Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

The 10 Worst Email Opening Lines

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Jun 17, 2015

To reach new B2B Buyers and connect via email is a low probability game, but the marginal cost of sending email is close to zero, so don't expect volume to decline.

Email is a science, with every element from the senders name to the signature analyzed and dissected for optimal performance. If you want to read the current research, follow this link to directly read the 2014 report.

This article is about the opening sentence and will be of interest to sales and marketing professionals.

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Topics: B2B selling

The B2B Buying Process and How to Influence it pt. 1

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, May 07, 2013

The B2B Buying Process - and how to influence it.

Buyer behavior has changed radically in the past 5 years; sales process unfortunately in most companies has not adapted and marketing has been slow to adapt.

I first noticed these changes 10 years ago, when buyers would come to meetings knowing more about the products and competitive approaches that I did. I began working on aligning buying and selling processes after meeting Dominic Rowsell, author of "Why Killer Products Don't Sell", on which much of this work is based. 

This article is the second in a series of articles on aligning marketing and sales with buying behavior and it will be of value to sales and marketing professionals who wish to adapt their process to align with buyer behavior. Last week's article "A Guide to Aligning Marketing & Sales Engagement with Buying Process" discussed buyer behavior and how it is affected by risk.

The beauty of this approach is that it's universal, simple and based on actual buyer behavior. When you understand each of the steps, you can ask buyers where they are in their buying process. Salespeople typically think that the sales opportunity is one or two steps in advance of where the buyer actually is in the buying cycle and this is a primary contributor to forecasting inaccuracy.

Phase 1: Idea or Identify  

The buying process starts with an idea at Identify. 

The Idea phase is usually an internal customer activity, as a result of an executive off-site meeting and blue-sky thinking, brainstorming opportunities or as a result of a strategy session. Business executives are constantly looking to identify trends in segments and markets which may yield opportunity.

A buying cycle can be initiated in answer to CXO questions like, "how can I grow revenue, expand reach, or contain cost", etc.  Similarly business leaders look for  economies of scale, acquisitions and to identify i mportant customer groupings as well as emerging  technologies that could help them become more competitive. Think about the last time you bought something of value...it was likely months after the idea came to you that you actually made a purchase.

Role for Marketing

Most B2B buying cycles now begin with an Internet search, but it's probably not a search for product in the first instance. Developing Mind-Share is the imperative for marketing and to get found in a Google search in response to the type of query your target buyers are using to identify possible approaches to solving the above problems. 

Marketing's role is publishing fresh and engaging ideas in various forms of content in blogs, videos, article marketing, social media. Thought-leadership content takes time and intellectual-effort to create, but is worth the effort as it creates an ongoing legacy of Web pages that create brand awareness as well as providing an evergreen source of ongoing referral traffic.

Role for Sales

  1. Understand the Value-chain of the customer's business - this is research and may not involve customer contact. 
  2. Engage CXO's in existing accounts in mindshare development in strategy sessions (not product related), but designed to truly understand the customer's business and to share ideas.
  3. Building connections with the visionaries in client organizations through social media - read their stuff, make comments on and retweet their ideas.

Risks for the Supplier

The likelihood is that salespeople will not be engaged in this phase, unless the sales team is working a multi-level strategy and senior execs are engaged at the top level of the client organization and the account team is proactive in running executive briefings. 

Other risks include:
  • The prospective client finds an innovative alternate approach through Google that leads to a competitor when doing "big idea" research,
  • Unvalidated market analysis...this means basing your marketing plans and growth assumptions on the size of the opportunity, customer propensity to buy, the price, or any number of factors, based on incorrect assumptions. Get out of the building...read Steve Blank's HBR "Lean Startup Changes Everything"
  • Lack of evidence to compare with your offering/idea....this problem is a big issue for start-ups with discontinuous technology.
  • The prospect found your Website, but clicked away because they did not understand you or your offerings due to lack of clarity

Risk Mediation

If you have a novel product/technology and you are not blogging and using social media to spread your ideas and build mind-share, you are at a distinct disadvantage, regardless of the merits of your technology.

At the outset you are not selling, you are sharing ideas on the Internet and in responding to early stage leads, you are looking to provide help and ideas in conversations of possibility.

