Friday, April 26, 2013

How can you Best Prevent Stalled Deals?

A stall in flight is often experienced when an airplane pilot tries to climb too fast, experiencing a sudden reduction in lift as the upward angle of the airplane reaches a critical point where the wings no longer provide sufficient lift.

This is not a good situation to be in. As a claxon sounds off that the stall is occurring, the pilot must react quickly and properly in order to avoid a disaster. This often means backing off on the steep climb, and adding power.

In your pipeline there are likely more stalled deals than ever, as your prospects stick with business as usual, choosing “Do Nothing “versus proceeding with you proposal and saying, “Yes”.

This is understandable in the face of Frugalnomics, with your prospects having less resources, budget and tolerance for risk. Making matters worse, 40% more stakeholders are involved the purchase, with procurement and finance playing more prominent roles, adding to the complexity and duration of the buyer’s journey (IDC).

As a result, the chances of experiencing a stall are greater than ever, with Sales Benchmark Index indicating that the biggest threat to growing your business is not the competition, but that 58% of deals are now stalled in the average pipeline.

As you review your pipeline, does any of this sound familiar? The customer just won’t call me back….. They just went dark on me ….They just keep rescheduling our meetings ... All signs of a stall.

How can this occur? Depending on the stage in the buyer’s journey perhaps:
      Your prospect may not believe they have the issue you are selling?
      Your prospect knows they have the issue, but they have a lot of issues, and this one is way down in the stack?
      The rest of the decision-making stakeholders may not sympathize with the issue and think the issue is a priority worth addressing?
      The stakeholders don’t believe that any solution really exists to successfully solve the problem?
      In this “do more with less” economy, your prospects just don’t have the time, or the resources, or the budget to commit to the proposal?
      Your prospect perceives the proposal as too risky?
      Your prospect thinks a competitor might offer better value than you do?

When in a stall what do you do? Just like a pilot, you have to recognize that you may be attempting to “climb too fast”, getting ahead of the progressive steps your prospect’s team must go through in order to arrive at a purchase decision.

You can do two things at this point, reduce your angle of attack and slow down until the buyer’s process catches up to where you would like them to be, and/or provide more fuel to increase power and overcome the loss of altitude. And what is the fuel that can help power through the stall? Personalized, provocative and insightful content your prospects need to help facilitate the decision making process.

The Right Content to get from “Do Nothing” to Yes”

In order to avoid or recover from a stall, you must facilitate your prospects’ decision making as they attempt to answer key concerns along their decision making journey. And this facilitation must be delivered with Frugalnomics in mind:

  1. Why Change? - There are important issues to address, some of which your prospect might not have even been aware of. At this early stage, you have to illuminate the “Cost of Do Nothing” and “Quantify the Pain”.
  1. Why Now? – The issue is a priority compared to everything else they have on their plate, failing to address the issue will cause competitive harm, and that addressing the issue could deliver a quick payback and significant return on investment. Here, you have to “Justify the Gain”. 
  1. Why You? – That you are the best provider with the most cost effective, low risk and high value solution. In the final bake-off phase it’s key you “Prove You’re Not the Same”. 
In the past you could facilitate the buyer’s journey with more traditional content, but unfortunately your prospects say this won’t cut it any more:

1.    White papers are still leveraged by your prospects to help make decisions, usually early in the cycle, however over the past 3 years there has been a steady decline in their effectiveness to generate leads, and more importantly real sales opportunities.

2.    PPTs are likely used by your sales reps in the middle of the cycle, but prospects can’t stand these presentations – with 1/3rd having fallen asleep during a PPT presentations, and 1 in 5 rather wanting to go to a dentist than sit through another.

3.    TCO / ROI spreadsheets are likely used by reps or specialists later in your sales cycle, and even as demand for financial justification has dramatically increased, adoption remains a significant challenge.

So if traditional content is less than effective, what can you do to avoid the stall? The good news is that dynamic content can be leveraged to deliver the personalized, provocative and insightful engagement buyers need to facilitate their decision making process.

