We don’t just need more information – we need more information organized in a way that helps to get the job done faster

web 3.0 with BizSphere

The following is a collection of posts from around the blogosphere that make the case that we need to improve on how we organize the firehose of information every B2B enterprise aims at its sales reps (especially in times of web 2.0 / sales 2.0 / enterprise 2.0). BizSphere thinks that semantic search (web 3.0) and providing context in which you can filter down to what is relevant to you, are the approach to take to overcome information overload.

‘Winning in the New World of B2B Sales’ by Sham Sao, CMO InfoGroup’s OneSource:

“Before you can win over your prospects with your charming personality and deep knowledge of how to address their business needs, you need to first open the door by getting in contact with them and holding their attention long enough to get them hooked – or at least hooked enough to continue the conversation. Sure it’s true that effective sales professionals need to be persistent, knowledgeable and confident, self-motivated and good listeners. But these qualities alone are not enough.

They also need accurate information that helps them get to the right person and gives them something valuable to say right out of the gate.

In a recent B2B SalesPulse survey conducted by Infogroup’s OneSource, sales professionals responded that they are relying on business information significantly more today compared to a year ago. It confirms that business information is becoming more and more critical for B2B sales. Using accurate, timely business information is especially important for sales professionals today who are under pressure to raise their quotas while sales staffing and resources remain tightly constrained, or are even being cut.

While sales teams need to access every relevant piece of information they can get from every source they can tap, they don’t just need more information – they need more information organized in a way that helps them get their job done faster. When sales teams spend inordinate amounts of time browsing the web and searching for those tidbits to help them get into the right company or to make a compelling pitch, they spend less time selling. The key is making this information actionable so sales reps can spend more time selling and less time researching.

This includes information from Social Media sources. Respondents to OneSource’s B2B SalesPulse survey rated LinkedIn as the most useful social networking tool, followed by blogs, Facebook and Twitter in that order (and closely grouped together). LinkedIn also showed the most growth with 48 percent of respondents saying they are using it more now versus a year ago. Surprisingly enough, even though LinkedIn showed the most growth, nearly a third of respondents are still not using it. […]”

 

Sort of along these lines is the post ‘#6: Focus on Internal Sales Enablement and Cutting to the Chase’, from March 25, 2010:

“Keep the emphasis on quality of collateral and programs, not volume. By providing Sales with top-notch materials and in-depth brand knowledge, they’ll be better positioned to do their job successfully and bring in new business.

Some companies, as the Senior Director of Services Strategy at one large technology corporation points out, have implemented a whole playbook program – internal prospecting, packaging content together, streamlining messages – to deliver content succinctly.

Better organization of what is already out there makes it more usable and digestible in the field,” allowing Sales to get to the point quicker and, in turn, touch more prospects and generate more sales. […]”

I have not double checked the following numbers I found in the post ‘Sales people who research cost you big time!’:

“[…] So, what is the actual hourly value for a B2B salesperson? We’ve developed an excel calculator to help do the math. Let’s use a typical experienced B2B enterprise salesperson at a software company and apply these sample figures:

  • Annual compensation (at plan, or meeting quota): $200,000
  • Benefits Paid (20% of a 70K salary): $14,000
  • Annual Quota: $2 million
  • Include 2 weeks vacation and holidays

This salesperson’s true “hourly value” is $1,198!

For companies with higher quotas (I’ve seen annual quota’s as high as $14 million), this figure is even higher!

If you’d like to figure out your own salespeople’s hourly value, send me an email at silvia@industrygems.com and I will email you the calculator.

The next time you see your salespeople doing research, take interest. Using salespeople for anything other than selling, negatively affects your bottom-line. Find ways to remove those activities from their daily to-do list. It could be costing you over $1,000 an hour! Your sales people must focus on the thing they do best… selling!”

