Monday, January 31, 2011

Is The End of the Social Media Story Already Written Into Its Success?

In Italo Calvino’s early 1970’s book Invisible Cities, he describes a fictional city, where to establish relationships, the inhabitants stretch strings from their house, to the houses of others they have relationships with. Each string is white or black or gray or black-and-white to denote a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, or agency.

If we think of today’s social media, our virtual worlds are denoted by such strings, creating an intricate web of relationships.* And as the popularity of social media increases, these strings become more numerous, often requiring more and more time to “navigate”.

Calvino illuminates the tragedy of this society, for “When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.”

Just think of the information overload from just our e-mail alone, exploding more than 2x in volume per year. To this, now add the real time pressure from social media, where a typical user receives hundreds of daily tweets, dozens of daily Facebook updates, dozens of LinkedIn updates and discussion group posts, blog article feeds … you get the picture.

Those of us who are already very active in social media feel the pressure of the real time Internet every day as we establish and cultivate social relationships, post content, and collaborate on new ideas. And as we are relatively early in the adoption of the medium, and especially early in the exploitation cycle, we know that this is only the start of the overload as even more folks sign-up, establishing even more relationships, and participating with much more vigor.

The value of the medium totally depends on a high level of participation, and the value of each social media channel increases tremendously as more relationships are established, connections enriched and knowledge shared. This is most often defined by Metcalf's Law, which states that the "value" of a network increases in proportion to the square of the number of nodes on the network. But does Metcalf's law, which was developed to describe computer and telecom networks, and then applied to the Internet, hold true in an interactive and collaborative environment where people, with limited attention spans and computational limitations, are the nodes of the network?

Is there a tipping point where the participants get so overwhelmed that they realize the uselessness of continued participation? Is this then where the medium declines precipitously as users are ensnared in a web of noise?

Once this tipping point is reached, the story may be as Calvino narrated, “They rebuild the city elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away,” 

Unless we figure out better ways to manage the information overload, Metcalf's law may not hold, and the end of social media may very well be written into its very success.

Is this the fate that awaits each social media channel.. it gets too popular and collapses in on itself and is abandoned? Are the future of Facebook or Twitter doomed by their increasing popularity and the limitations of the human participants?

Is there a way to overcome the overload and collapse, to realize the real-time information, collaboration and relationship values that social media can deliver, or will the exponential explosions in the connections themselves spell the end?

Calvino says it brilliantly when examining the ruins of these empty cities: “the only thing that remains are spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.”

As a huge pundit of social media and its ROI, I hope that we make investments in the technology and how it is used to overcome the inherent overload issues, and that in the end, this analogy and article are proved wrong.

Invisible Cities (Italian: Le città invisibili) a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino, was published in Italy in 1972.


* Although in almost all social media channels, you only get one colored string for each relationship, compounding the overload issue.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Over 200% ROI from a Value Selling Program Sound Impossible? Find out for yourself.

Buyers have fundamentally changed, requiring quantification of benefits, superior ROI, faster payback and lower TCO from each proposed investment - a condition called Frugalnomics.

As a marketer you may realize that buyers are doing more research on-line before engaging with sales, and that these frugal buyers are in need of on-line self service tools to help them diagnose issues, quantify the benefits or validate the superior value of your solutions.

Or you may be a sales enablement manager seeking to arm your direct / channel sales teams with the tools they need to engage frugal buyers earlier in the buying cycle, and with more value, incuding arming them with the diagnostic asssessment, ROI and TCO tools they need to succeed.

Regardless, how do you know how much benefit these tool and program investments will yield?  Will the  investment yield a good return and quick payback? What options are available to drive perhaps higher returns?

Alinean, with research from IDC, has developed a quick and easy way to quantify the ROI from you value selling and marketing investments. In 10 minutes or less you can use this new diagnostic ROI tool to assess whether these programs make fiscal sense for your team, and receive a 10+ page analysis report you can share with other stakeholders to validate the investment and drive improvements.


Your Sales & Marketing Ready to Do Business with Frugal Buyers? Take this Diagnostic Assessment to Find Out.