Phase 2: Mentor

This phase is about finding and enrolling a Mentor or evangelist in the buying organization to run with/or who is already running with the idea. The Mentor is typically a senior manager or analyst who works with executive team, but is a recommender, not the decision maker.


The Mentor's role is to scope and test feasibility, credibility, acceptability of the idea. The Mentor works with a small team; the idea is still under wraps and not for public consumption in the business. 
  • Typically will use the Internet to gather ideas and research.
  • May use informal meetings with suppliers to get ideas
  • Could use an RFI to gather ideas, but typically will use social networks and Google to gather ideas
The Mentor produces a report for executive team.

If accepted the Mentor will start to plan how the breakthrough idea can be implemented as an initiative, how it will be presented and to whom and the route through the political maze.

Role for Marketing

Effective Content Marketing activity generates mind-share and inbound inquiries through publishing buyer-relevant, keyword rich content and placing it where it will get found on blogs, syndicated and curated Websites and in social media specialist groups.

Marketing Messaging across the Buying Cycle


Role for Sales

The role for sales is to field these inquiries and engage the buyer in a conversation of possibilities. These are early stage inquiries from customers gathering ideas and information. 
  1. Develop a high level engagement plan; this is not a detailed account plan or a blue-sheet; more an outline of the possible opportunity, the key players involved and the next steps for both buyer and supplier. (Mind-mapping is a perfect way of collecting and sharing high-level ideas).
  2. Risk analysis on customer vs. opportunity (are they the right fit, are they innovators, do they have money, can you access decision level, etc.)
    This means sales managers need two green lights; one from the client that there is an opportunity for further investigation, and one from salesperson that there is indeed a worthwhile paid engagement (proof of concept, feasibility study) as a next step.
  3. Develop conversations with prospects, - (you are not selling, you are consulting at this stage of the process). Visual confections are excellent tools for sharing big ideas, getting buyer to tell their story and getting buy-in from a wider audience in the prospective opportunity.
  4. If you are engaging existing accounts, sow seeds, share your ideas via hand written notes with relevant articles attached. (Emails get deleted, hand-written notes get read).
  5. Salespeople should try to understand buyer goals and the high level problems they are seeking to overcome.
Salespeople must identify the key players involved in the decision process; the salesperson is looking for a champion who can make things happen and to establish a relationship with that person.

Risks for the Supplier

  • If the salesperson is only talking to one person in the opportunity (which is the case most of the time), and that person is a weak mentor and is not giving them access to a champion or to key decision makers on the team, then you are wasting your time.
  • The customer wants you to do free work - this is a tricky call for many salespeople. As a rule in selling to the early adopter, all consulting on feasibility, product modification prototyping, etc., MUST be paid for; the supplier can refund if absolutely necessary on conclusion of a successful deal.
  • Salespeople are too aggressive in trying to close a deal, instead of engaging in fully understanding the landscape of the account and the needs and goals of the key players in the decision process.
  • Over-enthusiasm; the salesperson sees an opportunity and starts building expectation in the selling organization around it, without sufficient diagnosis and qualification
Now a tricky question for salespeople and their managers, What do you put in the forecast when it's still an idea on the horizon? (Answer: it does not appear on the forecast yet.)

Risk Mediation

  • Salespeople need to engage powerful sponsors - politely demand it. Use the qualification confirmation letter after each meeting with a buyer. If the buyer fails to respond within a week to your meeting summary letter and confirm that your summary of the meeting is correct and follow through on next steps, (which may include access to stakeholders), they are not a prospect. This letter really works - download the template and use it.
  • Identifying key players in the decision process is mandatory (also known as Stakeholder Mapping)
  • If the customer is unwilling to pay for consulting on feasibility, proof of concept, or product modification, they are not a prospect.

Phase 3: Position

Public discussion occurs within the key players on the executive team to make resources and funds available. The Mentor works hard to drive the project and their own personal credibility.


If the supplier's product is disruptive, this will arouse emotions and the positioning discussion will become POLITICAL; Change = Emotions.
Without executive sponsorship at this stage, the idea is unlikely to survive the internal battle for resources and funds. 

