Wednesday, August 20, 2014

50 Ways to Prove Your Value!

We've completed a great number of value marketing / selling campaigns and tools for industry leaders worldwide - 50+ of which we are featuring here in our customer showcase.

  • Value Sales / Consulting Tools - check
  • ROI / TCO Calculators - you betcha!
  • Diagnostic Assessment Tools - yes got em too

You can get some great ideas by seeing what other B2B sales and marketing leaders are doing, and examining these great value storytelling / insight / justification tools in action.

Checkout these tangible success stories / ideas for evolving your value marketing / selling capabilities - 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How do you Develop and Communicate your Unique Business Benefits?

Are your sales and channel reps struggling to effectively communicate the unique value of your solutions to prospects?

If you answered “Yes”, you are not alone. While buyers are scrutinizing proposals with a keen eye on value / ROI, the average rep still reverts to a less than effective product centric sales pitch – focusing on your product, features and price vs. the buyer challenges and the differentiated value you can deliver in helping overcome these challenges.

The Value Gap – an inability for sales reps to effectively communicate value – is the top issue for B2B solution providers and indicated as such by a whopping 71% of execs in a recent SiriusDecisions survey. This is the 4th straight year that the Value Gap has been named as the top issue, making it an absolute imperative to put more time and effort into addressing this challenge.

In order to “Mind the Value Gap”, it is essential that marketing and sales develop and deliver the right value messaging and quantification – guiding sales reps to better articulate the benefits you can uniquely deliver, as well as personally quantifying what the "cost of do nothing" and benefits mean to individual prospects. One-size -fits-all value communications don’t cut it anymore.

More Effective Value Messaging, Communication and Quantification

So how do you develop effective value messaging and quantification that will be memorable and impactful on buyer purchase decisions AND are sales ready?

Unfortunately most value messaging development efforts take a decidedly product-centric view of the derived benefits vs. customer perspective, and most efforts flat out miss key benefits that are important to specific stakeholders.

Value Map™
It is important to have a framework to help your team derive the best differentiating benefits. One element of this framework is the Value Map, guiding the team to think about and categorize the benefits in customer-centric terms – around the challenges they are looking to solve and business benefits that are derived.

Benefit Categories?
We find that in most cases, the challenges and subsequent derived benefits can be grouped into four different categories of the Value Map:

1) Cost Savings / Avoidance – how your solution can help reduce specific  capital or operating expenses, or potentially avoid future purchases (not including labor or process related expenses).

Some examples:
·  Reduce a business expense, such as travel, telecommunication fees, printing or office space requirements
·  Reduce annual shipping costs
·  Cut the cost of goods sold (COGS)
·  Reduce inventory and carry costs
·  Consolidate several legacy solutions to eliminate annual maintenance and support agreements
·  Avoid a mandatory and expensive data center upgrade needed for the new fiscal year

2) Productivity / Process Improvements – how your solution can improve the productivity of specific workers, helping to reduce the time spent on inefficient tasks or decrease the skill level of resource required, or scale  and streamline a process workflow, helping to eliminate steps or errors while improving process effectiveness and efficiency.

Some examples:
·  Automate manual steps in a business process
·  Eliminate error handling in a business process and the lost productivity spent handling these errors / issues
·  Avoid wasted time users spend gaining access to business systems and data
·  Reduce the time it takes to setup and deliver an application test or production infrastructure.
·  Eliminate the number of escalated service desk calls
·  Reduce time to productivity for new hires
·  Reduce shipping errors and the customer service time required to reconcile the error.
·  Improving the change management process to reduce the percent of failed changes and the cost of failed changes and rework

3) Risk Avoidance – reducing or avoiding business risks, the chance that something bad will happen to the organization, and reducing the costs should the risk be realized.

Some examples:
·  Increase compliance with SLA’s and reduce non-performance penalties and late charges
·  Avoid corrective cost to repair damage to business reputation and recover operations as a result of a security breach
·  Improve agility to easily and quickly revoke specific user access rights to data, applications and assets to prevent unintended use or intentional abuse
·  Reduce the chances that the company will fail an audit or not complying with Sarbanes-Oxley internal controls or other  required compliance regulations.
·  Reduce the risks of legal fees, penalties and fines to address issues found in a failed compliance  audit
·  Reduce the risk of data theft and subsequent damage from record / IP disclosures
·  Reduce the chances for a system downtime event (outage)
·  Reduce the potential scope of the number of users, business processes and applications effected should a system outage occur.
·  Improving the ability to detect and resolve incidents proactively, which results in lower downtime to the business and higher availability of services

4) Revenue Growth – capturing revenue opportunities or avoiding potential revenue losses / challenges.