Buyers are more empowered and frugal than ever before, requiring changes to the way B2B solutions are marketed and sold.

In fact, IDC research has revealed that those who have already made the shift are experiencing significant benefits, including the ability to generate more high quality leads, reduce in selling cycles, improve deal size and increase competitive win rates.

But how do you know if your current sales and marketing practices are already aligned with buyer needs, or need to change?

We encourage you to take this on-line diagnostic assessment, a 10 minute survey which compares your current practices against best practice leaders to validate current strategies, or illuminate potential improvements - all presented in a completely personalized benchmark report.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White Papers are Influence Kings, But Need Personalization to Retain Crown

Internet Fuels IT Buying Cycles
According to a recent survey of 500 technology decision makers and influencers, Internet access to content is changing the way IT solutions are purchased, with buyers using on-line research to drive substantial portion of the decision making cycle on their own. Savvy buyers are using on-line content to set strategies, explore and select solutions, all before ever engaging a sales representative.

For these technology decision makers and influencers, content is an all important decision catalyst, with buyers researching opportunities, solutions, technical specifications, financial justification, success stories references and competitive comparisons. In a do-more-with-less environment, IT buyers view on-line content as essential to the buying process, a facilitator to help make better decisions more quickly.

Content that Matters Most?
When surveyed as to the most influential content in decision making, white papers remain the stand-out content of choice.

This marked the third year in a row that white papers were ranked as the most influential when compared to several other collateral types, including superior influence in driving purchase decisions over case studies / success stories, product brochures / data sheets, videos, and podcasts.

Although white papers remain influential, technology media firms such as Ziff Davis Enterprise (ZDE) and others report that white paper downloads are DOWN year over year.

Unfortunately the bulk of white paper marketing involves communicating the same information, in the same way, over and over to prospects as different as Joe’s Barber Shop and Exxon Mobil. This results in information overload, with low response rates, a slower buying process and lack of competitive differentiation. The issue is that traditional white papers are often not engaging enough to break through the clutter.

So, how do marketers make whitepapers more effective, more relevant, more ONE-TO-ONE?

Interactive White Papers
One way to overcome these issues is via Interactive White Papers - by creating content that is dynamic, adaptive and personalized in real time, fundamentally changing the way white papers engage buyers.

Research from MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm, shows that targeted content is more effective, when customized for:
  • Industry (82% more effective)
  • Role/job function (67%)
  • Company size (49%)
  • Geography (29%).
Designed to create more impactful and highly relevant content experiences for buyers, Interactive White Papers connect a solution's benefits to the unique needs of each customer through a question-and-answer interface that updates dynamic text modules within the white paper. Based on responses to profile questions the white paper is personalized to analyze the buyer needs and present relevant and personalized results.

For buyers, Interactive White Papers provide a fast and easy way to personalize specific data and messaging points in the white paper, enabling them to streamline their research and create more effective resources that can be shared within their organization.

For marketers, personalizing white paper content based on user profile, creates a better attraction, connection and stronger engagement. Noise is removed and education streamlined, helping to reduce sales cycles and drive more sales.

More information on Interactive White Papers can be found at: http://www.alinean.com/demand-gen/interactive_white_paper.aspx

Sources:

Diametrically Opposed Forces: Selling Value in a Buyer Controlled World

Alinean just had the pleasure of wrapping up a webinar with SiriusDecisions analyst Jim Ninivaggi, and this session contained important research and advice for developing the right B2B sales enablement strategy and tools to address key buyer changes into 2011 and beyond.

Here's our three key takeaway opportunities:
1) Buyer Facilitation versus Selling,
2) Buyers, Fueled by the Internet, Firmly in Control,
3) Most Prominent Inhibitors to Sales Achieving Quota is “Inability to Communicate Value Messages”.

Buyer Facilitation versus Selling
The majority of B2B sales teams have faced an elongated sales cycle over the past few years. But the problem is not “why sales cycles are getting longer”, it's why buyers are taking longer to make decisions.

