Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Smart Selling Tools: Value Selling & ROI Tools a Key Characteristic for Innovative Organizations?

Value Selling and ROI Tools are a key characteristic of innovative organizations, and as with other Sales Tools, the majority indicates that Value Selling and ROI Tools can contribute to significant revenue growth.

These are the findings of a recent Smart Selling Tools research study of sales and sales enablement executives, investigating B2B Sales Tools to determine which delivered the biggest benefits.

The study looked at the usage and effectiveness of many different Sales Tools including those for prospecting, managing pipelines, sales intelligence, CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote), contract management, planning, compensation and Value Selling and ROI.

Value Selling and ROI Tools were in use at 42% of surveyed firms, and more had deployed these tools than sales contract management, territory and account planning, performance and compensation management, eSigning and gamification.

As organizations deliver and use these Sales Tools, the Smart Selling Tools research indicated a significant impact on Revenue Achievement and Growth. A whopping 88% of study participants reported a positive impact on revenue from Sales Tools.

A majority, 54% indicating a Significant Increase, and 34% pointing to a Slight Increase as a result of the Sales Tools.

One of the key findings: Sales organizations that are innovators or early adopters are more likely to use sales tools that help demonstrate ROI and provide value quantification. Value Selling and ROI Tools were found to be a key “strategic personality” of firms that are more innovative.

As well, according to Nancy Nardin from Smart Selling Tools, "Something else we uncovered in the research is this: Of all the tasks that make up the consideration and acquisition cycle, the one rated difficult by a majority of the respondents was "justifying the budget." In comparison, determining the need, and identifying potential solution providers were ranked as relatively easy. " Added Nancy, "This clearly demonstrates that sellers need to be armed to quickly move the conversation from product and functionality to risk/reward."

The full research report can be found at:

An on-demand webcast discussing the results can be found at:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Death of the B2B Sales Rep? An Interview with SiriusDecisions

Several analyst firms have predicted the "Death of the B2B Sales Rep", with their research indicating how sales reps are engaging later and later in the sales cycle and are being replaced by digital.

Are these findings accurate? What can you do to stay ahead of the curve?

We've been busy on this topic, and went right to the source with a compelling interview of Jim Ninivaggi, the Sales Enablement Practice Director for SiriusDecisions.

We discuss their latest research of 1,000+ B2B buyers, to separate the fact from fiction, and provide specific guidance on what you need to do now to remain more relevant and effective.

To learn more, checkout the On Demand recording and download the deck –


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Death of the B2B Sales Rep? An Interview with the Sales Enablement Lab

We recently had the pleasure of talking sales enablement with the Sales Enablement Lab and Thierry v. Herwijnen.

Tom Pisello, Alinean's CEO / Founder was interviewed about the recent proclamations on the Death of the B2B Sales Rep, and what his thoughts were on the future of B2B selling and sales enablement.

The original recording can be accessed at:

There has been some controversial research from several top analysts on the Death of the B2B Sales Rep. Can you tell us about some of these latest findings?

Absolutely, one of the most referenced metrics comes to us from CEB, the creators of the Challenger Sale. Their research indicates that when B2B buyers are making a purchase decision, they go 57% of the way through the buyer’s journey BEFORE engaging with a sales rep.  The study highlights that today’s more empowered buyer is engaging digitally versus personally through most of the cycle.

Forrester reports that this shift to digital buying is real, and as a result, there will be a 22% decline in the number of B2B sales reps over the next 5 years. If this prediction is realized, this means that over 1 out of 5 B2B sales reps, that’s over 1 million folks would go the way of the dodo – replaced with digital buying.

Andy Hoar, Principal Analyst at Forrester, reported these findings at their last Sales Enablement conference and Thierry, you and I were both there. I can still hear the collective gasp and quite a level of uneasiness from the crowd at this reveal.

But not all the analysts agree with this research?

Indeed, some are calling these metrics an “urban myth”.

Analysts Marisa Kopec and Jennifer Ross revealed a thorough set of SiriusDecisions research at their annual event in Nashville this past May, a survey of 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 not just at the end of the process, but 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  journey. For more complex purchases, sales rep engagement starts at the beginning of the journey even more - 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 findings of CEB and Forrester that b-to-b sales reps’ role and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by B2B marketing and digital resources.