Let’s look at the Knowledge Management or Sharing aspect of Sales Enablement

sharing experiences in context in BizSphere

On March 27, 2010, Sumeet Moghe (@sumeet_moghe) posted ‘Enterprise 2.0 – Community Spaces can lead to Walled Gardens’ at LearningGeneralist.com:

“[…] community spaces are not only overhyped, but also if done incorrectly, a deterrent to knowledge sharing. This is a spin-off from Andrew Mcafee’s concept of walled gardens. Let me explain this through a scenario:

  • Company Foo establishes a knowledge sharing platform that allows every group of people to create their own space, with a separate set of access privileges.
  • The platform doesn’t have a way to search across different spaces, because every space is almost like a site in itself.
  • Soon, different groups of people (communities) set up ‘community spaces’ and restrict access only to members of the community. Sales has their own space. Technology has a separate space. Marketing has their own space. Support and Evolution has their own space. The story goes on.
  • One fine day a new salesman trying to put together a proposal needs information about:
    • Company Foo’s previous work in the space;
    • case studies of successful deployments in the domain;
    • Company Foo’s track record and capability supporting this kind of work;
    • and the various technology platforms they have expertise in
  • Given that each community has it’s own space (walled garden), the new salesman doesn’t have a way to search across all communities for the information he needs.
  • Over a painstaking few days, the new salesman eventually finds all the information he needs by signing in to every individual community space and searching separately on each space. He has to wait a couple of days before he gets approval to join a couple of community spaces, and that delays his proposal.

We could go on with this story but I guess you can see how tough things can be when every community builds their own isolated knowledge sharing space. Community knowledge can never become organisational knowledge this way, and over a period of time, the system becomes extremely difficult to manage. This is the classic nature of walled gardens in the enterprise.

Tear down the walls first

Organisational knowledge sharing can do without walled gardens. What we need instead is one place for all communities to share knowledge and the structure to emerge from user generated tags and metadata. This is where a certain bit of knowledge housekeeping comes in. I believe that leadership and knowledge management teams need to strongly discourage internal groups and communities from creating inaccessible islands of knowledge. There needs to be a strong incentive to contribute knowledge to one platform, that is powered by search.

Yes, there’ll always be the need to have team wikis and collaboration spaces. This is where it becomes important to clearly define the scope of team collaboration and organisational knowledge and create some clear (but porous) boundaries between the two. Which is to say for example, that it’s absolutely OK for a team to set up their own wiki or workspace and do so with minimal friction, but when some team knowledge becomes organisational wisdom the team has the incentive to contribute to the organisational knowledge base. The challenge for knowledge managers is to make this contribution as easy as possible so that people don’t have to make the same effort twice and the structure doesn’t come in the way of knowledge sharing.

My beliefs about post-modern Knowledge Management

In my current world view, I have a few beliefs:

  1. Enterprise knowledge needs to be public (to all employees) by default and private only if there’s a very, very good reason for it.
  2. Knowledge sharing needs to move from being part of closed channels to open platforms.
  3. People should have a choice to collaborate privately, but have the support to easily make their private knowledge public.
  4. Discussions and conversations should get organised using tags and metadata as against separate mailing lists and groups. People should have the option to subscribe using email, but this shouldn’t be the default.
  5. Knowledge managers need to define, maintain and protect the structure of ‘no initial structure’. The structure should emerge over time using tags, ratings and user input. This however needs continuous involvement with all communities and is by no means easy.
  6. Content stewardship is key — things don’t happen on their own. Knowledge managers need to keep their eye out for quality content on private channels/ spaces. They need to have the agility and presence of mind to move this to being organisational knowledge with a strong incentive for the authors. This is essential to the process of long lasting change.”

content intelligence via SVA BizSphere AG's Content Landscape

On the topic of keeping track of quality content (Which collateral works, which doesn’t? What is being downloaded, rated or commented on the most? Which author should be rewarded for successful content? Which area only has content that is older than two years? Etc…) I recommend the following further reading on content intelligence.

On the topic of email subscriptions I would remind not to forget offering an RSS feed, which for some people is preferred over email subscriptions especially in case there are a lot of updates.

On the topic of letting users tag their content and having a good search engine, I would like to add the importance of aligning the information architecture in an enterprise, which could mean that in addition to free tags everything also needs to be tagged with the names of applicable offerings, services and solutions from the enterprise’s portfolio.

Buyer Enablement

On February 4, 2010, @3forward blogged the following (this URL does not exist anymore: 3forward.com/sales-leaders-blog/sales-2-0-may-put-you-out-of-business/)

“[…] recently hosted a brainstorming coffee meeting with a couple business owners considering dipping their toes into […] weekly blogging, modest social networking and establishing an entry level in-bound lead generation programs.  They could clearly envision the potential benefits once things were up and functioning, but still were not ready to pull the trigger on this overhaul to the way they have always sold.

