Monday, October 31, 2011

Are you CIO Worthy?

Gartner says CIOs are spending too much time with vendors - laying down gauntlet to vendor sales to add more value, or get lost.

Gartner thinks CIOs are spending too much of their precious time with vendors, and advises to significantly curtail this activity. According to a poll of 1,300 organizations as reported by Linda Tucci (TechTarget) from Gartner Symposium/ITxpo this past month, a total of 13.5% of total IT time is spent on vendor management and procurement.
As most CIOs have been forced to do more with less, this time allocation is more precious than ever. As a result of the significant amount of time spent, and the apparent lack of value-add , Gartner recommends vendor time be significantly reduced.
“Your time is very expensive. Your employees need that time. Your executives need that time — and vendors are consuming that time,” Gartner analyst William Snyder said. “Time is squandered.” If you thought getting that executive IT meeting was hard before, this won’t make it any easier!
Of course Gartner does understand that some vendors are more strategic, indicating that: “It’s important that you meet with the vendors that make a difference to your organization.”  Unfortunately, most IT executives don’t view the average vendor salesperson as strategic.  Don’t think this applies to you, that you are CIO worthy and your sales engagements are viewed as strategic and value add?
According to IDC, buyers clearly indicate that sales readiness is on the decline, with 29% unprepared for meetings, and 36% somewhat prepared. A little more than 1 in 3 sales professionals are indicated as well prepared.
From Forrester, as reported in their Sales Enablement Forum earlier this year, buyers can easily categorize salesperson agendas, with:
·         27% only wanting to tell the buyer about their products / solutions (transactional focused) at over 27% of the time;
·         41% listening for a keyword or two so they can give a prepared pitch (buzz word solution focused).

This leaves only one in three sales professionals as strategic: truly focused on helping buyers find the right solution and focused on assuring the outcome /  or value the recommendations can provide.

So, how can you make sure you are viewed as strategic, or can migrate your relationship quickly from tactical to strategic in order to earn their precious time and attention, maintain and grow CIO opportunities?

Here are our top five recommendations that can fuel more strategic engagements with CIOs:

1.      Strategic knowledge – you need to know the overall strategic direction of the prospect, and current performance against goals. With established customers, this means cultivating relationships that can openly share with you strategic goals, performance and insight. For new prospects, this means staying up to date on the latest news and reports for the prospect making sure you have read the annual and quarterly financial filings, listened to quarterly earnings calls and has reviewed the latest press releases and coverage. Social media can sometimes prove valuable, listening for opportunities and issues, or even posting questions and collaborating.

Goal: Use this research on goals and opportunities to develop and prioritize your proposals to help address strategic goals. Use inside knowledge to help facilitate the buying process for the CIO, providing content that helps them address stakeholder concerns and overcome objections.

2.      Industry and competitive knowledge –strategic insight requires that you not only know the customer, but know the marketplaces they are playing in, and the competition. Are the customer’s market opportunities increasing, or challenged? Are their pressures on their business model and operations? How are they performing versus competitors?  Are their new competitors that are changing the game?

Goal : Use this knowledge to position proposals to address industry / competitive challenges, or use the knowledge to provide unique insight to the CIO, developing unsolicited proposals with ideas on how new solutions can meet these challenges.

3.      Diagnostic Assessments –A diagnostic capability and maturity assessment can often be used to assess current practices, comparing the current practices against best-in-class and peer benchmarks in order to help buyers better classify and prioritize known opportunities, with third-party evidence that the issues are real and important, and illuminating important issues they didn’t even know they had.

Goal: Provide a consultative framework for progressive improvement. Move beyond the normal product / solution approach to a consultative diagnostic engagement, helping the buyer competitively benchmark performance, uncover and prioritize important issues, and tying recommendations directly to the highest priority issues.

4.      Relevant Success Stories – CIOs are risk adverse, and knowing that others have achieved similar success, especially those of similar industry / size and opportunity can help mitigate risk fears. Proactively sharing relevant success stories can seed ideas and promote important improvements. Enhanced case studies with video / audio can be more effective, providing evidence of success in the customers own voice / image.

