Hank Barnes

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Hank Barnes
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to product marketing, positioning and customer experience. Read Full Bio

Wasting Time – The Bane of Buying and Selling

by Hank Barnes  |  October 21, 2014  |  2 Comments

Nothing bugs me more than wasting time.    I don’t like being on time for meetings and waiting several minutes for others to join.   I don’t like reading about a product that seems interesting, only to find nothing of real value as I read on.    And I don’t like getting calls and emails from people offering me things I don’t want or need (and in many cases it would be obvious, if the caller/emailer did even a tiny, tiny bit of research on me, that I would not want or need it in my current role).

Time is precious, we all value ours, but sometimes, when we are marketing or selling, we don’t look at it from our customer’s perspective.  We are okay with wasting their time and interrupting their daily work.   When the shoe’s on the other foot, we (or at least I) act very negatively.

time_crunch_clock_clamp

As with think with a humanist perspective, the time has come to be more respectful about time.    Evaluate all that you do from a marketing and sales perspective with an eye toward “could I be wasting my customer’s time.”    Here are some of the biggest time wasters I see:

  • Enticing a prospect with some basic, but useful content, then forcing them to register (very early in the buying process)
  • Sending your sales team 30-50 page product guides that tell them everything about the product, but little about who can benefit from it and why.
  • Saying your product is a fit for businesses “of all sizes”, when it’s really idea for small or mid-market companies (wasting the time of prospects from large companies).
  • Having your first face to face meeting with a prospect and spending the first 20 minutes telling them things about your company they already know from their research.
  • Writing case studies where it take 3 or 4 pages to get to the most important part–the business results your customer achieved.
  • Forcing customers to tell you all kinds of things you should already know before you provide support.
  • Putting videos on your site without any context setting–forcing them to watch some of it to see if it has any value.

And the list could go on and on and on.

Imagine if every interaction, marketing activity, and all your materials wasted no time–building off each other to help guide a buyer toward a purchase decision efficiently?  Could that set you apart from your competitors?  I think so.

Time is a two way street—your prospects should not waste your time.  Now some of this may be a bit inevitable.  If a buying organization has to get 3 quotes, you know that 2 of them are largely a waste of time.   You’ll have to assess if you have a legitimate shot at swaying the decision or if your approach to this “losing” response positions you better to win other business in the future.  If it doesn’t, maybe you don’t respond—and provide valid “time saving” reasons why.    Further, Ask you prospects what they need from you so that you don’t waste their time-and they don’t waste yours.

As more and more people deal with information overload, becoming a “time savior” could make a big difference in the lives of your prospects, your customers, and your peers.  What do you think?  How much time do you waste each day?  And how much time do others force you to waste?

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Category: Future of Sales Go to Market     Tags: , , ,

The Call for Humanism in Technology

by Hank Barnes  |  October 14, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

I just got back from Gartner’s U.S. Symposium in Orlando.  It was a great week, meeting with lots of technology providers of all ages and sizes.   As always, I was impressed with the passion and creativity of many emerging providers.

The theme of this year’s conference was Digital Business, and one theme really jumped out at me—a call for humanism.  As the Internet of Things continues to mature, businesses will have the opportunity to automate more and more.   In the world of IoT, this will drive two strong perspectives.

One is clear–the machinist.  The machinist seeks to automate everything.  In the eye of the machinist, getting people involved only serves to slow things down and introduce the opportunity for errors.  Frankly, the machinist view is not new—its existed in many IT organizations for years with views like “if users would just leave us alone, we could get our work done.”

The other perspective is that of the humanist.   The digital humanist provides the balance that keeps us away from a world dominated by machines to one that is focused on truly helping people and recognizing that control is not always a good thing–unpredictability is reality.  In fact, this is so important that Gartner introduced the idea of the Digital Humanist Manifesto.   This manifesto is critical and presents many opportunities for providers.

digitalhumanistmanifesto

As technology providers, we must help businesses adopt the principles of the Digital Humanist Manifesto.    To do that, we all must put an even bigger focus on experience – both user experience (interacting with systems) and customer experience (interacting with the business).   This requires us to enhance our skills and resources in user-centric design–not just of systems but of our business processes.   We have to  build expertise in privacy at two levels–the technical level of information protection and the emotional level of understanding when it is inappropriate to use information for automated action.  Finally, we need to help organizations understand that the perfect process does not exist, don’t design for perfection–design for exception and build in capabilities to respond and react appropriately.