Some examples:
·   Reduce out-of-stock inventory and supplies when needed and the adverse effect on production, shipments and revenue recognition
·  Accelerate product design, development and test / certification for faster time to market Shift scarce resources from operations support to innovation and revenue generation
·  Reduce discounting
·  Accelerate sales cycles
·  Improve sales quota performance and new sales rep on boarding
·  Generate more better leads and sales opportunities
·  Improve competitive win rates
·  Reduce customer churn / losses

Organizing into relevant Quadrants?
To help the team align with buyer challenges and prioritize the communications of these benefits, each can be organized into quadrants by examining buyer’s typical perspective on the value that each category represents, on a scale measured by:

1) Strategic vs. Tactical Benefits – Strategic Benefits are usually aligned with creating and driving larger, longer-term business goals and what higher level executives tend to care more about, while more Tactical Benefits are aligned with executing specific improvement plans, and tend to relate more to practitioners.

Typically, Cost Savings and Risk Avoidance are more Tactical, while Productivity / Process Improvements and Revenue Growth are more Strategic.

2) Direct (hard) vs. Indirect (soft) Benefits – Direct (hard) Benefits tend to be derived from a straighter path from implementing the solution to deriving the savings / business benefit and more readily measured as a causal effect, while Indirect (soft) Benefits occur as a second / third order effect of the solution, with several non-direct steps from solution to derived benefits.

Typically, Cost Savings and Productivity / Process Improvements are more Direct (hard) Benefits, while Risk Avoidance and Revenue Growth are more Indirect (soft) Benefits.

Tailoring to Stakeholders?
To properly populate the benefits, the Value Map should be uniquely tailored for each of three potential stakeholders (or perhaps more based on who the decision makers are who are involved in evaluating and approving your proposals) – essentially creating multiple Map views, pivoting the value to articulate depending on which stakeholders are being engaged. The minimum set of stakeholders to consider include:

·     1) Technical – focused on the infrastructure / foundation needed to deliver solutions to the business, with an eye on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and cost savings, as well as risk (downtime, security, delivery)
·     2)  Business – focused on key business unit metrics for productivity and process, managing business risks (legal / compliance) and revenue growth.
·     3) Financial – an executive focus with an eye towards growing the business and revenue, and bottom-line impact.

With such a Value Map developed for your solution, with the proper value messaging and quantification tied to each, you can arm your sales / partner reps to deliver a more personalized and effective value conversation.

The Bottom Line

“Minding the Value Gap” is critical in making your sales reps and channel partners more effective.  Communicating the unique value of your solution relevant to each specific stakeholder is essential to differentiate you from competitors. 

In order to best capture this opportunity and increase revenue, we suggest that you review your current value messaging and identify the “white space” in the Value Map.  

Can your sales reps clearly articulate specific financial justification you deliver in each of the four quadrants of the Value Map: Cost Savings, Productivity / Process Improvements, Risk Avoidance andRevenue Growth? Complete the Value Map white space with simple but relevant quantification of your solution benefits in addressing stakeholder challenges .

You will gain significant advantage by using the Value Map to find the right differentiating benefits that cover the most important challenges for your buyer, addresses each stakeholders different value perspective, and uniquely makes your value more memorable and differentiated.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Several Experienced Value Experts Added to the Alinean Team

We are excited to announce the addition of several key Value Experts to the Alinean team, expanding our capability to deliver more effective value messaging, interactive tools and sales training for B2B solution providers.

Marc Salzman joins Alinean as VP Products, helping define and drive Value Matrix™ messaging services, the Alinean ValueStory® product roadmap, and development and launch of new Value Expert™ sales and channel partner training services. Before joining the Alinean team, Marc was a customer of Alinean’s at IBM, where he served as World-Wide Information Governance Strategy Consultant and Sales Lead. Prior to IBM, Marc ran Oracle’s Insight Program, an offering designed to demonstrate to clients the business value of Oracle’s technology solutions.
Ron Paxton joins Alinean as a Principal Analyst, working hand in hand with B2B sales and marketing leaders to develop highly effective value messaging, tools and training. In his new role with Alinean, Ron leverages his years of experience with Symantec, where he was most recently the Senior Manager for Global Sales and Marketing Operations and ran the Value Management Office (VMO). Ron also brings practical field experience from his successful sales / consulting roles with Symantec, IBM Global Services and Fujitsu / Amdahl.

