Sales Enablement Soirée: Aligning Revenue Teams to Accelerate Revenue, Fall 2020

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to the Sales Enablement Soirée session on Aligning Revenue Teams to Accelerate Revenue. Alignment is a key factor for sales enablement success. However, many organizations struggle with fostering alignment across teams, particularly in virtual environments. Today, I’m excited to have Brent Adamson, the distinguished vice president advisory for Gartner join us. His work spans a wide range of commercial challenges, including customer buying behavior, sales, productivity, and in-person and digital customer engagement. 

This is his second year presenting at the sales enablement Soirée and today he’s going to discuss how sales enablement can foster alignment across the revenue teams to drive business impact. With that, Brent, I’d love to hand it over to you. 

Brent Adamson: All right, Shawnna. Thanks so much and welcome everyone again. I’m delighted to be with you. I’m Brent Adams from the Gartner sales practice and good morning, good evening, good afternoon, wherever you might be in the world. We’ve got about 30 minutes together today. I want to take you through some of our latest thinking sort of at the aggregate level. If we were to step back from a lot of the research we’ve done over the last about two years at the Gartner sales practice and pull out some of the bigger themes that we think are going to be hugely important for us to cross the next coming five years or so, what would those themes look like? And what questions might they raise for all of us, particularly in sales enablement?

So let’s go on that journey together. And we’re going to do this in a deck under the title of driving a return to growth in a disrupted world. And I think if there’s one thing we’d all agree on on today’s call is that we in fact do in fact live in a disrupted world, but let’s talk a little bit about those disruptions because the disruptions I want to kind of examine today with you are actually not the disruptions that you might expect, right? So there there’s three of them in total. So I call these sort of the three great sales disruptions, at least for the time being. And you might think that their economic downturn, global quarantine and COVID-19, but that’s actually, those are incredibly, of course, important, and problematic and frustrating. And of course have real real life consequences, life and death consequences for us around the world. So not to belittle those in any way, shape or form, but those actually aren’t the bigger picture or at least if you will, the longer term disruptions that I think specifically in sales and sales enablement. 

We need to be thinking about if we project out over the next five years, hopefully by then much of the pain of today will be behind us. But the story that sits underneath won’t be solicitor. Let me share with you what those disruptions are. And then we can dive in with a little bit of data and some conclusions around each of the three. So the first one we’re going to call, I’m going to call it decreased cellar surface area, and we’ll dig into each of these. I promise. I just like the term, which is that when we think about the surface area, which is that the amount of access that we have to our customers and that access is diminished dramatically. At least in one respect. I want to talk about that surface area, that point of access that we have to our customers across the surface of a typical B2B purchase and talk about how that surface area is changing and what it means for all of us in sales and sales enablement.

So that’s the first of our three great disruptions. This is a massive decrease in seller surface area. The second one we’ll talk about today is critically important. It shows up in our data everywhere over the last two or three years at the Gartner sales practice, is increased buyer decision dysfunction. Now we’ve talked a lot in the past as many of you know, about the degree to which B2B buyers today are struggling to buy because B2B buying has become so complex. And I want to dive back into that story, particularly for those who haven’t seen it in the past, but what’s really interesting I think about this buyer, a struggle that you see on the B2B side is that you dig into it just a little bit deeper, just scratch the surface of what you find. 

Ultimately, it isn’t so much buying dysfunction, but decision dysfunction as customers are struggling, not just to buy things, but to decide things. And if we can understand that and internalize it, think about it with empathy, from our perspective in sales and sales enablement, I think it’s going to give us some really interesting opportunities to think differently about how we go to market and how we engage with our customers to help them overcome their dysfunction, rather than just solve our own. And finally, when you put one and two together that really does lead to in my mind is the third of our three great disruptions, which is just incredibly out of date. Let’s call it system software that we use to run our commercial organization sales and broadly speaking sales and marketing. The way that we go-to-market the metrics we use, the dashboards we run our company completely out of alignment with the underlying buying reality that they are meant to proxy. And as those two things become further apart, separate, farther, and farther separated, in reality, I think it really is going to create a moment for the best sales organizations and the best sales enable leaders around the world to think very differently about how we structure our own organizations to go-to-market across the coming five years. 

