The Alexander Group CSE Annual Forum 2017 Recap
Last week, I attended the Alexander Group’s Chief Sales Executive Annual Forum in Dana Point, CA, where senior executives from companies like GE, Philips, Cisco, and many more gathered to share innovative ideas about the digital transformation of their organizations and the evolving world of B2B sales.
We joined in many of the high-level conversations that took place over the course of the week, hearing directly from top sales leaders about some of the challenges their companies face in the changing landscape of ubiquitous digital data and emerging buyer trends. Throughout these conversations, some topics emerged over and over: Internal Alignment, the Go-To-Customer Mandate, and Driving New Customer Value.
Much of the focus last week centered on internal alignment of sales organizations to increase transparency, reduce redundancy, and optimize impact.
One such area of recommended improvement was between sales operations and sales enablement. While the two roles share a common charter (namely enhancing the skills, credibility, and visibility of the sales organization while delivering improved performance and productivity to the business), each must be clear on their individual functions and deliverables in order to increase efficiency and accelerate results. Establishing a clear distinction of responsibilities between the two roles is essential to running a smooth sales organization while empowering a sales team to achieve results.
Greg Archibald, EVP Americas at Criteo, cited the oft-quoted study that 70% of sales decisions are made before the initial conversation. As the sales process shifts more toward self-service, the alignment of sales and marketing has never been more important. Sal Patalano, CRO at Lenovo Software, mandates that sales and marketing attend one another’s meetings, going so far as to have marketing folks chase down unqualified MQL’s in order to learn the sting of frontline sales rejection. In today’s infocentric society, marketing and sales have to be armed with consultative knowledge of their given industry in order to attract and retain good customers.
Another key area of focus was the alignment of data and other digital resources. Cate Gutowski, Vice President of Commercial & Digital Sales Transformation at GE, spoke at length in her keynote about her journey in driving digital change and creating opportunities for GE’s sales team by discerning actionable data from noise and empowering their sales teams with the tools they need to act on the insights from the data. Albert Lao, VP Americas and Global Channel at Verizon, stressed the need for marketing to consistently provide sales with bite-size data that can be distributed on demand to customers and prospects alike. Again and again, we see the imperative to align internal resources in order to make value propositions and their delivery malleable and impactful.
Driving New Customer Value
Sales leaders also discussed creating new value for customers as part of a larger go-to-customer mandate.
Whereas a go-to-market (GTM) strategy focuses on developing and delivering a product or service to attract new customers, a go-to-customer (GTC) strategy focuses more on monetizing and retaining those customers. Many of the companies in attendance last week have established products and services already brought to market, placing the onus on keeping existing customers while simultaneously maximizing revenue brought in from those customers by creating new and additional value.
One such company innovating in this way is Philips. As explained by Joe Robinson, Senior Vice President of Health System Solutions, the once fragmented electronics giant is recasting itself as a health technology company, selling solutions over products and making a business centered around relationships instead of transactions. By working with customers directly to continuously innovate and improve, Philips is selling long-term sustainability, quality, and efficiency, for which customers are willing to pay premium prices.
By now, the term “digital transformation” has been repeated so many times that it’s almost just a buzzword as sales leaders from all industries continue to experience the rapid pace of change that’s being driven by digital technologies.
In his keynote, Jim Walsh, Senior Vice President of Global Enterprise Sales at Cisco, borrowed the B2C example of buying a car, comparing the buying experience of the Model T Ford to the buying experience of the Model S Tesla. The Model T offered no customization options and required a face-to-face purchase of a car identical to every other car sold, whereas now Model S buyers can digitally customize the color, options, and payment plan of their car all without ever speaking directly to a seller.
B2B buyers are increasingly expecting an experience like when making B2C purchases. Walsh argued that B2B sales organizations must adapt to the customer’s expectations in order to survive. In his three-staged customer intimacy campaign approach, he explained how Cisco was able to make its selling practices fit the expectations of its customers, scale that change across regions and verticals, and then finally integrate those changes into other aspects of Cisco (its production, distribution, etc). The key to Cisco’s transformation is customer centricity, as the customer gains more and more control of the process, we must sell to them in the way they want to be sold. And that means taking the time to truly learn their goals, i.e. sell them a solution to their problem, not a product which may be helpful in a vacuum.
While all this discussion was centered around the changes that B2B selling are undergoing, these themes all point to things that have always been central to successful sales: resources and relationships. Are your sales teams equipped with right tools to best sell? How can your reps (and success managers) create person-to-person relationships based on trust and value?
Of course, the tools and resources needed are changing. Your buyers no longer want your text-based materials. Your long emails are not being read. Your white papers are piling up in their downloads folder. This doesn’t mean your content is not important (it is more important than ever); you just need to give it to the buyers in the format they want.
Sales relationships are also changing. Face-to-Face meetings are becoming rarer and rarer in the buying process. Even phone meetings are getting harder and harder to get on the calendar. And as I said above your emails are not being read with the attention you’d want. Even if they were, are they really building the kind of relationship that at GTC strategy demands?
Video can help provide that missing element. Your messages can convey more of that personal touch, putting a face to the faceless rep, providing context and building trust by providing a voice and body language that is missing in emails and getting you in front of your prospects and customers in-between meetings.
Personalized Video also allows your reps to provide the right content that the buyers need on their journey and provide the context and explanation they need to understand and digest that content.
If you’re ready to join other sales leaders in solving some of the challenges facing B2B sales organizations today, schedule a demo of Videolicious with one of our video experts to learn more about how personalized video can spearhead your digital transformation.
Posted on November 15, 2017