Monday, March 24, 2014

Gartner: The Technology Sales Rep Has Lost Their Mojo!

As technology buyers have changed, now more knowledgeable, empowered and in control of the purchase decision process, technology sales reps have not evolved to keep pace, this according to a recent article by Gartner.

Unfortunately, a survey of buyers indicates that the vast majority of sales reps are adding little value to IT buyer decision making. Gartner research showed that Sales came in last place after Technical and Industry Expert, Service and Support and Senior Executives as ‘the most influential personal interactions across the entire buying cycle’.

The Gartner research highlights the Value Gap – between customers who, have become much more educated and financially focused, and sales reps that sell the same way they did in the past.

The evidence? Sales reps are being invited later and later into the decision making process, with research (from SiriusDecisions) indicating that 67% of buyers already have a “clear picture” of the solution they want before Sales Reps are engaged. And customers, they are clearly looking elsewhere for meaningful advice and interactions; challenging providers to evolve to a value selling approach or risk being left out of deal consideration all together.

Gartner highlights the following opportunities for IT sales and marketing to address now in order to close the Value Gap:

1) Eliminate Death by PowerPoint presentations – Unfortunately, most sales presentations pitch their company and products using canned PowerPoint presentations – self-centered, with most information readily available to the customer with a little online research. No wonder most customers feel that Sales is adding little to no value and doing nothing more than repeating what they can find on their own. What prospects really want is not “death by PPT” presentations, but more custom, tailored, business and industry specific conversations, helping to diagnose ‘their’ key issues, illuminating the “cost of do nothing”, and highlighting how a particular solution can enhance ‘their’ business and deliver tangible bottom-line impact.

2) Facilitate the Decision Making Journey – For sales reps to be perceived as value-focused, they need to helps customers make more informed purchase decisions:
a.  In the initial portion of the cycle, Ideas and Exploration, sales reps need to help prospects illuminate and diagnose their issues, and motivate change – “Quantify the Pain”.
b.   In the middle phase, Evaluation, sales reps need to help prospects understand the various solution approaches and prioritize investment in this project versus all others - “Justify the Gain”. 
c.   In later phases, Selection, sales reps need to help differentiate the lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and unique value – “Prove You Are Not the Same”.
3) Customer Intelligence vs. Process Intelligence – Unfortunately, traditional CRM tracks and reports on metrics that are internally oriented, gathering intelligence not about what’s valuable to the customer, but valuable to the internal sales process. In order to close the Value Gap, current sales metrics need to dramatically change, measuring the different decision makers being engaged, their unique customer challenges, the “cost of do nothing” and potential value impacts.

According to Gartner, left unresolved, the Value Gap can place much of your marketing and demand generation activities at risk. Without an evolution in your content marketing and sales enablement – “growing market share and expanding your brands influence becomes that much more difficult. Sales leaders must help their sellers adjust and understand that customers expect more than they are getting today and when done correctly they will reward them with their business.”

The Gartner research is outlined in this blog article by  Tiffani Bova at:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What is the Most Valued Content for IT Decision Makers?

Today’s buyer is more empowered than ever before, leveraging content from the Internet, discussion groups and social media to take charge of the purchase decision-making process. As a result:
  • SiriusDecisions reports that up to 67% of decision-makers already have a “clear picture” of the solution they want before Sales Reps are engaged.
  • Content marketing plays a more pivotal role – influencing decisions before reps are involved, and fueling reps' customer conversations when they are eventually engaged.
With the value of content marketing on the rise, the researchers at IDC’s CMO Advisory became curious, prompting the team to ask: “If content has become so valuable to buyers in facilitating purchase decisions, then what content do these decision makers perceive as the most valuable?".

The question was posed as a key portion of IDC’s annual 2013 IT Buyer Experience Study, surveying over 200 executive decision makers worldwide.

The results showed that in the later stages when sales reps and channel partners are involved in helping influence the decision, it was not Thought Leadership, Product Demos, Peer/Customer References, Industry Trends, Competitive Comparisons or Case Studies that most influenced the buying decision, this despite a wealth of investment in such content.

By a large margin, Financial Justification / ROI content was perceived as the most valuable in driving decisions. So why has Financial Justification / ROI become so important to IT buyers, indicated as the most valued content?

Clearly, there are new challenges:
  • The Rise of the Economic Buyer – CFOs and financial executives are “large and in charge” of more groups and more purchase decisions, putting in place more financial scrutiny and hurdles to any purchase decision. With economic diligence front and center, even non-financial executives now are more focused on the business metrics and bottom-line impact of purchase decisions. IDC reports that 95% of all enterprise purchase decisions now require a formal financial justification / ROI.
  • More Stakeholders – the average number of stakeholders involved in purchase decisions has risen a hefty 40% over just the past 3 years according to IDC.  In IT decisions, business units, IT and finance are all heavily involved. The complexity of more decisions makers is compounded in that each stakeholder sees value differently, in relation to their particular challenges, business drivers and key performance indicators – value is truly in the eye of the beholder.
  • The Value Gap – Sales and marketing often falls way short in providing the key financial justification content buyers need to make timely and favorable purchase decisions. In sales, this is such a big issue that SiriusDecisions indicates the “Inability to Communicate Value” is the #1 issue why sales has failed to meet quota, this for the second year running.
So, the big question:
  • Can you help buyers facilitate their financial decision making, easily and credibly quantifying their pain, justifying proposed gains and proving you are “not the same”.
  • Do you have the Financial Justification / ROI marketing content and sales tools to create personalized analyses for each unique opportunity and decision maker?
Unfortunately, buyers indicate that most vendors are not delivering the content needed to close the Value Gap, even though IDC indicates that buyers will significantly reward solution providers who can best help facilitate their decision-making.  

