Connectedness – The Missing Metric for Sales Enablement

Enablement programs for B2B sales and channel resources tend to focus on activities – trainings, certifications, portal visits, most popular assets, most posts per person, ratings, etc. These are all indicators suggesting enablement resources may have been consumed. But they don’t do a very good job of measuring one of the most important objectives of enablement – changing behavior. New platforms that integrate publishing, process, and social capabilities are making it possible to track behavior patterns in the context of specific business processes. Hidden in this data are the daily habits that differentiate our best direct and indirect sales resources. Sales enablement professionals need to find this data and share it with the rest of their sales audience.
This is a particularly crucial for the on-boarding process. Regardless of whether you’re training a new/replacement sales rep or bringing on a new partner and their employees, connectedness is a key metric that you need to capture and track. It is the only way to continually optimize behavior. You can capture financial and operational data with most of the content management, CRM, and marketing automation technology out there. But these systems are not explicitly designed to capture patterns of behavior. Even those with social networking capabilities are not being used effectively in this regard.

Sales enablement professionals need to use social networking as a basis for propagating best practices. The measurement should span not only person to person networking, but also track community membership, links to all manner of resources from internal portals, as well as communication with subject matter experts, peers and mentors. To be most effective, this capability should be deployed within a process driven platform for sales enablement, as opposed to an old school portal based on a publishing model. These new platforms go beyond simply providing access to content. They are process driven and deliver content, sales plays, transactional capabilities, and more all in the context of the company’s go to market strategy. In addition they have or are easily integrated with enterprise social networking capabilities which are crucial to facilitating and capturing how people interact with all the great resources they contain. 

There are two key dimensions the connectedness metrics should include – the number of connections to the right resources and the cadence of communication. For example:
  •          Which internal portals/systems do they log into – how often?
  •          Which SMEs do they interact with – how often?
  •          Which internal communities have they joined – how often do they visit and contribute?
This data can be invaluable in helping new reps and partners become more effective faster. What behaviors do our “A” reps and best partner reps exhibit? The intention is not to gratuitously boost hits and visits to marketing collateral, but to find the right level of connectedness for different types of reps. Being able to show other reps and partners that they can boost performance by making simple behavioral changes like subscribing to certain resources, joining communities they didn’t know existed, or increasing the frequency of communication is the path of least resistance to effectiveness.

Today many large high tech companies report it takes a year to get a sales rep fully up to speed with the pipeline needed to meet quota in the following year. Clearly there can be a lot of process, product, market, customer, competitive, etc. knowledge that needs to be transferred. But don’t neglect to transfer the behaviors that will help them  best utilize the resources the organization has offer.

For more information on IDC’s sales enablement research, please contact me: gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.

Dreamforce ’10 – the don’t Miss Event of the Year … for CIOs held its annual user conference December 6th to 9th in San Francisco. It was unusual in that very little of the messaging from itself was aimed at sales people. The company has clearly and emphatically hammered its stake in the ground as the cloud platform provider for the enterprise. Marc Benioff and other top SFDC execs spent all of the general session keynotes on four key ideas:

  • Platform
  • Cloud
  • Social
  • Mobile

If that were a word cloud of the transcripts of the keynotes “platform” would be the biggest and boldest of the four. The company made several significant announcements about how it is enhancing and building out the enterprise cloud computing platform of the future – much of it aimed at CIOs and developers. First however, there were a couple of items that will be of interest to sales and marketing people:

Full integration of Jigsaw. Jigsaw, the “crowdsourced” contact database will now provide dynamic updates to records, greatly reducing blank or incomplete record status and making it easier for sales and marketing people to contact the right individuals within their target accounts – to the extent that Jigsaw can provide clean data.

Chatter Free. Announced earlier this year, Chatter is the SFDC collaboration app. SFDC cited user numbers in the 10,000s at NBC, Qualcomm, and Nikon, and 100,000s at Dell. With Chatter Free, limited Chatter functionality will now be available to people that don’t have SFDC licenses. Users can add SFDC features for $15/user/month w/o the need for a SFDC license. clearly expects Chatter to make SFDC adoption a viral phenomenon. What Chatter adds to the picture beyond being “Facebook for the enterprise” is the ability to follow not only people, but groups, accounts, and contacts – potentially any record in the database. Chatter will help companies share tribal knowledge as well as better coordinate the outreach multiple business units may have with key contacts and accounts – both very good things that go way beyond being Facebook Friends with all of your customers and employees. Regardless of whether it drives more licenses, it sets the stage for the platform sell that’s coming next.

Platform as a Service (the CIO part) Significantly, SFDC claims is open to any environment, any programming language, and any device. It provides relational data services, full text search, user management, row level security, triggered and stored procedures, authentication, support for APIs (db to db calls), as well as a myriad of other features such as the ability for each record to have a profile that supports followers and feeds (see for more info.) Touting the power of the cloud, SFDC presented statistics showing that in the last year the number of transactions grew 50%, the number of records doubled from 10 billion to 20 billion, and average response time decreased.

