Friday, August 26, 2011

“Value” Remains Most Significant Sales Challenge

Sales still remains challenged to add value during the sales process, and prove the value of  proposed solutions to ever more empowered, skeptical and frugal executives, this according to a significant study by Blue-Sky, a UK sales performance consultancy.

The new independent survey of 212 sales executives worldwide, sought to identify the biggest sales challenges and priorities facing Fortune 1000 firms worldwide, and in the process, uncovered several significant challenges and great opportunities for improvement.

The Value Gap
First, these global sales executives indicated that there is a decided “value” gap between what customers want, and what sales is able to deliver. The survey responses indicated that the most important areas needing development included:

1.       Identifying new ways to add value for the customer

2.       Moving from ‘vendor’ status to become a trusted advisor

3.       Gaining access to executive decision makers

4.       Getting involved earlier in the customer's decision making process

5.       Transforming reps from information providers ’into ‘value creators’.

Unfortunately, the results indicate that the majority of sales professionals remain transactional focused, selling on feature / function and price, rather than having evolved to the value / outcome- focused approach expected by customers today. As one global sales director indicated, “Our sellers don’t have the financial acumen or the ability to go beyond a technical conversation and quantify the real business value, not just technical performance.” 

This shortfall is amplified today in the face of Frugalnomics, a condition where buyers refuse to invest in proposed projects unless they know the project can deliver quantifiable bottom-line impacts, significant ROI and quick payback. Customer expectations have changed faster than sales has been able to evolve to meet the challenge.

Engage Earlier & Prove Value
When asked what the biggest capability gaps were, the sales executives didn’t pull any punches, indicating that they need their sales professionals to engage sooner and more proactively with prospects, be more adept at economically justifying solutions and be able to better differentiate the unique value versus competitors.

The biggest sales capability gaps included:

1.       Getting involved earlier in the customer's decision making process

2.       Influencing the RFP specification before it is issued

3.       Transforming reps from ‘information providers’ into ‘value creators’

4.       Identifying new ways to add value for the customer

5.       Getting procurement to recognize our differentiation

6.       Building a financial case (ROI) for the decision maker.

Paula Gildert, a Procurement Director for Novartis can clearly categorize the inadequacy of many sales approaches, not unlike many buyers, challenging sales that “If you can’t quantify your value – don’t be surprised at the failure of the buyer to recognize it.”

The Best Practices To Drive Value Selling Success
When asked what tactics needed to be prioritized in order to effectively address the challenges, the sales executives indicate that they most need to:

1.       Develop a ‘value calculator’ tool to document actual value created

2.       Build a financial case (ROI) for the decision maker

3.       Use a ‘lifetime cost of ownership’ sales strategy

4.       Influence the RFP specification before it is issued

5.       Transform reps from information providers ’into ‘value creators’.
The Bottom Line
Sales executives recognize the challenges presented by Frugalnomics, and today’s more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyer, and are moving to address the challenges this new environment represents.

However, these is a significant capability gap, in getting sales to engage earlier in the buyer’s decision making process,  justify proposed solutions, and differentiate value.

In recognition, these executives are taking action, implementing new provocative, value-based sales methodologies and tools, including investing more in Value / ROI calculators, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison tools to connect, engage and sell earlier and with an outcome-based approach.


Resources 
The research responses were collected online from 212 sales executives, including participation from Cisco, IBM, UPS, Xerox, E&Y, CSC, Vodafone, Hilton, Siemen and KPMG to name a few. A subsequent report will be issued after further interviews, to include interviews and best practices.
For additional research and best practice advice on how to address these value selling issues can be found via the Fight Frugalnomics Resource Center: http://www.fightfrugalnomics.com

Why Don't Spreadsheets Work for ROI / TCO Sales & Marketing Tools?

Many organizations have developed spreadsheet models to help economically justify solutions. Often these spreadsheets are developed by a field subject matter expert, out of necessity based on one or more client requests, and then shared / distributed to other sales professionals and channel partners for use.

These spreadsheet-based ROI / TCO Tools are meeting a great need, to help fight Frugalnomics and implement value-based sales / marketing campaigns, but are not the ideal platform to support sales / marketing success.

Here are a few of the most common issues we see with most spreadsheet based tools:

1.   Expensive to develop, maintain and support the macros , reports and other features to make the spreadsheets marginally functional and usable,

2.   Creating robust printed Word or PPT reports from spreadsheets are not impossible, but often a challenge,

3.   Controlling distribution and usage access to spreadsheets is difficult, and although the spreadsheet engine can be password protected, it’s too easy for the tool to fall into competitors hands,

4.   Distribution and version control is an issue. Hard to get sales and channel to retire and replace old versions , keep the field up to date,

5.   Spreadsheets are not good for collecting and centralizing the analyses inputs and results, wasting incredible engagement data and results insight / case study opportunities,

6.    Hard to track usage to understand who is using / who is not using the tool, and where / when they are applying it in deals,

7.   Third-party tools, research and validation reign supreme with skeptical buyers. Most spreadsheets are home-grown and lack this third-party credibility.

Spreadsheets are a good start towards fighting Frugalnomics and implementing a value-based sales / marketing program, but need to be advanced to overcome the important issues discussed here, driving more engagement and selling effectiveness, and improving management efficiency / lowering program costs and headaches.

How Can We Help?
Alinean is unique in that we can DIRECTLY take, enrich and publish the spreadsheet into our on-line platform DIRECTLY. No reprogramming is necessary, as the spreadsheet serves as the tool’s engine, but with a much more usable and powerful on-line interactive front end, identity and access control, enhanced reporting, database and credibility.
Initially, we take the spreadsheet, and with some special enrichment by an analyst, and a press of a button to publish the engine into the Alinean XcelLive platform, the spreadsheet is transformed into a dynamic, interactive rich on-line ROI / TCO Tool and database application. To update, enhance and maintain the tool is as simple as editing and updating the spreadsheet engine, with no software programming needed – making initial development and evolution extremely easy and cost effective.

The Bottom-Line
Spreadsheets are a good start, but there is a much better way to leverage more advanced technology and empower customers and sales to more easily and effectively create ROI / TCO business cases, and manage value selling / marketing programs. Alinean has the only platform, XcelLive, to directly take spreadsheets and convert them into powerful and credible on-line interactive tools.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alinean Named to Inc 5000 Fastest-Growing U.S. Private Companies for Second Consecutive Year

Demand Remains Strong for Alinean’s Interactive Content Marketing and Value-Based Sales Enablement Services and Tools

Alinean, the premier provider of interactive content marketing and value-based sales enablement services and tools, today announced its two-time honoree ranking among the 5th annual  Inc. 500|5000’s list of fastest-growing U.S. private companies. Alinean was ranked 299 among the top Advertising & Marketing providers and 3,354 on the Inc. 500|5000 list, accomplishing 55% revenue growth over the last three years.

Market demand for Alinean’s solutions is driven by “Frugalnomics,” – an economic- induced condition where B2B buyers are more skeptical and frugal than ever before– requiring a more outcome-focused, value oriented sales and marketing approach from vendors. Interactive content and sales tools from Alinean helps these vendors better diagnose and prioritize buyer issues, configure and recommend solutions, and provide quantified economic justification.

“Today’s buyer requires extra motivation to prioritize and justify new proposals, with over 90% requiring quantifiable evidence that there is a cost-of-doing-nothing, and an ROI from proposed solutions.” said Tom Pisello, Chairman and Founder of Alinean. “Our interactive sales and marketing tools help fight Frugalnomics, delivering the provocative diagnostics and economic justification needed to help buyers make better decisions, and help vendors generate more demand, reduce sales cycles, reduce discounting and drive competitive advantage.”

Alinean-powered tools, including Interactive White Papers, Diagnostic Assessment Tools and ROI / TCO Calculators, are used by over 75 of the worlds’ leading B2B firms such as IBM, HP, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, AT&T and Siemens, to help better connect, engage and sell into a more challenging customer environment. Increased adoption of Alinean tools and optimization services by existing customers, and the addition of over 24 new accounts over the past year, has helped fuel  Alinean’s significant growth.

“We thank our clients for investing in Alinean tools and services and cherish the opportunity to power so many important value-driven sales and marketing campaigns.” said Jefre Futch, CEO and President of Alinean.  “As entrepreneurial high growth companies like the Inc 5000 are the engine to create jobs and fuel the economic recovery, we are proud to be amongst those recognized for our achievements.”

Click here to see the Alinean profile: http://www.inc.com/inc5000/profile/alinean

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So You Think Your Sales Team Can Dance? Buyers Say “Think Again.”

In a recent discussion group on value selling, one of the participants indicated that they had just launched a new set of value-focused sales tools, and that the use of this approach was “old hat”.