Their reasons for delay were the same objections many others have when considering these new tools and new model for selling.  Those being: time to learn both what to do and how to do it; concern they won’t have enough value-added content to make it work and the lack of internal resources to launch and manage the new operation.

What I’m afraid may not have sunk in during our talk is that not participating in this new customer engagement and acquisition model is conceding to a guaranteed demise. That some industries and segments are not as far along as others is the only thing saving some of these companies who fail to recognize or admit to what’s happening in the marketing and sales world.

Bottom line: the time is fast coming when you won’t be able to hire enough reps, make enough cold calls or push enough brochure-ware to keep your revenues above the breaking point.   As more and more buyers (business, consumer, small, large, etc.) move to ‘Buying Process 2.0’ every industry will eventually reach the stage where those suppliers not active, participating and engaged in the new marketplace will become irrelevant.

For more on what’s changing and the impact it’s having, here are a couple excellent blog posts by some other leaders in this movement that we follow.

Could Sales 2.0 Turn Your Company Into a Victim of Change?

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing No Longer Apply

 

Reputation 2.0

A fellow Torontonian, Tibor Shanto posted ‘Reputation 2.0’ on his blog SellBetter.ca/blog/, on March 18, 2010:

Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t!

When I was young(er) and just entering corporate life, I was lucky enough to meet someone who left a profound impression on me and my professional life since. He told me, “When you first come in to business all you have is your reputation, and you spend the rest your career maintaining it. If you lose that you have nothing at the end, not matter how much wealth you accumulate along the way”.

This was valid in the pre-web days, but this advice is that much more relevant today in the Web 2.0 days or for those of us in sales, Sales 2.0. At a time when information truly moves at lightning speed, you can both enhance and ruin your reputation in an instance.

On the down side, your buyers are much more connected than ever, they are aware not only things you want them to know, and as much aware of things you always hoped they would never know. Most sellers work hard at influencing their clients, creating an impression of their product, their company and themselves in the process, and while their good deeds are carried across the social waves, so are and indiscretions or simple faux pas, at time with much greater velocity.

Sellers need to be much more conscious and conscientious about their “social media footprint”. Unlike what many want to believe, there is no separation between their personal and business related Web 2.0 or Sales 2.0 activities, it is all one stream. We do not have the comfort of looking all very prim and proper on LinkedIn while “letting our hair down” (or other things) on Facebook. It is no longer a novelty for companies to check out these and other sites when considering potential candidates for positions, or vendors and sellers when it comes to deciding on a purchase, it is SOP.

It goes a lot further than that, it does not take much to see what you Digg and how that jives with the image you are projecting with your buyer. A disconnect there can only lead them to believe that you are disingenuous and may not be worthy of their business. And they don’t even have to make much of an effort, there are companies that are happy to do it for them for a nominal fee.

Some may argue that this is not right, what you do in your personal time is your business and should not affect you as a seller, wrong Dorothy, it does. This isn’t about the “business you” and the “private you”, especially if you are always preaching that people buy from people, yes they do, and now they have a way of seeing the “entire you”, not just the “9:00 to 5:00 you”. This is also not about being right or wrong, as a friend of mine always asks me “do you want to be right, or do you want to be rich?”, in sales you want to go with rich.

It doesn’t take a lot to guard and be smart, you don’t have to “compromise” or “give in to the man”, you just need to be smart and prepared, which is a basic tenet in sales anyway, so just extend it to your “social media footprint”. As we said up top, “Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t”, so make an effort to keep an eye on it.

 

Tibor Shanto’s post reminded me of a talk given by Mitch Joel in February 2010. Here is the beginning of Mitch Joel’s corresponding blog post from twistimage.com/blog/:

Personal Branding R.I.P.

“The concept of Personal Branding has lost it’s way. It’s becoming less and less personal.

Personal Branding seemed to be something unique and powerful because of the advent of the Internet and the Social Media channels. Suddenly, any one individual could express themselves (in text, images, audio and video) instantly (and free) to the world. The smartest people could now be heard. The shy people could now connect to others who were like them. Those interested in Digital Marketing suddenly had all of this great content being published by their peers that they could add to, connect to and build a community around. We didn’t need the permission or acceptance of the mass media channels to get coverage or ink. Suddenly, we could build our own media channels and get the word out about who we are and what we have to say.