Open Apex. has launched an open programming language for the cloud that supports multi-tenancy. Now developers can work in the cloud to customize and enhance apps as well as develop a host of other independent enterprise applications for any function – marketing, accounting, services, provisioning, HR, etc. This should fundamentally change the perspective of the IT department about cloud computing – it’s open, has its own IDE and database, supports web and mobile development. You no longer have to have code on premises to manage and customize your enterprise functionality.

Ruby on Rails. Web development is native to the cloud platform. Java support is provided by vmForce and acquisition of Heroku provides both a hosting platform and an IDE for native Ruby on Rails development in the cloud. This greatly eases the process of making enterprise apps web and mobile ready.

“Now we’re finally a real platform company”

SFDC now comprises: salesforce, serviceforce, chatter, jigsaw,, appforce, siteforce, vmforce, Ruby, Apex, Eclipse IDE, ISV force, and more. The mantra heard repeatedly from senior SFDC execs was that is now a real platfom company.

The big picture for is to provide all the layers of the IT computing environment as a shared service that is managed, tuned, updated, and upgraded automatically. This greatly reduces the administrative overhead for IT while providing all the application and data control they need to rapidly respond to business requirements (and not having hundreds of rogue DIY projects all over the place.) All good things, but the risk is whether the platform can be trusted to provide all that without failure or outage or providing a conveniently centralized target for cyber attack.

While SFDC sets its sights on becoming all things to all people in the cloud, it is not intending to be the single source for automating the response to revenue process. Recent IDC research shows that 75% of SFDC customers also use up to five other sales and marketing automation solutions (see Marketing Automation: The Rise of Revenue, IDC #225860, Dec 2010.) The Expo floor featured representatives from the entire sales and marketing ecosystem – marketing automation, customer intelligence, list and database management, sales enablement, forecasting tools, proposal tools, and many others. As a result, customers will continue to be in the position of cobbling together “best of breed” solutions, and having to integrate the data, systems, and workflows required to manage and measure the performance of the customer creation process.

An Ice Cold Bucket of Reality – The Challenge of Selling to Today’s Harried Buyer

Savo held their annual user group meeting in Chicago on October 26th and 27th. Two hundred people working on Sales Enablement (SE) attended and a number of very interesting keynotes and customer presentations were given.
Jill Konrath provided a very entertaining and sobering take on the challenge of marketing and selling to today’s harried (understatement of the year) buyers. The centerpiece of her talk was an improvised role playing exercise in which Jill played a sales executive that was a key target for a fictitious company. The point was to show what everyday life is like for our prospects before we ever try to contact them. It was the start of her day and she had to get a presentation ready for the quarterly board meeting that afternoon.
The CMO is the first to walk into her office to complain about sales not following up on marketing leads and they have the “marketing leads are crap” argument. “You were in our lead scoring meeting you have no excuse.” “You didn’t listen or take any of my ideas so the leads are still crap.” “Sounds like we need to go over the lead scoring again, do you have time today or tomorrow?” “No, I’m totally booked – wait a minute. OK, let’s do something late tomorrow.” “Fine, I’ll send an invite.”
Thirty seconds to restart on the board presentation.
In comes the CEO. “Hi Jill, do you have a few minutes?” “What? Sure.” “Congratulations it looks like the eastern region is doing well and the west is coming back nicely, great job.” “Thanks.” “But what’s going on in the Midwest, we’re really underperforming there.” “Yes, I know, we have some weak reps out there and I have a plan for addressing that.” “Oh great, let’s discuss it after the board meeting.” “Umm…” “Once you get the board presentation done, just write up your plan for the Midwest and we’ll get that situation fixed.” “OK, when is this?” “Right after the board meeting, in my office.”
Twenty seconds to restart on the board presentation.
The HR person comes in. “We have to get the first round interviews done this week if we want your new reps in the field for next quarter.” “I don’t have any time on my calendar for this.” “Well, you won’t be fully staffed next quarter if we don’t get these positions filled.” “OK, OK, I’ll see if I can juggle some stuff around.” “Great! Oh, did you see what the new girl in accounting was wearing today?” “Come on, I don’t have time for that.” “It’s a funny story…” “Honestly, here let me walk you out.”
Ten seconds to restart on the board presentation.
A phone call from her sister. “Hi Jill, I’m at the supermarket and I’m looking at turkeys for Thanksgiving. Do you remember if Mom likes the free range ones or was it something else last year?”
Harried. Distracted. Under-resourced. Over-pressured. Completely frazzled. And she hasn’t even checked email or voice mail. Work and life are constantly bombarding our key prospects, and we’re part of that bombardment. The chilling fact of the matter is that we have absolutely no chance of getting this person’s attention unless we have intimate and immediate insight into what’s going on around her. Is she going to respond to a generic email or phone pitch? No, never.
This is a crucial point for today’s marketing and sales professionals. IDC has seen this message come through in our surveys of CIOs. And we heard a less dramatic but equally poignant version from the CIO panel at our CMO and Sales Advisory board meetings a few weeks ago. The gist of which is summarized in the following figure.
Marketing and Sales Models Not Aligned
with Buyer’s Purchasing Models

