buyer’s challenges.
  2. Engage Higher – delivering assessment and benchmarking tools to help partners interactively assess and benchmark prospect challenges, and build roadmaps (leveraging your solutions) for improvements.
  3. Engage with Value – empowering your partners with the ability to quickly and credibly develop ROI business cases and TCO comparisons.

Here’s a few examples of leaders just like you implementing these engagement programs, and the impact it has had on their business:

Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise Challenge
Microsoft needed to accelerate the migration to Windows 10 Enterprise, however channel partners were having a hard time communicating and quantifying the value of the migration to ever more frugal enterprises.

Alinean worked with Microsoft to develop an interactive tool and migration program to help channel partners to engage earlier, higher and with value - helping assess the “do nothing” cost of delaying Windows 10 Enterprise upgrades and the value of migration.

Leveraging the ROI tool in “Challenge” email and social marketing campaigns, partners were able to gain more leads and meetings by promoting an assessment versus the typical pitch. An on-line self-service version was promoted first to capture and drive leads to top-tier partners.

Once the opportunity was captured, a meeting was scheduled, leveraging the tool to shape the customer conversation so it wasn’t about the features of Windows 10 Enterprise, but about the challenges of the prospect remaining with older OS versions. The tool made it easy for partners by providing personalized value storytelling and the financial justification needed to make the case for quicker migration.

The campaign has led to over 100 large enterprise analyses a month and an estimated 6-month acceleration per engagement.

ShoreTel TCO Guarantee 
ShoreTel, a very cost effective unified communication (UC) provider needed to compete with several much larger, legacy providers including Cisco, Avaya and Mitel. It had a large cost advantage, but partners weren’t able to clearly and credibly quantify this to ever more frugal and skeptical prospects.

ShoreTel worked with Alinean to create a tool driven marketing and channel sales campaign, the TCO Guarantee Program, designed to help channel partners prove to prospects the significant 30-40% cost savings from the ShoreTel solution.

The toolkit included a:

  1. Self-service website tool, to quickly provide personalized savings estimates, driving earlier buyer engagement and more qualified leads to partners
  2. Interactive TCO Sales Tool, to enable partner sales reps to assess opportunities and differentiate ShoreTel from the status quo and competitors.
  3. A TCO guarantee program, which partners could offer to prospects who conducted an analysis, assuring a solid commitment to the results.

The partner enablement was responsible for elevating win rates from 62% to 90%, driving a 10% increase in deal size and a $30M increase in annual revenue (year over year for 5 years).

Checkout a slide deck on this topic:

Click here to checkout the webcast on-demand:

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Webcast: Hit Your Channel Sales Goals with ROI Selling

Thursday, February 9, 2017  11a ET

Featuring:  Tom Pisello, Alinean CEO / Founder

In an effort to reduce costs and boost sales, you enter 2017 under the gun to deliver even more business growth from your Channel Partners. But simply adding more partners won’t do the trick.

The challenge: Your buyers have changed, no longer responding to the same old channel rep pitch.

 Your channel partners need to be enabled anew to:

  •  Give a reason for buyers to see them earlier in the decision making process (where 76% of deals are won/ lost), not just when an order needs to be placed.
  • Sell to business leaders (now controlling 50% of decisions), not just technical buyers.
  • Have a provocative conversation about business value (to shake up the 61% of deals stuck at status quo), versus features and price.
  • Deliver a financial business case (required by 95% of decision makers), not just an architecture and proposal.
It’s pretty clear. In order to meet your 2017 channel growth goals, you have to do differently, and new value selling tools and skills could just be the trick to help you to close the gap to channel sales effectiveness.

Join Tom Pisello, CEO / Founder of Alinean aas he discusses the latest research on Channel growth challenges, and provide straightforward examples of how companies are driving their worldwide partner programs to greater success.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Engaging Earlier and Higher with Financial Peer Comparisons

A common mantra for many sales strategies is to "Engage earlier and higher".  So does this strategy have real merit, and if so, how do you best enable your sales reps to be successful?