These skills (user-centric design, privacy management, and  fluid process) need to be embodied in our systems and present opportunities for service providers to stand out and guide their customers toward a better future.   Many of these things have been discussed for years, but now it is even more important as we run the risk of stepping across the divide toward too much automation–a step that could cause people to take a big step back from the possibilities due to the negative impact it has on their lives.  Balance it with the human perspective and people will gravitate to the good it does for them.

The Digital Humanist Manifesto is a critical concept that resonates with me like few ideas have as we think about the Internet of Things and Digital Business.  Take it seriously and help your customers do the same.   Balance the machinist view of the world with the humanist. Err toward humanism. Embrace the blend.

 

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Connecting about the Connected Model in Orlando

by Hank Barnes  |  October 4, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

I’m heading to Orlando for Gartner’s Symposium next week, so publishing this a few days earlier than normal.  The show is sold-out and will have a huge focus on how to capitalize on the digital business opportunity.   While focused on CIOs and other technology leaders, there will be a larger number of providers, my audience, there whether as sponsors, attendees  looking to learn, or prospective clients interested in the Gartner experience.

I’ve been working with a number of colleagues to design a program for this last group that explores our research that is focus on helping providers grow faster and make smarter business decisions.   The program, which is also sold-out, includes four to-the-point sessions covering a range of topics that we hear regularly form clients about:

  • Positioning and Differentiation – I’ll be leading this one exploring ways providers can improve their messaging to stand out from the crowd.
  • Gartner Forecasts – John Lovelock will go deeper than the numbers to share insights that providers can learn from our forecast research to tune their market strategies.
  • Internet of Things – A big topic for the whole event, for our audience, Al Velosa will explore the provider opportunity to help companies capitalize in this area.
  • Future of Sales – Finally, Tiffani Bova will explore how sales models need to adapt to align with the way customers want to buy

As you can see, its a pretty broad range of topics, but all focused on the same thing—growing your business.   At the heart of this lies our belief that the foundation for success going forward lies in embracing the connected model–making sales, marketing, and product strategy equal partners in driving the business—with all decisions looking at all three of these perspectives before being made.

ConnectedModel

 

We focus on the connected model, because we often see providers adapting product strategies due to technology trends, but thinking about sales approaches later, then wondering why results are bad.   For example, as software moved to a service model in the cloud, it required significant shifts in business strategy.  Many orgs that had, and have, on premise software introduced cloud applications, but had the same sales force, with largely the same compensation plan selling both products.  Guess which ones they focused on—those that made them more money–the traditional on premise opportunities.

You have to make all decisions with an eye toward all three areas — what does our product need to be?  what markets will we target (and why and how)? How will we sell in a way that customers want to buy (and our sellers want to sell)?   Stated differently, a simplistic, formula for success includes:

  • Compelling Need or Opportunity – Do you address a significant pain area or growth opportunity that buyers will spend money on
  • Solid product – That addresses the pain/opportunity effectively (may include services to enable the value to be captures)
  • Real market – That is large enough to enable growth, but small enough to enable focus
  • Energized Sales – Whether direct, indirect, or on-line, your sales channels need to be excited and motivated to help customers buy
  • Great story – All of this may be irrevelant if your messaging does not engage buyers emotionally. Stories are the way to do that.
  • Realistic Plan – Don’t be general, identify how many customers you need to buy, now often, at what price to drive growth.  And given that, how many people do you need selling and how much marketing do you need to do to drive demand.

I saw an article recently that stated that the number one reason startups fail, according to their founders, is no market.   I question that to some extent, since every startup I have known exists to solve a pain (or opportunity) that the founder recognized.  I suspect that the real reason is gaps in the formula above.   Perhaps the need they identified was not that compelling, or they did not have a story (very common) that helped buyers see why this was a must have v. a nice to have.   Or, they did not have the bottom up plan for growth.