So we’re going to take these one at a time and I’ll walk you through just a high level of some of the data that we see at our practice that leads to this sort of conclusion. And then each of these three sections is going to end, rather than a set of key takeaways, I stopped doing that a few years ago, I like to end with key questions. And so we’ll end each of these three sections with some questions. I think we should all be thinking about really frankly, we should be thinking about them hard. That makes sense. We should be thinking about them aggressively, or we should be thinking about them with precision and care and focus because these are the kinds of questions that the best sales organizations are going to figure out the way to answer across the coming five years, leaving all the rest of us far behind if we don’t do the same ourselves. 

Number one: decrease seller surface area. So this is a story some of you have seen from us in the past. And so I’m just going to, again, for each one of these, the data, it’s all part of a broader set of it. Just a huge amount of data that we have on B2B buying. And for that matter selling that we’ve been collecting over the last couple of years in particular at Gartner. But let me share with you a couple of points on this idea of decreased seller surface area because if there’s one theme that we’ve been hearing from chief sales officers, more than most probably about four years now, it is this idea of access or if you will lack of access to customers through our B2B sellers, and you can see this in the data. So when we go out and we survey B2B buyers, these are individual stakeholders all involved in some form or another in their company and the purchase of a large scale complex B2B solution.

These are sort of on average million dollar deals or Euros, whatever pounds. What you find is when customers go on these very long, complex B2B buying journeys of six months, 12 months, 18 months, 24, and so on, even longer. And you ask them simply in surveys we have here, which is, just the total service, just over a thousand B2B buyers. And this is a cut on that data. We simply ask them to think about that entire purchase journey that they recently went on to make that purchase of that large complex solution. And we asked them to simply sort of just bucket their time, divvy up their time proportionally in terms of how much time proportionately they spend on each of several different categories.

And you see, for example, up in the top right, about 27%, just over a fourth at that time, not surprisingly, was spent just researching independently as an individual customer stakeholder online search engines, trade shows, supplier websites, you name it. In fact, the only thing weird about that 27% is the fact that maybe it’s not even bigger than that. But keep in mind, this is the entire purchase journey. Everything that’s involved in making the purchase decision, a decision down the bottom right. 22% meeting with the buying group, all those different people inside the customer organization, who have to sort of meld around a consensus decision, not surprisingly a huge amount of B2B buying researching independently, offline down in the bottom left, particularly in the before times prior to quarantine and COVID, this would be things like trade shows and just connections. So non-internet, mediated, connections and learning. But the one I want to focus on of course is the dark blue wedge there in the left, because when you think about all right, so where are sales reps? And so sales reps are part of each of those things, right?

Well, actually, no, we asked about sales reps individually or separate from all those other activities. And when you put it all together, what you find is that customers in total, across a typical B2B buying journey spend about 17% of their buying time meeting with potential suppliers with which, relatively speaking, just a scarily tiny amount, right? This is, I think, why chief sales officers all over the world keep asking us, like, what do we do about the fact that our customers don’t want to talk to us, or they don’t feel that they need to talk to us again. And when you measure this data, you find that their questions are well justified because it’s exactly what we see in the data as well, is that we have only just a tiny wedge of access to our customers across that entire B2B buying journey.

In fact, just to make this a little bit more dramatic, if you think about that 17%, remember that is how much time those customers spend with all suppliers, not just you as a supplier. So if you’re one of three suppliers competing for that particular deal, then kind of you are here. Maybe you get five or six percentage points of that all told. By the way, someone I showed this to someone the other day, and you can tell him the time of COVID, this becomes a Rorschach test, this dysgraphic, and it turns out it looks like Pac-Man wearing a mask, but that’s a totally different story. But nonetheless, here we are in this percent and you’re thinking, well, what do I do now? How am I supposed to bend in a customer organization to our will, as it will, as it were, how do we win them over? How do we convince them to buy our solution when we have so little opportunity, so few at bats is one head of sales, but it, to me, is to use a sports metaphor relative to the total time it takes to make that purchase decision. And this is the frustration I think that we all feel. And there’s really sort of two ways to think about that tiny little dark blue wedge there. 