Many potential opportunities fail to turn into projects because they are killed off at the Position phase by competing priorities or strong adversaries who are either fighting to maintain status quo, are aligned with alternate approaches, or simply don't understand your offering and by default, oppose the idea. 


The transition from Position to Case is the specification for a project for the internal assessment of the idea.

Role for Marketing

After a Website visitor has converted into a lead on your Website, the process of building trust and credibility begins. Lead nurturing is the process of  sending the right message to the right prospect at the right time and in most cases, this is hit and miss.

Lead nurturing is a science and it takes dedicated effort and often professional help is needed to set-up and generate meaningful results that justify the investment in the marketing automation platform.

Email is the preferred vehicle for lead nurturing, based on sending appropriate content to segmented lists of your leads, based on buyer persona role, company demographics, interest areas and sundry other criteria.
 

Each email should follow a logical path to educate the buyer on the issues and advantages in your approach and move them to take action. Typically top and middle of the funnel content presents an opportunity to read a new article or download a white-paper or e-book.

Role for Sales

Position is make or break time for salespeople, although few ever know when or how it occurred. Typically, (80% of the time), the buyer goes radio silent and disappears and the opportunity is over for now.
  1. Support your mentor and find a champion
  2. Generate business support for an Assessment, meet key players
  3. Use the meeting summary and visual confections as well as providing links to relevant examples and proof points.
  4. Use white papers, eBooks and presentations to circulate ideas to stakeholders.
  5. Understand the politics and work with the mentor/champion to develop a sequence of events to fully scope the idea.

Risks

  • Strong adversaries aligned with the status-quo or alternate approaches,
  • Competition for scarce resources means your idea may not survive without sufficient emotional commitment from key stakeholders,
  • Behavior or process change are strongly resisted by the "USER"  stakeholder of the innovation,
  • Weak or no champion to fight for your solution,
  • The opportunity loses momentum and client goes "radio-silent"

Risk Mediation

Any work must be a paid engagement - if the idea is worth doing, it's worth paying a little to be sure. Work the key stakeholders, understand their roles, issues - create vision as to the value of your approach.

New- Selling with IMPACT Whitepaper
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Topics: killer products, buyer-seller alignment, B2B selling, buying behavior

2013 - the Beginning of the End of the Gun-Slinger Sales Era

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Dec 04, 2012

Adam Zais is a friend, business partner, new age thinker and practitioner of the new B2B sales and marketing model. We discussed the disruption and sea-change in the traditional sales profession caused by Internet-empower buyer behavior and changes occurring in B2B sales and sales in general in a recent blog article about a landmark OEM deal between NCR and MicroStrategy, under the Subheading of " The Disintermediation of B2B Sales Professionals"
 
This article gained positive comments from industry heavyweights and the essence of Adam's argument was echoed in the Corporate Executive Board's main blog last week, entitled "10 Trends Every Sales Exec Must Know For 2013" This is an important article and worth reading. We have further comments to make to bring the CEB points to life and include the original paragraph and our commentary. Points 2,3,4 are excerpts from the original.

2. Sales culture gets an overhaul.

We can claim this because we are currently  studying it, intensely at that. Anecdotally, we’ve seen that organizations heavily invested in driving new selling behaviors through the traditional means of training, coaching, and hiring are seeing some gains but those are often short-lived. The investments these organizations make in driving a new sales behavior are for naught without the right (and, we believe, very different from most) cultural foundation.

It’d be a cliché to say that sales culture matters when driving substantial transformation. But when you pry beyond the idea and accepted importance  of sales culture, you find little evidence or understanding of what this really means. Social science that can help sales leaders better understand what  good sales culture and  good social norms look like in today’s selling environment simply  does not exist. Frankly, our data is suggesting most sales organizations embodying a cultural profile that overly emphasizes compensation, individual contribution, and near-term outcomes.

We think those cultural norms are a distant cry from what today’s best sales organization should embody. Stay tuned as we have more to come on that front… For our member organizations, be sure to participate in the  2013 Sales Culture and Transformation Survey to understand the cultural profile of your sales organization, and how that is helping or harming your efforts to sell to today’s highly informed customer.