Robert Hodge joins Alinean as VP, SMB Accounts, targeted to grow Alinean’s messaging, tools and training services within the small and medium sized market segment.  Robert brings extensive experience in business development with Brainshark and LexisNexis.
“Improving the ability for sales reps and channel partners to communicate and quantify unique value to prospects is a top issue for sales and marketing leaders,” says Tom Pisello, CEO and founder of Alinean. “Adding several key resources with practical hands-on experience provides our clients with the value messaging, interactive tools and sales training needed to address this top priority.
Click here to learn more about the growing Alinean team.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

CFOs are Large and in Charge of Tech Purchase Decisions?

CFOs are now more influential and more in charge over IT spending decisions, this according to a recent article from Baseline Magazine.

Studies by Gartner concur, revealing a 44% increase in CFO influence over IT purchase decisions. Over 41% of CFOs indicate that they are now the leader of the group responsible for IT investments and 26% of IT investments are directly authorized by CFOs (with only 5% by CIOs).

There are three key factors you should be aware of that are driving more CFO control:
  1. Disruptive - CFOs believe that disruptive technologies can drive growth, with CFOs involved in spending decisions for big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media as growth enablers.
  2. Risk – If you get technology wrong, it has a bigger impact on the business. Just ask Target about the impact of their security breach and its no wonder why CFOs are more involved.
  3. Frugalnomics - We are still operating in a “Do more with Less” economy, with the CFO assuring that precious investments like you are proposing are low risk / high reward and are perfectly aligned with realizing business objectives.

 For IT solution providers like you, the expanding influence of the CFO means that engagement is more difficult, involving more financially focused stakeholders with expanding influence and control.

With the CFO taking more control in setting technology strategy, it becomes essential for you to:
  1. 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)
  2. Speak the language of the CFO – business objectives, risks, business benefits and financial impact / ROI - developing provocative content to fuel CFO engagement sand sales conversations
  3. Deliver CFO-ready business cases to communicate the story of your value and quantify the investment versus benefits  / ROI.

 Are you ready to win in an environment where the CFO is more influential and in control of IT purchase decisions?
  • Is your content speaking to the CFO?
  • Are you arming your sales reps and channel with the provocative value messaging and quantification needed to gain early CFO access?
  • Do you proactively deliver CFO-ready business cases to gain CFO approval?

 If not, we should talk!

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

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Oops They Did it Again! Gartner Downgrades Overly Optimistic IT Spending Forecast

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending was expected to reach $3.8 trillion in 2014, a 3.2% increase from 2013 spending levels.

Although the forecast at the beginning of the year predicted healthy growth for 2014, these same Gartner forecasts have been overly optimistic the past two years. And sure enough, Gartner had to once again lower their forecasts substantially.

According to their latest predictions, Gartner estimates that spending will rise only 2.1% for 2014, down over 34% from the 3.2% growth rate Gartner had predicted at the beginning of the year.

Examining their 2013 predictions, Gartner indicated IT spending would grow 4.2% for the year. When the dust settled on 2013, the IT spending growth was a mere 0.4%

In 2012, initial rosy predictions of 3.7% growth were never realized, coming in around 1% by year-end; This despite the economy improving slowly over the same time frame.

Looking back at the reasons for the forecast shortfalls, Gartner indicated economic headwinds, a shift from land-lines to mobile, even blaming exchange rate fluctuations.

This time around managing vice president Richard Gordon, in an interview with ComputerWorld, indicates that:  "In the context of an improving global economic situation, to have IT spending be anemic, in the low single digits, might be a surprise on the face of it, but customers aren't necessarily cutting back on spending, they're getting better deals for their money and spending their money carefully."

We believe that Gartner is getting closer to the real reasons for the shortfalls, but still feel that they have missed a major "sea change" in IT spending and decision-making in their continued overly optimistic forecasts.

For IT solution providers who may be using these forecasts and were expecting a turnaround in 2014 spending levels, another slower than expected year has significant implications for your organizations' sales and marketing strategy.

Frugalnomics in Effect
So what are the real reasons behind the continued slow growth? I believe it all revolves around Frugalnomics:

1) Although progressing, real economic growth remains slow. As a result, organizations have learned how to permanently “Do More with Less”.

2) Although new technologies like mobility, big data, social collaboration and the cloud are hot topics, and they promise to fuel the next big IT investment wave, they are taking a little longer to catch fire than pundits claim, are replacing spending on other projects and not adding to overall spending, and are not significant enough to affect the annual growth figures - yet.

3) Purchase decision-making has significantly changed, now driven by buyers who are:
a.   Highly empowered – privately controlling the decision making process with ever more competition for each deal and more discounting,
b.   Risk averse – afraid of making a wrong decision, and instead choosing to remain with business as usual / status quo,
c.    Frugal – with over 95% of IT decisions now requiring a solid business case with significant ROI and fast payback according to IDC.