However, solving this problem will be difficult for most teams, as sales remains inwardly focused on the traditional funnel based selling process, rather than having a keen understanding of how customers make decisions and actually buy - the buying lifecycle.


Understanding how to facilitate this buying lifecycle, especially how to connect and engage today's economic-focused executive, is a key to sales success, and establishes a roadmap for sales enablement.

Sales teams will need to analyze the buying cycle, understanding the key steps buyers take to make decisions, and implementing engagement methods and tools to help facilitate the process.

Buyers, Fueled by the Internet, Firmly in Control
With a wealth of information from vendors, analysts and peers, buyers are doing more research on-line. Executives and other key stakeholders are using the Internet to help them identify issues and opportunities, set goals and strategy and explore possible solutions.

At the same time, buyers are indicating that sales is often not prepared for meetings, and not adding value above and beyond what they can research on their own. As a result, sales is being invited later into the decision making process, if at all.


By not engaging early, sales is left responding to proposal requests versus helping to set strategy and recommend solutions – a sure recipe for smaller deal size and less competitive advantage. In order to succeed, sales needs to provide unique diagnostics, insight and advice to earn the right to engage with these empowered executives during critical early decision cycles.

Engaging earlier requires that sellers have the skills, processes and tools to “earn the right” to present earlier, and deliver unique value during the dialogue.

Most Prominent Inhibitors to Sales Achieving Quota is “Inability to Communicate Value Messages”
With two economic downturns in the last decade, B2B buyers have become more austere. Now over 90% of buyers are economic-focused, requiring quantifiable proof of bottom-line impact in order to prioritize, and invest in proposed solutions – a condition Alinean coined “Frugalnomics”.

At the same time as economics are a prominent decision factor to customers, sales is indicating that they are having trouble communicating value messages to customers, and that, according to SiriusDecisions, this value communication inability is the number one inhibitor to achieving quota success.


These economic-buyers are significantly involved early in the buying process as the driver/catalyst for change, and again later in the buying cycle, to justify the investment and drive financial accountability. In early phases, especially in today’s risk-adverse environment, it is often easier for these buyers to do nothing versus investing in a change. Therefore, sales must engage early to quantify the “cost of doing nothing” and to “make the case for change” in order to loosen the status quo.

According to SiriusDecisions, most sales are getting stuck in the last part of the buying cycle - justifying the decision & making competitive selection – the biggest cause of elongated sales cycles. Later in the sales cycle, sales needs to be able to provide a ROI business case for the particular recommended solution, as well as quantify competitive advantage, often using total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons.

In order to fight Frugalnomics, successfully selling to these economic-buyers, requires new skills, processes, and tools.

The Bottom Line
Buyers are clearly in control of the buying cycle and are more frugal than ever before. In order to succeed in a “Frugalnomic” world, sales needs to shift from selling products and solutions, to facilitate the buying cycle and sell using value:

Engage Earlier: Diagnostic assessment to help customers identify issues, develop strategies, set priorities and explore potential solutions,
Make the case for change: Prove that there is a “cost of doing nothing”, prioritize the project, and cost justify the investment with ROI,
Differentiate to Prove Superior Value: Prove that the selected solution represents best value with quantified lower cost of ownership (TCO).

The full webinar session is available on-demand at:
https://alinean.webex.com/alinean/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=44097752&rKey=ca6aa9fbfc4ad092

A downloadable presentation is also available via this link.

To explore the buying cycle and buying facilitation further, I recommend: www.newsalesparadigm.com

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New TCO Calculator: EMC SMB Virtual Solutions Advisor

EMC wanted a quick way for small / medium business IT executives and buyers to quantify how virtualized data center solutions could help drive capital cost savings, operations and application management savings and improved resiliency.

To address this growing market opportunity, Alinean developed the EMC SMB Virtual Solutions Advisor, a TCO calculator at the heart of this new SMB virtualization marketing campaign. The tool is featured in direct marketing and social media campaigns, and is available from EMC.com - driving a significant increase in leads, education and deal flow.


