Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sales Success rests on building Strategic Roadmap with Customers

In today’s tough selling environment, a sales enablement best practice is to deliver tools to help sales professionals compete better. Most sales enablement groups have started to implement best practices to help connect better with customers in the later stages of the sales cycle, including tools to create better business cases (ROI Analyses), deliver and quantify competitive comparisons (TCO analyses), provide better RFP responses, and build better proposals.

But a recent blog entry by Scott Santucci, Senior Analyst for Forrester caught my eye, positing that sales enablement spends too much time trying to get sales professionals to better respond to customer needs late in the sales cycle, and not enough time engaging with the customer on creating a shared vision. The customer vision the sales person needs to create is how to specifically solve the business problems they’re facing.

As Forrester outlines, there are three important elements to vision success:

1) Authentic — it has to be real, well-researched, and obtainable.
2) Applicable — it has to be communicated in the context of the account and the stakeholder.
3) Actionable — the path (and the required details) to realizing that vision are mapped out into an understandable approach, but also simplified so the program doesn’t collapse under its own complexity.

The blog entry can be found at:

Alinean concurs from implementing over 1,000 different sales enablement campaigns, that earlier in the sales cycle sales teams indeed need to connect better with customers goals and help them develop strategic roadmaps for success. Too often we see sales professionals jump to product recommendations and try to deliver tactical ROI analyses on specific projects, when the customer still is undecided on a roadmap.

Forrester indicates that, “significantly better returns await those who invest in programs to help customers shape a solution vision. This is done by creating scalable and repeatable programs to help sales people more easily collaborate with executives to develop a shared vision of success for a given account.”

Such a shared vision and solution roadmap can allows sales professionals to move from products sales to trusted advisor.

How can this be done? Some of the most successful programs we have created recently provide strategic focused assessment tools to help sales professionals, in a structured and methodical, yet easy way to prepare a strategic roadmap for their customers:

These tools are designed to automate the strategic assessment and roadmap building process by:

· Assessing a prospect on their current capability and maturity – providing an assessment of areas where improvements are needed

· Scoring the current performance dynamically versus industry leaders and peer averages – highlighting where issues are greatest, and providing competitive comparisons for motivation

· Mapping solutions to solve each problem area – automatically recommending a strategic roadmap to close capability and maturity gaps and best address indicated pain points

· Delivering high level quantification of what savings / value can be derived by implementing the suggested roadmaps

These tools have been implemented for Microsoft, HP, Unisys (in collaboration with partner IDG), EMC, VMware, and RedHat - all with significant success. These assessment sales tools have been proven to help sales professionals build strategic vision for customers, significantly advancing and elevating their relationship with customers, and deliver significant return on sales enablement investment.

One of the best examples of this program is Microsoft IO Self Assessments and can be found at:

Thursday, October 22, 2009


A recent headline from CIOInsight caught my eye: ROI RIP: Not really dead, just overrated.

The article link can be found at:

In this article from Arthur Langer, he explains that CIOs and CFOs care more about strategy and less about financial ROI calculations. With earnings season in full swing we know that this is not the case as CFOs in an environment where revenue is hard to come by, are squeezing every ounce of cost out of the business to post good earnings and maintain enterprise value. When times get tough, its the companies that can quickly reduce spending that win during the downturn and in the early stages of recovery. CFOs are more frugal than ever and DEFINITELY care about the ROI of each and every project. However, Mr. Langer could not be more spot on regarding his advice to not rely on ROI alone to sell a project. The strategic CIO knows that appealing to the frugal executive is only part of the game, and that project presentations need to paint a picture of the project for the stakeholders, and tie the project clearly to specific corporate goals.

How important is ROI still? In Gartner's latest press releases from IT Symposium in Orlando, one of the key highlights for budget management next year is financial management of IT. According to Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research, "IT Must Learn to Build Compelling Business Cases — 2010 marks the year in which IT needs to demonstrate true line of sight to business objectives for every investment decision. IT leaders can no longer look at IT as a percentage of revenue. CIOs must benchmark IT according to business impact."
Part of the business case will be numbers that demonstrate how much is being spent, tangible benefits the business is expected to achieve, and risks that these costs and benefits will be as anticipated. ROI is required.

However, having worked on ROI / TCO of IT for the past 20 years at Gartner and at my own IT value focused independent research firms, too often these business cases focus exclusively on financials and miss the bigger picture. As important in the business case is to tie any of the proposed initiatives to strategy and business goals. A proposed project that saves the company money in this climate is a good project. A proposed project that saves money and contributes / achieves one of the companies top goals is a superior project.

Crunch the numbers and use ROI to convey quantifiable savings, business benefits, costs and risks - required in these frugal times. Paint a strategic picture of the project and how it will help the organization achieve key mission goals as Arthur Langer implores - vital to approval and success.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gartner highlights importance of business cases to address budget woes at its annual IT Symposium in Orlando

According to Gartner’s latest research, the IT industry is exiting its worst year ever in 2009, as worldwide IT spending is on pace to decline 5.2 percent. According to Garner’s Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President at Gartner and Global Head of Research, “While the IT industry will return to growth in 2010, the market will not recover to 2008 revenue levels before 2012.” According to Peter, “2010 is about balancing the focus on cost, risk, and growth. For more than 50 percent of CIOs the IT budget will be 0 percent or less in growth terms. It will only slowly improve in 2011.”

Budgets will be hard to manage as business conditions change from optimisim to pessimism in light of uncertain conditions. Barbara Gomolski, managing vice president at Gartner highlights this, as “IT leaders need a new type of budget, a rolling forecast that supports the return to growth. IT organizations need a budget that gives them the flexibility to respond to the changes that they know are going to come, and those that they cannot yet identify.”

From a budget perspective, Gartner highlighted three important items that IT leaders must consider in 2010, and one of the top recommendations was for IT executives to focus on quantifying the return on investment from IT. The advice from Gartner, “IT Must Learn to Build Compelling Business Cases — 2010 marks the year in which IT needs to demonstrate true line of sight to business objectives for every investment decision. IT leaders can no longer look at IT as a percentage of revenue. CIOs must benchmark IT according to business impact.”

Although frugal executives need quantifiable ROI proof prior to project approval, with less resources than ever, they don’t have the time or research needed to create ROI analysis reports. IT executives remain in need of vendor assistance to create compelling and credible business cases, with our surveys indicating that over 65% expect vendors to quantify the value of any / all proposed investments. Now more than ever, IT solution providers have an opportunity to help IT executives make the business case for proposed projects by collaborating with them on business case development.

Read the Gartner press release and advice here:

Datacenter virtualization only at 16%

At Gartner’s IT Symposium in Orlando this week, Gartner released the latest census on datacenter virtualization. According to Tom Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, only 16 percent of workloads are running in virtual machines today, but this is expected to rise to around 50 percent of x86 architecture server workloads by the end of 2012. To help achieve the promised cost savings of virtualization, Gartner advocates a ‘start small, think big’ approach to virtualized server deployments that begins with a specific project but builds towards a wider strategic plan that includes management and process changes.

To help organizations put together better virtualization plans and prove the return on investment from deployments, Alinean has developed a tool for VMware deployments, available for free at:

For those interested in Microsoft virtualization, Alinean’s assessment tool can be found at:

The original Gartner announcement can be found at: