Earlier this week, I attended the Sales 2.0 Boston conference (Twitter: #s20c) -- where Silverpop was a Platinum sponsor and exhibitor. This follows my recent attendance at several other marketing conferences, including the Forrester Marketing Forum 2010 and the SiriusDecisions 2010 Summit, which I have also covered in recent blog posts.
All three events had strong B2B demand generation takeaways, but the focus of each was different. Forrester was targeted primarily at the enterprise marketer (and had a heavy B2C slant); SiriusDecisions was targeted probably 65%/35%, marketer/sales, and covered best practices for both enterprise and mid-market companies; and Sales 2.0 (as you might imagine by the title) mostly covered the sales team's point of view in the demand generation equation, albeit with some strong B2B marketing insights, for just about any size organization.
[caption id="attachment_810" align="alignright" width="420" caption="Source: Silverpop"]
This sales focus was evident via the event's theme, "Sales Productivity in the Cloud" (although what the event's organizers meant by 'the cloud' -- whether that was a SaaS thing, or more holistic -- was never fully developed). And this focus was accompanied by a strong dialogue thread around the ability of B2B marketing and sales technologies to deliver the 'most important currency' to your sales organization -- i.e., a salesperson's time -- as Polly Sumner, Chief Adoption Officer with Salesforce.com, highlighted in her morning keynote.
Another prevalent dialogue thread was how marketing and sales activities can become more accountable and predictable --at both a process and a technology level. This was a real emphasis of remarks by event chair, Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder and CEO of Selling Power, the event's producer.
One final and predominant dialogue thread was around the whirlwind of change we find ourselves in today as B2B marketing and sales professionals. There was a real sense that transformation is actively occurring around B2B demand generation practices -- especially around marketing and sales roles -- with activities increasingly aligning around the buying process.
"The idea behind the Sales 2.0 movement seems to be gaining momentum, especially as companies come out of the recessionary funk of last year," noted a post on the Business Software Buzz blog that re-capped the event. "Businesses are looking to have increased growth and optimal sales strategies."
Thereasa Fullner, a marketing leader with Salary.com and afternoon panelist, highlighted this fact when she commented, "The strongest trait you can have [in demand generation today] is to change and adapt."
So between the two keynotes and the six panel sessions, what were the major takeaways from Sales 2.0 Boston on Monday?
I've gone back through my notes, through my own torrent of Tweets and through others' blog posts from the event, and here are the five, resultant major points that seemed to emerge:
> Leverage marketing/sales applications to reduce your data points and act, not to complicate things.
Sumner's keynote about the sales organization's most important currency were echoed throughout the day. One panelist in the afternoon noted that in the current environment, there's 'too much data out there' for our sales teams; thus, we need to help them 'sift through that noise' and free them up to sell.
"Gone are the days where all that’s known is whether the individual or team meets quota," noted Geoffrey James in his own blog post on the event. "Companies are now measuring everything from the time that a lead enters the system to the final revenue generated from an account over years. And companies are adjusting their strategies to adapt to what they learn."
Yet several speakers and panelists cautioned that attempts at complex analytics and to build KPI dashboards can be overdone. "When you build your dashboards, don't build too many," urged Sumner. "My recommendation ... is keep it simple. ... Three tabs at the top is all a new sales person can ever handle."
Trish Bertuzzi, President of The Bridge Group and an afternoon panelist, highlighted a related point -- the importance of using data to get your sales team focused on the opportunities that are a best fit for your company. "Market segmentation is the key to success today. If you focus you'll win," she said. And this focus is critically-linked to delivering more-qualified leads to your sales organization. "With quality comes the need for metrics," noted Fullner.
> Improve sales performance by aligning processes around common expectations and goals, rather than threatening sales teams with a 'bat.'