The good news is that many marketers and sales enablement groups have realized the change in buyers over the past decade. Frugalnomics is in full effect, with buyers more empowered, skeptical and frugal than ever before. This presents a substantial challenge for sales and marketing to prove that “doing nothing” has a cost, and that the proposed return on investment is worth the change risk.

At the same time the purchase process has become more complex; buyers have more stakeholders than ever to deal with (more than 6 in large organizations), extreme resource constraints, and less time than ever to evaluate opportunities, select and justify solutions and drive an ever-more complex purchase process. Forced to “do more with less”, these buyers need more consultative advice and help from vendors. Buyers are actively seeking solution partners with a sales & marketing approach focused not on the transaction, but on the outcome.

Sales and marketing has realized this opportunity, leading to a worthy evolution from a traditional product approach, focused on features / function / price, to a more solution oriented approach, focusing on buyer pain points and solution recommendations, through to today’s expected value / outcome approach, helping to prove and improve the bottom-line impact and business benefits of solutions.

This evolution has driven increased investments in value-focused content marketing, interactive diagnostic assessment and economic justification tools, consultative sales engagement methodologies and value selling training.

So challenge met and opportunity seized, right? Not so fast.

The Bad News – Buyers Not Seeing a Change
The bad news is that even with the increased awareness and investments, buyers consistently indicate that sales is not adding enough value to engagements. The majority of engagements are perceived as transactional versus value-add.

This is clearly evidenced in a study by Forrester, presented at their annual Sales Enablement Forum, where buyers easily categorized salespeople, with some unflattering feedback.

When asked how they would characterize the agenda of a typical meeting with a salesperson:
  •  27% of buyers indicated that sales only wanted to tell me about their products / services (a transactional focus without care as to the buyers issues and unique needs),
  •  41% said sales listened for a keyword or two, and then launched into a prepared pitch.
From these results, less than 1 in 3 (32%) of sales professionals are perceived as adding any value to the sales process.

Of the salespersons that were perceived as more value-add:
  •  20% take a true solutions approach, legitimately interested in trying to help us understand how their solutions can help,
  •  6% take an even more consultative approach, trying to understand challenges and offering suggestions, even if they don’t sell the product / solution,
  • Only 6% take the expected outcome-focused approach, genuinely interested in partnering with us to make sure our initiative is successful.
Surprisingly in light of the value focus of sales enablement and marketing, less than 1 in 10 of sales engagements are perceived committed to customer’s outcomes, realized value and success.

The Bottom-Line
Marketers and sales enablement professionals understand that buyers have fundamentally and permantently changed, requiring consultative assistance to understand and realize anticipated outcomes / value from each and every solution investment. With this understanding, investments in value-focused content, tools and training has increased. But buyers indicate that although there has been an investment, change where the “rubber meets the road” has been slow. Sales people are still perceived as transactional versus value –add.

Investing in the right content marketing and tools is important, but has not been perceived as enough by buyers. Sales professionals continue to receive low scores from buyers on the value they add to the engagement process.

Are sales professionals leveraging the investment in outcome/ value-focused content? In many instances no, and although many have changed to meet the buyer challenge, adoption and usage across the sales teams remains low.

When used, are sales professionals engaging in a consultative fashion? Again, challenges remain. Old product or basic solution approaches remain the predominant engagement form.

To meet this challenge, marketers and sales enablement must focus beyond just content / tools to fundamentally help influence and change the approach.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New AT&T Tool Helps Businesses Calculate Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Cost Savings

Carbon Impact Assessment Tool Takes the Guesswork out of Measuring Impacts of AT&T Smart Sustainability Solutions

Wouldn’t it be great if businesses could accurately estimate the benefits of using technology, both in terms of money savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions? Now they can.

With the new AT&T Carbon Impact Assessment Tool, powered by Alinean, business customers can easily calculate the estimated GHG emissions and cost savings of using solutions that replace or reduce business travel and increase productivity and collaboration. AT&T* is the first communications provider to offer such a tool for businesses.

Using detailed data such as company size, number of employees and employees’ travel plans, the AT&T Carbon Impact Assessment Tool calculates the estimated return on investment (ROI), GHG emissions avoided, and productivity enhancements that could be achieved through use or potential use of AT&T Telepresence Solution®, AT&T Connect, and AT&T Remote Access Service.

