Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Art or Science of Sales and Marketing?

There is an ongoing debate in sales and marketing: Are the most effective marketing campaigns and sales reps relying more on art and creativity, or leveraging a more systematic and scientific approach?
With the current focus on big data, a scientific approach to sales and marketing certainly has its pundits. Data is now collected and insights leveraged to learn more about buying behaviors – what works and doesn’t - helping marketers design and execute more effective and automated campaigns, and focusing sales reps on what matters most.
However, those believing art has more influence point out how “big data doesn’t do the buying, humans do”. In the end it all comes down to a conversation – digitally or person-to-person – between you and your prospect.
And here too, we see the debate regarding art and science. Modern decision economics argues a formula for an effective conversation – a prescriptive method to convince a buyer to “Yes”. While the neuroscience outlines an equation for effectiveness, it also reveals how important art remains in creating more attention-getting, memorable and effective campaigns and conversations.
In our new book, The Frugalnomics Surivival Guide, we discuss the importance of both art and science, how getting these aligned and balanced in your sales and marketing strategy can lead to better productivity and extreme sales and marketing effectiveness. 
Here's a little reveal of our findings ...

Balancing the Art and Science of Effective Sales and Marketing

The effective balance between the art and science of sales and marketing is revealed in an unlikely but real alignment between the ancient “art of persuasion” from Aristotle and the modern Neuroscience of decision-making.
Some 2,600 years ago, Aristotle wrote about three vital elements to persuading an audience or individual. In the The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle writes ”Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself”.

Following Aristotles advice, there are three essential ways to leverage the “art of conversation” to convince a buyer to advance from “Do Nothing” to “Yes”:

  • Ethos – appeal to credibility. Provide evidence that you are trustworthy through your actions and consistency. Provide 3rd party proof points and references that what you are communicating can be backed up by others in the community. Include video testimonials and case studies of customers just like your prospect. Document the tangible financial benefits, professional and personal success achieved by others just like the prospect to demonstrate low risk and provide examples of substantial rewards.
  • Pathos – appeal to the emotions. To make a more emotionally charged impression, communicate your value in a story, and utilize visuals to make the story more memorable. Show contrast, painting a picture between business-as-usual and proposed improvements.
  • Logos – appeal to logic and reason. Quantify the pains and risks of the status quo, such as the “cost of doing nothing”. Address the strategic and financial benefits that can be gained, including the ROI, key performance metrics and quantified improvements within reach. Provide financial justification and make it personal, relevant and specific. 

The Neuroscience of Decision Making meets Aristotle's Art of Persuasion

Although Aristotle had no inkling of what modern neuroscience would later reveal, his mapping of these three essential persuasive elements startlingly aligns with the Triune model of the brain and decision making – a representation of how three parts of the buyer’s brain need to be stimulated in order to gain buyer’s attention, motivate their decision making and get to “Yes”.

The three major buying centers of the brain include:

  • The New Brain (and Logos) - The neo-cortex is often referred to as the New Brain, as in evolutionary terms, it is the latest to advance. This part of the brain is responsible for thinking and processing rational information such as cost-benefit analysis, financial justification and ROI.
  • The Middle Brain (and Ethos) - The middle part of the brain is where “gut” feelings are most often attributed (think “gut decision”).  Your credibility is what counts. Providing proof points / success evidence is essential to give this part of the brain a fuzzy / warm feeling that the decision is a sound one.
  • The Reptilian Brain (and Pathos) – The most ancient part of the brain in evolutionary terms, the Reptilian brain is responsible for survival. This part of the brain is responsible for “fight” or “flight”, and responds to visual stimulation / storytelling and contrast. Stimulating this decision making center determines whether your prospect pays attention / remember, feels empathy and connection to you, are motivated fundamentally by survival instincts to change, and are emotionally connected to your proposal and purchase decision.

The Bottom Line

As a sales leader, sales enablement exec or marketer you struggle with the Art vs. Science of sales and marketing. The good news? It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and in fact should be both. 

The smarter seller and marketer know that it takes leveraging both art and science to get buyer’s to engage and motivate them to purchase. You have to master the three elements of Aristotle’s art of persuasion (Ethos, Pathos and Logos), as well as leveraging modern neuroscience (the new, middle and reptilian brains), stimulating the three "buy buttons" in your prospects brain to get to a positive decision.