One way to think about it is, how do I explain the footprint. What do I have to do to earn the right, to get more access, to get more time with my customers? What are the ways I can engage them, interact with them to win the rights so that they actually want to talk to me more than they do now. And we’ve talked about that in the past and we can all hint at some of those things today in section two as well. The other way to think about this though is, well, what if we just make sure that in what little time we have we’re offering as much value as possible. We just take this as a given. We’ve got 5-6%, whatever you do, don’t mess it up. So we bring in the subject matter experts and we bring in the SMEs and the senior executives and the top to top, and someone called that the school bus sale, where you put so many specialists on the call that you need a school bus to take them all to the visit again, back when we actually traveled to customers, but one way or another, those are sort of the two ways to think about this access problem. 

Either expand, access, or make that access, or do as much as we can in what little access we have, we would argue. However, there is a third way to look at this and the third way to look at this in many ways, I think is the more productive way. And frankly is the way that those progressive sales organizations are going to have to look at this going forward. Because if anything, that wedge there probably is going to get smaller. Now that’s just pure prediction, but based on everything we see in our data, it’s unlikely to be that it’s going to get much bigger. So what else is there? What else is there is actually a whole other channel of access to your customers beyond your sales reps, that we have to start thinking about much more systematically in B2B sales. And you can see this in the data. 

Let me show you when we ask customers about how they access suppliers, not surprisingly, the sales rep is not the only channel that that customer is using to tap into that supplier organization. It’s not just people, the other channel, and you saw it on the previous pie chart, of course, is digital as well now in sales enablement sales leadership, we tend to overlook that digital channel because that seems to be somebody else’s problem or somebody else’s job that’s marketing, right. Or that’s digital. We’re about selling. We’re about interacting with our customers, through our sellers, through our channel partners, that digital stuff. What’s on our website. That’s not selling. That’s customers learning, but you know, from your customer’s perspective, that is buying. And ultimately that’s what we’re trying to accomplish is we’re not trying to really accomplish selling. We’re trying to accomplish buying and buying today. B2B buying happens through multiple channels simultaneously, and we can see that in bar charts like this and the data that we’ve been collecting.

So this is one of the things we did about two years ago is we did a huge study of B2B buying around this idea of jobs to be done. Some of you will know the jobs to be done, construct where you take a purchase process or a decision process and break it down into a series of jobs that the customer has to complete to their satisfaction in order to make that purchase happen. And when we ran that research, there’s a whole bunch of methodology behind it our analysts and our advisors would be more than happy to walk anyone through that in much more detail, if you’d like, if you’re a client of the Gartner sales practice, but one way or another, when we did that analysis, we broke down B2B buying into the six jobs you see across the bottom of the slide. So problem identification, solution, exploration requirements, building supplier, selection, validation, and consensus creation. Then when we ask customers, how likely were you or did you use a  USA supplier sales rep to gather information to help you complete that job. Also, did you use the supplier website in this case? 

So a digital channel, specifically the supplier website to help you gather information to complete that job. You could see across the board customers said, “yes,” all across the board, across both channels for every job. In fact, what’s interesting about this bar chart is not just how high the bars are, but how even that your customers are just as likely to use digital channels to gather information as they are to use human channels across the board for any given job effectively. What we’re seeing very clearly in our data is what you guys are also seeing in real life experiences that B2B buying has effectively become channel agnostic. Your customers are talking to a sales rep for the sake of the conversation. They’re talking to a sales rep for the sake of the information, and if they can get that information through another channel, that’s great too. 

What I really need is the information one way or another. And what’s interesting about this is you can actually also track this across periods of a purchase. So early, middle and late. Let me show what that looks like, because this is equally interesting. So when you look at it in terms of breaking it down, in terms, if you will, like put a time component to it. So think about the early stages of a purchase. It’s across the bottom axis, the X axis there you think about the early stages of a purchase process, the middle and the late stages of a purchase process. And again, here we asked, a separate survey, but with a similar sample size of just under a thousand B2B buyers, we simply asked them to what degree did you use digital channels to gather information for the tasks that you were seeking to complete early, middle and late in your purchase process? If you start over in the top left with that 93%, not surprisingly 93% of B2B buyers use digital channels and not exclusively, but did in fact use digital channels to gather information to complete whatever they were doing in that part of the purchase process.