Those that were doing it well, were doing it authentically and with true passion.

While there’s nothing wrong with having a media channel that allows anyone and everyone to have a publishing platform, the concept of Personal Branding has evolved along with it. Instead of people really digging deep, opening up and living passionately, we’re moving ever-closer to the point where most individuals are expressing their Personal Brands in ways that make them look more like sterile and plastic TV news anchors than original thinkers. It’s not everyone (there are still many who are using these channels to really highlight and explore their unique personalities), but there is an ever-growing group of those who come off as fake, insincere, and simply out for their own personal gain. In short, they seem and feel like plastic and taste like vanilla.

The good news is that you can ignore them or not follow them.

The bad news is that if everyone treats Social Media like it’s mass media, and attempts to be everything to everybody, it’s going to come off as fake and inauthentic. Does this mean that we have to forgo social norms to be authentic? Nope (unless that’s your thing). Does this mean that we have to be provocative, irreverent and nasty? Nope (unless that’s your thing). What is missing (and what is direly needed) is for all us to take a step back and remember the real power here: to express ourselves in an authentic and passionate way (not in a drone-like corporate way).

[…]”

 

Reflections on the Sales 2.0 conference 2010

Matthias Roebel from User Experience Design & Development company MING Labs posted the following reflections on the Sales 2.0 conference 2010:

“My head is still spinning after two days at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. It was great to see all the new ideas the various players in the Sales 2.0 market are constantly creating. The spirit of innovation is there, and it will help customers to address the Sales Effectiveness and Productivity challenges ahead of them.

Sales 2.0 conference

Gerhard Gschwandtner put it well in his opening remarks: The Internet is changing the world. It has already changed end customers’ purchasing behaviors significantly, but changes in the B2B world are and will be equally dramatic.

Also, the changes span the entire range from Lead Generation, where social media tools like LinkedIn or Facebook are playing bigger roles from day to day, to Sales Enablement, where sellers need to be enabled to have better informed and more relevant conversations with their clients despite the challenges of information overload. However, there’s more: Think about how Sales Compensation or Pipeline Management need to change in a more dynamic, flatter world. Or how (social) Marketing Automation methods could improve Lead Nurturing…

As exciting as all of these things are, as overwhelming they may appear to customers in the first place. However, waiting and observing is not an option. Companies have started to try out and adopt one or the other Sales 2.0 technology/methodology and they are seeing the benefits – as we could hear in the various panel discussions during the conference. Yes, the holistic picture of how the different pieces of the Sales 2.0 ecosystem are playing together still needs to be drawn – but you’ve got to start somewhere, if you don’t want to be left behind.

The next challenge, to quote Gerhard again, is moving from reactive to proactive in using the tools.”

Miles Austin (@milesaustin) from fillthefunnel.com posted the following observations and learning points from the first day:

“[…]

  1. No one can claim that WebTools are just gimmicks any more. Companies large and small are deploying tools in record numbers and they are getting results.
  2. When Gartner Research VP Michael Dunne is talking about tangible, measurable increases in sales revenue across the board you know this is no longer a fringe topic.  Then when the feedback on Twitter says that his was the best presentation of the day, you know you better start paying attention.
  3. To  hear customers and WebTool vendors alike stating as a matter of fact that they are using and recommending some of the very tools (Jigsaw) that were considered “evil” by some pundits.
  4. It is clear that with the mainstream acceptance of Sales 2.0 concepts, tool mania might become a problem.  The selection of the appropriate WebTool for the specific need will be more important than ever. Expertise and understanding is critical.
  5. Collaboration will be a significant focus.
  6. Mobile will be the primary access to the Tools.
  7. Social Media/Networking should be integrated into your sales process.
  8. An effective lead generation strategy is to educate. Customer will return if you have informed with integrity and transparency.
  9. Sales teams have higher quotas & fewer resources -have to increase sales efficiency to hit goals (thanks @OneSourceInfo)
  10. Functional silos and company hierarchies are breaking down. We need to be prepared.
  11. Gerhard Gschwandtner opened the conference with the following:  ”Business is a dance around value”.  Is your company at the dance?