Goal: Help CIOs realize that others are addressing similar opportunities with tangible success.  Overcome risk by proving that similar companies have successful implementations and achieved promised outcomes.

5.      Financial Justification – For today’s risk adverse and budget constrained CIO it is often easier to do nothing, than change. As a result, CIOs are financially focused, with over 90% requiring ROI proof for any new projects. However, these same CIOs have opportunities to address and goals to be achieved. From a recent IT buyer survey, Demand Creation Specialists indicate that over 50% of new project / discretionary budgets are allocated, not at the beginning of the year, but dynamically for projects that are justified. Proving financial rewards for proposed projects can help prioritize thigh reward / low risk projects over others that deliver less growth opportunities / savings and bottom-line impact.

Goal: Provide a business case for high value projects to help make the case for change. Proactively help CIOs recognize higher ROI projects and proactively acquire budgets to fund these rewarding proposals.
The Bottom-Line
CIOs are being urged to spend less time with IT vendors, particularly those that are not strategic. At the same time, more buyers report a decided lack of sales readiness and that two out of three salespeople are tactical vs. strategic, adding little value-add.

IT solution providers should not take IT executive relationships for granted, as many will head Gartner’s advice, closing the door to vendor access and opportunities.

Sales enablement and capabilities investments must be made to add value to each engagement, migrating relationships from tactical to strategic. This includes improving the ability to gather and communicate strategic, industry and competitive knowledge, perform and deliver diagnostic assessments, share relevant success stories and make the case for change with financial justification business cases.

Sources: A CIO’s time is expensive; not every vendor relationship deserves it, Linda Tucci, TechTarget, October 27, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Innovate or Die: Actions IT Solution Providers Can Take To Help IT Leaders Meet the Number One Challenge for 2012

Each year over 8,000 CIOs and IT Leaders gather in Orlando for Gartner’s Symposium and IT Expo to discuss the latest research from Gartner analysts, and the sessions are never short on predictions, insight and even controversy, all helping to shape the top IT priorities and investments for 2012 and beyond. The 2011 sessions did not disappoint, with analysts urging “creative destruction” as one of the most important strategies for IT executives to embrace. 

“For the IT leader to thrive in this environment, IT leaders must lead from the front and re-imagine IT,” according to Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research. “IT leaders must embrace the post-modern business, a business driven by customer relationships, fueled by the explosion in information, collaboration, and mobility.” According to Gartner, this new era brings with it urgent and compelling forces including the cloud, social, mobility, and an explosion in information”.

This recommendation, to re-imagine IT, in many cases may include “tearing down” current IT before building it back up, and can have a profound and significant impact on the way IT solutions are marketed and sold, providing both an opportunity and significant challenges.

According to Gartner, over 70% of IT spending is dedicated to “keeping the lights on”, leaving an inadequate budget for innovation. The allocation comes at a time when users are spoiled by consumer innovation including tablets, mobile applications, social networking, application stores / marketplaces and more,  with users expecting corporate IT to deliver similar solutions and experiences.

“Most IT organizations have 70 percent or more of their time, money and mindshare locked into reliability, keeping things going,” said Tina Nunno, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Yet demands for game changing IT capabilities are growing every year. IT leaders must transform their businesses, products, services, and value proposition to the external customer, and challenge traditional ways of thinking.”

With scant budget and resources available to adequately address these demands, IT leaders are looking for guidance on how to “do more with less” in maintaining and supporting the existing infrastructure, allowing more to be spent on innovation. As well, IT leaders are looking for ways to implement innovative consumer-like solutions with less mess, faster and less expensively for their ever-more demanding user base.

And this is where the opportunity lies for IT solution providers, delivering proactive consultative advice to IT executives to help them overcome this number one challenge, to Innovate or Die, including:

1)   Evaluating current infrastructure spending and providing cost savings ideas to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of current hardware, software and services, freeing up more budget for innovation;

2)   Helping CIOs with creative destruction to “re-imagine IT” – developing plans and business cases to more easily challenge the status-quo and reconstruct IT to better support user’s “consumerization of IT” demands;

3)   Aligning solutions and value propositions with major strategic focus including cloud, social, mobile and information;

4)   Making investing in innovative solutions easier and less risky, delivering consumer like experiences in devices and solutions, but with enterprise class change management, service management, security and governance.
Gartner analysts say “IT leaders must destroy perfectionism and embrace calculated risk. CIOs tend to be perfectionists who are highly detail-oriented. It’s what has made so many of them good at their jobs. However, it can sometimes lead to issues with risk and uncertainty.” “Never taking risks means you are predictable and an easy target for your competition,” According to Ms. Nunno, CIOs should “Strive to take calculated risks and surprise both your business and the competition.”