Does the early bird really get the worm?
First, does it really make a difference if sales reps engage earlier? 

Although buyers leverage digital more than ever in their decision making process, and as a result appear to engage with reps later in the decision making process (up to 57% of the way through), sales reps still have a big impact, ESPECIALLY if they can intersect early in the buyer’s journey, and with value.

According to Forrester, the early bird still catches the worm, with a significant 74% of all deals going to the provider who helps "establish the buying vision", while only 26% goes to the vendor who "responds to a request" and wins the bake-off.

During the earliest phases of the buyer’s journey, the buyer has yet to have an "epiphany" and need help understanding their issues, prioritizing challenges and exploring possible solutions, and it is here that sales reps can be vital and make a significant difference in ultimate win rates.

Come on, get higher?
Second, does engaging higher really make a difference? We have learned over the past 2 years that there are more stakeholders involved in the typical B2B buying decision, 5.4 according to CEB, and that this has made consensus selling more important than ever before.

Perhaps equally important is the increasing role of executives in the decision making process, with:
  • 65% of C-suite executives now “actively engaged” in the buying decision making processes (MHI Global)
  • 80% of all purchasing budgets now controlled by line-of-business or C-suite executives (IDC).

As they get more involved and rest control of the process, it is important to understand just how different these executive buyers are. The typical approach you would use with a manager or procurement, just don’t cut it.

Execs don’t want a sales rep that shows-up and throws-up.  Your reps need to leave the feature / price pitch at home. Executives value business and industry insight up to four times more than traditional product / service knowledge and expect their sales reps to engage with this in mind. (SiriusDecisions)

What a Buyer Wants, What a Buyer Needs?
So when your sales reps are good (or lucky) enough to score an exec meeting, so essential to win rates and ultimate sales success, the execution is less than stellar. Sales reps are flat out not prepared to create value for executive buyers.

Executive buyers indicate that a paltry 20% of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value. As a result, only one in four of these salespeople get agreement from executive buyers to meet again.

According to this research from Forrester, 62% of salespeople who call on them are knowledgeable about their products and services, but only 42% are knowledgeable about the business and 24% understand their business issues.

Most valued by the executive, according to Forrester’s survey of 400+ exec buyers:
  1. The salesperson who clearly shows they understand the execs business issues and can clearly articulate how to solve them (68%)
  2. A meeting that helps the executive think about how to solve a business problem (55%)
  3. The salesperson who shares unique insights that the exec didn’t consider before (50%).

And CXO buyers rely heavily on peers – both in collaboration and in comparison. Colleagues, personal networks and third-party experts are all leveraged to form opinions about what to buy, and execs are actively seeking content and advice on how to compete more effectively. (SiriusDecisions)

Enabling Your Reps for Executive Conversations for Success
For most, there is clearly a value gap, between what Execs want (unique insights, competitive intelligence and diagnostics / advice on issues), and what sales reps are comfortable and capable at delivering (product / service pitches and demos). As a results:
  • Executives don’t have a compelling reason to meet with sales reps, especially in the early of the buyer’s journey
  • Precious executive engagements are falling short of buyer expectations, relegating your reps to procurement / tactical level decision makers.

What if you were able to arm sales reps with compelling industry and business insights to engage earlier and higher, with a quick and easy way to:
  • Create a financial and business analysis for any company they are visiting
  • Deliver comparisons to named competitors (from a global database of 50,000+)
  • Form visualizations to quickly and clearly illustrate where the company is leading or lagging their peers and industry across 20+ key executive performance metrics
  • Empower their financial acumen with embedded tip help and advice
  • Deliver a “move the needle” analysis, to show how small improvements in key metrics could drive big improvements and incredible business value?

If you want to engage earlier and higher, our brand-new Peer Comparison Tool could be the data-driven Tool you need to reshape your executive conversations and engagement effectiveness, today.

Click here to learn more and get your free trial:

Checkout the on-demand webcast w/ Tom Pisello here: