Monday, January 26, 2015

Three Key Metrics for Your 2015 Selling Effectiveness

As you launch 2015 kick-offs and budget for training / enablement investments, there are three key metrics you should consider when shaping your 2015 Sales Enablement strategy:

1) More Stakeholders: IDC reports a significant 43% increase in number of buyers involved in each B2B purchase over the past three years, growing to more than 8 decision makers involved in the average review / approval process. Each stakeholder may be at a different point in the decision making process – some early: just getting a handle on the issues, and some late: already with a clear solution in mind. Each decision maker also has a unique set of priority challenges they would like to address, of potential risks, and a distinct view of the value you can provide to them.

Advice: Sales reps need to be empowered to engage all stakeholders no matter what the “Point of Value” or where they are in the decision making process. Based on who is being engaged, Sales reps should be guided, based intelligently on the prospect’s role, industry, location, size and challenges, to the right value messaging, storytelling, insights, case studies and financial justification.

Because each stakeholder could be different, the guidance should be interactive and flexible – used live with customers to aid in the discovery questioning as well as fueling the conversation / engagement.

Because the sales rep may not be afforded the opportunity to meet many stakeholders involved in the decision, it is important that the value storytelling and justification be provided in a format that can easily be shared with the advocates – to continue selling long after the initial in-person conversation.

2) Training Effectiveness: In the US, companies will spend more than $5B on sales training last year (SPI). At the same time, only 59% of sales reps achieved their quota in 2014, down sharply from 67% last year (Accenture). Unfortunately, according to the psychologist and a pioneer in the study of memory and learning, Ebbinghouse, 87% of this training will be forgotten within weeks according to. Your training investments will likely fall victim to the Ebbinghouse’s Forgetting Curve – squandered in short order.

Advice: Training by itself is not enough to achieve effectiveness.  Training needs to include demonstration AND practice in order to get sales reps comfortable with the material and customer conversation. Sales tools can be used to guide sales conversations interactively when they are in meetings with clients, assuring that the right value messaging, insights, justification and case studies are provided. And on-going coaching and sharing of best practices by the community is key. A combination of demonstration, practice, sales tools, coaching and community can increase retention from a paltry 13% to almost 90% (SBI).

3) Value Articulation: The focus of the training also needs to refocus - transcending from product centric to value focused. According to SiriusDecisions, the #1 sales quota issue is not a lack of enough training, leads, product knowledge, social selling, instead “a lack of sales reps ability to connect with client business issues and effectively articulate value.” This issue has persisted as the number one challenge for the past 4 years, reported by a whopping 71% of sales executives as the top issue.

So as training is improved to include demonstration, practice, coaching and community, the content and sales tools needs to shift to enable sales reps to have more value-focused conversations. This means arming sales reps with better value-focused fuel for their customer engagements and tools to help the sales rep customize / personalize the interactions. Customer facing sales tools can be implemented to guide better three foot and on-line meetings -providing sales reps and channel partners with the right value messaging, insights, storytelling, insights, case studies and financial justification for each unique prospect and selling situation.

Sources: SPI -

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Buyer's Journey or Hide and Seek?

By Dan Sixsmith

Once upon a time a few decades ago, selling was simpler. Picture the NYC garment district in its heyday, the late 80s. My colleagues and I would stand outside the buildings where our clients and prospects worked. When they came out for lunch or a meeting, “Bingo!” It was Showtime. We'd pitch them as they walked, or nabbed them for a productive lunch presentation.

We were in control of the supply and the sales cycle. The Buyer’s Journey back then was from 37th and 6th to 40th and 5th (or as many blocks as it took to make our pitch and gain a commitment). Suffice it to say that things have changed a bit since then, for the garment industry and certainly how we sell.

Technology has certainly made it easier to market and sell your products, but at the same time the process for gaining and maintaining buyer interest and commitment has become increasingly difficult. 

But today’s Buyer’s Journey is more of a game of hide-and-seek than a linear process. Your prospects are appearing, consuming content, engaging and then disappearing. 

And this is not a one-on-one game. The average deal has over 8 decision makers, a 43% increase from 3 years ago (IDC). Each stakeholder has a different spot at which they join the decision making process, so while some may be well on their way to selecting a solution, others are just making up their minds that there is a problem really worth addressing.

This new game is a tough one, with:
  • A whopping 58% of B2B deals stall as the buyer goes dark leaving sales scratching their heads as to what happened (SBI).
  • Deals that do close are taking 24% longer to do so compared to 2 years ago (SiriusDecisions)
  • Only 59% of sales reps achieved their quota in 2014, down sharply from 67% last year (Accenture)
But maybe your deal is not stalling and the prospect didn’t go dark after all. Perhaps one of the many decision makers is just getting started, heavily researching the opportunity and potential solutions. Maybe you just missed your prospect on another channel. While they disappeared off of email, they may be very much in play on social or mobile. 

Business buyers who might appear to be hiding may actually be quite active, conducting further research on you and your competitors websites, actively seeking advice in social communities, and conversing with analysts and peers about their plans. 