IT solution providers need to recognize the unique challenges facing today’s CIOs, helping them overcome risks and providing tangible solution sets to deliver on these three recommended programs, and empower sales and marketing to engage and sell using these methodologies.

The Bottom-Line
IT is challenged like never before – forced already to do more with less, saddled with a legacy infrastructure that is expensive to maintain and support and doesn’t meet user’s consumer-like expectations. Solution providers that provide the proactive consultative advice and solutions to help IT meet these new challenges and embrace change will be the winners in 2012 and beyond.

Gartner Says Now More Than Ever Is the Time to Re-Imagine the Role of IT -

Gartner Says Worldwide Enterprise IT Spending to Reach $2.7 Trillion in 2012 -

Friday, October 21, 2011

Alinean Introduces Interactive Content Connectors for CRM / Marketing Automation Integration

Captures rich customer intelligence for superior lead nurturing and accelerated sales cycles 

Alinean introduced Interactive Content Connectors at the Eloqua Experience event, helping integrate Alinean-value sales / marketing tools with CRM / Marketing Automation solutions, including, Eloqua and more.

As prospects and sales professionals use Alinean-powered Interactive White Papers, Diagnostic Assessments and ROI / TCO Calculators, much intelligence is collected during the engagement. This includes customer profiles, current asset configurations, priority pain points and opportunities, solution requirements and recommendations, competitors under consideration, proposed solution costs and benefits and ROI potential. Using the new Interactive Content Connectors, this rich intelligence is captured and integrated centrally within the CRM / Marketing Automation solution, enriching the lead nurturing and sales engagement process.

Joe Payne, Eloqua Chairman and CEO Introduces Alinean Interactive Content Connectors at
Eloqua Experience 2011

“Incented with personalized white papers, diagnostic assessments and business case reports, customers are willing to share important information about their opportunities and requirements that they wouldn’t otherwise.” says Jefre Futch, CEO of Alinean, Inc. “Using the Alinean-powered tools with content connectors, this information can be collected and integrated with existing CRM and Marketing Automation solutions to help marketers and sales professionals better understand buyer needs and better facilitate their buying process.”
Interactive Content Connectors can be used in many ways to help streamline customer engagements and improve intelligence, including:

·         Using customer profile information from the CRM / marketing automation solution to pre-populate Alinean tools, reducing user data entry requirements and automating analyses / report development;

·         Automatically collecting and feeding valuable profile, configuration, opportunity, solution, assessment and savings / ROI results from the Alinean tools into CRM and marketing automation systems;

·         Single Sign-On, to control sales tool access, enhancing and expediting security.

Interactive Content Connectors are a key new feature of Alinean’s XcelLive, the first SaaS platform for the development and delivery of interactive content marketing and diagnostic sales tools without requiring any application programming.

“More knowledge means better targeting, nurturing, and sell through” says Jefre Futch, CEO of Alinean Inc. “This knowledge is delivered with the integration of Alinean sales and marketing tools and Marketing CRM and Marketing Automation solutions.”

More information about new Interactive Content Connectors and other features of Alinean’s XcelLive sales and marketing tools platform can be found at:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         A payback of less than three months from deployment.

These benefits were achieved with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the ShoreTel TCO tool (powered by Alinean)

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

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

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

7.    Is there any research or resources on this topic you would point to?
We have compiled some of the most important research on sales enablement:
The Big-O: Outcome Selling:

Boost Sales 10% with Sales Enablement Investments? IDC Says Absolutely -

Spring Has Sprung, And So Should New Sales & Marketing Processes -

Additional research & insight articles can be found at:

This interview was included as content in the Demand-Gen Report Article: Shifting Sales Environment Creating New Role for Sales Enablement Solutions -