RIP Glengarry Glenross

The culture is broken because the traditional means of training, coaching, and hiring are broken. No other operational area of a business worships such icons as the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”, fondly repeats clichés like “dialing for dollars” and “sales is a numbers game”, routinely gets away with celebrating reaching 80% of their goal.

We agree that models of good sales culture and good social norms in sales organization do not exist. And yes, that most sales organizations embodying a cultural profile that overly emphasizes compensation, individual contribution, and near-term outcomes are critical problems that lead to severely compromised performance, results, job satisfaction, etc.

The fundamental roadblock to driving new sales behaviors and embracing new cultural foundations are very people who should be the agents of this change - today’s sales leaders. They are stubborn, entrenched, selfish, and powerful guardians of the status quo. They, and the ideas that they espouse, stand squarely in the way of a better future for the profession and for the fortunes of their organizations.

Stop the madness...we need drastically new sales training, we need to stop hiring the “Alec Baldwins” (e.g., manipulative, ‘roid rage psychos, lying-cheating-greedy-egocentric types) into sales, we need to sweep out the current crop of sales leaders who have their heads in the sand. 

3. Individual performance takes backseat to network performance.

Closely related to trend #2, we believe a fundamentally new organizational dynamic will drive sales productivity – and it’s  not based on making individual reps more effective in their sales-related tasks. This trend is based on research our sister team at the Corporate Leadership Council spent the better part of this year conducting. Their publically available  research summary is a  must read. The punch line of their research is that peak organizational productivity is driven by both:
  • individual task performance: an employee’s effectiveness at achieving individual tasks and outcomes, as well as
  • network performance: an employee’s effectiveness at improving others’ performance and using others’ contributions to improve his or her own performance
Network performance spans well beyond collaborative online portals and knowledge management platforms – it’s literally the informal networks that answer the question “how does work really get done around here?” And here’s the kicker: network performance is drastically underrepresented in most organizations despite its importance nearly doubling in the past 10 years.

In fact,  firms that were able to proper balance network and individual performance saw a 10% improvement in profitability. This underscores how important the creation of not just formal, but informal networks within your sales organization is becoming.

In sales environments, CEB suggests that the “right balance” is closer to 44:56 in favor of individual versus network performance. Most sales organizations, however, are nowhere near that ratio, drastically over-representing individual performance.

A Sales Team is an Oxymoron

It’s about freakin’ time that this issue is addressed. The sooner we embrace the fact that there is no such thing as a “sales team”, the sooner we can begin the process of healing and change.

Here’s the visual: sled dog team vs. sled cat team

Sales leaders LOVE to use sports analogies to describe sales & sales management. And football tops the list. The problem is that these analogies usually feature the quarterback as the model. We would be far better off if the offensive lineman became the model instead. These guys are the “poster-boys” of balancing:
  • individual task performance: an employee’s effectiveness at achieving individual tasks and outcomes, as well as
  • network performance: an employee’s effectiveness at improving others’ performance and using others’ contributions to improve his or her own performance

4. Sales comp gets an overhaul. 

Related to both trends #1 and #2, we believe the backbone of most sales organizations – the comp plan – is drastically outdated for today’s sales environment.

Team performance, information sharing, collaboration and peer support are being forsaken at the cost of driving individual rep productivity. Our good friend and member – Mitch Little, Head of Sales at Microchip – is  moving aggressively on this idea and has shifted sales compensation away from the traditional quarterly incentives, highly-variable comp model towards a team performance model that resembles traditional salaried positions.

And Mitch isn’t alone. In fact, I’d say one of the most common questions we’ve been getting from our most progressive heads of sales is on this very topic. I  don’t think we are prepared to proclaim an end to the coin-operated era in sales, but all the evidence and research in the space of human motivation sure does signal that comp design needs to be revisited, and not just to tweak it, but to potentially overhaul it.

This is another trend for our members to stay tuned to as both our team and our sister council, the Corporate Leadership Council for Compensation, further research the implications.

