Last Updated Mar 10, 2010 6:38 PM EST
As an example, my live post of Boston Sales 2.0 Conference was the first news the world had of Dr. Oldroyd's groundbreaking research on the timing of cold calling. (See "What's the Best Time to Cold Call?")
I'm struck by how much larger this conference has become when compared to its beginnings only two years ago. Back then, it was about 7 or 8 vendors and probably about 50 attendees. Today, I'd guess that there are about 25 vendors and easily three hundred attendees. It's also expanded to two days.
What's interesting about this expansion is that it took place during a recession. And a recession where most smaller trade shows were barely surviving or actively closing up shop. Thus, while much of the high tech world was contracting, this technology area -- as evidenced by the willingness to participate in a trade show -- has been growing.
The big question is: why? Read my answer below...
I believe that sales technology is bucking the overall tech purchasing trend for two primary reasons.
First, companies are trying to get the most out of their current sales and marketing organizations and see this technology (most of which is subscription-based and thus has a small up-front cost) as a way to make those teams more productive.
Second, we're in the middle of a cultural change in the long-standing relationship between sales and marketing. A main attribute of "Sales 2.0" is that it makes marketing measurable and accountable. It turns "strategic marketing" into a conceptual backwater because it replaces all that "branding" BS with actual measurable numbers.
That's my take, of course, and the conference will probably talk about "aligning sales and marketing" in fairly neutral tones. But make no mistake about it. the "alignment" is the surrender of marketing to the inevitability of being measured. Sales, of course, has always been measured, so the change is less dramatic.
- Gerhard Gschwandtner Publisher and Founder, Selling Power magazine. Everybody demands value, not just customers, but also people inside an organization. People come to work to win and not to lose, which means creating value for customers. Unfortunately, value tends to decline; the product you have today is not going to be worth as much tomorrow as it is yesterday. Competitors will emerge and innovations will emerge that will reduce the value of your offering. And the Internet removes value by commoditizing offering. However, the Internet also offers additional opportunities, providing you're willing to make the transition to different business models that use the Internet to create value, even as it may be extracting value from your offerings.
- Umberto Milletti, CEO of InsideView. The big question is how you leverage all the information on the Internet productively. You need to provide processes as well as technology in order to ensure that sales folk aren't distracted by the Internet and remain focused on selling. Umberto argues for a broad definition based upon the conceptual model of the Sales 2.0 Alliance. He quoted a number of sales figures from various companies, showing the impact of the new tech upon revenue. No slides, though, which is annoying because he talks pretty quickly. Some of these success stories are going to be featured later in the conference, though, so I'll provide details as they come up.
- Speaker: Brett Queener, Senior Vice President of Products, salesforce.com. Spent 10 minutes unnecesessarily warming up the crowd with useless stories about his children. It was like performance art illustrating the big problem with social media, which is that a lot of stuff that people talk about is boring and irrelevant. Anyway, he's here to talk about Chatter, a collaboration platform based upon Force.com. His main thesis is that despite the billions spent by organizations on enterprise collaboration apps, your people are connecting and sharing far more effectively in their personal lives than in the office. In most office systems, collaboration tools make YOU do all the work. However, products like Facebookgenerate most of the connections themselves, so that you don't have to take action in order to find things out. So they're trying to make office collaboration as easy as Facebook, the difference being that it will be private.
- My personal opinion: This was a typical vendor presentation and thus rather boring. He would have been much better served if he'd gotten customers to tell his story for him. What's sad is that most of the vendors at this conference have "gotten" the basic idea that nobody wants to hear a vendor pitch and that the only people you believe are your peers. BTW, he played a video with the worst stock music I've ever heard -- it was like an excerpt from a CD "The Worst of Philip Glass." His entire presentation in one phrase: "a private version of Facebook for sales teams." Queener also came up with what I believe is world's most self-indulgent quote. Get this:: "Everyone who doesn't work at Salesforce thinks its wonderful but we don't drink the cool-aid that much ourselves." Ugh. As for the product, it's not clear to me that the world needs another collaboration platform although there's probably some value in layering atop the CRM platform.
- Craig Rosenberg, Vice President of Products and Services, Tippit (Moderator). Tippet is a lead generation company and Craig has the funnelholic blog which covers these issues. Lead generation is actually the creation of opportunity.