Art or Science? Leverage the art of persuasion and the science of decision making as your guide to sales and marketing effectiveness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Three Big Myths Debunked at SiriusDecisions Sales and Marketing Summit

Last week we had the pleasure of attending our 10th SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville, a
gathering of over 2,300 sales and marketing professionals.

There was plenty of content, conversations and cowboy hats.

And plenty of controversy too, with SiriusDecisions taking on three big industry myths, with important new research findings:

#1 - Death of a Salesman?   Popular metrics indicate that buyers are 57% percent of the way through their purchase process before they engage a sales rep (CEB). Forrester concurred, reporting that digital experiences are replacing sales reps at a rapid pace, foretelling a 22% decline in the number of B2B sales reps over the next 5 years = a total of 1 million sales reps expected to lose their jobs.

Vice President and Group Director Marisa Kopec flat-out debunked these common industry
perspectives as “urban myth”.

The SiriusDecisions research appears thorough, involving more than 1,000 B2B executives who were involved in a significant purchase decision within the past six months and tallied 500M in B2B purchases across North America and Europe.

According to the research results, Marisa reported that B2B buyers interact with sales reps at every stage of the buyer's journey.  According to the study, more than half the time, rep involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. For more complex purchases, sales rep engagement starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time.

In fact, the highest level of engagement with sales reps occurred during the education phase of the buyer’s journey, the first decision gate in the purchasing decision process.

These findings directly contradict the other analyst findings that b-to-b sales reps’ roles and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by B2B marketing and digital resources.

The bottom-line: B2B marketing is not replacing B2B sales, so more B2B marketing doesn’t equate to more effectiveness. Sales reps are still VERY relevant,  however we do need to recognize that buyer’s have changed, and Frugalnomics is in full effect.

As a result, you need to enable sales reps to engage effectively throughout the buyer’s journey, especially at the critical early stages of influence. The ability for sales reps to help buyers navigate the journey, gain consensus from committee decisions, and articulate your unique value – all critical for continued relevance and competitive sales success.

#2 - Content is King?   Although large amounts are spent every year to develop and deliver content, and these investments are growing YoY, SiriusDecisions reports that almost 2/3rds of the content marketing investment is wasted!

In a survey of almost 300 firms, 65% of content spending was wasted.

Half of the waste was attributable to sales reps not being able to find the content. While the other half saying t the content wasn’t good or useful.

More is not more when it comes to content. Prospects and sales reps are all to easily lost in a sea of content.

The bottom-line: You have to guide sales reps to the right content. You have to track the usefulness of the content, to assure you are investing more in the content that is being used and has a bigger impact. And you have to deliver better content that is more concise, personalized, value-focused and interactive.

#3 - More Activity = More Effectiveness? – Sales reps are busier than ever, but this is definitely not making them more effective.

According to, Jim Ninivaggi, service director of SiriusDecisions’ Sales Enablement Strategies service, it can take as many as nine tech tools for a rep to prepare for, execute and follow up on a sales call.

Jim recounts a “day in the life” just preparing for a sales call:

  1. Check the calendar to confirm the schedule
  2. Visit SFA to review the opportunity and stakeholders
  3. Log into LinkedIn to review the participant profiles
  4. Send an email to confirm the appointment
  5. Back into SFA to log the activity (email sent)
  6. Over to the sales portal to get a call planning template, and download the right presentations, case studies and product information for the call
  7. Check the sales intelligence tool for recent announcements (mergers, financial results, leadership changes, etc.)
  8. Customize the presentation in PowerPoint
  9. Review and update the pricing, quote and proposal
  10. Before leaving for the sales call, check Google maps to see how long it will take to get there, and find a nearby coffee shop.

And you can expect a similar set of activities post meeting.  All these steps require a sales rep to constantly visit different resources and access different applications, losing momentum and adding much overhead.

According to Jim, the costs are cumulative, with reps spending an inordinate amount of time on low-productivity tasks; critically lowering the time they spend selling and effectively engaging prospects.

The bottom-line : You should gain a deep understanding of the activities your reps are doing, then explore ways to maximize the efficiency and optimize the effectiveness of those activities – what Jim calls activity-based enablement.