The tool uses a new version of our XcelLive platform (version 5.0) which adds graphics capability, better registration control and several other key features, which can now be integrated and used with any new tools, or in any of over 1,000+ current sales and marketing tool campaigns.

Click here to access the tool

Monday, January 17, 2011

Value Selling Tools and the Buying Lifecycle

With two economic downturns in the past ten years, buyers are more frugal than ever, demanding that each investment help them do-more-with-less, provide a bottom-line impact, and deliver superior value. Alinean calls this new age-of-austerity Frugalnomics, and it forever changes the way B2B sales and marketing needs to connect with, engage and sell to buyers.

To address the frugal buyer, leading sales enablement groups and marketers are now providing tools to help buyers diagnose their issues, justify solutions, and compare to prove superior value.

As today’s buyers are empowered by the Internet to do their own research and drive their own purchasing due diligence – engaging sales later than ever, or not at all – easy to use versions of these diagnostic tools need to be on-line, readily available, interactive and personalized to empower self-service research. For sales teams, more advanced versions can be used to empower sales led workshops, helping to make sales more valuable again, and elevate perceptions from product sellers to valued consultants.

But how can you best develop and deliver these tools effectively to fight Frugalnomics?

It is best to look at what tools are needed to address each stage in the buying lifecycle, and have tools specifically designed to help move the decision making from initial engagement to delivery.

Diagnose
It is essential to engage executives and key decision makers as early as possible in the buying lifecycle, when strategies and budgets are set. However, it is getting harder to connect and engage effectively with these overloaded, skeptical and frugal executives. These buyers need a reason to engage – and delivering personalized, proprietary and consultative benchmarks, insight and advice is essential. Providing the decision support early in the buying cycle is essential to engagement success- illuminating issues, identifying improvement opportunities and delivering strategic roadmap recommendations.

Advice > Interactive on-line diagnostic tools from Alinean can empower better connection and engagement in early stages of the buying cycle, helping to change the relationship from seller to trusted advisor.

Diagnostic Example: Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Assessment
Microsoft wanted to provide analysis and roadmap advice to help get more C-level engagements, engage earlier in the sales cycle, and shift customer perceptions from tactical product provider to strategic partner.

To address this opportunity, Alinean developed the Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Assessment tools, which are used to diagnose customer’s most pressing capability & maturity needs, delivering a compelling 20+ page assessment report including an illumination of issues, peer comparison benchmarks, prescriptive roadmap of improvements and advice.

The assessment tool has been available since 2008 and is generating more than 600 analyses per month, driving significant evolution of Microsoft’s relationship with clients, and empowering significant partner marketing campaigns. view the tool
Justify
With two economic downturns over the past decade, B2B buyers are focused more than ever on what solutions are available to enable “doing-more-with-less”, driving savings and realizing quantifiable bottom-line impact. For most buyers it’s easier to do-nothing, than to change.
Now, over 90% of B2B buyers require quantifiable proof of bottom-line impact from any significant purchase, and over 81% expect vendors to create and deliver the financial business case for most proposed purchases (IDC). Even with a continued recovery and more financial optimism, the shift to frugality is fundamental and permanent.
Advice > ROI tools from Alinean can quickly and credibly help quantify opportunities, estimate benefits of proposed solutions, prove ROI and demonstrate quick payback, essential to prioritizing proposed projects and justifying the sale.
Justification Example: EMC Documentum Case Management Benefits Calculator
EMC Documentum needed to educate frugal buyers on the value of their solutions, one a Case Management solution for Public Sector customers.
To address this opportunity, Alinean developed a suite of online benefit calculators for each EMC Documentum solution, allowing customers to discover opportunities and quantifying the value propositions of each solution, resulting in compelling and credible 20+ page assessment reports.

The tool suite results in over 1,000 leads per month, with estimated 4 to 5% conversion rate of leads to sales. view the tool

Differentiate
Sales and marketing has worked hard to make the case for change and convinced the buyer that the solution is justified, but now the buyer has a choice: purchase your solution, or perhaps find a lower cost alternative. But up-front purchase price isn’t everything.