- Ken Osborn, Director of Product Marketing, TriNet. TriNet is a human resources outsourcing company. They needed to provide better sales intelligence (competitive, customer, etc.) without forcing them to go out and find it somewhere. At the same time, they were in a high growth period, with a leadership change with a plan to grow by 15 percent. They decided to target small productivity gains by adding technology in key areas, directly in the salespeople's process. During the presentation, he focused on InsideView, which provided "intellgent and targeted prospecting" to make sure that that sales reps are informed about the customer. Results: Entered a new market with a new sales team. Using InsideView (and the other tools) they've gotten 600 relevant target that resulted in 15 closed accounts within 3 months, generating over $2 million. That allows them to get reps fully producitivty within 7 months as opposed to 18 months previously.
- Laura Guntren, Marketing Manager, Intuit. The small business section of the company needed to grow even in a shrinking economy even while reducing their marketing spend. They looked at what they could cut while getting better at converting leads. They developed a process atop Genius.com to capture and qualify prospects prior to sending them to the sales organizaiton. This pre-qualification process allows sales to focus more on selling. Leads get an initial profile and based upon that qualification score, they go into the proper lead channel. High priority leads get more attention than low ones. The score is adjusted up or down until it becomes high enough priority to actually go to the sales team. When the lead goes to sales they know what's been done to "nurture" the lead. Results: They've seen better conversion rates although she did not quote figures. The key is mapping out the "lead flow" and understanding the process.
- Tom Masotto, VP Product Management, ON24. ON24 is an online presentation company that's been using JigSaw to find out relevant informaiton about who's left the company in marketing (their targets). Having this intelligence helps them to use their own limited marketing resources more effectively. The general usage is use Jigsaw to create email marketing, follow up with a presentation, and then track the conversion results.
- Suzette Godwin Romer, Director, Sales Technology, ADP. The payroll giant has 2000 sales people who use OneSource to find out the key events, mergers and acquisitions. They also do Industry analyses and examine vertical markets to find out who they should be calling upon.
- Larry A. Ball Senior Director, Global Sales Development, Polycom, Inc. The firm makes teleconferencing and videoconferencing hardware. It made about $1 billion in 2009, with a 700+ sales team. It's a complex solution sale, with a large amount of marketing content required for each sales rep to learn. Cisco bought their main competitor, thereby creating a sense of urgency. They're using the Kadient "playbook" concept to automate the best practices of their most successful sales reps. He claims that it drives repeatability and provides visibility into the process. Results: still in a pilot phase, but they expect to see increased deal sizes, increased number of deals closed, faster ramp-up time for new reps, increased utilizaiton of marketing content and higher quality forecasting.
- Dean Floyd, Director, IT Applications & Compliance, ShoreTel, Inc. Firm makes VOIP and telephony solutions with revenues of about $135 million. They've got an indirect sales model, with regional offices supporting their partners, who sell to the end customers. Their problem was a klugy order processing system involving downloaded spreadsheets. It wouldn't scale so they needed a way to manage the order processing from multiple partners. They're using BigMachines to create an automated order placement process. Results: 90 percent of their partners adopted it and order entry was reduced from 28 minutes to 5 minutes per order. That has led to the ability of their partners to hand3e more projects.
- Monte Montemayor, Director, Vendor Sales & Ops, N.A. Tele Sales, Microsoft. Microsoft needs to simply their sales process and trying to eliminate complexity. Looking at ways to give sales channels a single view of all the available products. He observed most sales teams have lots of data but not enough information. Oddly, Micrsosoft outsources its lead generation process to LeadDog rather than using their own products.
- Andy Udinski, Director, Sales Enablement, WW Sales Operations, NetApp. This firm has 1500 sales people adn 4000 channels partners, with a very complex, configure-to-order process with customization. They went very "out of the box" with Oracle's "config-to-order" system and Eloqua. They want partners to be able to order products without intervention from NetApp.
- Pelin Wood Thorogood, Managing Partner, Aegean Group (Moderator). She's a consultant who works with companies on these issues. Interestingly, she thinks that marketing groups are more measured than sales groups. (I suppose she's right about this, when it comes to granularity and assuming the marketing group is using various analytical tools.) Anyway, the idea is to start making decisions based upon as many metrics as possible, thereby making business results more predictable.