Dynamic content can include:
  1. Interactive White Papers and Benefits Estimators – replacing traditional white papers and used early in the engagement process, these tools collect some intelligence from the prospect about their profile and challenges, and use this information and benchmark insights to provide a more concise, personalized and provocative thought-leadership and analysis to convince buyers as to “Why Change?” and “Why Now?”.
  1. ValueStory – replacing PPTs with an interactive iPad App to more intelligently present targeted value messaging, visual storytelling, provocative data-driven surveys and assessments, and financial justification calculators.
  1. ROI / TCO Tools – replacing complex calculation spreadsheets with an easy to use, 3rd party validated on-line business case application.

The Bottom-Line

Stalls are all too common in your current pipeline, and likely represent your biggest opportunity for growth, and greatest issue for a potential “crash and burn.”

Just like an airplane pilot, you need to heed the signs of a stall, acting quickly and effectively to decrease the angle of attack and increase the air speed.

To provide the fuel and throttle up to address the stall, dynamic content can be used to help the buyer answer the “Why Change?”, “Why Now?” and “Why You?” and keep the journey progressively moving forward. 

The key: Stay Calm & Dynamic Content On!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dell ChangeBase Value Estimator (powered by Alinean)

Dell needed to prove to frugal IT executives that it’s ChangeBase solution, providing fast compatibility assessments, automated testing / remediation and seamless virtualization, could help reduce application and Windows 7/8 migration risks.

Dell turned to Alinean to create the ChangeBase Value Estimator, providing a quick assessment of migration challenges and the value of ChangeBase in reducing migration time and risks.

The tool was leveraged in significant email marketing and telesales campaigns to drive incremental sales opportunities and revenue.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

SAVO Maturity Benchmark (powered by Alinean)

In order to better understand customer’s challenges, SAVO Group developed a comprehensive Maturity Benchmark framework to analyze current Sales, Marketing and Operations practices, uncover and prioritize key issues, and make consultative improvement recommendations.

In order to better connect and engage with prospects, SAVO wanted to create simpler versions of the full consultative benchmark, offered to clients on a self-service basis from

Alinean converted the benchmarking framework into a powerful on-line diagnostic assessment tool to fuel on-line marketing campaigns and nurturing. The first set of these self-service assessment tools is now available at

To help Consulting scale to support the increased demand, Alinean also developed an advanced online version of the Maturity Benchmark tool to scale consulting’s capability to deliver more maturity benchmark workshops.

Alinean’s CEO and Founder, Tom Pisello, will be presenting with Matt Guido, VP Alliances and Business Development for SAVO, on the importance of these diagnostic tools at the SAVO Sales Enablement Summit on Tuesday April 30th in the session: Driving Smarter Engagement and Nurturing Through Dynamic Content.

Tom and the the Alinean team will also be conducting personal demonstrations of the SAVO Maturity Benchmark tools (powered by Alinean) and new ValueStory App at Booth #11 during the event. If you are there, please stop by and say hello!

It Just Takes Longer. Your Sales Cycle in 2013?

A significant 43% of B2B companies indicate that sales cycles have lengthened over the past three years, this according to a recent survey of 243 solution providers by B2B Magazine.

Confirming lengthening B2B sales cycles, SiriusDecisions indicates that durations have increased an average of 22% over a similar period. As a result, sales cycles that were once 10 months have now extended out past a year, making it more difficult to hit revenue and growth targets.

Longer sales cycles are occurring despite some significant trends that should be generating much shorter decision timeframes:
  • Today, buyers are more empowered with a wealth of online and social resources to better research you and your competition
  • Many solutions are now sold as a service, making them easier and less risk to purchase and deploy
  • Try before you buy is more common, making it easier to evaluate and compare competitive offerings.

 So with a more empowered buyer and simpler solutions, why are your sales cycles still lengthening? In this “Do more with less” economy, Frugalnomics is in full effect:
  • Your customers have less staff to research issues, evaluate solutions and collaborate on purchase decisions
  •  Less budget to invest, means that there are more proposals than funding, as a result proposals are re-prioritized often, slowing down purchase decisions
  • Decision makers worry more about each investment – as a wrong decision can literally cost a buyer their job.

 Your customers are struggling with fewer resources, less budget and minimal risk tolerance. But its not just “less” that you are facing, its “more” too, as in more stakeholders involved in each purchase decision. According to IDC, stakeholder counts have dramatically increased by 40% over the past 3 years. 

A typical B2B purchase that used to involve five decision makers just a short time ago, now takes convincing seven instead.  And the team members that are involved have changed too, with finance demanding bottom-line impact on every investment, and business / user groups taking a more prominent role. Gaining consensus takes more time than ever, further delaying your sales cycles.

