The Verizon commercials made “Can you hear me now?” a catchphrase. Their message was all about the quality of connections. For tech companies, there is a bigger connection problem right now—the connection of their sales, product, and marketing strategies.
We are in a period of rapid innovation. The Nexus of Forces (cloud, social, information, and mobile) are driving new business models and sweeping changes in the way we think about and consume information technology. Incumbents are seeing their on premise strongholds threatened and are reacting by introducing new solutions that run in the cloud.
And that is where the disconnect often occurs.
These new solutions introduce a new pricing model that has a big impact on sales compensation. They also typically shift the benefits story toward more business value and away from common IT considerations (since the “infrastructure” is “outsourced”). The common result is early results are disappointing.
We’ve seen launches that looked to be executed perfectly. The target market was well defined (and segmented–not just “any big company”). The activities with industry influencers were innovative and well executed, creating a groundswell of buzz and interest. And then sales fell flat.
The reason is very clear. Disconnects between sales, products, and marketing. For startups, this is less of a problem. They have one product and all activities are designed to support the sale of that product. Route to Market choices are integral to the business and product strategy (Now, gaining access to the best route to market is not always easy for a startup). Everything is working in harmony.
But as companies grow, the alignment of sale strategies with product and marketing strategies if often taken for granted (in some cases, even startups do this with their second product and fail to repeat past successes). It gets worse as companies get bigger and the sales organization operates totally independently from multiple, often competing product groups.
Product and Marketing teams work together to create innovative solutions and then are disappointed and defensive when sales results are bad. The signs are obvious when you start hearing these type of claims:
- “Sales can’t sell it!”
- “We need a sales force that can talk to business!”
- “The only way we close deals is if we fly in to bail sales out.”
All of these are signals of a disconnected sales model.
The solution is simple in concept, but complex to implement. Instead of following one of the two traditional paths for technology–build a great product and then choose target markets for it OR (better) identify a market need that is un-served and design a product to fill the gap, a more connected approach is required.
From the start, you must provide equal focus and attention to all three pillars – product, market selection, and sales models. If you have a great sales model, choose markets and products that that sales group can sell effectively. If you create an innovative new product for a market need, make sure your sales organization can sell it. If they can’t look for other routes to market or options to get them there (training, compensation, hiring profiles). Make these decisions early, rather than late. We talk about it in detail in a recent note that I co-authored with Tiffani Bova and Ed Cordin, Tech Go-to-Market: The Connected Model Is the Key to Sales Success (subscription/fee required) and this is a core component of our Future of IT Sales Special Report.
Rather than playing the blame game, This shift in planning approaches, or return to business fundamentals (depending on your perspective), is critical to keeping pace with market innovation. It will also help you earn more trust and confidence from customers as their interactions with sales teams improve (as a result of these teams being better prepared to sell the new solutions). And, you’ll find that these improved connections will reduce the internal friction that hinders business performance.
Give it a try.