Jim recommended the following elements for activity-based enablement include:

  • For pre-sales call planning. Provide a virtual workspace that reps can use to do all their day-to-day activities. Include access to external systems like social media, provide just-in-time asset recommendations, and enable auto updates to the SFA to ensure a single point for data entry.
  • During the call. Provide portable tools that facilitate the conversation. Consider arming reps with tablets that can be used to capture do discovery, assessments and capture key conversation points – helping automatically tune the presentation and guide a more effective conversation. Build sales content into the device, as well as the ability to configure quotes and proposals in real time.
  • After the call. Create a sales support function that provides reps what they need to keep selling. This should include a help desk to troubleshoot problems with sales applications; just-in-time learning and technical training; and a streamlined pricing and legal process.

More activity does not equate to more effectiveness. “Improving the productivity of your salespeople should always be part of a growth strategy,” said Jim. “And productivity is the one foundational growth strategy that is 100 percent within your control.”


The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Roadmap for how B2B marketing and sales can use unique value to market better, stand out & sell more

Alinean releases new book: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide

On Tuesday we announced the release of a new B2B sales and marketing best practices book by CEO / founder Tom Pisello: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide – How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More.

The book release is occurring at SiriusDecisions Summit 2015, an annual gathering of 3,000 sales and marketing executives in Nashville, TN.

The Frugalnomics Survival Guide is a best practices roadmap, designed for B2B marketing, sales leadership, and enablement professionals, to help transition customer conversations and engagements from product pitches to selling with value.

“Today's B2B buyer is more empowered, skeptical and frugal – more often than not sticking with status-quo, delaying purchase decisions and demanding steep discounts if and when they buy – a condition we call Frugalnomics”, according to Tom Pisello, author and CEO / founder of Alinean. “Because of these changed business conditions, you have to better communicate and quantify your unique value to each prospect, so we designed this book to provide a specific roadmap, proven methodology and practical tools to help B2B sales and marketing professionals do just that.”

The Frugalnomics Survival Guide is designed to help B2B solution providers reshape their content marketing, sales enablement strategies and customer conversations to get buyer attention, motivate buying desire, drive quicker decisions and reduce discounting.

“Our research at SiriusDecisions clearly shows that the number one barrier to reps achieving quota is the inability to articulate clear and relevant value messaging and quantification to buyers”, says Jim Ninvagg, Practice Director for Sales Enablement for SiriusDecisions. “In The Frugalnomics Survival Guide, Tom Pisello lays out a step-by-step guide to enabling your salespeople and marketers to articulate your unique value, and most importantly, connect with each individual's unique "point of value".

The 160 page book includes step by step guides, diagrams and worksheets on how to improve sales and marketing to meet the challenges of Frugalnomics, research insights and advice from industry analysts with experience at SiriusDecisions and IDC, as well as lessons learned from sales and marketing leaders from ADP, Adaptive Insights and Shoretel.

“In The Frugalnomics Survival Guide we reveal powerful methodologies and techniques, combining Aristotle’s art of persuasion with the latest neuroscience of decision making”, says Tom Pisello. “The strategy and techniques are proven to help marketers and sellers gain buyer attention, motivate and accelerate “No Decision” to “Yes”, and improve deal size.”

Tom Pisello will conduct exclusive book signings and giveaways throughout the SiriusDecisions Summit 2015, in the Marketplace at booth 612.

 The Frugalnomics Survival Guide is a must read for any sales and marketing leader looking to transform their sales organizations from being product-centric to solution-centric”, adds Jim Ninivaggi.

The book was published by Alinean Press, and is available from Amazon:

Thursday, May 07, 2015

SiriusDecisions and the “No Decision” Challenge

When you examine your sales pipeline and compare your wins vs. losses, research from SBI indicates that an amazing 58% of deals don’t get lost to the competition, or end up in your hands – they result in “No Decision”.

In most cases, these appeared to be good opportunities, with many interactions and touch points. So why did these deals fail to evolve to “Yes”?

With SiriusDecisions Summit 2015 just around the corner, Jim Ninivaggi the Director of SiriusDecisions' Sales Enablement practice, indicates that this is one of the top sales issues, and to overcome the challenge, you need to understand that every “No Decisions” necessarily the same:

Lost to status quo – Today’s buyer is more skeptical and frugal, a condition we call Frugalnomics. As a result, your prospect is more apt to stick with the status quo – their legacy solution and processes - versus moving forward with your proposal. Rightfully or wrongly, your sales reps did not convince the buyer that the cost of “do nothing” was serious enough to drive change, and / or they perceive the solution as too big a change management nightmare - risky, too resource / budget consuming, especially compared to the perceived benefits. Your sales reps are battling the neuroscience of status quo bias – a cognitive disposition for resisting change and sticking with “business as usual”, and they need to be armed with the ability to communicate and quantify the cost of “do nothing” and the overwhelming value of your solution – emotionally (diagnosing and connecting with the pain), rationally (financials) and credibly (providing direct and relevant success story evidence to gain trust)