Advice > Using Alinean powered TCO Comparison Tools, sales and marketing can prove lower ownership cost over the useful lifecycle, comparing derived cost savings, value and features to justify the selection and purchase.

Differentiate Example: ShoreTel TCO Tool
The Unified Communications market is extremely competitive, and an emerging leader, ShoreTel, needed to demonstrate head-to-head cost advantages.

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

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

A webinar on this topic can be found at:

For more information on Value Selling Tools:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is there an ROI from Social Media? Latest Research Indicates Yes and No.

Marketers are investing significantly more in social media efforts, with increases from 6% to 18% percent of marketing budgets expected within five years. Marketers understand that you must make an investment to deliver social media results and success, but what spending levels are required, and how much effort needs to be expended to deliver specific results?

As social media marketing efforts increase, so does the investment required. And in today’s “age of austerity”, every significant investment now requires proof of bottom-line impact and superior value – a condition called Frugalnomics. As a result, with the social media spending increases, comes:
  • Increased executive scrutiny,
  • Challenges from other stakeholders who may be losing budget to these efforts.
This is driving the need for better social media measurement and return on investment (ROI) accountability.

Recent survey results from Altimeter state that measurement is indeed one of the most important aspects to social media success; in fact, the top priority reported by 48% of corporations was “Creating ROI Measurements” for internal programs. According to Altimeter, “those that can effectively measure improvements can make the business case, and can truly obtain more budget funding”.

However, even though social media ROI measurement is important, Altimeter found that benchmarking efforts are incomplete, with:

  • 65% of corporations using only Engagement Data as the top measurement metric,
  • a mere 22% capturing Product Revenue, a key element in quantifying value and ROI.
With so little measurement, can anyone say that there is actual ROI from social media in general and your own unique marketing efforts in particular? Alinean believes that the sustainability of funding for social media is at risk in enterprises that are not able to demonstrate solid business cases for these initiatives.

Our research shows that ROI results are mixed at this time, with some companies, industries and best practice leaders reaping a payback on social media marketing investments, while others struggle with low engagement levels, high costs, and poor returns.



To measure the ROI, and help others understand their own derived value, we have created the Social Media Value Chain.

See the full ROI assessment results and methodology here:
http://www.alinean.com/docs/Alinean_How_Do_You_Calculate_the_ROI_from_Social_Media_Marketing.pdf

For personalised ROI Calculator and more resources visit:
http://www.alinean.com/socialmediaroi.aspx

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll? IT Spending on the Rise, But Executives Remain Economic-Focused

A recent IT spending survey from Forrester confirms that 2010 remained a tough year for IT. Although Forrester was predicting 8-9% IT budget growth earlier in the year, its latest survey of 2,800 global CIOs and other IT decision-makers, revealed that their predictions, as were others, were overly optimistic, with the vast majority of respondents indicating that their budgets remained the same in 2010 as they were in 2009. Although enterprise technology budgets were trending upward, the progression was slight, in 2010 compared with 2009.

As could be expected, Forrester indicates that the majority of 2010 IT spending went to support existing operations – essentially “keeping the lights on”. Forrester dubs these investments the “MOOSE” part of the budget – spending to Maintain and Operate the Organization, Systems and Equipment.

Even with the shift towards more conservative spending, the survey indicated that a substantial 29% of the budget was still dedicated to new IT initiatives and projects. With the severity of the downturn and conservative budget increases, the relatively large new IT initiatives and projects percentage clearly shows that when there was a bottom-line business reason for upgrading, migrating or innovating, budget dollars were available.

The 2011 Trends
Looking forward, TechTarget's recent 2011 IT Priorities Survey (2,300 respondents) points to a continued increase in IT spending to 2.8% over 2010 levels, anemic growth rates compared to the 5-7% annual growth that could be expected in a good year.

According to TechTarget’s survey results: “Life in IT is returning to normal for 42% of IT departments, with 43% recovering slowly from the recession and 15% still stuck in it. That return to normal is reflected in a budget growth of more than 5% in 46% of IT shops.”