For more information on AT&T’s research and development of the AT&T Carbon Impact Assessment Tool, please go to www.att.com/communicationseconomy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Executives Turn to IT to Drive Performance in Tough Environment

Although macro-economic conditions remain challenging, or perhaps because of it, nearly 1/3rd of private companies are investing more in Information Technology (IT) to reduce costs to maintain bottom-line earnings and ignite growth.

According to PwC's Private Company Trendsetter Barometer, 233 CEOs/CFOs surveyed indicate plans to increase IT spending 19%, from 5.6% of their total budgets in 2010 to 6.6% over the next 12 months.

Even with the increases, senior executives remain frugal, focused on leveraging IT to drive and optimize business efficiency and effectiveness. IT priorities are foremost indicated to drive tangible Business Process Improvements (90%), and also drive improvements in performance monitoring, visibility and optimization, including initiatives to Better Manage Enterprise Data (75%) and Optimize Business Information/Analytics (73%).

The next highest indicated IT investment priorities focused on the ability to generate revenue opportunities and growth in a tough environment, including:

         Make the business more agile (58%)

         Attract new customers (58%)

         Drive growth and competitiveness (55%)

         Better identify the needs of existing customers (55%)

         Devise more effective ways to sell and deliver products/services (54%).
Nearly half (46%) of the senior executives interviewed indicate that, perhaps because of prior budget cuts and postponed investments over the past few years, that important and/or sizeable areas or functions are in need of IT upgrades, and 18% report that this will require incremental funding. For international, IT upgrade concerns were indicated as more critical, with 26% indicating additional fund allocation to cover the required infrastructure upgrades compared to US firms.

Key areas of planned IT investment over the next one to three years indicate that IT infrastructure upgrades indeed are a priority, with information security (70%) being the highest priority, and cloud computing (40%) within the top five focus areas. However, most of the priorities highlight the leverage of IT for business performance improvement, via  next-generation data management and analysis (50%), enterprise mobility via tablets and handheld devices (48%), and social media/networking (46%).

The Bottom-Line
Even though tough headwinds remain, Executives are shifting their focus from cutting costs to driving top-line growth, and turning to IT as a catalyst to drive business opportunities and growth, while continuing to drive business process improvements and improve visibility and performance optimization.

IT marketers should recognize the executive priority shift, evolving marketing messages and value propositions from a pure cost cutting focus towards a more balanced approach, especially including information on how proposed solutions / service can help drive revenue growth and competitive advantage.

Based on executive priorities, marketing should migrate messages and proof points to include: improving visibility and control, driving business agility, attracting new customer, better identifying needs of existing customers and devising more effective ways to sell and deliver products/services.


Source:PwC's Private Company Trendsetter Barometer tracks the business issues and standard industry practices of leading privately held US businesses. It incorporates the views of 233 CEOs/CFOs: 126 from companies in the product sector and 107 in the service sector, averaging $265.4 million in enterprise revenue/sales, and including large, $300 million-plus private  companies. More information can be found at: http://www.barometersurveys.com/vwAllNewsByDocID/54AE305195DC70E08525784C007109A8/index.html

Thursday, August 04, 2011

IBM Smarter Planet Delivers Tangible ROI

Important research proof points & tools to help clients make strategic investment decisions to empower Smart Vendors and Partners.

Today’s more empowered, skeptical and frugal executive is reluctant to invest in new projects unless proposed changes can deliver a tangible financial benefit, significant ROI and fast payback. Frugalnomics is in full effect, and IBM knows that economic justification is key to help customer stakeholders and partners facilitate smarter decisions.

For its Smarter Planet solutions, IBM sought the poof points, researching whether the initiatives indeed delivered tangible bottom-line results.

The results of the ROI research were just announced via IBM's Smarter Planet Blog, presenting detailed research results that outline a vision and , specifically the  has driven key economic impact for customers in nine key industries. These findings provide the evidence, case studies and tools to empower other clients customers to pursue similar gains by working with IBM and its partners , and for Smart Vendors and Partners to be trusted advisors on the path towards ROI success.  Alinean is proud to be an IBM partner in this program. , powering IBM’s Smarter Planet ROI initiatives.

Click here to investigate the findings and best practice research

Stay up to date on the latest Smarter Planet ROI research and tools with the IBM Center for Applied Insights.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Alinean Builds on Momentum for a Strong Second Quarter 2011

Alinean today announced the addition of three new customers and four new strategic partners during the second quarter of 2011.

Alinean has been selected to develop and power value-based marketing and sales tool campaigns for customers including Quest Software, Polycom and Finlistics. And our new partners, Tangence, The Vanella Group, Futurecurve and Rainier Group, help us broaden our customer reach and extend the services we are able to offer to our customers.