I think the only thing we worried about that had three is what are the other 7% doing? The fact that it’s not a hundred, but what is interesting about this, this line graph? Because you move from early to middle you notice that the line doesn’t go down. If anything, it goes up maybe just a little bit. So let’s say just hold steady at 94%, which is there, there’s this tendency for us to think as you move deeper and deeper into a purchase process, or at least as a customer moves deeper and deeper into a purchase process. At some point, the time for digital learning comes to an end, and I’ve got to pick up the phone and call a sales rep to get their input on whatever they’re doing.

And at that point I moved from there. Digital world to the human world and whether it’s virtual selling or in-person selling in my office or over WebEx or whatever, or Teams, or Zoom or whatever it might be. I’m now engaging with a human being. But what we’re finding in our data is a very clear story. Just because human selling has begun doesn’t mean digital buying has come to an end that the customers are just as likely to engage in digital as they also perhaps engage with human beings. And in fact, even in the late stages, we think, all right, now, digital gets out of the way of particularly that’s marketing. Marketing, get out of the way, we got this, we’re saying, right. But in fact, from a customer’s perspective, they’re not solving for talking to sellers, they’re solving for getting a decision made, and if they can gather information, it helps them make that decision, corroborate that decision, validate that decision. They’re gonna use digital as well. In fact, 83% of customers that we surveyed use digital even in late stage purchase processes.

And what’s so interesting about this data is if you begin to add sort of a longitudinal component to it, start thinking about what this might look like over time, play this forward three to four to five years in advance, one of the ways that we can do that with point in time data like this is we can overlay a generational component to it as we have here. So it’s the exact same chart with exact same data, but now with a cut of millennials, gen Xers and boomers, and take a look at that millennial graphic or the millennial line. At the top, which millennials are basically, they start in digital and stay in digital. It’s not to say they don’t also use human sellers, but they’re just as likely to use human sellers and digital simultaneously again, B2B buyers today, and absolutely going forward have just dramatically become channel agnostic.

In fact, there’s one last point here. If I would suggest anything in all of this data is that if you start playing this forward, there’s a decent chance that that 5% access that we have may go down if anything, and not go up. Because, let me show you one last piece of data here in section number one, which is this, this is from a survey we ran again, just over about a thousand B2B buyers. You see in the sample size, down there in the bottom left. And what we’re one of these very simple, almost disarmingly, simple questions we asked customers in this particular survey is whether or not they would prefer if it was conceivable to have a rep free experience. I keep in mind this isn’t the sort of consumer goods, this isn’t shampoo and toothpaste, right? These are complex B2B solutions, whether it’s manufacturing equipment, a business services, engagement to financial services, you name it. And we simply ask those B2B buyers to what degree, if it were possible, if you could conceive of it, would you actually prefer if you could to have a completely rep free experience in this purchase all together.

And you notice in that dark blue bar on the left 33%, that’s a third of customers said that actually, that sounds kind of amazing. Now, if you flip it on its head, that’s two third saying, no, actually this is very complex. We probably want to sit down and we feel more comfortable talking to a human, but nonetheless, that 33% is dramatic and I think equally dramatic. When you cut this data by generation, you can see sort of an increasing trend from baby boomers to gen X-ers, to millennials where millennials 44%. So just under half said that would be fantastic. Now, does this mean that customers don’t want to engage with us? Not at all. I would imagine customers deeply want to engage with us. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the customers necessarily want to engage with us through our human channels. And that’s the first thing that we’re going to think about is that this whole idea of decreasing seller surface area is a critical point to think about because what happens for us as sellers and sales and sales enablement and sales leadership is we tend to in our minds and our mental model, put these two things in opposition, right?

Either customers engage with us through digital or they engage with us through in-person. And one of the reasons why is because those two things you see here on the screen, digital in-person are typically traditionally owned by two different functions. Marketing owns digital, sales owns in-person. So for sales and specifically for sales enablement, the place we see ourselves on a slide like this is in person and not necessarily in digital. And yet from your customer’s perspective, who’s become channel agnostic, if anything, increasingly so, or maybe even swinging to the left. That’s just not how they see that, how they see it as actually in-person and digital are just channels. They’re just channels through which I can gather information. I can gather information through people. I can gather information through websites or digital properties or whatever it might be. 