Netting it out, growing a technology business is hard.  At Symposium, our program will help attendees explore many of the elements to developing and implementing a successful growth strategy.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there.

 

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The Journey to B2B Technology Purchases – B2B Team Buying Thickens the Plot

by Hank Barnes  |  September 30, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

As a big believer in the importance of customer experience, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we, as technology marketers and sellers, can make it easier for our customers to make their purchase decisions.   One technique that gets a lot of support, and that I agree with in principle, is mapping the buying journey.

Journey mapping has been applied extensively in consumer purchases, particularly for “considered” decisions.  I’ve also seen examples in a B2B environment, but most of those leave me uncertain of the value.   My big concern is that most journey maps focus on the needs of one buyer persona.  But our research shows that B2B technology purchase decisions are made by teams.   Fulfilling the journey of a single buyer may not get the job done.

Think about it.  When you are working in a B2B environment, you will almost always be dealing with a buying team.  The size of that team tends to grow as organizations get larger, but regardless of size there are a number of dimensions to the buying decision, often with different people having the lead responsibility in each area.   Understanding that team, their roles and decision areas is critical.

Serious Business Buying Team

For example, many teams will include people that “own” and need to be convinced of different things.

  • The Business Buyer – Do you solve their business problem?
  • The Financial Buyer – Do the overall costs make sense given the potential return?
  • The Technical Buyer – Is the technology is sound?
  • The Risk Buyer – Are the potential risks worth the reward?
  • The “User” Buyer – Will I, and others like me, actually use the product?

And potentially others.  These are not personas, so you shouldn’t map in this way, but they do reflect all  the people  and decisions that need to align to win business.

If you think about, B2B Buying is a lot like The Wizard of Oz or other similar quest oriented stories.  You have one lead character (the champion) who is the focus of the quest—without that person, there is not story.    But she is joined by others on the journey.  They want different things.  While supporting the main character, they will also follow some different paths.  Some may join for a brief period and then leave (anyone every have to deal with the “IT Standards Team” who show up for a meeting late in the process to “bless the alignment of your solution with their standards” and then disappear?).

As this mix of people journey forward, a roadblock for one often stymies the others.    The same tactics don’t work for all.   Some journeys have to complete before others progress.

I still remember an opportunity from years ago where I was part of a selling team that was about to close a major deal with a large company.  We’d convinced the business buyer.  We’d wowed the technical teams.  The users were excited.  The deal was ready to close.  Then, out of the blue came the, “You guys are not on our approved vendor list.  We have to make that happen, and it can take 3 to 6 months, before we can buy.”  Momentum destroyed.     We never won that business.

As a technology marketer and seller, it is crucial to understand all the players on buying teams and what decisions they are responsible for.  You need to understand their buying process in detail. (If we had asked the right questions about what it takes to buy, we might have been able to address the approved vendor issue earlier in the process and helped our champion accelerate the process).  There will be commonalities across customers, but some unique attributes for each one (everyone’s quest is a bit different).  You should ask them what their buying process is.   Then make sure you are addressing all of the sub-decisions that have to be made, by different people, to get to the final decision.

At a minimum, thinking about things from your buyer perspective should change the way you think.  We just received the results from our regular marketing influences survey (which you can expect to see more research and blogs about in the coming months) and one of the interesting results was that just 1/3  of buying process activities  involve the buying teams interacting with providers (either live interactions or reviewing materials you provide).   The remainder of time is spent on internal processes and interacting with peers and influencers.

If you consider that most buying decisions involve the consideration of  at least 2 or 3 potential providers for most of the effort, you are probably involved less than 10% of the time in your prospects buying process.    It is clearly not about you; it is about them.  Recognizing this, and expanding your focus to how you can influence, assist, and simplify the other efforts for buyers hold a key to creating a great buying process and accelerating decisions.

Is this something that can be captured in a single journey map?  Or a collection of them that inter-relate?  I’m not sure.  One good idea is to map the journey of the persona of your internal champion.  That persona is the most invested in seeing the purchase move to completion.  As part of their journey, they’ll want to understand and assist other’s in completing their work.   You may find you then need to map the journeys of other key players, but the “champion map” becomes your lead.

