Whether it’s business transformation or a global pandemic—change affects us all and being resilient is key.
You can strengthen your resilience—your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or handle more in future. It’s about building-up cognitive and emotional fitness and behaviour strength as well as stronger relationships to ensure you’re ready for change.
Resilience is not about being tough, emotionless & cold. It’s your ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours or reactions. And doing so with acceptance & self-compassion. With an open heart & mind.
Our 6 pillars are resilience are, from our GrowthLeader™ programme, are:
(3) Mental adaptability
(4) Strength of character
Let’s look at each in more detail.
You can gain a deeper understanding of who or what presses your buttons—when, where, why and how you think and do the things you do. It’s about increasing awareness and sharing your emotions and the immediate needs or longterm values they point to—instead of acting out knee-jerk reactions.
Most people know when they are calm or happy but find it harder to identify one or more uncomfortable emotions—sadness, fear or anger.
Listening to your emotions is important. They point to your needs. Think of Maslow’s needs: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem & self-actualization. So self-awareness is about developing your emotional; awareness, literacy, fluency and intelligence.
An event can trigger your beliefs and judgments. Typically the inner voice of your internal parent. The part of you that keeps you safe—with care and control.
These beliefs and judgments lead to feeling emotions that point to your needs. Typically the inner voice of your internal child. The part of you that represents your individuality.
This leads to actions—your behaviours—that lead to effective or ineffective outcomes.
You can strengthen your autonomy by developing your inner adult & voice of reason by accounting for what is going on, in the moment.
You can tell someone you are angry instead of shouting in rage. You can say you are sad instead of having a tantrum. Or share your fears instead of closing & withdrawing.
Greater self-awareness leads to greater self-regulation. Once you are aware of your thoughts, emotions, behaviours & reactions, you can asses them—to meet your needs and deeper values.
Slowing down to exercise your ability to respond. Being responsive and response-able—the ability to respond instead of autopilot reactions.
Self-regulation is not resisting, judging, manipulating, repressing, avoiding or withholding. It’s allowing yourself to feel your emotions & understand the values they point to.
Beware of faux feelings—like showing anger when you’re actually afraid or showing sadness when you’re actually angry. Express yourself wholeheartedly. Responding to others—with authenticity & integrity—instead of your knee-jerk reactions of fight, flight or freeze.
Try values-based relating. Naming your emotions, your needs or values and the same for the other person. For example:
> When you say or do…(a, b, c),
> I feel happy/sad/anger/fear…,
> I need or value connection/wellbeing/joy/peace/autonomy/meaning…,
> I’m thinking you might need or value…(x, y, z)…is that right?
> How can we agree on a way for both our needs or values to be met?
Have the courage to change the things you can, accept the things you can’t & the wisdom to know the difference.
(3) Mental Adaptability
It’s your ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi
We all see and experience the world through a limiting lens—our frame of reference.
You can spend 90% of your time in autopilot. Reliving stories and scripts from the past.
The key is to notice them—in the moment—asking yourself:
—Are they true and maybe wrong?
—Is it a fact or an assumption?
Mental adaptability allows you to create new positive habits to overwrite old unhelpful ways of thinking and doing.
Do you have a closed, limited and fixed mindset? Or an open, expansive and growth midet—leading to flexibility and creativity?
It’s not about increasing the volume of facts or information—a.k.a. crystallised intelligence. It’s about increasing your fluid intelligence.
Your capacity to learn new information, retain it and use it to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill.
The more you try, the more you apply. The more you train, the more you gain.
(4) Behaviour Strengths
Your ability to know & use your most effective behaviours.
To engage authentically to overcome challenges in alignment with your values.
It’s your capacity for positive ways of behaving, thinking or feeling.
It’s more than something you’re good at.
Think about when you feel filled with energy, in the zone, with optional functioning, development & performance.
Unlike your personality type, which is largely fixed, your behaviours and emotional and social intelligence literacy can be strengthened and improved.
This, in turn, can reduce ineffective behaviours.
Research suggests people who use four or more of their key strengths at work have more positive work experiences & say their work is a true life calling.
When you know your functional behaviour strengths, you can:
— Communicate better to build more positive relationships
— Balance your energy to enhance health, wellbeing & resilience
— Develop, empower, motivate & inspire yourself & others
A challenge to personal development is to identify your high functioning strengths and the areas for growth.