Money, Money, Money

It always comes down to money and this is clarion call that harks many people into sales in the first place. Today’s commission-heavy comp plans and other current incentives (spiffs, President's Clubs) are worse than just drastically outdated for today’s sales environment. They are wasteful, divisive, and discouraging. Most (if not all) comp plans merely give lip-service to concepts like team performance, information sharing, collaboration and peer support.
And “achievement clubs” do far more damage to an organization than promote achievement.


 Let's talk about how to transform sales culture
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Topics: B2B selling, sales, consultative selling training

B2B Selling: The NCR-MSTR OEM Partnership - Pt 3 Finding a Deal

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Nov 26, 2012

The following is a true story. A few names have been changed to protect the identity of some of the people involved. 

In the first episode of this story,  Scorched Earth, I described the situation leading to my being hired at MicroStrategy into an OEM sales role and the problems in overcoming relationships that had been soured by my predecessor.  

In the second episode, Defeat, Adam Zais and I explored the changing fortunes of B2B sales professionals and I describe the events leading up to my being given 30 days notice of termination. This article covers the 90 day lifecycle of the deal itself.

Finding a Champion

Much has been written in B2B sales literature around the need to find a champion for your cause inside the company you are trying to engage. A champion can literally take you to the top of the organization, influence strategy, engage decision makers, acquire funding and make things happen in weeks that could take years, or may never happen without their support.  

You will recall it had taken more me than 2 years to overcome the scorched earth from my predecessor, execute the joint marketing agreement that led to the value-added reseller agreement, which led to a couple of 7 figure NCR-Teradata-MicroStrategy sales to major US retailers, that saved me at the 11 th hour from being fired.  

Everything that went before the pivotal meeting with NCR-Teradata in Vienna, VA., in mid 1999 can be described as grunt-work, relationship building, building influence and gathering intelligence.

Selling into a major corporation in B2B, or partnering with a major technology company in an OEM role, is like orchestrating a chess game, - lots of activity with pawns, but nothing of consequence happening without engaging the major pieces. When Rocky Blanton attended our mid-year NCR-Teradata briefing, I knew we had found our major piece, a “Queen” to champion our cause.  
Rocky Blanton was VP of sales and senior member of the NCR retail team, - he was also on the NCR-Teradata strategy committee. At our meeting, we reviewed our initial joint success with major retailers and discussed the pipeline of opportunities and the future technology roadmap for MicroStrategy products. It was during the discussion on strategy that Rocky revealed an interest in moving our partnership to the next level, - OEM.  
I remember the excitement as we took a break in our meeting and I literally ran down the hall and burst into MicroStrategy COO, Sanju Bansal’s office to tell him the news.

Finding a Deal

The OEM partnership potential between NCR Teradata and MicroStrategy was obvious, even for our customers. The combined toolset was ideal for customers wanting to get answers to SKU–level business questions from extremely large relational databases. With more than 40 customers in common, it was surprising to many that it took so long to reach a formal OEM agreement.  

The initial suggestion for a deal came from Sanju and it was for a $5M pre-pay. This did not sit well with me and after 3 years, I knew where all the skeletons and opportunities lay at NCR and felt that there was far greater potential for an accretive deal.  

With Sanju on vacation in India the following week, I used the opportunity to pull together an outstanding group of MicroStrategy sales VP’s, Steve Foley, Ray Tacoma and Dan Shoemaker, with MicroStrategy CEO Mike Saylor for a big-deal brainstorming session. I briefed the group on the potential pieces to a deal and the objective was to build a deal-engine with a bunch of levers that we could both manipulate in order to find a best-fit deal.  

It was July 1999, the Dot.com boom was accelerating toward its zenith and the landscape for an OEM partnership deal was as follows: -
  • NCR Teradata owned the lion's share of the high-end retail data warehouse market and still do today. Teradata was omnipresent in the World’s largest data warehouses in the retail, telco, airline reservations and financial services markets.
  • NCR believed they needed dot.com references for their Teradata data warehouses.
  • MicroStrategy had just released MSTR7 and for the first time, had a strong product suited for VAR’s and OEM’s.
  • The 3-year NCR Teracube development effort was proving technically challenging and was still not reference-able.
  • MicroStrategy had IPO’ed a year earlier at an offer price of $12 and a year later the stock had doubled. In the heady days of the bubble, a joint marketing agreement or press release for a new customer announcement would cause the stock to move up a dollar. We knew we were in a bubble… this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
  • Every full-time MicroStrategy employee was an MSTR stockholder and there was a tremendous sense of destiny in the future greatness of the company. CEO Mike Saylor’s vision was well understood and we drank the cool-aid - as well as a lot of alcohol on the MicroStrategy cruise every year.
  • Mark Hurd, was NCR’s dealmaker and SVP of the national solutions group. Mark Hurd is a great salesman and he loves doing deals…. (I bet HP wishes they had him back).