Have you taken this approach?  Or a different one? I’d love to hear about successful approaches for B2B Journey Mapping(please share via comments to get the discussion started).

Similarly, if you have a good list of all the sub-decisions that your customers make along the way, please share them here.  A better understanding will help both buyers and sellers not waste a lot of time and expense on selling efforts and the corresponding buying efforts that get derailed along the way.  Is there another way to track these sub-decisions that would complement journey maps and allow us to improve both the buying and selling experience?

 

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Competition, Advocacy, and Gaelic Sports

by Hank Barnes  |  September 23, 2014  |  Comments Off

I just got back from a long trip to Europe that ended with 12 days of work but started with a fantastic 14 day vacation in Scotland and, mostly, Ireland.  I am ready to go back now.   Friends keep asking what our favorite thing was, but both my wife and I answer that there are too many things to pick just one.

But a definite pair of highlights for me where going to the All-Ireland Gaelic Football semi-final match (won by Donegal over Dublin.  Donegal was beaten in the final by Kerry on Sunday) with Connie (my wife) followed by me buying a ticket outside the game for the Hurling final after Connie had to head back to the States.  That match ended in a tie (between Kilkenny and Tipperary)–which means they replay the whole match, that will be on Saturday, the 27th.  Both were amazing (and I try not to use that word lightly) experiences.

Gaelic Football and Hurling are not well known in the States (and probably other parts of the world) but they are huge in Ireland.  We have Irish friends that play for a club team in Charlotte.  That is how we got into it.  Football combines elements of soccer, american football, basketball, volleyball, and rugby.   Now imagine a similar combination, but with a small either ball and a stick–you have hurling.  Both are fast action sports.  As an ice hockey fan, I can appreciate that.  The general rules are pretty easy to pick up (although fouls are a little tricky).  Watch a game or two and you are likely to be hooked.GAAFootball

As you can see from the picture above, we were very close for the football match (I bought the tickets months ago at the suggestion of my friends at Connolly’s).  For the Hurling final, I was in the second to last row in the stadium, but it was still great.   Both matches had over 80,000 people.  One thing to note with that is that this is not a professional sport.  These are elite teams that represent their counties, but the players all have “day jobs.”  But the passion rivaled, and exceeded, what I have seen for many professional sports.

GAAHurling

I could go on and on describing the matches, but what really caused me to write about it here was the experience, and how that relates to go-to-market approaches, particularly from two perspectives- competition and advocacy.

Having heard stories (and seen videos) of what can go on in soccer matches in Europe, we were a little concerned.  But once again our friends assured us there would be no issues.  In the stadium (Croke Park in Dublin), fans of both teams sat next to each other cheering their team on, without denigrating the opposition.   It was intense passion, but without the ugliness you often see here.   There were absolutely no issues of fans fighting, verbally or otherwise, with each other—and these were two of the biggest matches of the year.  And the competition was intense.

Technology marketers (and the companies) could learn a lot from the experience.   Rather than “get ugly and dirty”, the approach of intense defending of your strengths and building supporters, without sniping at the competitors, really can help grow your market.  In some ways, the competition for Gaelic sports is other sports.  Delivering a great experience helps sustain the market and grow the fan base.   You’d rather take your family to one of these matches than other sports where things get ugly.

The other aspect of this is advocacy, a favorite topic of mine, everywhere we went, when we told people we were going to the match, they shared ideas of how great it would be and things to do to make the experience better.  Afterwards, the town was buzzing.  A similar effect occurred at the hurling final–but even greater in some ways.  We spent the day before the match in Kilkenny and everyone told me that I had to go see the match and ways to do it to get a ticket without getting ripped off (I ended up buying mine from a guy whose friend was sick at face value several hours before the match).  The GAA (which governs the sport) does a nice job building up this advocacy approach.  Did it hook me?  You bet.  I even ended up ordering several team jerseys after I got back.

Netting it out, three things to remember from this story:

1. Competition can be fierce, but does not have to be ugly.  A more civil approach grows your sport, and market.

2. Advocacy helps turn interested parties (like my wife and I) into stronger supporters and raving fans.

3.  If you are into sports at all, and get a change to see Gaelic Football or Hurling, take advantage of it.  You won’t regret it.