Research suggests only ⅓ of people have an active awareness of their strengths.
Your ability to build & maintain relationships to weather the storms together, not on your own.
Connection is a core human need.
Positive relationships create a support network to build resilience against challenges.
Providing different perspectives and ideas when navigating new situations.
Giving us an outlet to communicate and talk through struggles.
Motivating and inspiring us to continue moving forward in a positive way.
Establishing both professional and personal networks that can offer guidance & encouragement in times of difficulty is hugely beneficial.
There are various strands to a strong support system.
Genuine connections with colleagues is key.
Someone you trust and can to turn to under stress—& being someone others can turn to.
A buddy or mentor can be a helpful if you need support from someone who has done your job before.
And friends and family are important too.
But sometimes you will need professional support, a coach, counsellor or psychotherapist.
Someone specifically trained to support you to untangle more complex problems, understand yourself deeper, increase your emotions intelligence or improve confidence.
Your ability to:
— notice and expect the positive
— to focus on what you can control
— to take purposeful action
Do you have hopefulness and confidence about the future?
No matter how tough things get, know that it will pass.
Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
But beware blind optimism! Aim for realistic optimism. Blind or unrealistic optimism underestimates risk & ability.
Saying: “I’ve got this!” when you haven’t prepared, is not a good strategy for resilience.
Realistic optimism is active not passive. Accept the realistic potential negatives without letting them get you down. Focus on what is in your control or influence.
Notice when you’re outside this zone and step back in. Spend time and energy on what you can change.
Research shows that, on average, human beings are hardwired to be more optimistic than not.
Research has also shown a 7-week resilience program with foundations in optimism has improved job satisfaction, self-esteem, psychological well-being and productivity.
Optimism also predicts productivity and retention in the workplace. For example, research suggests optimistic salespeople sold 37% more than pessimistic salespeople in their first two years on the job.
Similarly, compared to their first year of employment, pessimists are two times as likely to quit as compared to optimists.
Benefits on physical health, such as in sleep patterns, immune response, and mortality.
Optimistic women are one-third less likely to die from heart disease when compared to pessimistic women over an eight-year period, and pessimistic women overall have higher rates of mortality
Pessimistic men are more likely to develop serious heart problems and have higher rates of mortality.
For more information about our 6 pillars are resilience are, from our GrowthLeader™ programme, contact email@example.com.
by: Adrian O'Gara
If change is the only constant, then why do we resist it and continue to fail?
Here's the short answer:
"Over 70 percent of change programs fail—largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. When people are truly invested, change is 30 percent more likely to stick."
— McKinsey (and many similar studies)
There are lots of reasons why people resist change—one of the more obvious—we are creatures of habit. A deeper explanation would uncover our need for survival, belonging and self-esteem. And these same needs, when met, can lead to people truly investing in change. It becomes difficult to invest in something, however, when many around you are resisting the change.
For example, people may not support a change program that is forced upon them from senior leadership. Or there is a lack of support to manage the resistance coming from their team. If your people have a ‘grey’ or closed attitude to change then you are more likely to fail. So how do you create a ‘green’ or open attitude to change in yourself, your team and your organization?
How To Lead Change?
Here are my top three ways to lead change:
- Bring teams together around a common purpose—including a set of goals, values, or vision
- Keep everyone engaged and informed during periods of change
- Improve collaboration within and across teams—to breakdown silos and create interdependence
This is easier said than done, so here are my five steps to achieve the above.
1. Notice Your Response To Change
It has to start with you, your mindset and attitude to change and your conscious awareness to what is going on within and around you. You may be worried about the change. Notice it and own it. Feel free to share this with others in a constructive way. Are you going to be closed or open to the change. Which of the following ways would you say or want to hear from others?
"Each year management comes up with a new initiative. Why would this year be any different? As usual, hardly anybody really understands what it’s all about. And whenever we face a real problem with a customer, management is far away.”
“Management regularly creates new initiatives. When they announced this year’s strategy, I made sure to ask my manager all relevant questions. Getting my team involved wasn’t that difficult once I understood the big picture.”
I hope you say and hear option two more than one. Either way, it's a shift from a closed mindset to an open mindset.
“If you want to change, you have to change twice. You not only need to change the reality of your situation, you also need to change your perception of this reality.”
