Friday, February 25, 2011

Boost Sales 10% with an Investment in Sales Enablement? IDC Says Absolutely!

As the economy recovers, many organizations are turning their strategic focus from cutting costs towards growing revenue, however, most organizations continue to struggle to hit growth targets.

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.

Cost drivers of this continued misstep in strategy include:

1) More Leads to Make Same Sales: a poorly performing lead pipeline requiring 2,000 to 5,000+ contacts at the front of the pipeline to yield 1 closed deal over a 17 month average buying cycle. (i.e., for BtoB, large revenue deals, from marketing through to sales);

2) Lack of Value: An inability for sales reps to engage their clients in a strongly desired dialogue by buyers to solve their greatest problems.

This insight, sourced from IDC's Sales and CMO Advisory Service research, has trended as such consistently over the past several years.

So how much would you invest in sales enablement best practices to generate a 10% revenue boost? We recommend the following best practice investments to directly address these primary sales enablement challenges:

1) Buying Facilitation - too often sales focuses inwardly, on the steps sales takes to move deals forward, the typical sales funnel, versus the process the buyer goes through to make a buying decision. In today's Internet fueled self service buying environment, traditional selling no longer works, as indicated by the metrics.

Understanding the steps in your customers' buying lifecycle, and knowing the right sales content / tools to apply along the journey, can help sellers focus on facilitating and streamlining buyers decisions.

The need for buying lifecycle alignment is highlighted in our article - Diametrically Opposed Forces: Selling Value in a Buyer Controlled World.

2) Outcome-Based Selling - in recent research by SiriusDecisions, the most cited reason for failure to achieve quota performance was "inability to communicate value effectively to buyers", matching IDCs findings as one of the greatest sales enablement opportunities. In the face of two economic downturns in past decade, today's buyers are more frugal / skeptical than ever, and require proof of bottom-line impact on most solutions.

Sellers need to have the right sales tools and content, at the right stage in the buying lifecycle, in order to:

1) 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) 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) 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.

This important sales enablement investment opportunity is highlighted in our article: Alinean Research Reveals Best Practices to Fight Frugalnomics

The Bottom-Line
With major goals now focused on revenue growth, the 10% incremental sales enablement opportunity represents perhaps the greatest ROI opportunity of recent times.

Implementing Buying Facilitation and Outcome-Based Selling can target the two largest opportunities, and help the organization recapture this lost revenue.

A great quote from Abraham Maslow (of Maslow hierarchy of needs fame), "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." Clearly we need to invest in some new tools to address these two new problems, and help our sales professionals meet the frugal / skeptical B2B buyer challenge and capture the great 10% revenue reward.

Source: The original IDC article can be found at:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Updated Alinean Social Media ROI Calculator - New Graphics and Refined Research

We've just updated the Alinean Social Media ROI Calculator with some hot new graphics, and refined value quantification research and analytics.

The Social Media Value Map (below) clearly shows the way value can be derived from social media engagements through to ROI.

The new analytics include refinements to investment requirements and benefits as a result of pilot feedback (thanks for all your input!).

The Social Media ROI Calculator and related ROI research / articles and best practices can be found at:

Gartner CIO Study Highlights Need for Outcome-Based Technology Sales & Marketing Strategies

Gartner's latest CIO study, "Reimagining IT: The 2011 CIO Agenda" highlights several important trends that will have significant impact on technology marketing and sales enablement into 2011 and beyond.

The results are based on survey responses from 2,014 CIOs worldwide, supported by interviews by Gartner analysts with leading CIOs, highlighting the following important trends:

Busted Budgets - IT budgets are expected to increase by just 1% in 2011 over 2010 spending levels, with IT budgets not achieve their 2008 highs for 3 years, until 2014.

Growth Gains Priority – the business strategy for CIOs is migrating from streamlining business processes and reducing enterprise costs to increasing enterprise growth and retaining new customers.


Value Focused – As CIOs seek to meet business goals, one of two issues standing in their way is benefits realization, the ability to achieve planned business benefits from each IT project, and the ability to measure and prove this achievement.

Business Results Key Source of Success – CIOs indicate overwhelming that the ability to deliver and prove business results is their primary source of success / success measure.
Cloudy Forecast - Companies are looking to the clouds to help them improve IT efficiency and effectiveness, in particular overcoming the heavy operational commitments of legacy architectures / services. Today only 3% of organizations have the majority of their IT in the cloud / SaaS, but in as little as four years, Gartner expects 43% of organizations to have their IT in the cloud. According to Gartner, this requires CIOs re-imagine IT and lead it through a process of “creative destruction.