[…]”

David Thompson‘s ‘Insights from the Sales 2.0 Conference’:

“[…] marketing really is all about Sales. The more of us who jump on this message, the better it is for customers. And that really was the vision of Sales 2.0 from the beginning. In fact, the Fall show will probably be called “Sales and Marketing 2.0″ As I said in my remarks at the first conference, “Sales 2.0″ is really “Buying 2.0.” On Amazon, there’s no difference between the marketing process and the sales process. It’s one seamless buying experience. And that’s what Sales 2.0 needs to aspire too. It’s truly gratifying to see our baby all grown up and embraced by so many new advocates. […]”

 

Jeb Brooks posted ‘Is Sales 2.0 More Than Technology?’, on 11 Mar 2010:

“I’m just back from the Sales 2.0 Conference. I went with the hope that it would give me a clear idea of what “Sales 2.0” is. Unfortunately, it’s still too new. Conference organizer and Selling Power Magazine founder, Gerhard Gschwander, put it well when he said that, “Sales 2.0 is not concrete; it’s agile. We need to build as we go.”

No one seems to have developed a clear, all-encompassing definition yet. Probably the best one belongs to Anneke Seley who wrote the book, Sales 2.0 says that it’s “a more efficient and effective way of selling for both salespeople and buyers that’s enabled by technology.”

I hope that, in time, we’ll understand “Sales 2.0” as more than just technology. I’d like to think of it as a version of sales where customers and salespeople are more closely aligned with each other due, in part, to technology. It will be a version of sales where trust will develop in a different way as a result of technology. In many ways this has already happened. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles allow customers and salespeople to get to know each other before their first meeting. That’s technology supporting human connections.

As of today, most of what’s been hung on the “Sales 2.0” banner is enterprise software designed to gather data from salespeople and (occasionally) provide data to them.

Surely “Sales 2.0” is a more fundamental shift than just more data collection? Sales 2.0 has got to be about more than technology. Technology should support the sales effort, not hinder it. It should make it easier for salespeople and customers to connect. And too much sales-oriented technology stands between customers and salespeople rather than unites them. I have every confidence that sales and marketing automation are critical, but only if they serve to increase and maximize the time salespeople spend with their customers.

In fact, according to a report by Gartner Research (presented at the conference), actual customer contact time for inside salespeople tops out at about 40%, while field reps are lucky to spend between 18 and 20% of their time with prospects. The number is even lower – 10% – for complex sales (like airplanes and nuclear coolers). In a “Sales 2.0” world, those numbers should rise.

My point is that technology fails when it’s too cumbersome, creates extra work, or distracts from customer interaction in any way. Reporting is important, but salespeople must be allowed to build their customer relationships. Like excessive paperwork in “Sales 1.0,” burdensome software just gives excuses to poor performers and frustrates top performers.

However, when technology compliments customer interaction better, it becomes indispensable.

I’m enthusiastic about the future of sales because the interaction between customers and salespeople will become richer. My only fear is that too much software will distract from, rather than support, the sales effort.

Thoughts?”

Please leave your comments on the original post.

Bryan Wilson (@bryanmwilson) then commented:

“I completely agree with this! Sales 2.0 isn’t about getting cooler software that takes the relationship out of selling. It is about enabling more connections and relationships through the technology. The fundamentals of sales remain the same, there are just new ways of developing, nurturing and maintaining relationships in the digital age. One example I have is that of CRM or sales tracking software. There are many programs out there that have a TON of fields to fill out, awesome reports and all sorts of other “management” type features. However, top sales people HATE taking 2 hours of their day to fill out little boxes just so management has a cool report to look at. Our firm in particular uses ACT! for managing contacts. In my opinion, asking a “Sales 2.0″ person to use a program like ACT! is like asking a house builder to use a hammer to build an entire house. Sure, you can do it, and it will work. But isn’t using a nail gun and other power tools MUCH more effective? Why not use programs like HighRise from 37Signals, or some of the newer, less bloated “Web 2.0″ programs like BantamLive? These programs incorporate only the features needed and nothing else. They also incorporate some of this Sales 2.0 stuff like lead generation & development through Twitter & other social networking services.