— Luc de Brabandere, Fellow & Senior Advisor, The Boston Consulting Group
2. Authentic Dialogue
One of the biggest challenges with change is a lack of open and authentic dialogue. Lack of communication leads to the whispers in the corridors. Leaders who increase their self-awareness and interpersonal skills can enable their team to do the same. Increasing emotional fluency with open and constructive dialogue. Start by providing a safe environment where leaders and teams can explore and openly discuss their thoughts and feelings with regards to a workplace issue or new initiative. This can greatly reduce resistance to change. It also allows people to consider alternative scenarios for success—previously obscured by ill-informed assumptions—like fear, personal rivalries, or organizational roadblocks. So focus on improving your listening skills and emotional fluency.
“By paying attention to feelings and needs, authentic communication helps cultivate the sense that ‘I matter, you matter, we matter’, which can improve relationships, build team spirit and contribute to the growth of the organization.”
— Martha Lasley, Founding partner at Leadership that Works
3. Conscious Leadership
Identify stress-induced autopilot reactions, in yourself and others, and move beyond being simply guided (and limited) by your unconscious motives, assumptions and beliefs. You are then able to take objective, conscious and constructive action, leading to significant benefits for both yourself, your team and your organization. This leads to an increase in self-awareness and developing a clearer sense of purpose to lead your team.
Focus on the building blocks of human interaction that connect us all: emotions, reactions and behaviors. Encouraging an understanding of these behaviors, provide insights into how to change them, and explore the effect this can have in the workplace. Equip yourself with tools to understand the intrinsic motivation of yourself and your people, and offers your colleagues insights into how their own communication style and interactions with other people can contribute to a common sense of purpose. This will remove communication obstacles so everyone can work more effectively.
“Too often...we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.”
— Peter Senge, Director of the Center for Organizational Learning, MIT Sloan School of Management
4. Courageous Conversations
I believe that the benefits of authentic communication can best be achieved by infusing an environment of trust throughout an organization. This is not something that is best achieved through theoretical discussion or role-playing. I wouldn’t suggest it be ordained or imposed by top management. At best, it’s lived and practiced by both leaders and their teams. It’s particularly vital for geographically dispersed or virtual teams where the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it difficult to feel engaged.
Everyone can feel empowered and free to engage in courageous conversations with their peers and leaders in order to address the fundamental and underlying issues in any given situation. Then amazing things happen.
“As I define it, courageous conversations are heartfelt conversations around challenging, crucial, and pivotal topics. It's having the willingness to discuss processes and ideas that really matter, without fear of reprisal.”
— David Whyte, Poet, Author, Lecturer
5. Boost employee engagement
By engaging employees around organizational or strategic issues, you can energize participants to focus on successful outcomes. This mounting energy feeds further engagement. Engaged people are more likely to achieve their objectives and have a positive influence on their environment and those around them. Each successful outcome builds confidence, and this positive energy can then be employed in solving future issues.
“Study after study indicates that employee emotions are fundamentally related to and actually drive bottom-line success in a company. Emotions are directly connected to whether our needs are met or unmet.”
— Steve Bates, Editor, SHRM
Real leadership includes the ability to support people moving from grey to green thinking and doing. In times of change, these interpersonal skills become evermore crucial. If you want to improve your ability to lead other we need to start with being able to lead ourselves. Seeing that we have a conscious choice in how we react to people and our environment is incredibly powerful. The key is to provide leaders, and their people, with tools to remind them of these conscious choices. There are many ways to learn more about your reactive behaviors—beliefs, assumptions, drivers and triggers—to support yourself and help others to find and express theirs too.
To put this into practice, join us in London on 31 March for a one-day workshop on leading your team through change.
Putting Persuasion Science into Practice
For Sales & Marketing Messaging
By: Adrian O'Gara
I see too many companies with confusing messaging, value propositions with no clear value and unique selling points that aren't unique.
A: Your Primal brain keeps you safe and manages critical internal states below our level of consciousness. Think of it like the memory chip and BIOS on a computer, with a set of basic instructions that control how your brain receives input and output. So it’s faster than the Rational brain. And the Primal brain dominates the processing of all persuasive messages.
So, once you have identified the PAINS, solidified your CLAIMS supported by your proofs of GAIN , you need to use specific techniques to engage the decision-making part of your buyer’s brain. You will need to deliver a story so it moves their Primal Brain. By doing so, buyers will understand you, they will remember you and they will like you. This will give them the final emotional incentive to buy from you.
