Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Demand-Gen Report Interview on Need for New Sales Enablement Tools

A Demand-Gen Report interview with Thomas Pisello, The ROI Guy, Chairman & Founder of diagnostic / ROI sales tool provider Alinean Inc.

1.    Can you speak to how the changing buyer has increased the need for sophisticated sales enablement solutions?

First, today’s B2B buyer is more empowered than ever before. Before sales is even invited to the table, the typical buyer has already used the Internet and social media to research and prioritize opportunities, investigate potential solutions, reviewed relevant case studies, quantify potential benefits, investigate prices and analyze competitive offerings. Buyers are in control, with almost 70% indicating they don’t think sales is adding enough value-add to their engagements (Forrester 2011).

Second, although buyers are more empowered, under current budget constraints they have been forced to “do-more-with-less” and as a result, have less time than ever to fully understand their issues / opportunities, and research / deliver solutions. There is a greater need for consultative insight to help close this gap.

Third, continued and significant negative financial conditions have caused buyers to be more economic focused. Today, over 90% of B2B buyers require proof of bottom-line impacts / ROI on any significant investment, with over 81% expecting vendors to provide financial justification to earn the business (IDC 2011).

Buyers are more empowered, overloaded, skeptical and frugal than ever before, a condition we have termed “Frugalnomics”. In order to “fight” Frugalnomics and maintain sales effectiveness, sales needs to be armed with a new value-oriented, consultative methodology, training and tools.
2.    How do sales enablement solutions reflect the “people, process, technology” mantra to help sales do their job more efficiently?
We know that buyer’s want a consultative / outcome focused engagement, pushing salespeople to advance their methodology, skills and tools over the past 3 decades, from product selling to value selling:
  1. Product Selling: The sales organization sold products based on "feeds and speeds". Technology solutions were new and exciting, and sales lived on the cutting edge of technology. Customers bought "products."
  2. Solution Selling: Rather than buying products, customers looked for solutions - usually a functional combination of hardware and software to solve a technical problem. Acronyms such as ERP and CRM were common, and the services industry exploded. Customers bought "solutions."
  3. Value Selling: The financial pressures of the recent and continuing recession changed customers. They now align business investments with technology costs. Customers want "outcomes."
Yet despite these demands, the majority of sales is not ready to meet the challenges of today’s B2B buyer, using the same old antiquated techniques. Forrester indicates that buyers can easily classify salespeople, in most cases in quite unflattering terms, with:
·         27% still product selling focused, only wanting to tell the buyer about their products / services,
·         41% only slightly more advanced, being buzzword focused - listening for a keyword or two so they can launch into the standard product pitch.
Almost 70% are adding little to no value according to this research, with only 1 in 5 have advanced to a solution selling approach, with only 6% advancing further to be consultative and 6% truly outcome focused (ideally where buyers would like sales to be).

Frugalnomics changes everything. All B2B solution providers must recognize that the sales and marketing landscape has fundamentally changed, and that customers are looking for consultative / outcome-focused partners to help them proactively uncover opportunities that many are unaware they have, quantify and drive bottom-line impacts, and deliver more value than competitors offerings.

The end of sales as we know it, this shift in buyer requirements will require a significant sales enablement investment in people (training), process (engagement methodologies) and technology (sales tools).

3.    Can you explain in detail the problems and objectives your organization helps sales teams solve?

We help sales teams advance their value selling skills, with a library of value-focused diagnostic tools, value selling training and buyer facilitation methodologies. The process and tools work throughout the buyer’s journey to help facilitate the buyer’s decision making process:

1)    Discovery: Early in buying lifecycle help buyers loosen the status-quo and understand potential solutions, by helping them to illuminate issues, and that there is a "cost of doing nothing". This is often best addressed using diagnostic assessment tools to survey current practices, benchmark versus peers and leaders, and intelligently develop improvement roadmaps based on highest priority issues;

2)    Consideration: In the middle stages, to help justify the right solution, by quantifying the savings, business value, return on investment and fast payback. This is often best accomplished using ROI sales tools to help identify current costs and opportunities, intelligently recommend the right solution configuration and quantify potential benefits, investments, risks, ROI, payback and other key financials;

3)    Selection: In the later stages, to help validate the decision, by proving that the selected solution competitively has the lowest total cost of ownership, best value and lowest risks. This is often best done using TCO comparison tools.