And so the better way for us to think about this is that if we’re going to be sales and see a sales enablement, then we’ve got to start thinking about our sales reps, not as the people that we’re enabling, but digital and in-person as the channels that we’re enabling, which is a very different mindset for us in sales enablement. Very much like it is as a different mindset for heads of sales. In fact, let me show you, let me show you what this looks like. If you kind of sum it up in a sort of three big questions to consider. From a sales enablement perspective you think about the three questions. There’s so many more that come off of this, but here’s three that I’d leave you with today.

Number one, what does the role of sales reps look like and how does the role of our sellers change when they are no longer a feed channel to customers, but a channel to customers because that is the world that we live in today. The world we live in today is a world where our customers are buying through multiple channels and our sales reps are no longer the channel, but a channel. And question number two then raises I think a hugely important question for all of us: how do we sell effectively when selling for that matter? Buying more accurately is owned by multiple functions. Right now we think selling is owned by sales, but right now buying is owned by marketing and by sales. And so it begins to really put some significant amount of pressure on our own functional silos because now we have effective buying and therefore selling happening in two different ways, in two different places, owned by two different budgets often and led by two different people very often in our organization. And finally the third point, which I spend a lot of time talking to chief sales officers about today is number three, which is as chief sales officers. I think the same thing goes for us as heads of sales enablement, chief sales officers.

We tend to define ourselves by the size of our Salesforce. I sit over a team of 50 sellers, 500 sellers, 5,000 sellers, 15,000 sellers. And it’s our job as a head of sales, and for that matter, sales enablement to build the Salesforce, train the Salesforce coach, the Salesforce, deploy the Salesforce, win with the Salesforce sales. The number of sellers becomes the denominator of everything that we do. Sales, but when you start looking at it through this lens, I think the better question is not so much are we really the head of sellers, but are we the head of selling and for sales enablement, are we really in seller enablement or are we really looking to drive selling enablement and much of the selling enablement that we could? And frankly, I think it should be driving what is happening inside of marketing, by the way, when you go talk to B2B marketers, as I do all the time, many B2B marketers, as you guys know, because some of you are B2B marketers, I’ll tell you we’re in sales enablement. And in fact, they’re right. Whether or not, they’re just creating collateral reps or putting things on the website.

They are enabling selling. And I think that’s the bigger mind shift that we’re all gonna have to wrap our brains around. So that’s disruption, number one, that’s a pretty big disruption. Disruption number two is this idea of increased decision dysfunction that our customers are going through. And what’s really interesting here is that basically, as I started talking about this a couple of years ago, when you talk about B2B buying is broken, it’s just so fraught with so many people in so many decisions. But what we’re also finding is not just the buying processes broken, but the deciding process is broken because of massive amounts of internal organizational uncertainty inside your customer’s organization. And we can see that in data like this, this was actually a piece of research that we conducted last spring in our B2B marketing practice at Gartner.

And this is all done prior to COVID, prior to lockdown, prior to global quarantine. So this is all irrespective of our current situation with COVID. And what’s interesting is even before then, if you have to ask, if you sit down and ask customers in a survey instrument, to what degree they operate and what they would consider to be an uncertainty. Organizational environment inside their own organization as measured by the attributes you see in that red box up at the top, right? My organization is paralyzed by uncertainty. It’s not clear how organizational change will affect me in my team that the amount of change in my organization is overwhelming. 81%, that’s over four fists, a customer strongly agreed, or even moderately agreed with that kind of uncertainty. We just operate today. All of us in our own organizations, it’s this huge amount of complexity and therefore uncertainty is we just try to navigate the decisions that we’re making inside our organization, including purchase decisions and takeaway. 

Here’s why this matters. Things are hard. Here’s why that level of uncertainty matters because as a huge impact on us, as sellers selling into that uncertainty, in fact, if you look down in the bottom left, this is the likelihood of purchase completion by degree of buyer uncertainty. And if you look at that dark blue bar down in the bottom left, you’ll notice that at 0.7 X, what you find is that customers operating in a highly uncertain environment are 30 percentage points, just less likely to complete any purchase at all. They just are so uncertain. They just wipe out. They give up, they just put it off, they study it more. They say, call me back in six months. They never actually want you to call them back in six months, by the way. And even more troubling is on the bottom right with the dark blue bar there. This is the likely to have high quality deal that they’re likely to be a customer actually who makes a purchase, choosing to buy the bigger purchase, the bigger solution with a broader scope and the higher price point with the higher margins.