Join Dr Christophe Morin and me at a 1-day workshop in London this April to learn how to apply the new science of persuasion to your sales & marketing messaging. Find out more.
Upcoming Learning Days
B2B buyers only spend 17% of their time meeting with you — their potential suppliers. The rest of their time is spent researching elsewhere and having internal meetings about their project — when you’re not there. That’s according to Gartner’s latest research.
Gartner suggests buyers spend over a third of their time (38%) in internal meetings, with others in the buying centre, where salespeople are not present.
“Today’s buying journey isn’t just hard — it has reached a tipping point where it’s become nearly unnavigable without a significant amount of help,” said Brent Adamson, principal executive advisor at Gartner.
“However, customers today don’t really care where that help comes from. A conversation with a sales rep isn’t an end in itself, it’s simply a means to gathering the information necessary to complete specific buying ‘jobs.’ But, what matters isn’t the conversation, it’s the information provided.”
“Much like sales enablement, sales organizations must focus on what we call ‘buyer enablement’,” Adamson says. “Sales teams need to harness empathy, and their deep industry and customer knowledge to develop and deploy information to help buyers buy — just as they do to enable sellers to sell more easily.”
Gartner defines it as:
“Buyer enablement is the provision of information that supports the completion of critical buying jobs.”
In other words, it’s the age-old challenge of getting the right information to the right person at the right time.
Two areas of buyer enablement:
1. Prescriptive advice involves do-this or don’t-do-this recommendations to ease the buyer’s journey.
2. Practical support gives customers the tools to action the prescriptive advice.
“So buyer enablement is about salespeople acting as “information connectors… curators or brokers of information rather than individual experts,” Adamson suggests.
So salespeople need to offer the buyer helpful tools and data. To help them simplify the buying process. This increases the chances that buyers will make a higher-value investment and reduce the chances they will fear regretting their investment.
As soon as B2B buyers add multiple suppliers to the process they spend even less time with your salespeople — as the above mentioned 17 percent of time with suppliers is split among all of them.
“If they are speaking to three potential suppliers you only get an average of 5-6 percent of their time.”
“When you start looking at this world of buying and just how complex it’s become, with all the different people involved and the amount of information… as individuals, we have incredibly limited access to our customers to have any kind of impact on all of that complexity,” Adamson says.
I personally translate this as, a major role for salespeople today is to help buyers to help themselves. Help them identify the best-fit solution and to sell their preferred solution internally. Enabling buyers to cut through the noise in their own organization, the competition, and your own organization’s noise. Be a trusted advisor to guide the buyer to make the best-informed decision and close the deal together.
Questions to consider:
- How are you maximizing the limited time you have with clients?
- How can you best support your customer through the buying process?
- Is your sales and marketing optimized to help your ideal client’s buy?
What are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? Please share your feedback below.
[Writted by Adrian O’Gara, Founder & Principal at O’Gara-Co. First published 22 October 2018. Updated 5 September 2019.]
The essential strategies you need to successfully win major B2B customers
Although the phrase has been around for over a decade and arguably being deployed by smart marketers ever since B2B sales teams have focused on target/key accounts, in recent years account-based marketing (ABM) has become hotter than ever.
As far back as 1993, Peppers and Rogers proposed marketing would take an increased role in developing intelligence on key accounts: “When two marketers are competing for the same customer’s business, all other things being equal, the marketer with the greatest scope of information about that particular customer… will be the more efficient competitor.”
In short, ABM is a strategic approach that coordinates personalised sales and marketing efforts, to target specific accounts for new business and create deeper and broader relationships with existing customers.
It’s clear to see from Google Trends, the term account-based marketing, was being searched since the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) first coined the phrase, just over 10 years ago.
Since then, it’s more than trebled in popularity or become ten times more popular in the past two years, than its average popularity over time. This is due to several key drivers, which we discuss later.
Bev Burgess, European MD of ITSMA, is famed for coining the phrase account-based marketing and co-creating the approach with organisations like Fujitsu, BT, HP, and Accenture.
Organisations seeing the greatest current benefit from ABM are typically IT, Services and Consulting companies. Due to their complex propositions, long sales cycles and large clients, these organizations are ideal candidates for ABM. It is spreading into other sectors and a benefit can be seen to be an increased return on investment and time.
If we also take a look at its popularity in the news, compared to other popular marketing topics, we see ABM is 40% more popular than CRM and almost twice as popular as marketing automation.
