Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is All Content Created Equal?

The importance of content marketing has increased dramatically, this according to a recent survey by the DemandGen Report that found 68% of B2B prospects rely more on content to make key purchase decisions than they did a year ago. However, the research indicates that not all content is created equal:

1)  Short Attention Span Theater – although your prospects rely on content more than ever, in this “do more with less” economy they are resource constrained, with 78% indicating they have less time to devote to reading and research. With less time, your prospects leverage content that is more concise, relevant and recommended. Prospects seek out content that can deliver a competitive edge – personalized provocative insights that can help illuminate / diagnose issues and motivate the prospect as to “Why Change?” and “Why Now?”.  With less time and tolerance for risk, unfortunately up to 60% of your prospects are choosing to “do nothing” versus investing in new solutions, unless they can be motivated with personalized compelling insights and inspired by the right content.

2)  Only a Matter of Trust – Over 70% of respondents now “place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness” of the content they view, particularly seeking out 3rd party created / validated content. Source, matters, and so does the content, with almost 60% of your prospects wanting more insights and research to support the content. According to the DemandGen Report, “B2B buyers are going to make trust a critical issue when they decide whether to spend time with a vendor’s content.” And as your content plays a huge role  in the decision making process, providing 3rd party content and research driven insights can lead to you winning the deal or losing to the competition.

3)  Show Me the Money - Almost 2/3rds of respondents strongly agree that B2B vendors focus too much of their content on products and not enough on value – the ability to solve specific business problems and impact the prospect’s bottom line. Helping your prospects understand the “cost of doing nothing”, and communicating / quantifying the specific value of your solutions is now a requirement.

The Bottom Line

Your prospects rely on content more than ever to support their purchase decision-making process, however, the quality and type of content is vital to attracting attention, creating compelling engagements and driving sales revenue success.

As a B2B solution provider, you have a unique opportunity today to better connect, engage and sell to today’s more time constrained, skeptical and frugal prospect. You can gain advantage can be gained by developing and delivering content that is more personalized and relevant, , is 3rd party generated / validated with research driven insights, and is above all value-focused – communicating and quantifying the specific cost of current issues and benefits of proposed solutions.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why Are We Seeing So Many More Stalled Deals?

Your prospect seems like they are hooked. You’ve delivered a great sales presentation, a good demo, and prepared a tight proposal. The buyer has connected with you emotionally on the purchase decision and you think you are set.

And then, the deal goes silent. Your calls are not returned and you are left wondering what went wrong. This goes on for a few weeks, and then stretches into a couple of months, as your commits are missed one by one.

Unfortunately, stalled deals are all too common today, affecting almost 60% of a typical sales pipeline. For a typical sales organization, for every $1 million in sales revenue that is closed each quarter, there is typically another $1.8 million in stalled deal opportunities on the line, much more than what is lost to the competition.

In a Linked-In discussion about a prior article, How Can You Best Prevent Stalled Deals, Tamara Schenk, one of the most respected sales enablement practitioners worldwide and VP Sales Enablement at T-Systems International, indicates that stalled deals are usually the result of 2 key issues:

1) Skipping a Step -  In Tamara’s experience, the prospect has to go through a journey, of “why change”, “why change now” and “why with us as a vendor”. Each step is vital in the prospect’s decision making process:

  • Why change? – the prospect understands there is an issue that is worth addressing, and
  • Why change now? –the prospect sees a significant “cost of do nothing” and realizes that the issue is not only real, but should be a priority
  • Why with us as a vendor? - the prospect understands the competitive advantages, superior benefits, lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and superior Return on Investment (ROI) of the proposed solution, and the low risk of you as a solution provider.
Not only is each step vital, the specific step-wise sequence is key to prospect buy-in and success. Ms Schenk points out that “In almost all stalled opportunities the “why change” milestone step was never achieved”.

2) More Decision Makers – Tamara also believes that “the ability of a sales team to equip the main stakeholders at the customer to sell the project within their organization, is often overlooked, but key for success”.  

According to IDC, there has been a 40% increase in the number of stakeholders in typical deals over the past three years.  A typical deal that would have had five decision-makers now has seven.

You’ve seen it in your own deals, with higher levels of signoffs required, finance and procurement playing more dominant roles, and multiple business group representatives playing a more active role in each decision.

Even though you might have connected with your prospect, there is likely a whole other team of decision makers you will have to sell to either directly, but most likely indirectly, via your Champion.

