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:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017 - “The Year of Business Value”

As you and your team kickoff the New Year, there are some important research findings you should factor into your 2017 sales enablement and content strategy.

From SiriusDecisions research, we learn that:
  • 59% of your sales reps are predicted to not attain their quota goals in 2017
  • 71% of executives indicate that the quota shortfall isn’t due to a lack of enough qualified leads, lack of social selling skills, or too little sales training, but an “inability for sales reps to effectively articulate differentiating value”
  • And this Value Gap issue has been persistent, as the top quota challenge for the past six years.
Despite these challenges, most organizations are not investing enough time and effort into their value messaging and selling initiatives, with 60% of companies indicating their programs need improvement, or moreover, a major redesign.

Unfortunately, you can’t leave Business Value / ROI to chance. The facts are that:
  • Customers will significantly delay decisions and won’t get to “Yes” unless you help them understand and quantify your differentiating value
  • Sales will struggle in communicating and quantifying your unique value without your providing provocative value messaging, tools and consulting support.
The good news, the research is crystal clear. Those that get Business Value / ROI selling “right” can overcome these challenges and reap significant rewards. Based on independent research from MHI Global / CSO Insights, taking your value marketing and selling to the next level can:
  • Reduce the number of deals ending in “No Decision” by 30%
  • Improve win rates to 51% (a 40% improvement)
  • Boost the number of sales reps meeting / beating quota to 69% and increasing the average annual revenue attainment to 87%.

What does a great Business Value / ROI selling program look like?

As you look to elevate your Business Value / ROI selling capabilities, these are the seven habits we see from the best Value marketing and selling practices:
  1. Engage early – Not waiting until asked for a business case, instead use diagnostic assessments, benchmarking and value communication and quantification proactively and early in each engagement.
  2. Go beyond the numbers – Realizing that the numbers are there to support the unique value story, not to be the story unto itself.
  3. Cover more and scale better – Leveraging value in more than just the largest deals. Arm your customers with the tools they need to assess themselves (as many prospects don’t want to engage with sales) and expand the value selling / ROI programs by getting sales reps and channel partners to participate, without the need to have a value consultant engaged in supporting the approach with each prospect, or isolated to just the largest deals.
  4. Consistently deliver – Implementing value communication and quantification, from marketing and inside sales, to channel, partner and account execs, to business consultants and value engineers. The best programs start with a solid Value Messaging & Quantification Framework, and to that, add a standardized set of interactive value marketing, sales and consulting tools and engagement methodology, so everyone knows the prescribed method for engaging, and content is leveraged and not recreated for each deal.
  5. Build trust – Providing 3rd party insights and research, customer case studies and proof points helps validate potential results with prospects and drive credibility.
  6. Certify – Educating and certifying sales reps, channel partners and consultants on the engagement model, tools, delivery and conversations, and providing support and coaching on an ongoing basis to assure the certified skills are being applied.
  7. Measure and improve –Tracking the adoption and use of tools and practices, and the impact that the approach has on sales success, measuring win rate improvements (vs. competition and “do nothing”), reduced discounting / deal size improvements, sales cycle acceleration, quota achievement and on-boarding acceleration. Leveraging customer intelligence data gathered from each engagement to deliver new and unique insights, benchmarks and advice.
2017 – The Year B2B Sales Reps Can Finally Sell Value? - SiriusDecisions
Decoding the Decision Dynamic - MHI Global
The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More