Why the recent popularity? The business world has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, especially sales and marketing tactics, strategies and technologies.
The Evolution of ABM
Historically, ABM was arguably a strategy only used by the largest of marketing teams. After all, who else would have the resources to focus large marketing efforts on a few accounts. However, due to advances in technologies and services, ABM can now scale. Enabled by the latest advances in mass-personalisation, retargeting and programmatic account-based advertising, to name a few, it’s now possible to treat an individual company as a market of one — targeted with personalised messages to suit their individual needs.
ABM, in its newest form, finds the right balance between inbound and outbound marketing, online and offline — to create an integrated campaign approach. All focused on the buying committee in the complex B2B buyer and the customer journey.
The benefits of ABM
There are many benefits claimed with the use of ABM. Some examples are:
- Better use of marketing resources by focusing on a smaller number of accounts
- More personalized, efficient marketing strategy; creating stronger engagement with prospects
- Optimising upsell and cross-sell with customers
- The ability to close bigger deals within targeted accounts
- Creating a more targeted approach to nurturing
- The ability to increase pipeline velocity, or to close deals faster
- Utilising data for intelligence and smarter targeting
- Aligning your marketing, sales and services teams to focus on the most lucrative clients and prospects
In partnership with SmartInsights, OGaraCo has created ‘The definitive guide to account-based marketing and sales alignment’. In this briefing, we look beyond the hype to uncover a universal definition as well as who should be using it, when and how — from development to deployment — including case studies and best practice for planning and execution. We take a balanced and unbiased approach to examining all the evidence and set a clear framework for you to implement ABM, if it’s relevant to your business. Expert members can download our guide to account based marketing today.
 Peppers and Rogers; The One-to-One Future (1993); Page 140
 OGaraCo definition of ABM, 2016, www.ogaraco.com
[This article first appeared on smartinsights.com on 17 January 2017 and updated here on 5 September 2019]
Following on from the theme of my recent posts, on what I learned today about sales and marketing automation best practice, I wanted to share more information on the essential topic of sales and marketing alignment. If you think this is a fluffy subject then read the latest industry research:
“Failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies costs B2B companies 10% or more of revenue per year.” IDC
“Companies with aligned sales and marketing generate 208% more revenue for their marketing, 36% higher retention & 38% higher win rates.” MarketingProfs
“B2B organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth, over a three-year period.” SiriusDecisions
Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying the power of alignment. So, if it achieves such high results then why aren’t we all doing it? Well, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin but still on opposite sides. We do need each other and we do need to work together, in a joined-up process, for the most important person in our relationship — the customer.
So here are five key steps to take:
- Building jointly agreed go-to-market campaigns for awareness, pipeline and ultimately revenue
- Offer strong support through continuously improving sales enablement
- Clearly define and govern a seamless marketing and sales funnel where everyone contributes to pipeline
- Jointly agree KPIs around funnel quality, quantity & velocity — with real-time visibility, on a shared platform, for a single version of the truth
- Regular interlocks to improve communication, monitor results, share progress, course correct and build trust — working together as a team
To learn more about these five key steps, please join Dr Chris Boorman, CMO at Automic Software, on the following on-demand webcast, where we go through them in detail, and how they lead to Automic winning a sales and marketing alignment award: Improving alignment between B2B marketing and sales.
[a version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 2 December 2016 and updated here on 5 September 2019]
You don’t drive all the way to work only looking in your car’s rear-view mirror. When you get to work , however, you might drive your business this way—looking back at historical data to make crucial decisions. Most sales and marketing leaders use historical CRM and marketing automation data. Information like; how many leads were created, sales meetings completed or deals closed last week/month/quarter. While these metrics have their importance, as leading indicators, you may not best informed if drive your business only using a rear-view mirror. Best-in-class, high-growth businesses are using forward-looking metrics to understand their complete lead-to-revenue funnel. The following four categories contain the most important forward-looking questions most companies need to answer.
Planning & goals
- Is revenue on track to hit future goals?
To answer this you need to calculate if you are on track to hit your targets based on your current funnel momentum. So if you keep going, at your current pace, will you hit your future revenue goals or is there a gap you need to fill?
- Are your goals realistic?
Are your goals achievable and realistic? Possibly too high or surprisingly too low? And should they be adjusted?