Marketers need to be everywhere, engaging with personalized content to continue the facilitation process long after the initial interest is generated. And sales needs to be ready to quickly pick up the conversation with these different decision makers – each with a unique perspective on value and what your solution can do for them, and each at different stages in the journey.

So how do you succeed in this rapidly changing playing field? Here is a start:

Engage early and often -The Holy Grail of engagement today is delivering the right content to the right prospect at the right time in the right channel. Easier said than done. Connect all of the dots, leverage technology and be ready to engage at every touch point. Focus on the challenges your product solves and not on features and functions. Hire a Chief Content Officer or equivalent, and build out a wealth of meaningful content, provided not just to clients, but to arm sales reps with content to fuel provocative and effective 3-foot conversations. Use data to inform your team about prospect behavior and adjust your messaging accordingly to their role in the organization and stage in the journey. There is a good deal of trial and error here. Rinse and repeat. 

Content needs to be value focused and personalized - If you provide the wrong content, your buyers will go dark for good. A recent study in the Economist indicates that 71% of buyers disengaged with a vendor because their content and sales meetings were all about pitching products and not about facilitating the buyer journey and value-focused. Since each opportunity is unique, and each buyer involved in the decision has a different value perspective, what value means to each opportunity and stakeholder is quite different. As a result, a one size fits all approach is over. Content must be interactive, visual, and personal. At Alinean, we have addressed this issue through the creation of a platform which can intelligently deliver content tailored (either self service by the prospect and/or by sales in a pitch meeting) to the industry, role, size of company, challenges, and prospect business goals and KPI's. The result: higher value leads to sales, greater engagement and more provocative conversions, less stalls and more closed deals. Some takeaways from our experience: 
1.  Serve up content in an entertaining fashion to emotionally connect with buyers and stimulate the decision making process - Telling a story about your value and painting a clear picture to contrast “business as usual” versus your improvement plan
2.   Deliver insights and financial justification – helping buyers diagnose and uncover priority issues, quantify benefits and proving ROI. Capture discovery data, value plans and realized results to capture / leverage new insights and get smarter from each engagement.
3.  Gain credibility and provide proof of value via success stories and “voice of customer” videos, with concrete value.

Sales As Marketers -Sales reps can no longer just sell. The huge spike in inbox-cluttering marketing messages and unwanted sales pitches has further strained the trust factor between prospective buyers and salespeople. Therefore, sales reps are now being called upon to establish greater credibility with clients. And they need to do so by leveraging insights, storytelling, justification and content to become subject matter experts and thought leaders—a role typically handled by marketing. 

Marketers as Sales - Similarly the role of marketing is evolving. The complexity of the Buyer’s “Decision Space”, as adeptly put by Epsilon’s CEO Andy Frawley in his excellent book, Igniting Customer Connections, now requires organizations to effectively connect both virtually and directly through impactful and personalized content in an effort to meet a prospect wherever they turn up-and then guide them to the eventual finish line. Therefore, marketers are now responsible for nurturing not just the top of funnel (TOFU), but engaging throughout the decision making process, revenue growth and in increasing numbers are carrying quotas. Sounds like selling to me.

Employees as Publishers- Everyone needs a personal brand and a point of view. The more ‘feet on the street’ to find and engage your buyers, the better. Buyers want to know what (Edelman refers to as) ‘regular’ employees (not just the CEO, and not just salespeople) think about your company and its products. Encourage blogging and let the culture and true face of your organization come forward as buyers in their self-created “decision space" evaluate what it will be like to do business with your organization.

With revenue growth at the core of all challenges in 2015 and beyond, the elusive buyer can be found in any number of channels available. 

The question is, are you ready to facilitate the Buyer’s Journey and for the new game of hide and seek? Tag, you're it!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Launch: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide

Excited to be launching a new book: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More.

Based on our popular blog articles, the book provides a definitive view of value marketing and selling.

Keep your eye out for the launch site and pre-order opportunity from Amazon.

Here's what you can expect:

Today’s B2B buyer is more in-control, cautious and economic-focused, choosing more often than not to “Do Nothing” versus saying “Yes”, delaying purchase decisions and demanding steep discounts when they do decide to buy. In the face of a more frugal buyer, sales reps and marketers are evolving from pitching products to articulating value in order to effectively communicate and quantify the buyer’s challenges and the value of proposed solutions.

However, the passage from product to value has not been an easy one for most. What if you had a roadmap to guide you on this difficult journey?

The Frugalnomics Survival Guide is designed to help you navigate from product to value, fueling your expedition, highlighting the best path, and illuminating the dangers so you can survive the journey. 

With this guide you will be able to reshape your content marketing and sales conversations to get buyer attention, motivate interest, drive quicker decisions and reduce discounting. You’ll have the opportunity to learn directly from leading analysts from SiriusDecisions, Forrester and IDC, and gain lessons from the success and pitfalls of those who have already completed the passage including: ADP, Splunk, Workday and Shoretel.

The definitive guide on how to use your unique value to market better, stand out and sell more.