No buying process – More stakeholders are involved in every purchase decision. Buyer’s are struggling just to “keep the lights on”, much less considering and implementing new solutions. Unfortunately this leads to a dysfunctional buying processes in many of your opportunities. In many cases, your “champion” does not have the credibility or authority to steward a buying process amongst all the different stakeholders. To help, you must arm the sales rep with "tools" to facilitate the buyer’s decision making, mapping and guiding the typical process with "buyer’s journey" playbooks, and most importantly at each stage, providing the value communication and quantification for all the different stakeholders – each with their own unique view of what’s important and what represents value to their part of the business (and personally too).

Stalled deals – A good number of purchase decisions get delayed. The good news, the buyer is still interested. The bad news, they’ve prioritized other projects ahead of yours, or your sales rep has been told they have to wait a budget cycle or two, According to Jim, “One of our clients, selling into higher education, shared that one of their biggest deals had a legitimate sales cycle of three years, as their buyer needed to keep waiting for next year’s budget cycle to get approval. Three times was the charm.” Unfortunately, you likely will have a hard time waiting three years for every deal. What can you do to raise the priority of the project? Have you diagnosed the challenges properly, showing the prospect that the issues are bigger than they imagined? Have you proven that the cost of “do nothing” is higher than the other projects they have made a priority? And once this is clear, have you demonstrated that your solution provides a superior ROI and faster payback than the competing solutions? If you have not, no wonder your proposal is not getting the budget allocation or priority it deserves. The deal still may take longer than you wanted it to, but a little work can go a long way towards prioritization and acceleration.

The buyer goes dark - They won’t return my phone calls. Unfortunately, too many prospects that were engaged – actively consuming content, in constant communications – suddenly and inexplicably “go dark.” They simply stop returning phone calls or emails. More often than not, they have decided to stick with status quo or go with another vendor, and have not told your sales rep yet. They just haven’t admitted this to your sales rep yet. If the deal is really lost, are your sales reps doing a good enough job of “pressing the 3 key decision-making buttons” – Pathos (Emotion), Logos (Logic) and Ethos (Trust)? Did they communicate and quantify the high cost of status quo and value of change? Competitively, did your reps get involved early enough to help set the agenda, or later in the decision cycle, prove that your solution had more value and was lower total cost of ownership (TCO)? If not, why not?

Abandoned Decision - According to Jim, “This is the true “No Decision.” A buying process that was underway is simply dropped for a variety of reasons: a merger or acquisition, change in personnel (either on the decision team or corporate leadership), shift in corporate strategy, a wholesale shift in requirements (i.e. what the buyer needs and is looking for has dramatically shifted), or even poor financial performance (budgets disappear).” There are factors outside your control, and you have to reset your approach to accommodate the "new world" of the buyer, often starting over to reframe with emotions, rational and evidence to align with the new company post merger, with their new financial challenges, and / or with new stakeholders. The good news is that you can still revive the deal. The bad news, you have to go back to a few steps before moving forward: diagnosing, illuminating, and re-justifying .

The Bottom-Line

Although we tend to lump all “No Decisions” together, there are nuances that deserve special attention, and can be leveraged to get the deal to “Yes”.
Our advice? The key to overcoming the “No Decision” challenge is to arm your sales reps with the right value messaging, tools and training to deal with each situation and help facilitate the buyer to overcome their biases and decision-making issues.

Overcoming “No Decision” requires that your sales reps effectively communicate and quantify the cost of “do nothing” and the value and low risk of your solutions to all of the various decision makers – using emotions (diagnosing and connecting with the pain), rational (quantification of current costs and financial justification) and credibly (providing direct and relevant success story evidence to gain trust). Unfortunately, 71% report that the “inability to effectively articulate your value” remains the biggest sales challenge.

With almost 60% of your pipeline likely being lost to “No Decision”, what is this issue costing you each quarter?  Likely your biggest opportunity, so what are you doing today to help your sales reps better categorize and tactically address each scenario - to get your “No Decisions” to “Yes”?

Learn more about overcoming "No Decision" from our new book: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide: How to Use Your Unique Value  to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More

The Sirius Decision on "No Decision" or 50 (OK, Five) Shades of No Decision -