Friday, September 06, 2013

Increasing Sales Tool Adoption – A Proven Customer Perspective


We recently asked the developer of a very successful ROI/TCO tool what it took to get the tool to have such a big impact on driving incremental business, increasing competitive win rates and reduced discounting.

The short answer – “You can’t just build it and expect folks to come. No different than most other sales enablement programs, it took a reasonable but organized and consistent effort to get the tool to be so well adopted and used so effectively, but well worth this effort in the end.”

The TCO tool that is the subject of this best practices guide quantified the competitive advantage and business benefits of Unified Communications solutions, and the best practices expert is Mark Arman  former Vice President, International Sales and Worldwide Distribution for ShoreTel and now Executive in Residence with L.E.K. Consulting.

So what did Mark and his team do to get this TCO sales tool well adopted and used so effectively?

The effort started with the design of the tool itself, including:
  1. Having Alinean convert a complex legacy TCO spreadsheet into an online tool making it easier to use, produce CFO ready business case reports, manage versions, and protect IP.
  2. Commissioning of a worldwide end user TCO study with Aberdeen to ensure benchmark data is robust, credible and 3rd party validated. 
  3. Inclusion of real world pricing and costs for the latest solutions and competitor configurators in the TCO tool to ensure total cost estimates are as accurate as possible.
  4. Ensuring the TCO Tool is configurable in all cases for each customer’s exact circumstances.
  5. Explicit linkage of the TCO outcomes to differentiating solution features / functions and associated value messages.
This was followed up with a good launch program to boost awareness and drive adoption including:

  1. Public promotion to make everyone aware of the TCO tool including launch of the tool at annual user, sales and partner conferences and press releases.
  2. Creation of a TCO tool data sheet and promotion of the tool on the corporate website and channel portals (almost all sales are via the channel) 
  3. Mandatory TCO training and certification for Sales reps.
  4. Partner training including annual face to face, hands on training / certification on the TCO tool for channel partner reps, with on-going on-line training available on a weekly basis.
  5. A significant, industry-first TCO guarantee, requiring an analysis and assuring realized savings / benefit results, available for all channel partners and customers 

And finally, a good evolution, incorporating field experiences to shape the tool and awareness / training programs to assure use is sustained through changes in sales and channel programs and personnel. This included:

  1. Regular updates to the TCO tool with new products and updated research metrics
  2. Regular follow-on training for sales reps and partners with each update.
  3. Constant reinforcement of TCO in all marketing messages, from earnings calls through to product sheets and presentations.
  4. Development of TCO case studies where customers compare outcomes with TCO predictions.
  5. Abundant and up to date TCO newsletters / emails to partners and customers, communicating updates and reinforcing all the above.

The Bottom-Line

As with any sales and channel enablement program, there needs to be a certain level of commitment and effort to assure adoption and effective outcomes for the program. 

Using a proven program as our guide, this includes:

  1. Designing with Sales Reps and the Channel Partners in mind,
  2. Assuring executive and marketing commitment
  3. Building awareness
  4. Implementing training and certification
  5. Assuring results outcomes with customer performance “guarantees”
  6. Evolving the tool and programs from real field experiences
Additional launch / adoption tips are available in our recent article: Top Ten Ways to Immediately Improve Sales Tool Adoption

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