Sales isn’t changing. Relationships and solution selling will always be here. The WAY in which relationships are being built is what is changing.

Forrester Research on two innovative European vendors

Peter O’Neill from Forrester Research, Inc. on two interesting European software vendors he spotted, from March 7, 2010:

“[…] I like that there are these European companies with some very innovative ideas that will contribute to the success of both factory and field marketers in the tech industry. But it is also their innovation that I find interesting.

Last week, Laura Ramos blogged on our view of the marketing technology landscape, split into six core applications areas. Looking at the graphic, we are also clearly documenting that the Enterprise Marketing Platform is in its very early days and that there is plenty of room, probably time as well, for emerging vendors to play a role here.

BizSphere positions itself as providing sales enablement solutions (my colleague Scott Santucci also knows them well) but they are actually filling a gap between a marketing asset management system and satisfying the needs of both sales people and field marketers. While central marketing people need an asset management system to maintain content integrity and oversight; their colleagues in the field also need a tool to help them collate the right collateral package matching every potential sales situation, most relevant to that target customer and status in the sales cycle.

BizSphere is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany and their solutions are based on long term projects done for tech vendors. Their own marketing is, well, German, but the products are proven. See them for yourself, if interested, at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this week.

Blue Kiwi is was a French vendor with already quite some market momentum. They offer the capability for enterprise marketers to aggregate information from various social networks onto one console. I expect that many field marketers will want to have their own versions of this software running to be able to watch activity in their local market. […]”

 

Social media changes the deal closing process

‘How the social media changes the deal closing process’ by Pat Kitano (@pkitano) from mediatransparent.com, on March 2, 2010.

“The definition of online presence for a business is changing. Until recently, the online mission has been to drive traffic to the website. Search engines, along with specialty destination sites like Craigslist and eBay have been the hubs in the game of connecting two parties to a transaction. Businesses, local and corporate, developed blogs to attract this Google induced traffic. Engagement is logical, linear and direct – search, find, read, buy. An effective web/blog site, often a fast hard pitch, closes the deal.

The social media of course changes the way people search for business opportunity. The social media are essentially a set of  ”cloud” applications where engagement – the meeting of two parties to a transaction – starts with checking each other out through their online profile(s). The protocol of social media engagement is beginning to rule out the fast hard pitch, much to the chagrin of the hard sellers. Even the normal practice of pushing traffic to your web/blog site starts becoming obnoxious to those who find you on the social media but are not yet “in the market”.

Businesses now need to develop two-step online strategy to facilitate the eventual deal close. Opportunities will be increasingly sourced from the “cloud” of social media, particularly as Google and the search engines place more focus on real time search of Twitter (Yahoo/Twitter partnership) and Facebook feeds (Google indexing FB business pages). Once opportunities are identified, that’s when business parties focus on the blogs and websites, even LinkedIn, to study the marketing pitch and confirm the decision to do business.

All that promotional collateral that was once the marketing showcase providing the first interaction with a customer is now being scrutinized towards the end of the transaction decision process. Why? Social media engagement with the customer is becoming the criteria for the deal close. Once that test is passed, a cursory check of the website or blog is just due diligence.

I think this is why businesses are slowly weaning away from daily blog article writing. It’s more important for a business blog or website to be substantive and deliver a confident message that seals the deal. Quality becomes more impressive than quantity.

Besides being busy, this is one reason why I allocate more time developing opportunities on the cloud of social media over blog writing. And when I write a blog article now, I’m making sure it says something.”

 

Legacy sales portals provide no feedback to ensure marketing produces valuable material. Sales is too busy to address the issue

feedback from sales

On February 7, 2010 navigateknowledge.blogspot.com posted ‘Sales Enablement – An Inverse Definition’:

“Instead of defining sales enablement, I prefer to focus on the inadequacies of the existing legacy sales portals (many large companies have more than six). Sales Portals widen the gulf between sales and marketing.

An investment in sales enablement pays dividends in several ways but perhaps the strongest benefit is the alignment of a customers marketing investment with their sales resources. The legacy sales portals that are still being used by most businesses actually reinforce the practices that keep marketing and sales teams misaligned. Marketing teams are rewarded based partially on their ability to create sales collateral, brochures, presentations, campaigns, and such; whereas sales teams are rewarded based on their ability to retire quota. Legacy sales portals provide no feedback mechanisms to ensure the marketing team is actually producing valuable material to aid the sales effort, and the sales teams are too busy working to meet/exceed their numbers that they can’t take time out to address the issue.