In the face of these challenges, what can you do to accelerate your sales cycle?
  • Quantify the value of “Do Nothing” to “Yes” – In the face of Frugalnomics it’s easy for your customers to stay with business-as-usual versus taking a risk on a new investment. As a result, a whopping 58% of deals are now stalled in the typical pipeline (Sales Benchmark Index). In order to get these stalled buyers going again, you have to provocatively facilitate the buyer’s journey with engagements, content and tools to provide the compelling insights and consultative advice to answer three key buyer questions:
    • Why Change? – Quantify the pain, helping to uncover new issues, prioritize opportunities and quantify the “cost of do nothing”
    • Why Now? – Justify the gain, proving that your proposed solution can deliver a good return on investment (ROI)
    • Why You? – Prove you are not the same, differentiating your solution from the competition, but quantifying total cost (TCO) and value advantages
  • Reduce the Risk – Your customers are wary of wasting precious resources and making any mistakes. It is vital that you prove that your solution can deliver, requires minimal upfront investment, has a quick payback, and can truly deliver bottom-line impact (perhaps even implementing an ROI SLA)
  • Value is in the Eye of the Beholder – Each stakeholder has different goals, priorities and perception of your value, however, too often sales and marketing applies a one-size-fits-all approach to value messaging and engagement. Your engagements, content and tools must uniquely communicate your value messaging and quantification to address each stakeholder’s unique value perspective.

The Bottom-Line

Sales cycles are continuing to lengthen for a significant number of B2B companies, making it more difficult to achieve quota and revenue growth goals.

To help overcome this challenge, marketing and sales can work to improve engagements, content and tools in order to facilitate a quicker buying decision. Quantifying the value of “Do Nothing” to “Yes” to ever more frugal buyers, reducing the inherent risks in the investment decision, and being sure to message and quantify each stakeholder’s unique value perspective are all address today’s sales cycle challenge.

For more information, click here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Top Ten Ways to Immediately Improve Sales Tool Adoption

You’ve worked hard to produce new value-focused tools, empowering your sales team to meet the growing challenges of today’s more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyer.

And you are not alone, as SiriusDecisions reports that the average company now spends a whopping $43K on marketing content and sales tools per salesperson per year. Yet, despite such enormous investments, results are mixed, as the American Marketing Association reports that up to 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales professionals, squandering an estimated $38K per sales rep per year.

With such low adoption, it should not be a surprise that despite some good wins, your new value-focused sales tools might not be garnering the anticipated usage.

So how do you achieve sales tool adoption in 2013?

The More Things Change, the More they Remain the Same

When asked to change a certain behavior or practice, science tells us that people tend to resist change naturally, even when there is a compelling and logical reason to change.  This is not imagined, but proven by research, and called Status Quo Bias - a cognitive pre-disposition for maintaining the status-quo. 

As the studies indicate, business-as-usual is a more comfortable state of mind, because we all tend to outweigh potential downside risks higher than significant and compelling upside rewards - a risk aversion that causes a natural resistance to change.

Most sales professionals will readily admit that buyers have taken control of the buying cycle, and are demanding a different more value-based sales approach. Yet we see time and again that sales professionals are having a difficult time abandoning their old product or solution focused sales methods, and adopting new strategies and tools remains difficult even when there is significant and compelling evidence that change is needed.  Forrester reports that less than 12% of sales professionals are perceived as value-focused by executive prospects, while the inability to communicate value messages remains the number one challenge for sales teams making quota.

Is there a way to get sales to sell on value and leverage the tools to do so?
The answer is “Yes”, and the following ten status-quo busting sales tool adoption practices are presented to help drive sales tool adoption:

Step 1: All Sales Sees Is All There Is

The strategy of “Build it and they will come” might work as the basis for a movie, but rarely works in real life. So the first key question to address: Are your sales teams even aware that new sales tools exist? After all, if they don’t know about the tools, how can you expect the sales tools to be adopted?