Today’s buyers are clearly focused on outcomes, and the more outcome-based the marketing campaigns, content, sales presentations and proposals, the better. Technology marketing and sales enablement can help:

  • Align with Goals: Deliver proof that solutions can help budget constrained IT executives “do more with less”, especially how the solutions can help drive business growth, help customer retention, or reduce business operation costs
  • Diagnose Issues: Proactively help drive transformative strategies by diagnosing current issues, benchmarking performance and building roadmaps for change, especially for cloud strategies and solutions, 
  • Prove ROI: Quantify the realized benefits and value from investments. In IDC studies, 65% of IT managers don’t have the time, metrics, tools to quantify the value, and as a result, 81% turn to vendors for help in proving the value / ROI – a key success factor to gain the sale and build a relationship,
  • Validate Best Value: Prove that the proposed solutions represent the best value / lowest cost of ownership (TCO) versus competitive options 
A summary of the Gartner study can be found at:

Solutions to help address the increasingly outcome-based focus of IT executives can be found at: Alinean Buyer's Guide

Estimate the Benefits of Windows 7 Professional

The Windows 7 marketing team created the Windows 7 Professional for Small Business micro-site to help guide decision makers on the process, costs and business case for upgrading to Windows 7.

For this campaign, Alinean developed an ROI Calculator to Estimate the Benefits of Windows 7 Professional. With only a few inputs the tool uses extensive case study and proprietary research to estimate benefits, investments and calculate potential ROI. The tool is used by hundreds of prospects each month to raise priority and justify the upgrade to frugal executives.

The campaign can be found at:
Click on the Estimate ROI in middle of page for access to the Alinean tool.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social Media ROI a Requirement for 2011

With social media spending continuing to increase this year, CMOs are being tasked to justify the investment. This is indicated vividly in a new report from Bazaarvoice, a poll of 175 B2C and B2B CMOs across various industries, with 74% of CMOs predicting they will finally tie social efforts to hard ROI in 2011.

Although CMOs will continue to track soft metrics such as popularity and engagement levels, tangible measures are rising dramatically to enable the calculation of realized ROI from social media. Rising dramatically for 2011 is the quantification of conversion and revenue as a result of social media efforts.

The majority of CMOs still don’t know what the ROI is of their social media efforts, with the majority of respondents indicating that they were not getting an ROI or did not know the ROI from various campaigns and channels.

Facebook seems to have the most favorable ROI ratings so far, with 35% indicating superior or average ROI, but with so many not knowing for sure, it’s hard to tell what the results will be until clearer measurement systems are put in place.

As CMOs seek to optimize their spending, doing more with less, it is important to learn which channels reveal the greatest payback. As financial due diligence is a requirement, each marketing investment comes under more scrutiny for ROI measures, and understanding the true bottom-line impact of social media marketing becomes a requirement.

Alinean's Social Media ROI Calculator can help:
(Free to use and see results onlune, registration required to download customized report)

Source: Marketers Optimistic About Finding Social Media ROI (Mashable, February 09, 2011)

Alinean Research Reveals Best Practices to Fight Frugalnomics

Sales Enablement Investments Required to Engage and Sell to Today's Economic-Buyer

Alinean, presenting at Forrester's Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2011, revealed several important best practices to effectively fight Frugalnomics, improve sales success and reduce sales cycles

These were revealed at the San Fransisco event in the workshop presentation Fighting Frugalnomics – Engaging and Selling to Economic-Focused Buyers presented by CEO Jefre Futch and Alinean customer, ShoreTel’s Mark Arman, Vice President of Business Development.

With two recessions over the past 10 years, research reveals that B2B buyers have become focused on quantifiable bottom-line proof points. And this trend is expected to continue even as the recovery takes hold. The reign of the economic-buyer is called Frugalnomics, where buyers require significant ROI, fast payback and superior value from each purchase.

In the face of frugal buyer sentiment, a majority of B2B vendors are now requiring more leads to generate the same amount of sales and are reporting a substantial increase in buying cycle time. The inability for sales to engage buyers with value messaging has currently been cited as the number one reason for sales not making quotas.

Alinean's research revealed that new sales enablement strategies and investments are required to fight Frugalnomics. Here are a few tips:
  1. Engage Earlier – Empowered by the Internet, IT buyers are doing more research online, 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.
  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.” Further, there are more decision makers involved in the purchase process, especially more involvement from CFOs and financial executives. To be successful, sales teams have to engage multiple stakeholders including executives, finance, business leaders, purchasing, operations and technologists, with a compelling value message personalized to each stakeholder.
  3. Differentiate Value - 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. Proving total cost of ownership (TCO) savings and superior value is vital to competitive wins.
"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," says Tom Pisello, Chairman and Founder of Alinean. "These initiatives and tools have been proven to drive earlier engagements, reduce sales cycles, increase deal size, reduce discounting and drive competitive win rates."