In a recent blog article, you point to several B2C examples that could perhaps point the way to what lies ahead for B2B sales reps?

B2B is quite different than B2C. In B2B it’s other people’s money vs. your own, it’s a consensus sale.

But despite the differences, there are similarities in terms of how digital has played a role in how consumers buy, and how this has changed the game.

If you look at several B2B markets, several commodity sales careers were completely rocked by the explosion of on-line resources, apps and ecommerce. Amazon continues to contribute heavily to the death of retail sales. Music streaming has reshaped the music business. Expedia and Orbitz have definitely had an impact on travel agents.

If we look at amore complex B2C sale, say real estate, maybe this can help us understand how B2B may be impacted over the next few years.

With so many on-line resources available, many have predicted the demise of the real estate agent over the past 15 years. But the evidence shows that these reps are still going strong despite a much more empowered customer.

Back in the day, the real estate agent held all the cards. For a short period of time to help put me through school, I became an agent in NY, so I know this space well. Information and pricing about available and comparable properties … this was all obfuscated by cryptic MLS listings and exclusive to the agent.

This was all pre Zillow, Trulia and Now, it’s amazing the amount of available information on every neighborhood and property - pricing, value estimates, school information taxes and more. So with these advanced tools and amazing information, why do agents even still exist?

Despite these advances, not only does the real estate agent exist, they appear to be more engaged than ever, with an article in the Washington Post highlighting that today, 89 percent of buyers retained an agent, up from 69 percent in 2001. It's the same on the seller side, where only 9 percent sold a home without an agent, down from a high of 20 percent in 1987. 

So why are real estate agents still relevant?
  • A significant purchase decision – Your home represents one of the most significant investments you can make. There is high risk if you make the wrong decision (wrong schools, hidden costs or overpay), sell to early / late (as we learned during the bubble), and high reward if you get it right (great capital gains, no worries and awesome lifestyle). Agents are much better today at explaining the risk adjusted ROI, helping to ease the emotional strain and providing financial justification.
  • Unique insights – Agents today are much better at knowing the market, especially culling information that is not publicly or easily available. The most successful use these unique insights to teach the buyer, guide the decision making process and provide an edge (eg. Segmented pricing analyses, pocket listings).
  • Diagnostic advice – almost like a doctor, today’s better agents are assessing buyer / seller needs: asking the right questions to guide the buy or sell decision making process and generate better outcomes.
  • Consensus required – Most real estate transactions involve multiple decision makers on both the buy and sell side. Perhaps the most important role of the agent today is working with couples to gain consensus – easier said than done with so much money and emotion at play. The agent has to get couples on either side of the table on the same page, and then gain agreement quickly between buyers and sellers are the most successful.
  • Complex buying process – there are many steps to manage in the listing, search and purchase process. The agent helps shepherd the stakeholders through each step to make sure they are prepared and the transaction goes smoothly through each step of the process.

What are a couple of things you can do today to stay relevant, to stay in the game and be really effective?

The predicted demise of the B2B sales rep like the real estate agent has been greatly exaggerated. However, like how real estate agents evolved, there are several similarities and significant changes on the horizon that you need to be prepared for

However, like in real estate, the transactional agents of the 80s are not the agents of today.  And if you as an agent didn’t make the transition, you found another career or were replaced by a more savvy and capable newer generation of super agent.

Today’s best are more diagnostic, more consultative, and despite a plethora of online information, have found a way to leverage these and other tools to productivity, while at the same time uniquely valuable through the purchase journey.

So what should you do as a sales rep to stay on top of your game, or as an enablement partner to help your sales reps make sure they stay relevant and effective?

B2B sales reps need 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.

As a result, sales reps need to be enabled to:
  • Facilitate a complex journey - The buyer’s journey has become so non-linear and complex that it cannot be generalized, and is hard to guide with just on-line content and tools. It's a highly personalized experience, unique to each company and stakeholder, and requires careful and skilled facilitation.
  • Survive Frugalnomics - Buyers are indeed more empowered, but they are also more skeptical and frugal, more risk averse and require more proof points to get to “Yes” (Frugalnomics). And although buyers are doing more online research and they are more knowledgeable, the #1 piece of content requested by buyers today is still a sales presentation, according to SiriusDecisions. And rising in importance, an economic focus on ROI and the business case.
  • Enable Consensus - With more stakeholders involved in each purchase decision, some 43% more than just 2 years ago, each deal becomes an exercise in consensus building amongst all the stakeholders. 