- Lars Nilsson, VP Field Operations, ArcSight, Inc. The firm sells enterprise software has about 2000 customers and 500 employees, and use 15 Sales 2.0 technologies, mostly built around Salesforce.com. Their compensation environment was so clunky (spreadsheets) that many of the sales reps were going over their compensation statement and finding errors, reducing productivity in both the sales team and the finance team. Their goal was to reduce commission payment errors and reduce time spnt on compensation administration. They use Xactly to set up compensation plans, get them approved, test them, calculate/pay commissions, and then analyze the success of the compensation to see whether the plan drove the right behaviors. Results: Payments are more accurate with less room for human error. He expressed that the old spreadsheet system made his job miserable and the sales compensation automation completely removed the headache.
- Kirk Nichols, VP of Sales, LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. The firm has revenue of around $140 million with 40 salespeople mostly working through retail distributors, with some direct sales. They had problems with forecasting and then translating that expected demand into product manufacturing. Nobody trusted the sales forecast resulting in inventory stockouts and overstocks, exposing the company to unexpected swings in the business. They worked with Right90 to help them forecast, based upon actual past performance rather than political guesstimation. Results: it's created a much higher level of credibility and trust in the forecasting process, thereby reducing the company's exposure and growing much faster than the rest of the footwear industry.
- Warren Smith, VP of Worldwide Sales Operations, GuardianEdge, Have been using CRM for more than a decade and now use Salesforce.com and bunch of other Sales 2.0 tools. He points out that CRM is a transactional database but it's difficult to figure out trends quickly enough to react to it. They using Cloud9 Analytics to better understand what they need to do next based upon the historical data that they've gathered over fifteen years. They can use business analytics to view lead type to revenue stream, so they know which marketing activities are resulting in revenue.
- Jim Fisher, Director, Sales Effectiveness, Bluewolf (Moderator). The firm has done over 3000 implementation (NBC, Google, Nvidia, etc.) with over 500 integration projects. They're probably the biggest implementer of Salesforce.com customizations, using an "iterative" process with small changes to the sytem done over time rather than large system integration efforts.
- Kevin Kern, Vice President WW Sales & Marketing, Innotas. This small firm does project management for work that comes into IT and all the way to delivery. They brought BlueWolf in to help them, because although they had a small sales team, they didn't really have any sales process at all. Working with Bluewolf allowed them to create a process that makes sense and select tools to would make that possible. They went with Marketo atop Salesforce.com to score leads and build a stronger process. They've also used technology to move the sales function inside with a telesales hybrid model.
- Ben Taft, Senior Director, Strategic Alliances, Brocade. This firm does data center networking solutions and services. Their challenge was the amount of marketing and sales-related content that they were producing. However, they had no idea what was actually effective. Therefore, they transformed their library to be online and use Savos so that the sales team can rate the content to see whether it really worked or not. Their marketers now create less content but focus on creating content that the sales team can really use. To do this, he forces marketers to go on a sales call or to follow up on some leads they were going to pass to the sales team. He also made some interesting remarks about tracking usage of sales tech. He points out that too much activity in the CRM system usually means that the team is playing with the technology rather than selling. He recommends primarily measuring conversions rather than the details of the process.
- Michael Dunne, Research Vice President, Gartner Inc. Common wisdom is that SFA (Sales Force Automation) is a done deal but in fact 80 percent of the investment has been in opportunity management and order entry, with some small islands in other areas like lead generation and compensation management. Unfortunately, the recession and slow recovery is making selling more difficult, longer sales cycles, more price sensitivity, etc... and operating under those challenges will require better integration of these islands of automation. However, he then started to lay out what appeared to be an insanely complex model for understanding all these different elements. He then gave a case study describing an (unnamed) firm that installed 4 Sales 2.0 tools in 90 days, which reduced lead follow-up time by 60 percent and increased lead-to-opportunity conversions by 160 percent. Probably the most interesting part of the presentation was when he got into the issue of social networking, which he sees as useful not so much to get familiar with customer, but to "watercooler" your sales team and subject matter experts. That meshes well with the Chatter concept discussed above. FInally, right at the end, he comes out with this incredibly cool case study from Microchip which used technology to create massive productivity improvements, including halving their quote cycle times and a 75 percent growth in quote volumes. They improved forecasting allowed them to hold onto gross margins, despite a highly competitive marketplace.
- My opinion: On the upside, he launched right into his speech without trying to pretend he was a comedian. On the downside, he used a lot of diagrams that kept getting more and more complicated without explaining much. I got the impression he was trying to cram a day-long seminar into an hour-long presentation. There's a lot of depth there, but this wasn't the best forum to present it in that manner. It was more the sort of thing you'd have at Gartner conference for vendors, rather than a vendor conference for customers.