An important shift for 2011 is the focus on “business growth” as a primary focus versus more conservative pullbacks to “keep the lights on”. For 2011, worldwide, 37% of respondents cited "expand IT to support business growth" as the primary focus for their department next year. That's up from 21% last year, when "selective spending in a few key areas" and "maintaining service levels with flat budgets" topped the agenda (at 28% and 23% respectively).

Frugalnomics Reigns
As the budget focus shifts from day-to-day operations towards supporting business growth it is important to remember that IT decision makers, as well as influencers from other groups, remain frugal.

Since the technology bubble burst at the start of this decade, we have found that technology buyers have become more focused on quantifiable proof of bottom-line impact for most large investments. With the Great Recession more pressure than ever is on IT to do-more-with-less, and the economic buyer is firmly in control. We call the economic buyer trend Frugalnomics, where buyers seek quantifiable proof of bottom-line impact, significant ROI, fast payback and superior value from each purchase.


IDC’s most recent customer experience survey of over 200 key IT decision makers confirms that business growth is indeed a priority, but also, that Frugalnomics is indeed in full effect. Research on what drives IT purchase decisions indicates that decisions are currently made based on financial requirements, such as enabling business growth (29%), improving profitability (25%), and reducing costs (22%). These economic driven decisions greatly exceed sentiment for all other purchase drivers such as improving competitiveness, meeting regulatory requirements, or increasing staff utilization.

From this research, it is clear that messages and tools need to be provided to deliver buyers the evidence they need to understand the value of solutions in enabling business growth, improving profitability, and reducing costs. Failure to provide this information means that buyers are left to understand on their own how your solutions might deliver on these goals, or leave it to the buyer to quantify what value the solutions provide. This can cause buyers to bypass your solution, spin on ways to quantify the value and slow the buying lifecycle.


When ranking the important factors that influence IT purchase decisions, survey respondents indicated that economic factors once again reign. For the IT buyer, business benefit assessments (34%) and financial assessments (26%) were both highly important to making a purchase decision, greatly exceeding, by more than 2x, the vendor relationship (14%) as a decision driver.

When we look at marketing budgets however, we find that spending is not aligned with this financial decision making criteria in most cases. Most organizations spend much more on branding and relationship management versus value-based sales and marketing initiatives. From these findings, to better align sales / marketing with buyer requirements, perhaps more budget should be allocated to business benefit and financial assessment content, tools and support.

Value Selling is a Requirement
The IDC research indicates clearly that the way IT solutions are marketed and sold needs to change. In the early days of IT, product selling was prevalent, pitching products to innovators who were shown a product’s features and functions and then figured out on their own how to apply it to a pain / opportunity.

This advanced in the 1990s to solution selling, where several popular methodologies prompted sales and marketing to ask a buyer questions about their pain points, then aligning solutions to help solve these opportunities.

In today’s frugal environment, buyers don’t always have the resources or framework to understand what might ail them, or quantify the vital bottom-line impact in solving the issue. These buyers seek diagnostic advice to help proactively uncover issues, recommend improvement roadmaps, quantify benefits and assure best value. Survey results from IDC indicate that on average:
  • 90% of corporations surveyed require quantifiable proof of bottom-line benefits on most projects;
  • Two-thirds (65%) of buyers indicate that they do not have the knowledge or tools needed to do business value assessments and calculations on their own;
  • 81% of buyers expect vendors to quantify business value of proposed solutions.
The Bottom Line
It is clear that the economic recovery is driving an increase in IT spending, and a change of focus from “keeping the lights on” to renewed spending on postponed migrations and upgrades, supporting business growth and reinvigorated innovation. The news is good for worn down IT managers and IT sales professionals and marketers.

However, even though the recovery will mean more budget available for proposed projects, a critical focus on economic-value remains for almost all buyers.

The latest research from IDC reinforces that even with spending increases, Frugalnomics is here to stay, and that any substantial proposal requires sales and marketing to quantify potential benefits, bottom-line impact, competitive advantages, return on investment, and payback.