The longer this problem goes unchecked, the more systemic it becomes. The only time anyone in sales talks about it is when they don’t make their numbers or hit their accelerators, at which point the “complaints” are largely ignored. The problem is compounded year after year as more marketing materials get posted onto the portal with little or no governance in place to remove “dated” items, making finding useful material even more difficult. The useful material that is found typically has to be reworked, taking valuable “selling” hours away from sales.

It is estimated that from 70% to as high as 90% of the material produced by marketing goes unused by sales. (IDC). […]”

I could not have described these pain points better. I’m sure that pretty much everyone in the B2B environment can relate to the them. No matter which Sales Enablement vendor you decide to work with, what needs to be done is the following:

  • Implement ‘Content Governance’ (automate a life cycle for content, define responsibilities for roles, send them automated reminders to rework what the life cycle has pulled off the portal, …)

life cycle for content

  • Add ‘Social Features’ everyone is familiar with from the web 2.0 like rating, commenting and uploading of their own content or links (gets everyone engaged and gathers feedback on the content as well as new insights from the field)

sales-web_social

  • Analyze (‘Content Intelligence’) the usage of your improved sales portal and how the two steps above yield fruit
  • Take action with ‘Content Planning’ based on your findings

Content Intelligence
The example above shows that there are 19 customer reference documents for EMEA but not a single one about a customer in Luxembourg. If you wanted to target a prospect in Luxembourg that might be a problem. A dash board overview for your Content Intelligence like the showcased Content Landscape from BizSphere helps you to identify gaps in your content inventory.

How Registration Forms are Killing B2B Software Marketing

On January 13, 2010 Kim Cornwall Malseed wrote ‘How Registration Forms are Killing B2B Software Marketing’:

“I’ve been reminded once again of what a mistake it is for B2B software companies to force prospective customers to fill out a registration lead capture form in order to view their marketing content.

Over the past week I’ve been researching project management software solutions to better collaborate with clients on marketing and PR projects, and as I was perusing various vendor websites, again and again I was asked to submit my information and “pay” just to read case studies, white papers, watch videos or listen to podcasts so I can potentially buy their product.

Instead of generating leads, these registration forms turn away the very prospects that you need to educate and engage with. Like most busy professionals researching software, I want to have a very good sense that a solution will work for my specific needs before I want to risk being interrupted by phone calls, emails, and direct mailings from people I don’t care to hear from.

That means removing the barriers to your marketing content in order for prospects to learn more about your software and see you as a trustworthy source, which compels them to contact you and willingly engage with your company. This is far more likely to result in a sale than not generating leads at all, or generating low quality leads because they’re still in the research phase of the sales cycle and probably don’t want to talk with you yet.

Survey Says: 75% IT Pros Won’t Register for White Papers

In an interview on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog with Jay Hallberg, VP of Marketing of networking monitoring software provider Spiceworks, he discussed results of a survey of users of their IT white paper community. (And yes, I do find it ironic that they are making people register for survey results report)

The survey found:

  • More than 75% of IT professionals DON’T sign up for white papers requiring registration
  • IT pros want to reach out to the vendor on their terms via their preferred channel, e.g. phone, email, or chat. Prospects don’t want the vendor to contact them. Period. If they want more information or to talk to a rep after they download a paper, they will contact that vendor.
  • Some IT vendors offer “free” white papers but require registration. If the vendor requires contact information, the white paper is far from free.
  • When vendors remove the registration wall, downloads go way up. One white paper that was offered without registration was downloaded 500 times in 3 days.

Lead Capture Forms Make Social Media Sharing Ineffective

One of the project management software vendors I checked out was recommended by someone on LinkedIn who provided a link to a white paper. Unfortunately, the link led to a registration form to download the white paper, which I didn’t do because I didn’t know enough about the vendor or solution yet. If the link had led directly to the white paper itself (or page from which I could download without ‘paying’) then I could quickly and easily have found out if I wanted to contact the vendor and engage with them. If I found the white paper helpful, I would have shared it with others via Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media venues as I know other marketing pros that need similar solutions.