Order your's today:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Best Way to Reduce Discounting: Better Negotiating or Value Selling?

There is more pressure than ever on suppliers to lower their prices and offer steep discounts.  

Recent studies indicate that the average discount levels has risen to 20% per deal (IDC), but we find that many solution providers would be happy if that were the level of discount they were providing. Many are a whopping 50-70%!

The rise of the Buying Committee has added to price pressure. With little vested interest and with inadequate time to review competing proposals, the team tends to focus on price above much else.

And Procurement is getting way more involved in every transaction, with specific incentives to extract discounts from every vendor proposal.

You know you need to address the discounting challenge, but how?

Many companies have turned to Negotiation Training to help their sales reps and channel partners try to talk their way out of the discount. But procurement holds most of the cards in these negotiations, and as a result, this type of training is not leading to the best deal sizes and sales success outcomes.

A recent survey of 500 supplier executives indicates that top performing companies, those getting the highest price for their goods and services, uniquely invest more in Value Selling Training and Initiatives when compared to what is spent on Negotiation Training (Kotler Marketing).

Part of the reason could be that 71% of buyers say suppliers could definitely be doing more to sell the value of their products. The research indicates that without the training and tools (ROI / TCO calculators with specific benchmarks and metrics) your sales reps and channel partners are not providing the business case / financial justification needed to justify a higher price.

The advice from the research? Don’t stop investing in Negotiations Training completely, but certainly take a look at your sales and channel partner training and tools investments, concentrating much more on Value Selling Enablement versus Negotiation Training in 2015.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Top 5 Content Marketing Trends You Need to Know for 2015

The research is in and it shows some significant changes are in store for Marketing in 2015 – trends you need to be aware of to succeed:

Trend 1: More Leads = Same Revenue?
IDC reports that it now takes 50% more leads as just two years ago to generate the same amount of revenue.

Why? Your prospects are spending much more time researching, scrutinizing and justifying each purchase, and in turn, significantly longer to move from prospect to customer.

It is unlikely you’ll be able to get a 50% increase in your marketing budget, so you’ll have to smartly improve the reach, targeting, and personalization of each campaign to improve effectiveness and boost response rates.

Trend 2: Marketing Overload
According to research by SiriusDecisions, your prospects now receive 32% more marketing campaigns than just 2 years ago.

And most of the campaigns are White Paper download offers – with the average executive receiving over 50 offers each business day.
White Papers have become the crack cocaine of email marketing.

Although White Papers are still a workhorse, there is a dirty little secret you may not know - the effectiveness of white paper fueled campaigns has been on the decline for the past six years – with the number of responses / downloads declining 5% each year.

So its time to move evolve beyond white papers and leverage new content like videos, dynamic infographics, interactive storybooks and diagnostic assessments / calculators to fuel your more successful marketing campaigns.

Trend 3: Buying by Committee
Buying committees rule the day, with 43% more stakeholders involved in each decision (an average of 8 per purchase). And each of these buyers has a different set of challenges, concerns, and value perspective.

One size-fits-all content doesn’t cut it when there are so many different perspectives involved in the decision making process.

You have to develop, or better yet personalize content for each stakeholder in an environment where each buyer expects and requires personalization.

Trend 4: Skeptics Rule
Today’s buyer has heard it all before, and they are wary.

A new study by The Economist bears this out; with 71% of business execs saying content from companies turns them off when it seemed more like a sales pitch than providing valuable information. At the same time, the survey found that 93% of marketers and sales reps continue to focus their content directly to products and services.

Buyers most trust content that is not product but value centric, recommended by peers, and authored by a third party. Unfortunately only 13% said they view content that is created directly by a vendor as credible.

It’s time to move away from the sales pitch, to instead leverage more 3rd party provocative and consultative content.

Trend 5: Short Attention Span Theater
Today, you only have 8 seconds to get a prospect’s attention. Lower by 1/3 from just a decade ago, and less of an attention span than a Goldfish (9 secs).

As attention deficit has increased, your content marketing has likely gone the opposite direction.  The typical white paper is now more than 10 pages according to IDG, lengthened to address a wider range of buyers, vertical industries, and more complex solutions.

Studies indicate even 5 pages might be too long today. And the content, its just too text heavy for today’s more visually stimulated audience.

You have to get buyer’s attention more quickly, by making your content marketing more visual, simplifying and streamlining your messaging, and reducing content length.

Think about how you could tune the visual storytelling and value messaging based on buyer roles, industry, location and challenges, producing more interesting and effective content dynamically for each selling situation.

The Bottom-Line

In 2015 your prospects are more difficult to reach, engage and motivate than ever before. They’ve changed, and your content marketing has to advance to keep pace:
  • Instead of more, think better
  • Instead of text, think simple drawings, infographs and video
  • Instead of product-centric, think insights and value
  • Instead of vendor-developed think 3rd party credibility
  • Instead of one-size-fits-all, think dynamic personalization.

In order to be effective in 2015 consider investing less in traditional white papers and more in video, dynamic infographics, interactive storybooks, diagnostic assessments and challenge / value calculators for success in 2015.