- If you are not on track, what changes do you need to make?
What do you need to do now to hit future goals? Can you identify exactly where in the marketing and sales funnel the problem is occurring? Why is it occurring and what can you do about it?
- Are you communicating the right information to management & the board?
Does your leadership know what to expect from the revenue funnel in the future? Sales and marketing leaders need to keep the CEO informed and the CEO needs to keep the board and investors informed.
Marketing strategy & demand generation
- Are you generating the right quantity and quality of leads today to hit future revenue targets?
Are you reverse engineering your funnel, from revenue back to leads, to determine the exact number you need based on your current conversion rates? Do you need to improve conversion rates (quality) or increase the number of leads (quantity) and bringing them in at the right time to hit targets?
- Which channels, programmes or campaigns are making the greatest impact?
Can you identify what is having the greatest positive impact so you can invest more in this area?
- Which channels, programmes or campaigns are making the least impact?
Can you identify what is having the least impact so you can divert spend to the high performing activities?
- Are leads being followed up with the correct sales activities?
When sales receive or create the adequate quantity and quality of leads are they being followed up correctly? Are they being contacting in time? Are they being contacted enough times with appropriate contact methods? Can you measure quality and quantity of touches and time to first touch or first contact? Are they taking too long or not enough effort?
- Can you measure performance at each funnel stage per sales rep?
Not every sales rep has the same level of performance. How do they compare across different stages of the funnel, who is performing the best/worst and why?
- Where do you focus your efforts to grow your revenue faster?
Every business has multiple levers and dials that can be pulled and turned to make a positive impact on revenue. Can you easily identify which ones to focus on to maximise results?
Return on investment (ROI)
- What is the total ROI of our joint sales and marketing efforts?
There are multiple ways to measure ROI, such as customer acquisition cost to lifetime value (CAC:LTV), but are you getting the best return from your sales and marketing costs and is your ROI getting better or worse?
- What activities generate the greatest return?
Similar to looking at the best revenue-generating campaigns, are you monitoring the actual return and factoring in the costs of sales and marketing time and efforts?
- What should you spend in the future on sales and marketing investments?
Should you spend more on sales and marketing activities and/or headcount to hit future goals?
As you look to drive your business forward, with a fully aligned sales and marketing team, I’m sure you agree these forward-looking questions need to be answered to give you the best possible chance of success. Many businesses have gaps in their business intelligence when it comes to forward-looking metrics. All too often the data is in outdated spreadsheets or static, rigid reports spread across too many dashboards.
As I’ve helped multiple clients manage the entire lead-to-funnel process and answer the above questions, you can be reassured it is possible. By using the Revenue Funnel Science framework you too can correctly measure, forecast and optimise your sales and marketing funnel to hit or exceed your future revenue targets.
SalesTech & MarTech (also known as sales and marketing automation platforms) has been around for many years. The early days of on-premise customer relationship management and automated drip email tools are now cloud-first and AI-powered with predictive and prescriptive analytics. But there are so many vendors and none are one-size-fits-all solutions. So it’s important that you choose the right stack of providers for your specific business requirements.
B2B companies have more complex and longer buyer journeys and more people involved in the buying centre. Your automation platform selection should focus on finding the best fit with your business plans, resources and company culture. There are several ways to navigate the selection process, including a formal RFP (request for proposal) for shortlisting vendors to running in-depth demonstrations. Here are six steps that will help you in this process.
1. Define clear business goals: In order to know what a vendor should be able to deliver in terms of features and service, it is important to clearly define the business challenges or opportunities that you are facing. Describe the gap between the current situation and the desired state. This will be a great starting point for a list of requirements that summarise your needs but also allows you to get internal feedback and build support from within your company.
2. Avoid shiny object syndrome: Looking at all the features of potential vendors, it can be easy to get distracted and go for the platform with that one beautiful feature. To avoid shiny object syndrome, summarise your wants and needs to determine what they will be assessed on. Try to split it into categories:
- Essential (deal-breakers)
- Key features (things that the solution should do)
- Desirables (nice to have but could do without)
3. Restrict your choices: After learning about the possibilities and making your first list of requirements, try to restrict your choices of vendors quickly. There are 500+ distinct SalesTech solutions on Nancy Nardin’s Sales Technology Landscape 2019. And a whopping 7,040 solutions on Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic 2019. So you clearly need to restrict your choices. You might choose to work with Nancy, Scott or other analysts your firm might already employ. Speak to your IT team and ask if they already have a subscription to an analyst firm that would allow you to talk with them too.