The situation is complex and you’ll have to enable the Champion to address the fact that:

  • Each of these stakeholders likely has a different view of the issues, priority and value than your main prospect.
  • With Finance, procurement and the executives so involved in each deal, you’ll need to get beyond just an emotional sale, delivering tangible cost of do nothing quantification and financial justification.

The Champion will have to provide the same “why change”, “why change now” and “why with you as a vendor” answers to each stakeholder, which means your Sales team must provide them with the tools, insights and justification to make the case.

The Bottom-Line

Stalled deals represent the largest pipeline opportunity for most sales teams, however, getting these stalled deals moving is not easy.

It comes down to improving the sales process and sales enablement, recognizing that you have to answer all questions in the buyer’s decision-making process in sequence, delivering the insights and justification to answer “why change”, “why change now” and “why with us as a vendor”, and further still, arm your Champion to sell internally in a similar compelling manner to executives, finance, procurement and other business groups.

Additional Resources: 

How Can You Best Prevent Stalled Deals 

Challenge Your Do Nothing Prospects to Yes

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

How Can You Shine as Gartner Lowers IT Spending Forecasts for 2013?

Sometimes you don’t want to be right, and this is one of those times.

To kick off 2013, Gartner predicted that the reigns on worldwide IT spending would loosen, forecasting an increase of 4.2% in IT spend for the year. As I predicted shortly after in this article, I thought Gartner was being overly optimistic, letting the glow of New Year’s celebrations cloud the fact that:
  • Analysts have consistently and significantly lowered their initial annual growth forecasts mid-year for the past several years,
  • Although we are in a recovery, it’s been very slow, creating a frugal mindset for all purchase decisions that will equally be slow to change.
Sure enough, Gartner has had to once again lower expectations , cutting in half their earlier growth estimates, now predicting only a 2% rise.

Gartner blames the revision on exchange rate fluctuations, but I don’t buy this as the main reason for halving their IT spending growth, as similar reasons were given for lowered expectations in 2012 as well (where initial estimates of 3.7% growth were lowered to 1.2% by mid-year).
Although exchange rates may indeed be a factor, I believe that lower 2013 IT spending growth is with us for a couple more years based on:
  • A continuation of our current “Do More with Less Economy”, where frugal and risk averse buyers are slow to increase funding for any business investments, especially for legacy IT such as PCs, data center hardware, telecom and services. Enterprise software remains a bright spot as organizations strive to use software to automate business processes and improve productivity,
  • Emerging investments in mobility, cloud and big data ramping up, but not yet “crossing the chasm” and as such, failing to make up for the growth shortfall.
It will be some time before “Frugalnomics” gives way, where investments in the emerging three: mobility, cloud and big data “cross the chasm” to fuel the next big wave.

As such, it is important to recognize that growth will in the near term remain historically low, below the 6% average annual IT spending increases of the last decade, but that your sales and marketing strategy can be adjusted to drive competitive success.

2013 Challenges for IT Solution Providers

Revenue growth is extremely important for IT solution providers, as this growth is required to sustain high valuation multiples and shareholder equity. As a result, IT Sales and Marketing will again be tasked to deliver incremental revenue regardless of challenging market conditions and despite the historically low spending growth.

But delivering incremental revenue is a challenge, as tech-purchasing decisions have fundamentally and permanently changed.

Even as the economy improves, buyers remain more skeptical and frugal than ever, demanding quantifiable proof that each investment delivers a quick payback and significant bottom-line impact. As a result, Financial Justification / ROI is now the most important content buyers rely on to make purchase decisions (greatly exceeding the importance of case studies, product demos and thought leadership content), and over 90% of IT purchase decisions now require a formal business case for approval (IDC - 2013).

IT purchase processes are ever more complex, with IDC reporting 40% more stakeholders involved in the average purchase decision compared to just 3 years ago (growing from 5 to 7 decision makers per purchase). Not only are more “scrutineers” at the table, but the demographics of the participants have changed. With the continued consumerization of IT, according to Gartner, by the end of this decade almost 90% of tech purchase decisions will be controlled not by IT, but by business groups. 

Solution providers may be caught unprepared by this Teutonic shift - the complexity of ever more stakeholders and the significant shift from technical driven purchase decisions to control of the process by the business buyer.

Frugalnomics is in full effect, with todays’ buyers more empowered, skeptical and frugal than ever before, and sales and marketing needing to evolve in order to meet the challenge.

The 3 Things You Must Do Now to Win in 2013

To help meet the challenge and Fight Frugalnomics, we recommend three “must do” programs for 2013:

Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Marketing

Todays’ buyers are more overloaded and risk averse than ever, and as a result, 58% are choosing to “Do Nothing”, to remain with “Business as Usual” versus considering your solution (SBI – 2013).