 

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Is Interrupt-Driven Chat Really Helping Your Technology Business?

by Hank Barnes  |  September 16, 2014  |  Comments Off

I openly confess that I hate chat windows on Web sites that pop-up, without me asking for them, to interrupt my browsing experience.  They distract me from what I am viewing and reading, and ask me some inane question  like “Can I help you with something?”    A few weeks ago, this seemed to be happening on almost every site I visited, so I decided to do some research to see if others felt like I did.

Now, I’ve seen the studies that look at it from the provider perspective, talking about how many leads and deals come from people that use chat,  but I always wondered about the other side of then coin.  What about the people, like me, who hate those interruptions.   Could the effort to offer help, before it is wanted, be turning off potential customers?  Is the early interruption chat like the overzealous sales representative who accosts (and yes, to me it accosts) you the minute you walk in a store and hovers around you the entire time you are just looking around?   Is it doing more harm than good.

Here is what our “mini” survey revealed.   We asked 51 technology buyers there opinion of chat services on technology provider Web sites.  they were allowed to select multiple answers.

Chat Research Table

Tellingly, nearly half of them feel similar to me.  Interrupting the browsing experience is not viewed positively.  For casual browsers, that may turn into interested buyers, you may be turning them away (as I will leave stores quickly with overzealous sales people) before you have gained their interest and trust.

That being said, the survey also shows that buyers clearly value chat, when used appropriately.  As they into the site and their buying process, engaging through chat can help them get answers to questions they can’t find on their own.  With that approach, make sure the people servicing the chat requests are knowledgeable enough to answer questions that the Web site does not reveal.  For technology companies, this may mean using system engineers or similarly skilled people for many requests.

With customer experience becoming more and more critical, I’d like to see more technology companies heed this advise.  Yes, chat can increase conversions, but don’t think about it from that perspective only.  It is that perspective that has resulted in more and more sites using interrupt-driven chat, often seconds after someone has reached the home page, thinking “those who engage are more likely to convert.”  That may be true, but you may be pushing away 50% of your potential audience, in the worst case, or starting the engagement from a position of frustration in the best case.

Rather than interrupt, just make chat more prominent, so that visitors know it is there if they want it.  Make it clear the type of resources that are available to answer questions.   For example, customers of Needle, who use brand advocates, not employees, to answer customer questions, should make it clear that you can “chat with someone who uses this product” v. “chat with a sales rep” (as I discussed in this post).    If you staff it with true product experts, tell people that—but make sure they truly are expert.  Finally, if you really feel you must interrupt people to offer the option to chat, don’t do it on the home page.  Use it on pages deeper into the site, where more detailed information on the product, or success stories or implementation approaches are covered.

Too often, we look at things through the eyes of our internal metrics and KPIs.  In a customer centric world, those views have to be balanced, and even tilted, toward understanding the customer perspective and adapting approaches to appeal to them, while still doing what is good business.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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Gartner IT Market Clocks – A Great Resource for Provider Strategy

by Hank Barnes  |  September 9, 2014  |  Comments Off

Most provider organizations are very familiar with Gartner Magic Quadrants and Hype Cycles (which I explored from a provider perspective in a recent post and Webinar and have just had research published, that was co-authored with Betsy Burton,  exploring ways provides can leverage Hype Cycles–subscription required).  But there is another somewhat less well known research series that may be even more important- Gartner IT Market Clocks.

marketclock

Gartner IT Market Clocks explore the entire life cycle of  technology assets–from introduction to replacement and obsolescence.   They are designed primarily for buyers, to help them plan investment, and divestment, strategies for their technology portfolio.   Market clocks also explore relative commodization of asset groups, helping buyers evaluate their ability to influence price reductions.

As with Hype Cycles, IT Market Clocks can also be used by providers, something that I explore in another piece of just published research (co-authored with Monica Basso and Tiffani Bova, again a Gartner subscripiton is required).     The research provides advice for providers as their products and services move around the clock.