Because this can be difficult and time consuming for overloaded IT decision makers to do on their own, IT vendors must help buyers to assess opportunities, and quantify the value of proposed solutions.
Failure to do so will result in lost opportunities, stalled sales cycles and competitive losses, while those that embrace value-based selling and marketing as a best practice can help improve win rates, reduce sales cycles, increase deal size and improve competitive win rates.

Sources:
Enterprise IT Spending 2010, Dennis McCafferty, 2010-12-27, CIO Insight


Full Forrester report is available at: www.forrester.com/go?docid=57508

IT budgets, priorities returning to health in 2011, Mark Schlack, Vice President Editorial, 03 Jan 2011, SearchCIO.com

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sales Enablement and The Economic-Buyer

With two recessions over the past 10 years, buyers have become more focused on quantifiable bottom-line proof points for most large investments. Even though a recovery is at hand, there remains significant pressure to do-more-with-less, and the economic buyer is firmly in control, demanding even more financial accountability on each purchase.

The reign of the economic-buyer is called Frugalnomics, where buyers require significant ROI, fast payback and superior value from each purchase. And this trend is not expected to end, even as the recovery takes hold.

As a result of Frugalnomics and other market drivers:
  • 62% of B2B vendors indicated they needed more leads in order to generate the same amount of sales,
  • 72% indicated an increase in buying cycle time over the past 6 month,
  • The buying cycle timeframe has increased over 10% in the past 12 months.


How Do You Fight Frugalnomics?
To effectively fight Frugalnomics, improve sales success and reduce sales cycles, new sales enablement strategies and investments may be required:

1) Engage Earlier– empowered by the Internet, buyers are doing more of their own research on-line, often having set a strategy, allocated budget and selected potential solutions before sales has been invited to the first meeting. For sales to be relevant and successful, sales teams need to engage earlier in the buying cycle and higher in the organization to help executives proactively set priorities for formal budget allocations, and be in front of strategic decisions with new ideas to capture discretionary spending allocations.

Advice> Diagnostic tools such as assessments and benchmarks can provide the driver for more executive engagements earlier in the sales cycles, when key budget and solution decisions are made.

2) Make the Case for Change - Buyers are inclined to not make significant investments or changes in a time of austerity, and as a result, sales needs to be armed with the tools to “make the case for change” and prove that there is a “cost of doing nothing”. Over 90% of buyers are now economic-focused, requiring bottom-line proof points prior to making investments. And worse, with more decision makers than ever involved in the purchase process, to be successful, you often have to engage executives, finance, business leaders, purchasing, operations and technologists, and provide compelling value messages to each stakeholder.

Advice> Sales professionals need to be armed with interactive business case tools to assess the cost of doing nothing, quantify the benefits of proposed solutions for each stakeholder, and tally the return on investment (ROI).

3) Differentiate Your Value - According to analyst Scott Santucci of Forrester, “We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model... driven by customer's "enterprise-wide strategic procurement initiatives .... to buy only what they need at the lowest possible price.” The focus on value from each investment has never been higher, and sales teams must quantify the advantages of their solution versus the competition, or stand being knocked-out in later critical buying decisions cycles.

Advice> Differentiating your competitive value is key with economic-focused buyers. Tools that prove lower cost of ownership and superior value vs. price can help reduce discounting, counter low-price providers, and drive competitive wins.


The Bottom Line
Frugalnomics dictates a fundamental change in how solutions are sold, and how sales professionals engage with buyers, drive sales and win business. Value-based sales enablement initiatives and tools are the key to arm sales professionals with the consultative insight needed to connect with stakeholders earlier in the sales cycle, prove bottom-line impact, and quantify superior competitive value.

These initiatives and tools have been proven to drive better engagements, reduce sales cycles, increase deal size / reduce discounting and drive competitive win rates.

We are conducting a webinar with James Ninivaggi from SiriusDecisions on this important topic:
http://www.alinean.com/webinars.aspx

Learn more about potential value-based sales tool solutions at: http://www.alinean.com/SalesEnablement.aspx


Sources:
IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010
Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2009