And what you find here is customers in a highly uncertain environment, which again, remember is 81% of them. Customers in a highly uncertain environment are 42 percentage points, less likely to buy a high quality deal. That’s for the ones who actually make it to the finish line at all. So one way or another, what happens is our customers either wipe out or when they don’t wipe out, they actually make it to the finish line and make a purchase. They hedge their bets. They mitigate their risk. They buy something smaller, they buy something they want to pilot, or they buy the lower scope or the older technology or the tried and true perspective. And we all pay a price for that as suppliers trying to sell our disruptive bigger solutions into this environment.

And there’s really kind of, if you think about it, so, why all this uncertainty what’s going on here? Well, there’s sort of two dimensions of it and there’s two demands in each of these two dimensions that leads us to an opportunity for our organization. So dimension one is something we’ve talked about a lot over the last couple of years, just the size and complexity of the buying group itself. So we know that on average, over on the left, there is in fact our latest data is just over 11 individual stakeholders involved in a typical B2B purchase. Each one of those individual stakeholders is gathering huge amounts of information on their own, whether it’s, you know, four or five, six, seven white papers, websites, pieces of research that they’re, they’re debating and considering as a result, 15% of time spent in a B2B purchase. And remember that’s 15% over a course of sometimes two years that isn’t like, let’s get together this afternoon and have a de-conflicting, information meeting, right? This is over the course of days, even weeks, sometimes, maybe even months, your customers are literally just trying to figure out what is the single version of truth that we even believe as a buying group.

And do we agree on it? So not surprisingly over on the right 77% of buyers over three quarters tell us that they just find B2B buying today to be extremely difficult. That number four or five years ago was just over 40%. And it just shows you what’s happened is that the explosion of purchase difficulty and decision difficulty in the organizations we operate in. And the way this manifests is there’s two is one is just the internal company actually that we have to navigate. So, one of the things that we know from our jobs to be done approach, and again, here’s four of those jobs, problem identification, solution, exploration requirements, building supplier selection. When we ask customers about a typical B2B buying journey or a recent one that they’d been on with our colleagues, and we asked them to what degree did you go back and repeat one of those jobs as part of a typical as part of that purchase journey. Notice that over 75%, three quarters answered yes for each of those four different buying jobs across the board. 

So it’s a story of one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back. So you identify the problem. You begin to explore solutions, you realize, Oh, I don’t think we got the problem. We got to go back and revisit, or someone else gets involved or a new hurdle shows up, or there’s a new hoop you got to jump through. And so when you start to map out the B2B buying journey, it doesn’t look like a nice straight linear line. It looks like what I call it a big bowl of spaghetti, and I think this is a better picture of what B2B buying looks like today. It’s arrows going in all sorts of different directions. So to be sure there is an emotion to it. Problem identification, solution exploration, and so on across the middle. But your path along that motion is anything but linear, which raises this question, well then when does a B2B purchase actually happen? When does it complete window customers say we’re done, we’re going to buy and they make that decision?

Well, the answer is not when you make it to the finish line, but when you can look at all four of these jobs and agree with your colleagues that they’re all complete at the same time, do we all agree? We’ve identified the right problem. Do we all agree that we’ve sufficiently explored the solution? We all agree that we built the right requirements. Do we all agree that we’ve selected the right supplier? And until we can say yes simultaneously to all four. That purchase won’t happen. It’s like that plate spinning act at the circus where all the plates in the six have to be spinning at the same time. And it tells you the B2B buying is less about progression and more about completion and getting those jobs to be complete at the same time.

Now, all of that matters because we got to think about sort of, one of the questions we have to ask as well, who’s in a better position to know what this page looks like for our customers. Is it the supplier or is it your customer? And the answer is chances are pretty good. The supplier is in a much better position to know what this page looks like, then your customer, because your customer is going through this offer for the first time or the first time in a long time. And many of these landmines that they step on here, they didn’t see coming. How many deals have fallen off the rails or gotten stuck in the pipeline for a reason that your customer didn’t even see happening? Whereas you look at it, they go, Oh God, here we go again, because you can map this out for your customer.