And what is the prize? IDC projects up to a 40% acceleration in decision-making cycles by providing the right content to help facilitate buyer decision cycles – with Financial Justification / ROI as the most valued content.

The business case is an easy one: A small investment in Financial Justification / ROI content and sales tools versus the revenue growth you could you realize with a 40% acceleration. The scales are well in favor of the solution providers who make the investment now in Financial Justification / ROI.

 Source: IDC's 2013 ITBuyer Experience Survey: Create and Close Customers up to 40% Faster 

1. Financial Justification/ROI (46%)
2. Product Demo/Proof of Concept (14%)
3. Peer/Customer References (10%)
4. Product/Service reviews and test results (8%)
5. Vision/Thought Leadership (7%)
6. Customer Case Studies (6%)
7. Industry Trends (3%)
8. Other (5%)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Alinean launches upgraded ValueStory Guided Value-Selling App

Empowers B2B Sales Reps to have better customer conversations

Alinean announces an important v3.0 upgrade to ValueStory, the first guided value-selling app.

B2B sales reps leverage the ValueStory app as a replacement for traditional one-way presentations, helping to fuel more relevant, effective, value-focused customer conversations that engage today's tougher B2B buyers.

ValueStory does this by helping reps prepare for and deliver provocative insights, interactive financial justification / ROI / TCO calculators and storytelling that connects the value of their solutions to the unique challenges of their buyers. The latest ValueStory upgrades in v3.0 include:

    Increased Personalization - to precisely tune value messaging, storytelling and quantification based on a prospect's answers to surveys, assessments and discovery questions as well as company profile (industry, location and size).
    More Tailoring – to create customized conversation elements, including collaboration with prospect's using list vignettes and dynamic whiteboards.
    Improved Branding – to deliver more branded leave-behind reports for customers, used for sharing the customized conversation content with prospects at the end of meetings and with other decision makers in the organization.
    Enhanced Customer Intelligence – additional usage reports to better track adoption and demographics on customer conversations by Industry, Location, Size and Challenges.
"The number one reason sales reps fail to make quota is not the lack of leads, training or product knowledge, but an inability to effectively communicate the value of their solutions to prospects," says Jim Ninivaggi, Service Director for Sales Enablement at SiriusDecisions. "ValueStory effectively helps overcome this top issue by guiding sales reps to have better value-focused customer conversations."

ValueStory has been proven to help sales reps ignite buying decisions, engage earlier and higher, accelerate decision cycles, reduce discounting and improve competitive advantages.

"Prospects now require sales reps to prove the value of proposed solutions, yet less than one in ten are effective at this today," says Tom Pisello, CEO and founder of Alinean. "ValueStory evolves sales reps from 'Death by PowerPoint' product-focused presentations to orchestrate more effective value conversations and deliver credible financial justification proof points."

Click here to download the ValueStory iPad App version including free ROI Calculators.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Research: Improving Value Conversations Key to Sales Execution

Over 60% of buyers are disengaging with sales teams because the sales reps didn't present value or really understand the buyers' business challenges, this according to the Sales Execution Trends study of 200 worldwide sales leaders by our partner Qvidian.
Although the research indicates that increasing revenue goals and new sales headcount is the trend, a fundamental issue exists that will prevent many from achieving their growth goals and squandering sales headcount investments:
  • On one side, we have prospects that have fundamentally and permanently changed – now more empowered, skeptical and frugal than ever before – Frugalnomics in full effect.
  • On the other, a traditional selling approach that hasn't evolved from one-size fits all product-centric pitches to value conversations and requisite quantification.

A significant Value Gap exists today between buyer and seller. It all comes down to your rep’s ability to execute, and this execution is all about the customer conversation. However, these conversations are less than effective. The research reveals that the top execution issue is: “Sales reps inability to effectively communicate value”.
According to Christopher Faust, CMO at Qvidian, “The buying environment has changed and now it’s tougher than ever to cut through the clutter to better communicate and differentiate your value with prospects”.
In order to get your new reps effective and achieve quota for all, your customer conversations need to evolve to value storytelling, insights and quantification.
So, are you Minding the Value Gap? If you do, guiding sales reps to better value conversations - communicating, differentiating and quantifying your value, you can indeed drive quota achievement, reap the rewards of new rep hires, and achieve your growth goals.