Big Deals Have their Own Momentum

It was almost 90 days exactly from the Rocky Blanton meeting, until the MSTR-NCR OEM agreement was signed. If you have ever been surfing you will know that you have to put yourself in the right position in the swell to catch the break and then paddle like hell to get up on the wave. Once you are on it, it’s a fast ride with tremendous momentum, it’s exhilarating, exhausting and requires total focus.  

The first change in the relationship as we started to work on a deal was the appointment of an experienced hand in Tom Crooke to run the NCR side of the deal. Our deal team consisted of myself, Sanju, Mike Saylor, CFO Mark Lynch and our legal counsel, Adam Ruttenberg, with Dan Shoemaker running the scenarios.  

Once we had identified all of the deal elements in our deal engine, the roles changed and I became a supporting player as the executive teams on both sides took over structuring and negotiating the deal through a series of increasingly significant meetings in Dayton OH., and over the phone, culminating in the NCR-Teradata – MicroStrategy OEM partnership.

Success has a Thousand Fathers, Failure is an Orphan

Just over 3 months earlier, I was an orphan, a failure and a waste of 3-years investment and had been given my marching orders with 30 days notice. How sweet the savor of success, after having tasted defeat.  

The NCR-Teradata - MicroStrategy partnership was structured as follows;
  • NCR signed a $27.5 million, 3 year OEM agreement for MicroStrategy’s entire suite of Intelligent E-Business™ products and services,
  • MicroStrategy purchased an NCR Teradata Warehouse worth $11 million to power the Strategy.com™ network
  • NCR became a master affiliate of Strategy.com
  • MicroStrategy agreed to purchase NCR’s TeraCube™ business and all related intellectual property in exchange for $14 million in MicroStrategy stock
The partnership with NCR Teradata was the most successful of all of MicroStrategy’s reseller partnerships and they sold through their entire $27.5M commitment.

There were many people who contributed to the success of the OEM partnership and ongoing business relationship. As I mentioned in the first part of this story, in OEM sales, it’s best to park your ego at the door. It’s a long haul, and when success comes, you will be one of many who contributed.
 
To be continued in Part 4. Aftermath

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Topics: B2B selling, ncr teradata, oem sales, complex sale

B2B Selling: The NCR-MSTR OEM Partnership - Pt 2 Defeat

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Nov 20, 2012

The following is a true story. A few names have been changed to protect the identity of some of the people involved. 

In the first installment of this story,  Scorched Earth, I described the situation leading to my being hired at MicroStrategy into an OEM sales role and the problems in overcoming relationships that had been soured by my predecessor. This episode is about the events leading up to my being given 30 days notice of termination and reflects on the changing role of salespeople in B2B selling.

The Disintermediation of B2B Sales Professionals

Prior to the Internet, B2B salespeople were the conduits of information for customers. They were an essential part of the landscape in selling complex B2B products and services.

Their role however is changing fast, driven by unrelenting productivity improvements and innovation in the way companies buy, market and sell products. I was discussing this point with Adam Zais VP of Business Development at Wistia recently and we agreed that the role of salesperson is morphing into the part-time facilitation of a buying process.

Salespeople are not needed in many cases to sell B2B products. Neil Rackham rightly forecast the end of transactional selling 13 years ago in "Rethinking the Sales Force" and his prescient direction to sales managers to focus their direct sales teams on creating and capturing value for the customer. A preview of The Challenger Sale I believe, echoed in the Value Created and Value Captured Buying behaviors, outlined in the book, Why Killer Products Don't Sell.