To help improve awareness, a series of attention grabbing programs should be implemented to make sales cognizant that new tools are available. These should be very promotional in nature – not an exhaustive set of training – but a promotion of the tools outlining:
  • The challenge with today’s customer
  • The day-to-day impact of these challenges
  • How the sales tools can address these challenges, and where precisely to apply the tools
  • The value the sales tools deliver
  • Success stories, from those who have successfully used the tools
  • Links to access the tool, especially posting them in sales portals and into sales playbooks to make them easy to access
  • Basic overview of the tools operation, so that the sales team sees that it’s not hard to use and apply in the sales process
  • Clarity over where they can get support and services to help create the business case and present / defend results.
The awareness building can take several forms and include:
  • Scheduled introductory training sessions (no more than 30 minutes recommended) and on-demand recorded training sessions (again, keep it short)
  • Introductory briefs in sales newsletters and e-mails
  • Listings as a resource in sales portals and playbooks
  • Road-show training to regional or national sales team meetings
Always remember, there are a lot of new tools being introduced each week, so awareness building is only the beginning of the journey towards successful sales tool adoption.

Step 2: A Change is Gonna Come

As the science indicates, there is a status-quo bias to overcome, and, sales folks are not going to adopt change without being presented with significant and compelling reasons to overcome the more heavily weighted perceived risks.

Transformations, such as those you are trying to accomplish via the new sales tools, are never achieved when people don’t understand why the change is necessary. Although it may seem obvious to marketing why the old sales tools and techniques won’t cut it with today’s buyer, sales teams need to hear and understand the “why” behind the initiative.

It is important therefore to inform the sales folks as to why and how buyers today are different, more overloaded, skeptical and frugal than ever before (a condition called Frugalnomics), and how these changes have affected their selling effectiveness:
  • Causing more than 58% of the current sales pipeline to be stalled at “Do Nothing” (Sales Benchmark Index)
  • Delaying when sales is invited to engage, until almost 2/3rds of the purchasing decisions have been made (CEB)
  • Lengthening the sales cycle, with purchase decisions taking 22% longer (SiriusDecisions)
  • Increased discounting by 20% or more.

Step 3: Where we are Going?

Understanding the “why” is important, but sales pros also need a clear vision of how the tools can be used to change the process, and deliver the desired outcome. Getting sales folks to visually understand how their lives will be improved via the sales tools is important.

Starting with the end in mind, paint a picture for the sales team as to how their customer engagements will evolve using the new sales tool. A connection, engagement and presentation scenario can help bring clarity to the necessary steps, and bring into focus how the sales tool can be easily used to help facilitate and drive the value selling approach.

As contrast is a powerful mechanism to promote change, demonstrate just how antiquated the current product-oriented speeds and feeds approaches are in reaching today’s buyer, and do so side-by-side with the prescribed value-based sales tool driven approach, for easy head-to-head comparison. This contrast can clearly illustrate how the old techniques just don’t work any longer, and the superior value-added nature of the new approach.

Step 4: Lean on Me

Many studies indicate that, more than any other factor, the key to sales success is coaching, yet how many sales enablement programs include a formal coaching plan and commitment to drive adoption, usage and change? For a program this important, formalized sales tool coaching is a requirement.

The sales tool coaching plan can utilize field sales managers and / or champions to work hand-in-hand with sales folks to guide them specifically on when the sales tools should be used, how customer engagements should be conducted, and how resultant analysis proposals should be presented.

While coaching provides guidance as to the when and how the sales tool should be used, support is also important. Much like you wouldn’t send a salesperson out to discuss technical details of a solution, you need to provide sales with diagnostics and justification support. This should include:
  • Remote Support – to answer questions about the application and use of the sales tool, particularly around the questionnaires and data collection, calculations, defending and presenting analysis results.
  • Deal Desk – for the larger deals, having an expert to assist directly in the customer engagement can be critical to success, and a deal desk can be called upon to provide on-line meeting or face-to-face sales tool engagement advice and support in customer meetings and presentations.

Step 5: Show Me the Money

The longstanding reputation is that sales folks know where the money is, and know how to get it. Misaligned incentives can surely lead to lower than expected adoption, so take advantage of this real or perceived reputation by making sure incentives are properly aligned with sales tool use

To make sure tools are used, some organizations require sales tool usage on each and every deal, discounting commissions if the tools are not used and results presented as part of the sales cycle. However, tying tool usage directly to commissions may be too extreme for many, and the sales tools may not be appropriate for each and every deal.