You are doing an Interview with Jim Ninivaggi on this topic on July 23rd, can you tell us about this session?

On July 23rd we'll be interviewing Jim Ninivaggi, SiriusDecisions’ Practice Director for Sales Enablement on topic on the Death of the B2B Sales Rep. 

We’ll be debating the other research, what’s real and what’s not discussing their new research, the impacts this can have on you, and what you can do today to help overcome the issues.  It promises to be controversial and incredibly valuable to your career success.

>>> The On-Demand Interview is available here:

As well, you’ve written a book on this topic, to help improve sales / marketing effectiveness: Can you tell us a little about it?

Indeed. As this research and debate highlight, b2B selling and marketing have changed. We are living in an environment of Frugalnomics – challenged by a more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyer. 

So to help, I wrote the book - The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More (available on

The book highlights an incredible finding – the alignment between the ancient art of persuasion from Aristotle and the neuroscience of decision-making. What we found in this alignment was 3 buy buttons that you can use right away to better communicate and quantify your unique value, and to get your prospects to “Yes”.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Frugalnomics in Effect - Gartner predicts 5.5% decline in IT spending for 2015

Gartner recently published their latest worldwide IT spending forecasts with a sharp downward revision, now projecting 5.5% YoY decline from 2014 levels. 

If you’re marketing or selling technology, this decline could have a significant impact, stiffer competition, and even more headwinds to meeting your ambitious revenue growth goals.

This latest estimate from Gartner is a further downward revision of the overly optimistic forecast published to kickoff the New Year, where Gartner was anticipating a 2.4% increase for the year. Unfortunately this follows a pattern, where Gartner publishes overly optimistic growth forecasts to kickoff the New Year, and downward revisions from there on out. However, this year is the first time the growth has turned negative, and should warrant even more attention.

Although Gartner has pinned this latest decline on the strength of the US dollar, it was just a couple of years ago that Gartner blamed the downward revisions on just the opposite, a weak US currency, and we think there is more than just currency effects in the declines. 

We think the decline goes beyond just currency, pointing to a major "sea change" in technology purchase decision-making – one that could put a significant chill in your organizations‘ sales and marketing strategy if you don’t adjust to the changing landscape.

Frugalnomics in Effect

So what are the real reasons behind the continued slow growth? We believe it’s all about Frugalnomics, and several key aspects of it that are impacting IT spending:

1) Do More with Less - Although there has been an economic recovery, top-line revenue growth remains a challenge for most companies. With a focus on performance, companies learned how to cut expenses to improve the bottom-line, and have learned to permanently “Do More with Less”.

2) Central IT is now Irrelevant? - Most technology spending decisions are now driven and controlled by business groups vs. formal IT. In fact, According to IDC, 48% of IT spending is controlled or influenced by the business. At the same time, more and more spending is occurring in the shadows, by individual users and groups, especially Cloud / SaaS purchases, without the formal knowledge of IT. In fact, IDC indicates that Cloud spending climbed to nearly 30% of overall IT infrastructure spending in 1Q15.  With the businesses and individuals making more purchase recommendations, and more purchases moving to the Cloud and a service based model, the spending has changed, with smaller monthly spending versus larger investments.

3) Buyers are “Cold as ICE” - Purchase decision-making is now driven by a different kind of who is more:
  • In-Control - Highly empowered by access to incredible amounts of solution research and information via the Internet and social media, buyers have taken control of the decision making process with sales reps being invited later to the game, and ever more competition for each deal.
  • Cautious – buyers are Risk averse, afraid of making a wrong decision, not willing to spend as much per project, and more often than not, choosing to remain with business as usual / status quo rather than considering projects they view as too risky.
  • Economically Focused – today’s IT buyer is more frugal, with over 95% of technology purchase decisions now requiring a formal business case, with quantifiable ROI and fast payback (IDC). Financial justification is the new language of IT selling, where CFOs are more involved through all stages of the purchase decision, and procurement is there to demand a discount if you lead with product and price vs. value.
These are the trends of Frugalnomics, and as a result we expect that IT spending growth for 2015 and beyond will remain significantly challenged, with little reason for optimistic spending growth predictions from Gartner or anyone else.