This page alone, I think is the best example of an opportunity that we all have as suppliers to take our customers by the hand and become they’re buying Sherpa, they’re buying coaching, guide them through this minefield, and help them make buying easier. Because the other thing they’re going to struggle with is just the amount of information that they encounter, irrespective of just this organizational complexity and hoops that they got to jump through is the information they encounter along the way as well. In fact, one of the things we also know from our data is the fact that 89%. So that’s virtually everybody, 89% of B2B buyers. We surveyed just last year, told us that the information we encountered as part of this purchase was generally of high quality. So they went out and did their due diligence. They studied, they gathered information through reps, through digital, and they found massive amounts of information, but it wasn’t just information. It was good information. It was backed by data. It was relevant. It was well-researched that’s subject matter expert backing. 

And that’s because over the last several years, we’ve all doubled down on trying to be a thought leader for our industry, right? So we all want to be a thought leader for industry, because we think it’s a source of differentiation, but we’ve all played the card at the same time, with the same content marketing, the same MarTech stack, the same sales enablement, collateral, and giving our sales reps the same kinds of pitch decks to use. And as a result, we’re all smarter and saying smarter things. And our customers are just more confused than ever before. In fact, we found in our data, 50% of customers we surveyed, on the left there told us that the amount of trustworthy information was overwhelming. Not just information, but trustworthy information was overwhelming in the middle of 43% who agreed that the information was trustworthy, but it was also contradictory.

You’re telling me to zig, they’re telling me to zag, everybody’s believable, everybody’s got data. I don’t know what to do. And this is a world where we’re finding that quality of your insight, the quality of your thought leadership is less likely to be a differentiator today than ever before 10 years ago, because everybody’s saying smart things, whether it rises to the level of insight or not is a different question, but it’s all got data. It’s all well sort of well-researched and now your customers are just confused at a higher level, leaving them to say, you know why don’t we just study this more? So just like on Amazon results button says, save for later, which you click and you put all that stuff and he’s like, I’ll decide some other time. It’s kind of what we do in B2B buying as well. Or we just don’t know because everybody’s saying smart things over in the right, 55% of customers said it was hard to just make trade-offs with vendors. And so we just buy on price. So here’s our three questions for this section, which is have you then mapped your customers, learning and deciding journeys in detail.

Have you mapped out the picture of the spaghetti bowl that they themselves wouldn’t be able to map on their own? And as a result of mapping that journey, have you figured out where the most high frequency points of pain are, where are the places where we can take our customer by the hand? And guide them through their purchase journey, ways they themselves can’t number two, are you currently making those journeys harder or easier? So this, one of the things we learned in the lesson of too much high-quality information is this role of what we call sense-making. And if you haven’t seen our sense-making work, it’s really important that we get that in front of you, because the best role for sales reps today at play today is not to give them even more information or just tell them what to do, but to play the role of a sense-making rep. To help them to say, “Hey, look, there’s a lot of information out there from us, from other places, let me help you just make sense out of all of it.” And to the degree that you’re out there, just pumping even more information out there, giving me yet one more piece of collateral and sales enabled to a degree that we’re just empowering our reps with yet more information.

We’re actually making things worse, not better. And finally, have we conducted what I would call it, differentiation audit to identify changing differentiation opportunities to the degree that we’re just like trying to differentiate based on our thought leadership. Chances are it’s smart in this arms race and in our journey to sound ever smarter, we’re sounding even more similar to everyone else. And finally, just two or three minutes on this last section, which is the system itself, cause you take one and two and you put them together and you hold them up. That’s the new reality into which we will all be selling for the foreseeable future the next five years easily. And you think about the system software, the actual infrastructure we use in our organizations to actually run our organization to compete in this environment. It’s hopelessly out of line with that underlying buying reality, because this is the infrastructure. We all have a linear model of selling. Looks like we all have a sales process. Maybe it’s got six stages. Maybe we got four, maybe got 15. And we run our forecast off this model, right?