Prospects can research potential suppliers, identify products and services, download whitepapers, read case studies and peer reviews, configure and price systems and make a business case without ever speaking to a salesperson. When it does serve buyers to engage salespeople, it is to lower the purchase price. The method is to invite several vendors to a "bake-off" or "beauty contest", where the salesperson's role is to discount the product or service and make other concessions in return for the order. The reverse auction is the ultimate desination for the purchase of commodity products and services and salespeople are not needed for this function.

This may sound slightly cynical, but unhappily it is reality. Having arrived a this conclusion, the discussion with Adam turned to where salespeople are actually needed and where they do contribute to the complex sale and the segments in the industry the top-guns will gravitate toward in the future, - for the big commission checks.

Adam continued, "I believe that I have a more cynical view....I believe that B2B "sales" professionals are "history" as it relates to "contributing to the complex sale" if that sale is thought of as a "deal" instead of a line-of-business or channel or partnership. I also think that the days of "big commission checks" in exchange for what sales people have done traditionally are over. 

Here's an example of what I mean: once-upon-a-time I did two deals with telecom companies for a very complex / very technical piece of software. In reality, the sales were made because of my SE....NOT (as much as I hate to admit it) because of anything I really did. Sure, I did some qualification of the prospects and set up meetings / demos and such. But I didn't really deserve to be paid far more than the SE. He could easily have done everything I did.

In a nutshell, the company could have saved themselves a shed-load of money, gotten much the same results, and properly motivated the correct person. Again, I really think that variable compensation for the function we still refer to as "sales" needs to end. To my mind, this perpetuates behavior that we should not longer wish to have....too much thinking about the individual (the rep) versus the team / company / etc. 

I do think that we want the "top-guns" to be attracted to OEM / Channel / Biz Dev. type roles. The complexity of these roles, which is what I think you mean by "the complex sale", DOES require high-end "sales" skills. I believe these are the only sales roles that are appropriately matched to the type of variable compensation plans that generate "big commission checks." Every other "sales" position should only involve variable compensation if that compensation is essentially the same for any other position in a company if that company decides to have such a compensation plan. Oh, and one more thing, the concept of the "Sales President's Club" needs to be confined to the dust-heap of history ASAP!

I want to be clear, I am not saying that we should give up on B2B. It's more about what the future needs to look like in terms of expectations on the part of sales professionals, how they should be managed and compensated, and most important how they should be trained."

When you are truly ready, the Channel will show up

Until the release of MicroStrategy7, the product was probably the largest Visual Basic executable in the BI industry. From a reseller or OEM's perspective it had very low appeal; no API, no SDK, poor documentation and it broke your software with every new release. I felt sorry for our early partners and they certainly let the executive know they were not happy. Clearly, the MicroStrategy product was not channel-ready prior to release 7 and the channel sales model was push not pull. When you are truly ready, the channel will show up.

That did not stop the channels team at MicroStrategy from selling it however and Scott Hughes hired a strong team of experienced salespeople to sell it....and they did. Like many well meaning channel sales efforts, the software got sold, salespeople got well compensated and the software sat on the shelf and was never implemented.

You are being given 30 days notice to perform - (you're fired)

After 3 years, hundreds of meetings and nothing to show other than a bunch of joint marketing agreements with IBM, Sequent, Tandem and NCR, and a nascent reseller agreement with NCR, frankly I was not surprised that my time was up. My boss Scott Hughes, whom I respected and like, was straight up with me and I recall responding that I understood why and that I would be very adult about it, but I just needed a bit more time as the ship was turning.

The ink was barely dry on the reseller agreement with NCR and I wasn't going to let some Johnny-come-lately walk in and reap the rewards of all of my effort. A couple of months earlier I trained the NCR Teradata retail sales team on how to and where to sell MicroStrategy7 and they were generating a lot of activity and were teeing up a couple of 6 figure MSTR sales with their major retail customers.

I recall walking into VP Sales, Ray Tacoma's office and pleading for another 30 days, as I knew things were about to change. Within 2 weeks of being put on notice, NCR Teradata came in with a big sale and then shortly after that, another one.

Saved by the bell!