Don’t get us wrong, there will be winners – those who create a different sales and marketing experience and who take more of their fare share of a more conservative pie.

So how do you end up in the winner’s circle? - You need to factor Frugalnomics prominently into your sales and marketing strategies and investments.

Surviving Frugalnomics - The 3 Things You Must Do Now to Win in 2015

To help meet the challenge and Survive Frugalnomics into 2015 and beyond, we recommend three “must do” programs for this year and beyond:

#1 – Break the ICE - Engaging Prospects with Provocative Content
Todays’ buyers are more risk averse and frugal than ever, with 58% choosing to “Do Nothing” versus considering your solution (SBI).

Prospects will choose to stick with the status quo unless you can proactively and provocatively quantify that they have a pain worth addressing. 

And those opportunities you thought were progressing through the waterfall / sales process to “wins”? They stall unless you can help successively convince the prospect that the issue you can help solve is real, that it is a high priority worth addressing over all other issues on their plate, and that your solution / services represents a real low risk / superior value solution with unique competitive advantage.

In order to connect and engage with “Do Nothing” buyers, helping them through the decision making journey, you need to leverage content to help them realize:
  • Why Consider a Change? - the Prospect has a pain worth addressing and a significant cost of “Do Nothing”.
  • Why Change Now? – the Prospect should not wait to address the issue because every day is costing them, 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 Your Solutions?– that your solutions / services can deliver unique and superior value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
So how well does your current content marketing help answer these 3 key decision making questions, in a compelling and quantified way?

#2 – Empowering Sales with Value Messaging and Quantification
According to SiriusDecisions, the #1 reason why sales reps fail to meet quota (for the 4th year in a row) is their “inability to effectively articulate the value of proposed solutions”.

Sitting in on typical sales presentations and you can see that most are product pitches or pseudo-solution selling, asking a few questions and then jumping into canned “death by PowerPoint” presentations. According to Forrester, prospects indicate that less than 12% of sales engagements are focused on outcomes and customer value.

Making the situation more complex, there are more stakeholders than ever – 43% more in each decision, and many of these decision makers are not who your sales reps are used to engaging. Each has a unique point of value, what matters most to them and what drives value.

So how well do your sales professionals and channel partners communicate and quantify your value to a diverse set of decision makers?

#3 - Seal the Deal – Delivering 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 advanced 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 approved unless you can prove your solution has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) / better value than competitive offerings.

Although IDC indicates that 95% of proposals require an ROI business case, the research indicates that 2/3rds of your prospects don’t have the metrics, research, knowledge, tools and time to prepare the business case themselves, leaving it up to you to stand up and deliver if you want their business (or have your proposal approval significantly stalled and delayed). The research shows that 81% expect your sales reps to deliver a credible business case in order to win the deal.

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 financial business cases / ROI that CFOs demand?

The Bottom-Line

Gartner has predicted low IT spending growth forecasts for the next several years, and lowered their forecasts even more from prior predictions. With Frugalnomics in full effect , technology solution / service providers need to implement a more value-focused approach to their sales and marketing strategy, content and tools.

If value marketing and selling are not effectively implemented to account for Frugalnomics, the majority of your deals will continue to stall, sales cycles will get longer, and heavy discounting will prevail. If you are able to implement a successful value marketing and selling program however, you will win create a significantly unique selling experience, and as a result, a competitive advantage to win more than your fair share of the market.

For 2015 and beyond, IT sales and marketing professionals should consider three initiatives as a top priority to help Survive Frugalnomics:
  • Break the ICE - Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Content
  • Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
  • Close the Deal with CFO-Ready Business Cases
To learn more about our suggested best practices get the book: Frugalnomics Survival Guide – The definitive guide on using your unique value to market better, stand out and sell more (available now on Amazon).

IDC 2014 Buyer Experience Study (Oct)
Forrester Sales Enablement Conference 2014

SiriusDecisions SiriusIndex, results from 2011 – 2015