"There is a significant amount of attention and investment being paid to the role content has in the B2B buying process. Our customers have embraced the fact that interactive, relevant, value-focused content aligned to facilitate the buyer's decision making process leads to higher conversions, shorter sales cycles and less discounting," said Jefre Futch, President and CEO of Alinean.

Alinean continues to grow its customer and partner base, proving to be the preferred B2B value-based sales and marketing solution provider.

Industry recognition received this past quarter includes:
  • BtoB Magazine named Tom Pisello among its Demand Generation Experts within its Who's Who in 2011 list
  • Marketo recognized Tom Pisello among their Top 18 Must-Know Marketing Analytics and Metrics Experts
  • In partnership with the Content Marketing Institute, launched the B2B Content Assessment, which analyzes marketing & content spend, inbound/outbound tactics, content types and overall effectiveness compared to over 1,100 marketing organizations.
  • Launched the CMO Challenge with the Campaign & Marketing Optimization (CMO) Assessment, designed to help marketers benchmark their budgets, tactics and effectiveness against peers and best practice leaders

How do You Get Busy Executives to Engage in an Analysis?

In a recent group discussion about diagnostic assessments and economic justification tools, everyone agreed that they were vital for today's frugalnomics afflicted environment. Buyers are forced to do-more-with-less, and reluctant to invest in change. Maintaining the status-quo is the easiest route for buyers, unless you, the vendor as trusted advisor, show them that there is a cost of doing nothing.

However, the group consensus was that this was easier said than done. Not because they didn't have the tools needed to do the justification. Many were already Alinean customers and had tools to diagnose issues and prove economic justification.

The bigger issue was the difficulty in getting prospects, already shorthanded and overwhelmed keeping the lights on, to engage in the first place - to take an interest in the diagnostics and allocate some resources to do the analysis. Too busy executives just didn't have time to "go to the doctor" even though they often suspected that they could cure what ails them with just a simple visit.

So how to entice executives to sponsor and commit to the analysis in the first place, and not have this be a task all in itself (which defeats the purpose)?

Some things we suggest to help entice buyers and justify the diagnostic assessment:

1) Sample Reports: Share sample reports, to demonstrate the value that can be achieved with an assessment, and to prove that the results are consultative / not a sales pitch.

2) Share Results: Case studies of how others have leveraged the diagnostic assessment and reports to affect a change and generate positive business impacts.

3) Quick Screening: Create a version of the assessment that with just a few publicly available or easily collected data points, can provide an overview / summary level assessment of some value - pointing out a couple of areas that might be worth further look, leading to a more detailed assessment.

4) Self Service: Create a simple version of the assessment so that the executive and team members can complete a survey on their own and see an overview of their diagnostic results. A subsequent workshop can be scheduled to discuss the results / dive in more detail into the diagnostics and recommendations.

These hopefully represent a good set of initial ideas on how to get engaged in diagnostic assessments and justification analyses with busy executives.

What programs have you used, beyond these, to better connect and engage with your assessments / analyses?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Infographic: Frugalnomics Demands that Vendors Prove Superior Competitive Value

Business decision makers have been hit hard by the economy, and as a result, need to be sure that every purchase represents the best possible value. To many buyers, this means extracting a “pound of flesh” from each and every vendor – driving huge discounting, and often making the purchase alone based on who can deliver the best price.

Many know that this strategy can be misguided, and more costly in the end. To be successful in this environment, vendors must employ new strategies to move the discussion beyond price, to focus on total cost of ownership and value.

Click here to view this important infographicand research.



Infographic: Frugalnomics Requires New Outcome-Focused Approach

The Great Recession and continued malaise have resulted in customers having to do-more-with-less, in turn driving more economic-scrutiny, stakeholders and complexity onto the purchase process.

We call this condition, where buyers are more skeptical and frugal than ever before, Frugalnomics - requiring significant changes to sales and marketing in order to succeed.

Click here to view this Infographic and the latest research and findings

Infographic: Provocative Selling Required to Connect, Engage & Sell to the "Do Nothing" Buyer

Customers have been forced to do more with less, their purchase process has become much more complex, and they are under much more economic scrutiny. Frugalnomics is in full effect!

In this environment, it's often easier for buyers to "do-nothing" than to change, driving the need for a new, more provocative sales and marketing approach to drive success.

Click here to to view this important research and Infographic.