Back from the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum in sunny Scottsdale, AZ, March 4-5: What are the highlights apart from a beautiful location, sharing, learning and networking?
A few years ago, the term “sales enablement” was positioned above sales training portals and technology. The discipline’s maturity grew up from activity to discipline, from program to function, from a tactical to a strategic perspective. And that’s also confirmed by the maturity curve of Forrester’s third Sales Enablement Forum.
Different ways on how to get started were discussed in 2011. It was about how to come from a fragmented state with many “random acts of sales support” to managed areas. In 2012, the conference focused on four HERO perspectives to create tangible impact: Holistic (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts), Engineered (how the parts fit together), Reality (How the parts behave) and Ongoing operations (continuous and sustained improvement).
The HERO components already pointed the way to a holistic GoToCustomer selling system, this year’s focus.
My highlights cover the C-level perspective, the selling system and the simplicity.
The C-level perspective:
Forrester’s CEO George Colony asked a number of CEOs this question: “What are YOU personally doing to ensure that your sales force is getting the company to its strategic goals?”
The answers covered a broad range, e.g. it’s about the product “we build great products“, it’s about selling “I personally follow up on deals“ and “I personally lead the sales force“ and it’s about clear goals and pushing the vision. Very special: “I personally tune the comp plan“…
The CEOs are all very engaged. They have gut feelings about sales, but they perceive selling more as a function than as a system and their activities were often inside-out oriented.
So far, sales enablement has failed to integrate the CEOs in their approaches. There is now a big opportunity to close this strategy to execution gap and map sales enablement approaches to the CEOs desired outcomes.
Forrester’s CFO Mike Doyle spoke about the current dilemma on measuring around functional driven, internal design points such as products and geographies. Metrics that matter most for a CFO are for instance client/new business profitability, targeted market share, total costs to deliver sales revenue as well as productivity and ROI for total sales enablement. These KPIs force us to analyze costs across the entire selling system, end-end. Then, these costs can be mapped to different revenue streams, which is very relevant for the entire C level constituency.
So, CEOs and CFOs need a role in sales enablement approaches. Both will challenge us to bridge between business strategy and sales execution, and between different languages and perceptions.
The selling system and simplicity:
According to Forrester’s Research Director and “Chief Simpletist”, Scott Santucci, we are in a changed, “do more with less” economy. The different activities our CEOs delegate to their direct reports often lead to poor execution. Not necessarily from a functional perspective, but from an overall system’s perspective. Scott’s question was: “Would you invest in a sales & marketing corporation for your retirement, given an average ROI of about 2, 6%? Probably not.”
Many functional driven programs lead to “random acts of sales support”, customers don’t get the value they expect and the costs of sales are often out of control. Scott’s conclusion: “The current selling systems cannot support the weight of your business requirements and is holding your organization back from meeting its objectives.”
Many organizations are exactly at this point. They have more or less well managed enablement areas, and they see the need to build a flexible, adaptive selling system, end-end, based on GoToCustomer principles.
We have witnessed the selling system’s needs and the way different organizations approach this challenge in key notes from Wibro’s Robert Racine; from Cisco’s Thierry von Herweijnen and in my key note on T-Systems’ journey. Best practices and very valuable insights on specific enablement areas were shared e.g. from Symantec’s Carol Sustala; Informatica’s Mark Sladden, as well as from CA’s Gerard Sample and of course from vendors with customers.
How to approach the idea of a selling system? Think and design differently, based on the GoToCustomer 4 Ps (problem, pattern, path and proof); define the scope of your organization’s 21st selling system. One step regarding scope and transparency is analyzing all spending across the entire system, as recommended by the CFO view.
Another step is understanding how value is perceived by your customers, using a value perception matrix and to design your selling system accordingly. The value perception matrix helps to assess different characteristics behind certain roles, so-called seller and buyer archetypes.
How can we cluster these characteristics to optimize our resource allocation and our performance regarding the customer’s desired relationship model? Scott addressed this: The value perception matrix dimensions are “knowledge transfer required” and “scope of offerings/customer challenges”.
We can define four buyer characteristics: Procurers (low in both dimensions), managers, leaders and executives (high in both dimensions). Sellers can be mapped the same way: Expediters (low in both dimensions), consolidator, specialists and collaborators (high in both dimensions). A simple, thought-through, customer-centric and effective foundation for a selling system.
The challenge is now to assess your sales force and to adjust your findings to your own sales model, to your own account or territory framework and to your growth strategies. Exactly, what I shared in my key note – how to design a “heart of a selling system” based on those archetype relations, account tiers, growth strategies, comfort zones and business types.
The results are clear design points for enablement services, demand generation and selling system metrics. It’s also an excellent framework for sales managers to optimize resource allocation, to scale performance and to drive change towards the connection economy.
Maybe it sounds simple. Doing this is not simple, but the results will be.
Creating simplicity is hard work, because we have to understand a system’s given complexity and we have to distinguish between complexity and complicatedness.
Complicatedness can be reduced; complexity has simply to be managed.
Therefore we have to really understand the system.
- Simplicity is pure.
- Simplicity is beauty.
- Simplicity is perfection.
- Simplicity is plain, noble and elegant.
- Simplicity accepts no excuses.
This is why simplicity works. Always.