Source: IDC, 2010
The message IDC is hearing from customers is loud and clear: Solve the business problem that’s killing me right now even if it doesn’t involve your solution and you’ll transform the nature of my relationship with you from sales rep to trusted adviser and your company from a seller to a strategic partner. If I have that relationship with you, I just might call you for help with my problem in the Midwest. But if your competitor is in that position, you are a snowball in a very hot place.
The Buyer’s world has changed dramatically with the economy. Approaches that proved themselves when times were good cannot be relied upon when such a radical shift has taken place. It takes managerial courage and organizational fortitude not only to admit we have a problem but to do something radically different to address the new set of challenges. As a result, IDC strongly recommends you consider the following fundamental questions as you embark on enabling your sales force.
  • How are you going to get your Sales People to become “Trusted Advisors” when they are being trained and compensated to sell?
  • Is that the difference between your top performers and rest that struggle to make quota?
  • Have you properly defined the act of “selling”?
  • Do you understand the full scope of the “buying” process?
How you answer these questions will profoundly affect your customer relationships and your approach to sales enablement. Customers are calling for radical change and your Sales Enablement implementation may be just the catalyst you need to get started down a new path.

Channel Marketing Automation – When CRM is not Enough

Whether you pursue a lead through direct sales or a partner it doesn’t really matter how you get the lead. But what happens next? With your direct sales, you track the nurturing process as the lead develops into an opportunity. You measure your sales reps by the number of meetings they get, the deals they close. You may even have a closed loop reporting process that shows the efficiency of your marketing and sales funnel.

With your partners, your lead gets passed off and … then what? Does the partner accept the lead? Do they follow up? Do their marketing outreach programs conform to your policies and expectations? How much time and how many touches does it take them to close? How do you decide which partner is qualified for which leads? How do you efficiently identify the productive partners, those that need encouragement and those that should be dropped?

Multi-Billion Dollar Channel Management Questions
These are critical questions that have a tremendous impact on businesses with significant indirect revenue. A recent IDC study of large IT companies found that on average channel revenue was $2.4B. It was generated by 34 channel marketing staff managing 8,500 active partners. That equates to $45 million of revenue per channel marketing staff member but only $1.2 million per partner. The dirty little secret – there are also on average approximately 19,000 inactive partners!

Source: IDC’s 2010 Best Practices Study in Channel Marketing (n=13)

A Better Way

Your CRM and SFA are not going to answer any of the critical channel management questions – although many companies think their CRM system is where they should be “managing partners”. In fact, a partner management system fulfills a role more like an SFA – it tracks all the activity that occurs after the lead is generated. It should also facilitate the process of lead distribution – managing all the partner credentials and accreditations need to qualify for a particular lead. Then there’s deal registration where the partners accept the lead so that it is not poached by another partner or … ahem … the direct sales force. And when you consider some of the other requirements of partner management, the CRM fallacy becomes clear:

  • Recruitment and on-boarding
  • Training and development
  • Business Planning and Reporting
  • Compensation and Incentive program management
  • Marketing and Sales support

Are these capabilities that your CRM can provide? Your SFA? Would you even want them to? The answers should be no, no, and no. Don’t be thrown off by that last bullet – the marketing and sales outreach your partners require is very different than the corporate outreach that marketing operations is doing. They rebrand, reschedule, embed, and otherwise repurpose marketing content, making a direct translation from corporate marketing to partner marketing wholly inappropriate.

If you have (or want to have) a significant amount of revenue going through the channel, you need a dedicated partner relationship management (PRM) system to automate more than just marketing and sales activities. Don’t look to your CRM, SFA, or even the newer marketing automation vendors to provide you with the full set of capabilities necessary to effectively manage channels. Those solutions are focused on a very different set of requirements. They may have slideware and inch deep functionality, but that’s typically it. Do ask about integrating a PRM with these systems as reporting should roll up easily across direct and indirect sales.

A number of key capabilities to consider when implementing a platform channel marketing automation:

  • Manage partner profiles and contacts
  • Deliver and track training, certifications, etc.
  • Set business rules for lead distribution
  • Handle deal registration
  • Provide a single system of record for partner and channel management
  • Provide detailed performance reporting (12-month rolling review)
  • Track partner outreach campaigns
  • Manage market development funds (MDF) and co-op spend

With these issues on the table, it should be clear that automating channel marketing requires a dedicated, purpose-built solution. It will be costly and painful and meet substantially lower expectations otherwise.