Prospects will choose to “Do Nothing” unless you can proactively and provocatively quantify that they have a pain worth addressing. And the opportunities you thought were progressing through the waterfall / sales process to “wins” will stall unless you can help convince the prospect that the issue is real, a high priority worth addressing over all other issues, and that your solution represents a real low risk solution with superior value and unique competitive advantage.

In order to connect and engage with “Do Nothing” buyers, helping them through the decision making journey, you need to help them realize:
  • Why Change?
  • – the Prospect has a pain worth addressing and a significant cost of “Do Nothing”,
  • Why Now?
  • –the Prospect should not wait to address the issue because they are leaving good money on the table (significant bottom-line impact, ROI and fast payback), and they are falling behind competitively (illustrated through peer comparison benchmarks),
  • Why You?
  • – that your solutions can deliver unique and superior value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
So how well do you answer these key decision making questions for your buyers in a compelling and quantified way?

Developing and deploying the right interactive Value Marketing Tools is the key, to provide Prospects the personalized, relevant and provocative answers to these key questions early in the decision making cycle. Click here to learn more.

Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification

According to SiriusDecisions, the number 1 reason why sales professionals fail to meet quota (for the 3rd year in a row) is their “inability to effectively communicate the value of proposed solutions”.

Sitting in on the majority of sales presentations and you can see that most are still delivering empty product pitches or pseudo-solution selling with a few cursory questions and canned “death by PowerPoint” presentations. According to Forrester, prospects indicate that less than 12% of sales engagements are focused on customer value.

Despite significant changes in prospect expectations, sales leadership recognizing that value selling is needed in order to meet quota, and the millions spent on solution / value selling messaging and training, only about one in ten sales professionals engage with “value”.

So how well do your sales professionals and channel partners engage with value?

There is a way to overcome the value selling adoption challenge … to better institutionalize and effectively deploy your solution / value selling methodology to sales professionals and channel partners so it actually gets used in sales engagements. To empower sales professionals to engage with powerful value storytelling and “back of the napkin” value quantification. Click here to learn more.

Close the Deal with a CFO-ready Business Case 

CFOs are large and in charge of many IT purchase approvals. According to a Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation research survey, the CFO is becoming the top IT decision maker in many organizations, with:
  • Over 75% indicating significant decision making involvement,
  • 41% indicating being the main decision maker for IT investments.

    From the CFOs we talk to, they indicate that proposals:
    • Won't be considered a priority without a business case, and the larger the proposal, the more detailed and formal the case has to be,
    • Won't be approved unless you show that the issue being addressed is a priority with a high cost of “doing nothing”, quantified savings / benefits from the proposed solution, and a significant ROI and fast payback,
    • Won’t be advanced unless they show that the proposed project is low risk and with low resource requirements, as “do more with less” applies regardless of the ROI,
    • Won't be signed off unless you can prove your solution has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) / better value than competitive offerings.
    With Finance playing such a key role in IT decision approvals, it is imperative that proposals contain the business case content that CFOs need to provide approval, otherwise your deals will be stalled or delayed in the final stages, and you may be losing critical deals to competitors who make the better CFO case.

    So how well do you deliver the business cases that CFOs demand?

    There is a way to easily develop and deliver CFO business cases for your solutions. Click here to learn more.

    The Bottom-Line

    Gartner has once again lowered their annual IT spending growth estimates to historically low expectations. Frugalnomics is still in full effect, requiring IT sales and marketing to take a more value-focused approach.

    If not addressed, deals will continue to stall, sales cycles will get longer, and heavy discounting will prevail.

    For the rest of 2013, IT sales and marketing professionals should consider three initiatives as a top priority to help Fight Frugalnomics:
    1. Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Marketing
    2. Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
    3. Close the Deal with CFO-Ready Business Cases
    To learn more, click here.


    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Presentation at Sales Club UK: Proving Your Value to Frugal Buyers

    Had the pleasure of spending my 4th of July holiday in the UK with members of the exclusive Sales Club in the UK, presenting to the group on the importance of value selling and financial justification for sales professionals.

    The presentation was held at a great venue, Brigade, where Alinean delivered the keynote for the group, followed by a lively dinner discussion about how much prospects have changed due to the continued economic downturn, resulting in a"value selling" gap between prospect expectations and seller capabilities.

    Was fantastic to see some of the messaging, tools and capability changes different sales executives have put in place recently to address the "value selling gap", and was an honor to help the group understand the new strategies and tools that are available to help close the gap.

    Click here to see a SlideShare post of the presentation.