Each and every extra vendor you research will take extra time to analyse, consider, meet and makes the selection more challenging. You can’t easily assess all the features from hundreds of vendors. You have to move to a shortlist. Ideally, you would focus on 4 to 6 vendors in your RFP.
4. Professionally manage your own team and the vendor: The vendors might be used to pitching in every type of situation, but a professional attitude can greatly improve the whole selection process. Include a realistic timeframe in your RFP, where you outline the steps in the process and how you expect the interactions to take place. Do your own homework and ask them to present the requirements that you are most interested in. Use the same requirements across all vendors so you can make a fair comparison.
5. Challenge vendors with a scenario: After you receive the RFPs back, and you’ve spoken to the vendors to get an introduction, it’s time to shortlist 2-3 vendors for an in-depth demonstration. You really want to get insight into the features and benefits of the product and how they match your requirements. Create a scenario, or test case, and ask them how they would handle it. You can even ask them to run an example campaign. This moves decision-making beyond a checklist and gives you a real tangible visualization.
6. Services are as important as the product: The implementation, set-up and training are as important as the features and should be a key area of the selection process. Speak to similar companies that used the vendor’s product and services, with similar challenges, in the same industry as you. Ask the vendor to provide a high-level implementation plan and make sure you have the internal resources (people, time and budget) to smoothly move forward into implementation.
As B2B customers have longer and more complex buying processes with more people involved in the decision-making, it is essential that you have a clear strategy and plan in place. To choose the correct marketing automation platform you must first map out your business-specific buyer journey, lead definitions, scoring and the service level agreements between marketing and sales.
[A version of this article first appeared on SmartInsights.com, 24 August 2016 and was updated here on 5 September 2019]
No matter how long you have worked in your field of expertise, you’ll always meet new people, in the same area, who will open your eyes to new views of your world. This is even greater when you interact with a large audience of like-minded professionals. Here is one example.
I’d like to start off by thanking everyone who attended my live webinar today on sales and marketing automation. It was a good turn-out with some great questions and interesting survey results that I wanted to share with you as it’s a real eye-opener.
As you can see from the first survey, most of the attendees are in the planning stage of sales and marketing automating. Some had no plans — probably looking to understand the benefits — where a few have been doing it for a while and were there to understand how to improve.
We ran through my recent post on 6 steps to selecting a SalesTech and Martech Stack but quickly moved onto the real meat of the presentation – namely, sales and marketing automation strategies for optimizing your marketing and sales funnel to increase revenue and customer lifetime value.
We ran through several best practice strategies and models — from funnel metrics to lead qualification/scoring, SLAs and nurturing. You can download all 12 templates here.
When I asked what their top priorities were across the top 5 strategies the majority wanted to improve lead scoring and have more or better nurture tracks with half as many people concerned with funnel metrics and service level agreements with sales.
To me, this was a shocker! On reflection, the majority of attendees were planning to introduce marketing automation to their business for the first time, but they just want to nurture leads to score and pass to sales. No one was interested in how you qualify those leads and less interested in how you agree the lead stages and have it agreed with sales — which are crucial elements to successful implementation.
But things became clearer when I introduced the B2B Value Transformation™ framework, to understand where they are on their journey today:
As the majority of attendees were predominantly in the Lead Generation and Activity Generation stages, with only a few classifying themselves in Demand Generation mode. And no-one saw themselves as a Revenue Generation or Value Generation team.
I suppose this is not surprising as companies that are just starting their automation journey are very early in their SalesTEch and MarTech growth and maturity. Does this make them immature? I don’t think so. Every company is unique. If you’re a start-up you’re just growing your company. Budgets are small and so is headcount. So it’s natural you don’t have the resources for marketing automation.
But I have to say I saw quite a few big company names on the attendee list. So are these big companies going through a digital transformation? I’d say, yes! Especially B2B companies that have been traditionally technophobes. They now see that more needs to be invested in sales and marketing automation to help scale their efforts. They need to strive for lead quality and marketing, sales and service partnering to become revenue-centers that bring long-term value to clients and their company’s profitability.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these results. And to hear where you are on your B2B Value Transformation™ journey.
(This article first appeared on linkedin.com, on 29 October 2016 and updated here on 5 September 2019)