One of the most important area of recommendations, and what makes Market Clocks, so valuable, is around how to deal with assets that are in or approaching the replacement stage.    We are at a point in market evolution where many technology markets are seeing a significant portion of  new revenue and growth coming from system replacement.   Market clocks show you where the replacement opportunities are today, and which ones will be coming soon.

They illustrate both opportunities for you to move customers away from competitors products and for you, as the incumbent, to execute strategies to preserve that customer and move them to your own replacement products.

This year’s market clocks are starting to publish.  Do yourself a favor and explore those that are relevant to your business and refine your strategies accordingly.

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Know Your Role – And The Roles Around You

by Hank Barnes  |  September 2, 2014  |  Comments Off

The latest set of research for Gartner’s Future of IT Sales Special Report is now available to subscribers.  Be sure to check it out.

One of the foundational elements of the report was the need for more consistent execution of what we call the Connected model–an approach where product, marketing, and sales strategies and tactics are designed in an integrated fashion.  We found that, too often, providers create product innovations are decide to target markets, without planning how that impacts their sales approaches.   How do you know when this has happened?  It’s pretty easy.  When other groups say things like “We need to sell to the business, but our sales reps can’t do it” or “This new SaaS product is so cool and affordable, why won’t sales sell it,” you know that you have connection issues.

barn_silo_isometric

We’ve been having related discussions about other technologies.  It seems that, in the word of CRM for example, many organizations struggle to transform all  areas, but have more success when they focus just on sales or service.  One area at a time.

Why does this happen?

There are clearly a number of reasons, but I’ll posit one here.  It is about roles.

When we get hired by a company, it is based on a job description–the role that you have to play.  In most organizations, you then spend quite a bit of timing getting to know your role.

This is fine, but if that is as far as you take it, it is problematic.   It creates problems of turf protection and reinforces silo style behavior.   And the evidence of this abounds.   Just go searching for articles about who should own Customer Experience.   You’ll see claims of marketing, service, and in some case sales.  But it is usually defined in that manner.  But Customer Experience is based on all the interactions you have with the company–across marketing, sales, and service.   Marketing-led CX is too focused on prospects.  Service-led CX is too focus on exisitng customers.  A balance is required.

To reduce siloed thinking, our approach to role understanding needs to change.   Not only should new employees be trained about their role, but understanding of the roles they serve, and collaborate with, is critical.    Including not just the responsibilities of these roles, but how they are measured and what defines success for them.  You can include customers in this mix for user facing roles.

With that understanding, a platform for empathetic collaboration becomes easier to execute.   And it is one more skill to build across your organization.   Get people to think about things from the perspective of those they serve and collaborate with.  This can help reduce siloed thinking and create an environment where silos are truly broken down in the name of the ultimate customer.

I find it somewhat humorous, and sad, that we are still talking about how different technologies break down organizational silos, but they still exist as strong as ever.  Even packaged application suites tend to do little to break down silos, instead reinforcing them with what turns out to be an integrated environment with “suite” supporting multiple silos.

This idea of breaking down silos was one of the promises of BPM, but it has lagged behind packaged apps.   And the problem may be more organizational and the focus on role understanding.

The Connected Model won’t work without a connected approach to roles.   Define the role and define all the roles it touches.  Then train employees on that whole connected environment.  Sure, put more emphasis on the role the employee will be in, but make sure they understand their role connections.

What do you think?  Would a connected approach to roles help break down silo behavior?

 

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A Path to Success – Giving a Little Extra

by Hank Barnes  |  August 26, 2014  |  Comments Off

I went to college in New Orleans (I’ll save you from many of those stories) and really enjoyed the city and the culture.  One of the ideas I learned there was “lagniappe” — which means “a little something extra.”    The core idea being that when you give someone a little something extra, they appreciate it, remember you, and smile a little bit more.

My friend, Stan Phelps, talks about lagniappe as a key theme of his GoldFish book series–which explores customer experience, employee engagement, and high value customers.

Lagniappe

Source: www.9inchmarketing.com

You can apply the lagniappe principle to your sales and marketing efforts to stand out with your customers (as the stories in Stan’s books show), but you can also apply it to your personal life and daily work approach.