A press release announcing the participation at the Forrester Sales Enablement forum:

A recording of webinar presenting the research and results, and a download of the PPT is available at:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Alinean Powers Diagnostic Assessment Tool: the Sage Pacer Survey

In the current climate of cost management and strategic spending (Frugalnomics), organizations need to get some idea of where they stand compared to others in their industry. Knowing where business processes rank can enable organizations to locate and leverage areas of strength and remediate weak processes.

The Sage Pacer Survey can help businesses asses their current state of the business, how the existing business processes impacts the ability to meet changing business conditions, and what the business sees on the near horizon. Responses to these questions are then compared against the average responses of a similar industry, revenue and employee-sized peer groups. These benchmark comparisons provide insight into how other organizations see their processes in light of current economic conditions, and how this compares to the businesses' responses.

This tool is used in demand-generation campaigns to help engage executives, diagnose opportunities and drive further engagements by sales. The tool is used to generate hundreds of benchmark reports each month, driving more high quality leads, shortening sales cycles, driving incremental sales and improving competitive advantage.

Click here to see for yourself

Every registered user is entered into a drawing for a free iPad.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

CFOs Take More Control: Frugalnomics in Full Effect

According to a new Accenture study of 1,054 senior finance executives, in the wake of the recession, more chief financial officers (CFOs) are expanding their role beyond finance.

This includes more CFO involvement in key decision making, including helping to set business strategy, deciding where to invest capital and even looking at product mix and go-to-market strategies.

Over the past 18 months, the survey results indicate that CFOs have assumed significant additional responsibilities for several key groups, including: information technology (43%), human resources (39%), production (38%), customer service (37%), and even marketing / sales (33%).

According to the Wall Street Journal report on the study, Finance Chiefs Expand Role, several CFOs confirm the trend, and highlight how proving the ROI on proposals is more important than ever, for example:
  • Terry Lillis, chief financial officer at Principal Financial Group Inc. says there's more back and forth with different departments when making decisions with more meetings face-to-face and options getting heavier scrutiny.
  • Nancy Cooper, finance chief of software developer CA Technologies, based in Islandia, N.Y., now finds herself at marketing meetings. "I'm working pretty closely with marketing people trying to determine where we'll spend money and what's the payback on it," she says.
CFO Control Drives Frugalnomics Further
This centralization of power to financial chiefs has important implications for the way the buying cycle is managed, and how B2B sales and marketing groups must navigate these more complex waters.

Frugalnomics, where economically impacted buyers were forced to do-more-with-less and thus ratcheted up the need for justification, ROI and quick payback from each investment, was already in effect prior to the increase in CFO control. From IDC’s research, a full 90% of buyers were already economic-focused.

Now with CFOs expanding their oversight, gaining more control over spending and key steps in the buying cycle, Frugalnomics will certainly be more intense and more pervasive.

Speaking the CFO’s Language
The expanding CFO role and economics focus will drive how successful marketers connect and engage with decision makers, and how successful sales professionals help facilitate the buying cycle to win new business.

With more responsibility than ever, CFOs are now challenged by CEOs and the board to manage significantly more people, budgets and decisions, in many instances doubling or tripling responsibilities, driving cost reductions, while still capturing growth in a challenged marketplace.

With CFOs controlling strategy, budgeting and spending decisions for more groups, solution providers that can understand these challenges and help CFOs address their new issues will win sales in the nearer term and establish key long term relationships to drive future business as well:
  • Having more responsibility means that these CFOs will be time constrained as never before, and need vendors to provide proactive consultative advice to help them analyze opportunities, understand potential solutions, and justify decisions.
  • With an edict to reduce costs and grow the business, those vendors that can help the CFOs do-more-with-less, drive higher ROI, achieve faster payback and prove superior value will have the upper edge.
The CFO and the Buying Lifecycle
Examining the buying lifecycle, CFOs are involved most active early in the decision making, when the status quo is examined and challenged, and again later in the buying cycle, where the solution selections need to be justified and the stakeholders need to be sure they are getting the best deal possible.

The Buying Lifecycle according to SiriusDecisions, highlighting how CFOs and other executives are involved early in the decision making, helping to drive change, and then again later in the sales cycle when the purchase must be financially justified.

