Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cascading detail for sales enablement

I've been working on a lot of sales enablement kits lately.  My biggest learning on sales enablement came about ten years ago, when I did a study for a big enterprise technology company on marketing effectiveness.  We looked at three marketing objectives: Generate demand, drive awareness and comprehension, and enable the sales force.  In hindsight, it was ultra-simple.  But, we came up with a really powerful conclusion.  The most effective programs, in terms of ROI, were sales enablement programs.  However, when we spoke to reps, they complained about 90% of the content they were provided.  What really mattered was the 10% "really good" stuff that made the deals.

So, the recommendation had two parts: First, invest more in sales enablement.  Second, only produce 1/5 of the material.  This sounds like a "duh" recommendation, because we've all heard the trite adage about the CMO who says "I know I could cut 50% of my marketing spend, I just don't which 50%"... but there was more to it.  The number one thing reps needed, it turned out, was cascading detail about the solutions they were selling.  Reps selling into complex organizations need to be enabled with at least three levels of detail--one for the business lead, one for his or her researchers / support in the deal, and one for the technical folks that will actually be doing the implementation.  Without a clear value proposition and component model for each of these audiences, reps spend hundreds of hours spinning their wheels.  In most cases, these levels of detail don't exist, at least not in distilled form.

Another interesting observation I've had is that companies are usually really good at selling into one of the above audiences, but lousy at selling in to the other two.  For example, Microsoft seems really good at selling into the implementers, but not so good with the decision makers and researchers.  They're ok, don't get me wrong, but every company has its strength.  So, if you can figure out how to make selling into role a strength, you'll outcompete your rivals and win.

Each level of detail should also cascade.  If we're focusing on a value proposition, it might cascade like this:
  • Decision Maker: Acme helps me realize my performance targets by providing my teams with the best possible productivity tools, while functioning flexibly with my existing systems.
  • Researcher: Acme provides superior performance management tools across the finance and HR functions, at a superior value / price ratio to the competitive set; Acme's core APIs are best-in-class and can be integrated with a minimum of effort compared to the competitive set.
  • Implementer: Acme's integration services are flexible and best-in-class, and can be installed on any of my core systems using its easy-to-use customization kit; Acme's load balancing services make it the least impactful to our overall operating environment
The idea here is that the value proposition builds from one level to the other.  Researchers and implementers will still be interested in the "core" business value proposition, but the value we can provide them needs to be more specific to be sufficient for them to be comfortable.

The same concept applies when we get to component model.  For a decision maker, a component model should be purely functional, but should show exactly how the solution in mind meets their business needs and enables the value proposition.  The component model would then be filled in with detail and potentially blown into a few pages for the researcher.  Finally, when it came to implementation, the component model would turn into a full-blown technical design.  The key is that it's translatable top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top.  An example is shown below:

Thoughts about this topic?  What are some examples of cascading sales enablement / core content that have worked for you?


Chuck Carey said...

Hey Andy this is some good insight. I have a question, how large would you say the market is for sales enablement companies? Has there been any research to try and identify how big of an opportunity this is?


Chuck Carey
Compendian, Inc.

Andy Hasselwander said...

Hi Chuck,

I haven't seen any research on this. My guess is that the market is divided into niche marketing consulting firms and B2B agencies like Doremus or Gyro-HSR. Does anyone know if a report's been done on this? Maybe a Winterberry report?

Andy Hasselwander

Rahul said...

great work keep it up i like your topic B2B Marketing Confidential

Unknown said...

Good post Andy. Witnessed one sales organization engage their own outside agency to recreate sales enablement material that came from their marketing organization.

I would also add it the further away the sales enablement creators are from the market the more likely they are to get it wrong.

Helpful post for folks looking to create a segmented but integrated value proposition

Bob Stoudemire said...

The SE cascading in great but its a lot like traditional messaging pyramid. Senior people need big picture messages; as you go toward implementation you need more "speeds and feeds" messaging.

There are many, many good agencies and consulting firms that do some form of sales enablement -- its a fragmented market. There is one firm -- which I can't name -- which actually does sales enablement and earns it fees based on realized improvement in sales productivity. They are pretty good at it too...

Anyway, the right way to think about the market size is by determinig how much does/should a specific company spend in this area and what's the ROI. It's not a "market" unto its own...

Ken Knickerbocker said...

Andy, thought provoking post. This is an extension of what Scott Santucci of Forrester Research has in mind when he talks about engineering sales conversations.

No one can argue your suggestion of different cascading messages for every individual involved in the buying process depending on his or her role and when in the sales cycle the conversation happens. The suggestion makes sense.

The challenge is implementing your suggestion. While your idea certainly qualifies as good common sense, its all but impossible to put into common practice in an enterprise sales force.

Why? Generally speaking the top 20% of any B2B sales forces is able to synthesize the libraries of sales content thrown at them by product marketing to create messages for each prospect strata. This group of top producers surfs the product/services they’re most comfortable to meet their quota quarter after quarter, year after year.

But what about the remaining 80% of the sales force, the B and C players as well as new reps just joining the force? These players find it challenging to get a meeting with an executive, let alone fuse desperate content and sales material into three coherent or “cascading” messages specifically tailored to that individual, company and industry.

The challenge for this group is further compounded by the exponential growth of product portfolios as well as the quarterly demands placed on them to meet their numbers and the difficulty of working across different silo groups within his own organization.

B2B selling is a heroic effort. The top producers have already figured out how to craft different messages for different groups as you suggest. Now if we could just figure out a way to help the other 80% do it! That would be worth writing about.

International trade portal said...

This is very informative for our business Yaolit

Christian A. Maurer said...

just saw this article only now. Was referred to in MarketingProfs "Get to the point" e-mail newsletter on August 5, 2010.
I have given a masterclass on adaptive Value Propositions. The slides to it can be found here.

It is always rewarding seeing someone else coming to very similar conclusions about functional orientation and value proposition. I have extended the concept to include two more personality oriented traits into consideration.


Unknown said...

Very interesting, Thank you.

But on what level would you make your initial approach if you are following a lead and not sure what role he plays in the organization/ purchase process?

Successful B2B Marketing said...

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