We have the expected value of deals to close in one versus two versus stage three versus stage four. And, we run our coaching models off this. We run our sales process off of a linear model, but remember that linear model is meant to be a proxy for an underlying buying reality that it looks like this, that linear model looks nothing like the way that B2B buying actually happens. So now we have a sales model completely out of step with a buying reality. And so what happens is then you go to do your pipeline review and you do stage one, look good, stage two, good, three, four, good. But at stage five, everything’s stuck and you get this pig and the Python problem and all the deals get stuck in stage five.

Like we must have a stage five selling problems. Everything’s stuck. So you bring on the trainers and say, we need to enable our sellers to sell better stage five selling skills. When in fact, if the underline reality of buying looks like this, you may not in fact have a stage five problem at all, that your customers could be stuck in any number of places that you cannot see because your pipeline won’t allow you to see it. Your pipeline essentially is providing blinders to the underlying reality of what’s happening in buying because buying remember doesn’t happen in terms of progression. Buying happens in terms of completion. And it really raises the opportunity for us to begin to think about what a B2B purchase looks like?

If it’s all about completion, how might we measure it? And I think some of the smartest, most progressive B2B organizations today are beginning to figure out ways to measure job completion rather than stage progression. And I think this is the right way to think about B2B banks. What can we do to help our customers complete each of those jobs, to their satisfaction, through sense-making through buyer enablement, and then how can we measure that completion and reaffirm it so that we know that that particular job is buttoned down. That is a smarter way to think about it. And then finally, the last idea to put on the page or on the screen is now let’s bring in marketing this whole thing, because it’s the entire commercial engine, not just our sales process, but the entire way we’ve built our commercial engine is largely in this linear or serial model.

So first the marketing, then the sales and marketing owns digital sales, those in person. Right? And so marketing goes out and generates demand through digital. We nurture demand and we drip demand and some we qualify demand. We stamped something, a marketing qualified lead, and we handed off over to sales and then sales goes and pursues it.  Like, all right, marketing’s done. Go get sales. Digital’s done. Go get them reps. But as we’ve already talked about that no longer works. This is not how reality works. So we need to move from a world of the cereal commercial engine, first marketing than Salesforce digital than in person to what I would call the parallel commercial engine, where sales and marketing are simply just two different ways of thinking about how we contact and support our customers in the completion of their buying journeys. 

This is a complete rewrite of our infrastructure, which is incredibly disruptive. We hesitate sometimes to put this on the screen or on the page, because in some ways I think it means more than just having it head of sales and marketing. It means probably redesigning the tire system. And I know of two or three companies that have begun to do this, just dismantle everything and rebuild it, just dismantle sales and marketing and just rebuild around buying jobs. And not even, I talked to a CML at one of these companies just the other day, he said, not the Sione marks. We don’t actually have marketing anymore to hear that from a massive tech based B2B organization, a multi-billion dollar company is mind-bending and yet that’s, I think the way this feature, it’s not like it’ll likely go up. They’re going to have to go because that’s how you map to the underlying reality.

So the last page of questions to consider is to what degree is your current pipeline actually sending you false signals? Because your pipeline is no longer an accurate proxy of the underlying buying reality. It’s meant to approximate. Number two, are you creating, we talked so much about creating a seamless view of our customers for us. Like how do we get that seamless view of our customers through our CRM system, but are we really creating a seamless view of us for our customers so that if they engage with us through digital, if they engage with us, the reps, they get the same information and those are just channels through which they can complete their jobs. And it’s not like I see one thing on your website and you’re a different thing from your sales reps. I need to create a seamless view. We need to create a seamless view of us for our customers. 

And finally, question number three is simply to what degree is our own functional myopia what’s owned by sales, what’s owned by marketing, preventing our ability to sell the way that customers actually prefer to buy. And so there you go. Those are, those are three big disruptions. So we go all the way back to our title slide, which is simply if we think about driving a return to growth in the disrupted world, I think if there’s anything we could say about our world today, it is highly disrupted less certainly of course. So because of quarantine and COVID, and just a very tough story that we’re all facing today, not to mention the fact it’s election year and everything else, but let’s not lose sight of the bigger macro picture of just massive changes. Now, B2B buying and selling is happening across the next several years. And that gives you at least some ideas to think about how we are in sales. And I think particularly in sales enablement, it can completely redefine our jobs to reorient to that future today. Hopefully that was interesting to you guys and cheers everybody.


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