4) Most IT spending decisions are now driven and controlled by business groups vs. formal IT. At the same time, more and more spending is occurring in the shadows, by individual users and groups without the formal knowledge of IT. This “dark” spending is not showing up in the growth figures. When it comes to business and shadow purchase decisions, most IT solution providers are not adept at selling to the business groups and capturing dark spend.

All of these conditions still exist, indicating that Frugalnomics remains in full effect, and as a result we expect that Gartner’s even bumped up predictions for 2014 will prove overly optimistic.

Most importantly, you need to take Frugalnomics into account as you evolve your sales and marketing strategies and investments to meet the challenge.

Surviving Frugalnomics - 3 Things To Do Now
To help meet the challenge and Survive Frugalnomics, we recommend three “must do” programs for the near term:

#1 - Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Marketing
Todays’ buyers are more risk averse and frugal than ever, with 58% choosing to “Do Nothing” versus considering a change and your solution (SBI).

Prospects will choose to stick with the status quo unless you can proactively and provocatively quantify that they have a pain worth addressing. 

And those opportunities you thought were progressing through the waterfall / sales process to “wins” will stall unless you can help successively convince the prospect that the issue you can help solve is real, that it is a high priority worth addressing over all other issues on their plate, and that your solution represents a real low risk / superior value solution with unique competitive advantage.

In order to connect and engage with “Do Nothing” buyers, helping them through the decision making journey, you need to help them realize:

  Why Consider a Change? - the Prospect has a pain worth addressing and a significant cost of “Do Nothing”,
  Why Change Now? – the Prospect should not wait to address the issue because every day is costing them, they are leaving good money on the table (significant bottom-line impact, ROI and fast payback), and they are falling behind competitively (illustrated through peer comparison benchmarks),
  Why Your Solution?– that your solutions can deliver unique and superior value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

So how well does your current content marketing help answer these key value-focused decision maker questions in a compelling and quantified way?

#2 - Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
According to SiriusDecisions, the #1 reason why sales reps fail to meet quota (for the 3rd year in a row) is their “inability to effectively communicate value”.

Sitting in on the majority of sales presentations and you can see that most are still delivering empty product pitches or pseudo-solution selling asking a few questions and then jumping into canned “death by PowerPoint” presentations. According to Forrester, prospects indicate that less than 10% of sales engagements are focused on customer value (down from a paltry 12%).

Despite significant changes in prospect expectations, sales leadership recognizing that value selling is needed in order to meet quota, and the millions spent on solution / value selling messaging and training, only about one in ten sales professionals engage with “value”.

So how well do your sales professionals and channel partners engage with value and what are you doing to address this "value gap" challenge?

#3 - Close the Deal with a CFO-ready Business Case 
CFOs are large and in charge of many IT purchase approvals. According to a Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation research survey, the CFO is becoming the top IT decision maker in many organizations, with:
  Over 75% indicating significant decision making involvement from CFOs,
  41% indicating that the CFO is one of the main decision makers for IT investments.

 From the CFOs we talk to, they indicate that proposals:
  Won't be considered a priority without a business case, and the larger the proposal, the more detailed and formal the case has to be,
  Won’t be advanced unless they show that the proposed project is low risk and with low resource requirements, as “do more with less” applies regardless of the ROI,
  Won't be approved unless you show that the issue being addressed is a priority with a high cost of “doing nothing”, quantified savings / benefits from the proposed solution, and a significant ROI and fast payback,
  Won't be signed off unless you can prove your solution has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) / better value than competitive offerings.

With Finance playing such a key role in IT decision approvals, it is imperative that proposals contain the business case content that CFOs need to provide approval, otherwise your deals will be stalled or delayed in the final stages, and you may be losing critical deals to competitors who make the better CFO case.

So how well do you deliver the financial justification / ROI business cases that CFOs demand?

The Bottom-Line
Gartner has once again lowered the IT spending growth forecasts, proving again that they are being overly optimistic in the face of Frugalnomics.

With Frugalnomics in full effect, IT solution providers need to implement a more value-focused approach to their sales and marketing strategy, content and tools.

If value marketing and selling are not effectively implemented to account for Frugalnomics, the majority of your deals will continue to stall, sales cycles will get longer, and heavy discounting will prevail.

For the rest of 2014 and well into 2015, IT sales and marketing professionals should consider three initiatives as a top priority to help address the forecast adjustments and best Survive Frugalnomics:

1.            Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Value-Focused Marketing
2.            Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
3.            Close the Deal with CFO-Ready Financial Justification / ROI Business Cases

To learn more about suggested best practices to help you Survive Frugalnomics, click here.

IDC 2014 Buyer Experience Study (Oct)
Forrester Sales Enablement Conference 2014
SiriusDecisions SiriusIndex, results from 2011 – 2014