I know that I try to give client, peers, etc. some lagniappe whenever I can (not to say I do it every single possible time).   Whether that is arriving to meetings on time (imagine that), recommending one additional thing that could help a client get value, or taking an extra step during an internal meeting to make sure everyone is one the same page, the approach has served me well.

There was one time in my career when it didn’t.

I’d been wooed by a large technology company who told me they were excited to have me contribute and help drive the strategy for one of their business areas.  When I joined, one of the first projects I was asked to do was to build a roadmap presentation for the business.  Now, those of you that work with me and read this blog know that I believe in compelling storytelling,  so that is what I went about building.  I spoke to various members of the organization and created what I thought was a great roadmap that outlined the value of what we did today and how we would evolve to provide clients more and more value over time.   I was really proud of it.

I showed it to my boss, expecting some questions and suggestions of gaps, unclear messages, refinements.  Instead, our conversation went something like this:

Manager – “Where did these slides with these words come from?”

Me – “You asked me to build a roadmap presentation, so I talked to others on the team to build an interesting story of how we are going to help customers get more and more value from our solutions.”

Manager – “Hank, executives many levels higher than you decide when words like these appear on slides.”  (side note: I now realized that the recruiting to have me help drive strategy was like the old joke about technology demos—far from reality.)

That was effectively the end of the conversation—and the end of me having any motivation in that job.   I took a while, but I eventually escaped.  While still there, I did everything I could to help the project teams I was on deliver value, but realized that “doing extra” at a more strategic level was not going to be received—either because that was not the way things worked in that middle management heavy organization or because I was threatening to my manager.

But that was really the only time it hasn’t worked—so my advice if you encounter a similar reaction—get away, but don’t give up on the lagniappe approach.

What are some little things you could do for your peers, managers, customers, or partners that would set you apart from the crowd.

 

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: , ,

Disrupting B2B Markets Does Not Happen Overnight

by Hank Barnes  |  August 19, 2014  |  Comments Off

Market disruption.

Those two words are extremely powerful and a goal for many technology providers.   Successfully disrupting existing markets give you an opportunity to rewrite the rules, create new categories, and drive tremendous growth.

At the same time, it happens a lot less than provide marketing hyperbole would like you to believe. My colleague John Lovelock and I have recently published research (subscription required) that builds off of John’s earlier look at how disruptions impact markets in term of adoption curves and forecasts. One of the key recommendations we make is to avoid making claims of disruption if it is really not the case.   It just leaves buyers doubting you, and makes trust harder to build and keep.

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To truly disrupt markets, John’s research found that  three patterns of buying must occur.  The first is true of all technologies-competitive, i.e. simply competing for business against others in the market for buyer projects.   The second two, however, are less common and when both occur, you truly have a disruptive product.

The first is additive purchases, meaning that your product is so distinctive that buyers who had effectively not participated in the market, either deciding to wait for something better or just feeling they would never buy that type of product, become customers.   Often this is driven by either a price/performance breakthrough or incredible customer experience.

The second is destructive purchases.  While the name may be a bit dramatic, it really is about innovations that are so compelling that you replace your existing approach to solve the problem ahead of schedule, e.g. before you have amortized the full value (in the B2B world).

Market disruptions often start in consumer markets, since price points are often lower and the decision to replace is more discretionary.   In the B2B world, most innovations have implications far beyond the purchase.  People have to be retrained, systems have to be updated, processes have to be adapted, and more.   Additionally, in the destructive phase, someone (often the person who made the original purchase recommendation) has to make the case for early replacement.   That is not an easy position to take, with its significant political ramifications.

When you look at all these factors, you can see why B2B disruptions often take several years before they reach critical mass.   This should be reflected in your strategies.   Progress is critical, but focus on the best way to achieve that progress.   Get some wins from traditional competitive procurements.  Target new buyers that have been on the sidelines since there is less emotional and organizational “baggage.”  For destructive opportunities, focus your energies on one or two competitors and implement strategies to ease the transition from them to you.

Once you move out of the disruptive phase (when all buying becomes competitive), you’ll be in a strong position to lead the market and grow successfully.

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Category: Future of Sales Go to Market     Tags: , , ,