A lighter approach would be to quantify what’s in it for the sales pro, so they know exactly how much sales tool usage could increase their success rate and commissions. Quantify the business case to the salesperson, proving that usage can drive tangible increases in deal win rates, size of deal and time to close, including how the sales tool usage can help:
  • Open new opportunities, by providing the tools to engage higher and earlier with decision makers
  • Unstick stalled deals on up to 5% of "Do Nothing" pipeline
  • Shorten sales cycles by 10%
  • Increase deal size / reduce discounting by 30%
  • Increase competitive win rates by 60% (IDC).
Some incentives are not tied to money, but instead relate to achieving company goals, objectives and directives. Executive sponsorship and recognition (or the lack thereof) can be just as important to sales tool usage and can often be incentive enough to get reluctant sales folks to adopt and use the new sales tools and value-selling approach. Getting an executive to communicate that not using the tools is unacceptable, and impart that their job depends on it (because in the end, if they don’t change it really does).

Step 6: Birds of a Feather

When communicating the why, the vision, coaching and incentives, would the message be better coming from marketing, or perhaps from a respected and vibrant member of the sales team? After all, sometimes it’s not the message, but the messenger that can make all the difference in whether the communication is able to connect and engage the audience.

Utilizing a member of the sales “tribe” to help drive awareness, explain the why / vision / incentives and share success stories can be the best medicine to cure ailing adoption. Although marketing team members might think they are part of the same tribe, often they are seen as outsiders, and not part of the sales family. The tribe member is often best a respected sales professional or leader. Sometimes it can be a closely related teammate, such as a key sales support or enablement professional.

Step 7: Try It, You’ll Like It

When sales folks are presented with a new sales tool, it’s not too different than putting a different meal in front of a finicky five year old. You are guaranteed to hear, “I don’t like it”, even before they take a bite.

Not too dissimilar, sales teams often dismiss new tools with just a glance.

So it’s important to get the team to try it, not unlike getting that five year old to take a bite.
“Try it, you’ll like it” needs to be the mantra.

Step 8: Address the Naysayers

We all have them on our teams. The ones who say it can’t be done. The ones who always find something wrong in all that’s right.  More subtle are the helpers, those who say it would be perfect if it only had this one more benefit, or one more calculation, poking at the tools and being a cynic.

Get enough vocal naysayers and helpers and the perceived risk of the program gets elevated even more, making it almost impossible to overcome status-quo bias.

It is important to classify the criticism and rally the sales professionals on everything that is right with the tools and program, versus focusing on what is wrong and can be improved.

Step 9: A Part of My World?

The sales tools need to be integrated into sales’ daily world. This usually revolves around the CRM system and opportunity management, but could include sales portals and playbooks.
Sales reps are already working within these existing systems to help manage their opportunities and find relevant sales content when and where they need it most.

The more the sales tools are properly placed with the systems and methodology, promoted properly at the right time and place, and accessed seamlessly, the better adoption will be.

Step 10: Mission Accomplished?

With sales finally adopting and using the sales tools it’s easy to declare Mission Accomplished. However, experience tells us not to declare victory too soon.

There is a continuous need to drive awareness, and educate, after all sales turnover is higher than for many other groups (26% per year according to CSO Insights). There are new sales team members joining all the time, many without the awareness, why, vision, and incentives needed to motivate value-focused sales tool adoption and use – but most eager to learn and desperate to succeed.

Even without turnover, continuous reinforcement via shared success stories and best practices helps to keep the team sharp, driving proper sales tool usage - in turn, driving superior sales performance.

The Bottom-Line

A new sales tool often represents a change in method and approach for most sales professionals, and change is not easy for anyone. Science tells us that when change is presented, the risks are amplified, while compelling benefits are heavily discounted, leading to a status-quo bias.

Overcoming this bias is important to increase sales tool adoption and usage, vital to meet evolving buyer expectations, facilitate buying cycles and fight Frugalnomics.

Applying these ten status-quo busting tips can dramatically help overcome the resistance to change, and drive success:
  1. Raise awareness
  2. Sell the “why”
  3. Lay out the vision
  4. Implement coaching and deal support
  5. Align incentives
  6. Communicate success via members of the tribe
  7. Try it to like it
  8. Handle the naysayers
  9. Make it an integral part of their world
  10. Don’t claim success too soon

Following these ten steps can help lead to better sales tool adoption, usage and successful return on sales tool investment.