CFOs are Driving Change
In the early phases of the buying lifecycle, especially in today’s risk-adverse environment, it is often easier for frugal buyers to do-nothing and maintain the status quo versus investing in a change.
Executives like CFOs do most of their research on-line on their own or via analysts / peers. These executives are often not yet engaged with vendor sales yet, presenting a challenge to engage with CFOs directly via on-line resources, influence peers and advocates to recommend changes and solution ideas, and to enable sales to engage earlier and with more value.
To help CFOs with their own research, marketing can provide targeted campaigns, collateral and interactive tools to engage with these busy CFOs to help them understand potential improvement opportunities and that doing nothing has a significant cost and is not an option.
Research white papers and case studies that clearly demonstrate what changes could be made to drive improvements can help loosen the status quo. However, these busy financial officers often need personalized and specific advice, therefore interactive tools often work best. These can include:
  • Interactive white papers – from a few profile questions on the buyers profile and needs, personalization of research and case study white papers, helping CFOs cut through the noise with more quantified, important and relevant decision support content. The pivot points for the content often includes: industry, size, geographic location, stage in buying cycle, role in buying cycle and pain points.
  • Diagnostic assessments – interactive surveys that ask questions to identify and illuminate potential issues, provide benchmarks vs. peers / leaders to drive priorities, and deliver customized roadmaps of solutions / services and practices to yield improvements.
With the advent of the Internet and the wealth of on-line resources, and growing opinion amongst executives that sales is currently not adding enough value to the process, sales is often being invited later to the table, often after key decisions have already been made.

Engaging executives during these early phases is essential to help set the right strategy, allocate budgets and prioritize solution options, however, salespeople must earn the right to meet with the executive, and must add value during the meeting.

CFOs don’t want a dog and pony show, so the typical product PPT just won’t cut it – Product Selling to executives doesn’t work at all. And these same executives have little time for exhausting questions about what is “keeping them up at night”, the typical Solution Selling methodology.

CFOs want you to walk in with an understanding of their issues, and be able to analyze this to provide unique insight, advice and recommendations that align with their pain points – a key component of Value Selling.

Yet sales professionals are indicating that they are having trouble addressing the needs so important to engaging with overloaded and frugal CFOs. According to SiriusDecisions, the Inability to Communicate Value Messages, and Knowledge Gaps regarding industry and solutions are the greatest inhibitors to achieving quota success.

In order to succeed early in the buying lifecycle with CFOs, sales professionals need to deliver unique insight, diagnostics, and advice, especially advice around economics. Arming sales professionals with the right sales enablement tools can help drive earlier engagement success:
  • Corporate Briefings: Understanding the company financials and quarterly briefings, industry challenges, competitors, and latest news is important to gain insight into what will drive corporate objectives and strategic initiatives. Providing resources that let sales understand the challenges can help facilitate the early discussions.
  • Diagnostic Benchmarks: sales can be armed with tools to help them benchmark specific aspects of the organization against peers and leaders,. Conducted with key managers in a workshop, the team discovers key issues in a structured and repeatable engagement, and presents key and unique insights into opportunities, priorities and solutions to the executives.
CFOs are Demanding Financial Justification
According to IDC sales cycles have lengthened over the past 12 months by 10% or more, and according to SiriusDecisions, most sales are getting stuck in the last part of the buying cycle - justifying the decision & making competitive selection.

Later in the sales cycle, CFOs engage again in the decision making to validate the solution selection and make sure the choices make fiscal sense.

At this later stage, to be sure CFOs have the information they need, sales and marketing needs to provide an ROI business case for the particular recommended solution.

The ROI business case is used to validate the case for change, and quantify the investment requirements, benefits, risks and key financial metrics for the project. These key metrics typically include discounted cash flow, ROI, payback, net present value savings and IRR.

But the justification can’t stop there. Whenever a CFO considers a solution the executives know there are often several options as to how to implement it. At the final stages of the buying decision, sales and marketing needs to quantify the competitive advantage of the solution, often quantifying the unique incremental benefits that the solution can deliver versus competitive options, and justifying the purchase price using total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons.

The Bottom Line
"When we find ourselves in challenging business climates, the role of the CFO and the CFO's influence expands," says Paul Boulanger, global managing director of Accenture's finance consultancy. Indeed, CFOs are now managing significantly larger portions of the business, often with an iron financial fist.

The CFO control will make buying decisions even more focused on economics, demanding new levels of financial due diligence.

In order to succeed in an ever more “Frugalnomic” world under ever more CFO control, B2B sales and marketing needs to shift from pitching products, to Value Selling by facilitating the buying cycle by diagnosing issues and quantifying value.

Specifically, we recommend the following best practices:

• Engage Earlier to Guide Strategy: diagnostic assessments to help CFOs identify issues, develop strategies to loosen the status quo, set priorities and explore potential solutions,

• Make the case for change – prove to CFOs that there is a “cost of doing nothing”, prioritize the project, and cost justify the change and recommended solution(s),

• Differentiate to prove superior value – prove to CFOs that the selected solution represents best value with quantified lower cost of ownership.

Finance Chiefs Expand Roles, Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2011-02-02

Diametrically Opposed Forces: Selling Value in a Buyer Controlled World