Continued....in part 3. Finding a Deal


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Topics: channel sales, B2B selling, sales performance

B2B Selling: The NCR-MSTR OEM Partnership - Pt 1. Scorched Earth

Posted by Mark Gibson on Thu, Nov 15, 2012

The following is a true story. A few names have been changed to protect the identity of some of the people involved.

The Element of Luck in Selling

Luck is an element in every sales person’s career, you may get assigned a territory when a major propsect or customer is in the right moment of a purchasing cycle to need you and your capabilities and you step up and make the sale... the hero of the hour.

Unless you are working in an early stage technology company, you can bet that the territory you have been assigned has had the low hanging fruit plucked by your predecessor, or if it’s a new territory carved off an existing sales person’s territory…. It’s been well worked for opportunity.  

In my sales career, I’ve been lucky several times to land a territory where a good salesperson had been developing opportunity and was promoted out of the role and I stepped in. In these cases success came quickly….but that was not the case on joining MSTR.  

Rule: expect nothing from your new territory, it’s the opportunity that you personally create, that you get to harvest, anything more than that is luck.  
I was hired into MicroStrategy (MSTR) from Informix Software, where I met Sid Bannerjee and members of the MicroStrategy West Coast sales team. I happily introduced them and they were successful selling into some of my retail accounts – we needed applications to run on the Informix data warehouse software.  

Sanju Bansal, COO of MicroStrategy interviewed me and asked me to come on board. He said they needed an experienced salesperson with “some brass” to go after the major relational database companies with the goal of partnering and getting them to resell MicroStrategy software and so began a 6 year stint with MicroStrategy.  

Rules for anyone thinking of going into OEM sales.

Creating OEM partnerships with big fish like MicroSoft, IBM and NCR Teradata can take years, therefore:  
  1. Park your ego at the door; you are an orchestrator and part of a bigger team than in direct sales.
  2. Be prepared for the long haul, it could take hundreds of calls and meetings to get there.
  3. Make sure you have the support of your management and their commitment to back you through a multi-year journey. 
  4. Negotiate a comp plan based on MBO’s, not revenue, or you may starve in the first year or two.

Scorched Earth

Several times during my career I have also had the misfortune of inheriting a territory where my predecessor had actually harmed the relationship and created adversaries in the prospective customer base.  

It happened to me at Sun in the UK at a meeting with top FOREX broker, Tullet  & Tokyo, when Sun workstations were selling by the semi-trailer load for Trading room workstation applications. I well remember pulling the gas relief valve on my chair and sinking slowly under the table for some comic relief, when the IT director told us that he would never buy from Sun, thanks to my predecessor Dan and his mate, an underling at Tullet and Tokyo, who had totally botched an executive level relationship, between the Sun MD, Bill Passmore and their CEO.  

And it happened at MicroStrategy.
My predecessor had developed a strong adversarial relationship with his counterpart at NCR and they had spent a year prior to my arrival, not negotiating a joint marketing agreement. The problem was that he was now my boss and the adversarial relationship continued.  

It became clear to me that I had to outmaneuver my boss and his counterpart before we were going to make progress with NCR and so I wangled a transfer to a new manager, Scott Hughes, who was running the VAR program and things improved rapidly from that point for me. Similarly, NCR appointed a new relationship manager and we eventually signed a joint marketing agreement.  

Building a Relationship, brick by brick

Creating an OEM partnership with the behemoths of the industry is like building a house, brick by brick. Every meeting is another brick in a wall, a step forward hopefully. Sometimes set-backs occur.

I recall a meeting with MSTR CEO Mike Saylor with the NCR technical leadership in San Diego, when they told us that they were developing their own in-house OLAP product, which they were calling Teracube and we left the room with our butts on a plate. I found out why they were building their own product a year later in a revelation that for some reason had not been shared with me.  

Despite the fact that the NCR Teradata team were developing a competing product, the Teradata Retail team was selling big Teradata Data Warehouse systems into major retailers for SKU level analytics and their customers wanted MicroStrategy for the decision support front-end.  

Eventually after more than two years, numerous set-backs and a hundred or more calls and meetings, we inked a Value-added reseller agreement.  
Click here to read Part 2. Defeat

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