By putting up barriers to your content, you’re missing out on effectively using social media to generate leads.

ReachForce Increases eBook Clickthroughs by 1600%

In a recent test by the marketing team of lead generation software provider ReachForce, they removed the registration form from an eBook they had created, and sent an email to a targeted list promoting the eBook, making sure to highlight that there was no registration required. Clickthroughs to the eBook increased by 1600%, and because ReachForce’s sales team could track who was clicking through, they were still collecting highly valuable information about prospects.

Registration Has Its Time and Place

Lead capture forms are effective and needed for some aspects of marketing, such as requiring prospects to sign up to receive a newsletter or attend an event, as you need their email address to send the content or event information. It is a good idea to offer a ‘bonus’ content piece such as an article, case study, video, etc. that the subscriber receives immediately in order to boost subscription rates, so in this case a registration form is appropriate.

One way to effectively use registration forms is embedding them into your content or placing a lead capture form on the same web page as your content, so prospects can contact your company if they wish, but can still view and share your content without contacting you.

Increase Lead Generation by Creating Quality Content

If you’re continuously creating high-quality content that educates and engages (and entertains in appropriate cases) your prospective customers, instead of an uninvited pest, you’ll be seen as a welcome guest who they look forward to hearing from.”

Product marketing teams need to know how their product is fairing and what sales material is driving sales conversations forward

feedback from sales

On January 8, 2010, Ken Knickerbocker wrote ‘Can sales give as good as it gets?’:

“When Joe Galvin of Sirius Decisions wrote “sales enablement is about knowledge transfer” last month, he spoke about how Salespeople need to access and acquire constantly changing information from a variety of internal sources to maintain their state of knowledge readiness and be able transfer that knowledge to their customers.

Joe is right of course, but he only has half of the picture. He should have also included the two-way exchange of knowledge that must exist if a sales and marketing organization is to flourish.

Not only must knowledge in the form of content, insight and data flow to the sales person, but insight, understanding and even raw data must flow back to other sales ecosystem stakeholders supporting the sales as well.

For instance, lead gen groups need up-to-the-minute and accurate knowledge of lead status and campaign effectiveness passed to them to make adjustments in the current campaigns or plan their next initiative or event.

Product marketing teams need to know how their product is fairing and what sales material is driving sales conversations forward.

Finance and legal teams need knowledge of the terms and conditions agreed to and the customers performance against those targets the prior year as they consider pricing on new projects and opportunities with the same client.

The sales operations group needs a damn near perfect knowledge of where each opportunity sits in the pipeline, how likely, for how much and when the deal is to close to generate a forecast executives can take to the street.

Professional services leaders need to see what service level agreements are being extended to ensure the appropriate resources are trained and available when the value promised must be delivered.

C-level executives need knowledge about the strength of the pipeline and current status of strategic opportunities and clients to determine where their time is best applied to drive forecasted results.

Enabling sales people is a first step, but in a world where everyone sells, sales enablement must take on more of a two-way, enterprise wide exchange of information and knowledge.”

I agree with the post above, but I’m wondering which feedback from Sales to Marketing is a task of Sales Enablement applications and which is a task of CRM systems? I can only speak to Sales Enablement applications:

Having a dashboard overview of both your inventory of sales material and its usage lets you track whether a certain sales region or certain products/services/solutions have no material available or whether it is not being looked at.

You will see which type of material your sales people love (Ratings might not tell you a lot but usage data will). This ability is crucial in becoming better and better in focusing your marketing efforts on what will actually help sales to close deals. “IDC research shows that over 40% of all marketing assets handed over to sales are not in use today.” (IDC’s Best Practices in Sales Enablement – Content and Marketing, July 2009)

Why pay someone to create reports every week when you and everybody else, who is interested, could have the kind of dashboard BizSphere calls ‘Content Landscape’ as well as even more detailed usage metrics of the Sales Enablement application; all of it in real-time and sliced and diced as you wish. For presentations to executives, just create a deep link to how you sliced and diced the data and they will get to see the current – as opposed to last week’s – data.

BizSphere is the Sales Enablement application Jeanne Hellman looks at in her case study of “implementing Sales Enablement in a complex, global company”.

Content Landscape