4.    What are some of the key benefits of sales enablement technology?

Looking at sales enablement overall, shows how beneficial sales enablement programs can be. A recent IDC Sales Advisory Practice article indicates that a part of the growth issue is B2B companies' inability to get sales enablement "in gear", costing typical companies upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year. For example, this 10% sales enablement challenge is a $100 M incremental revenue opportunity for a $1B company.

To analyze the potential further, we have worked with IDC to specifically measure the impact that our value-selling approach has, with the following significant improvements. The survey revealed that the average Alinean-powered sales enablement program delivered:

·         An ROI of 810% (for each $1 invested in an Alinean program, $8.10 in incremental benefits was generated);

·         A payback of less than three months from deployment.

These benefits were achieved with:

·         A reduction in sales cycles by 20% via sales teams driving initiatives more proactively with prospects, and by the automation of business case development;

·         Reduced discounting and increased deal size for direct sales by 20% or more from the migration of sales from features, function and price selling to business value selling;

·         A reduction in the amount of time it takes to develop credible business cases – from days or months to hours;

·         A more than 10% increase in the success rate of competitive sales engagements as a result of sales teams acting as more as strategic partners than as conventional salespeople;

·         23% higher channel partner retention rates from a more differentiated value-selling approach and demonstrable ROI services;

·         A net savings of 25% in consulting, licensing and internal labor costs based on a reduced ad-hoc investment in homegrown benchmarking, assessment, ROI/TCO tools and programs via standardization on a single provider, along with the elimination of internal SME burdens.
5.    Can you provide a snapshot of some of the companies utilizing your solution(s) and for what improvements they have realized?

Yes, the Unified Communications market is extremely competitive, and in order to move the discussion forward with today's more skeptical / frugal buyer, ShoreTel needed to quantify and prove the head-to-head cost advantages and superior value compared to competitive offerings.

To address this opportunity, Alinean developed the ShoreTel TCO Tool to compare total cost of ownership (TCO) for various unified communications systems, and quantify.

Partners and enterprise sales professionals have adopted the tool significantly more than prior in-house developed programs, driving significant multi-million dollar customer deals.

Hear firsthand the value this tool has had to ShoreTel and it's partners, as Tamara Taylor, BTI Group Director of Sales discusses the benefits of the ShoreTel TCO Tool (powered by Alinean):

View the ShoreTel TCO tool (powered by Alinean)

 
6.    Are there any interesting trends that you’re seeing develop on the topic of sales enablement from a technology and/or user standpoint?

We are at a turning point – literally the end of sales as we know it…. This does not mean necessarily the Death of a Salesman, but unless value can be added / delivered …..

Buyers have come to expect the experiences they have as a consumer when they are shopping now for business solutions. Just as buying music and books changed significantly over past 10 years in the B2C space, similarly we are in a ten year consumerization of B2B sales.

7.    Is there any research or resources on this topic you would point to?
We have compiled some of the most important research on sales enablement:
The Big-O: Outcome Selling: http://blog.alinean.com/2011/03/big-o-outcome-selling.html

Boost Sales 10% with Sales Enablement Investments? IDC Says Absolutely - http://blog.alinean.com/2011/02/boost-sales-10-with-sales-enablement.html

Spring Has Sprung, And So Should New Sales & Marketing Processes - http://blog.alinean.com/2011/03/spring-has-sprung-and-so-should-new.html

Additional research & insight articles can be found at: http://www.fightfrugalnomics.com

This interview was included as content in the Demand-Gen Report Article: Shifting Sales Environment Creating New Role for Sales Enablement Solutions - http://www.demandgenreport.com/archives/feature-articles/933-shifting-sales-environment-creating-new-role-for-sales-enablement-solutions-.html

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