Many of the speakers and panelists throughout the day reminded us that despite all of the change that's going on in B2B demand generation processes and technlologies, what it takes to succeed as a focused, successful business has not changed. "It's always about having a plan -- a plan to win," noted Sumner. And Dave Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President of Brainshark, reiterated this point in his closing keynote: "Before you get to the people, process, technology, you've got to decide what as a business you're going after."
This business focus should then form the basis of a common set of expectations and goals for the company and for the joint marketing and sales organization. "Marketing segmentation is the number one place where you should start with sales and marketing alignment," reminded Bertuzzi. And measuring success should be done against your ultimate goal -- against results -- not against activity. "If you measure your marketing on hits on your Website or [on raw] leads," exclaimed Sumner, you'll never have marketing/sales alignment.
Revenue-generation activities by sales team members should subsequently cascade from these overall company expectations and goals -- ensuring individual team members' sales (and thus their self interests) are aligned. "It's always easier to get things done with a carrot than with a stick," said Sumner, who noted that 'the baseball bat' is the 'old' way of motivating a sales team.
A marketing leader with Monster.com additionally noted on an afternoon panel that this goal needs to be supported and backed by senior management: "We've seen a lot of impact when [the company's senior] executives get involved" in demand generation activities.
> Design and orchestrate B2B demand generation programs around the buyer, not anything else.
The strongest opportunity to focus corporate goals and subsequent marketing and sales activities is to align activities with the targeted buyer and his/her buying process. One afternoon panelist commented, "A good sales process should be aligned in the way your buyers buy. ... The question you want to answer is, 'What problem do you solve?'" And he noted this approach will 'transform' your sales/marketing processes if you've previously been too inwardly or product focused.
One opportunity for technology to assist this focus lies in enabling nurturing continuity between marketing and sales -- especially via marketing automation sync-ed to CRM. The marketing leader from Monster.com noted, "The real challenge for us ..." is how to take all of 'the buyer journey information' and get it in front of the sales team.
There is increasing evidence, for organizations with a well-defined buyer-cycle focus and the combination of CRM and marketing automation technology, that nature of actual marketing and sales team members' roles evolve. In particular, many companies are redefining the scope and charter of individual roles in terms of the value-add provided at each stage of the buying process. An example is the emergence of live lead qualification teams as upstream, 'low-pressure' points of contact between a buyer and a vendor that bridges marketing and sales nurturing. "Salesforces of the future are going to be stratified," noted an afternoon panelist.
> Embrace quality over quantity.
Focused and efficient organizations that are paying attention to middle-of-the-funnel dynamics, are shifting what they value in B2B demand generation programs, away from quantity of leads, to quality of leads. Fullner notes that this has been a more-recent focus within her joint marketing/sales team at Salary.com: "We have over the past year ... become much more focused on [lead] quality."
This focus on quality must be accompanied by nurturing strategies that ensure no lead is wasted and that each buyer is engaged at the right time for his/her organization's decision-making. "By focusing on improving productivity and reducing leakage," commented Sumner, sales will improve.
And this highlights the reality that at the core of a focus on quality are underlying processes -- supported by technology -- not vice versa. "You've got to [develop and] document the process," urged Fitzgerald. "If you automate a bad process, you only get bad results faster."
> Shift how we evaluate the success or failure of marketing and sales technology away from activity and towards incrementally-improving results.
A final but important point was the fact that as there is an increasingly-established track record of success for organizations that have adopted CRM and marketing automation, attention must shift. The definition of 'success' in enterprise software used to be 'go live,' commented Sumner. But she explained that today success lies in (and should be judged by) continuous improvement and in the ultimate delivery of results. This requires orchestrating improvements in people, process and technology together. "Don't settle for CRM being the way you roll up forecasting," urged Sumner. Use it for more; use it to act.
This also requires paying attention to the actual adoption of technology by your team and to their integrating these technologies into how they work. "Explore tools with an eye for how your team will adapt to it. How they will use it. How it will change the way they work," offered Mike Damphousse of Green Leads in his own blog write-up on Sumner's keynote.
My time at Sales 2.0 was well worth the day out of the office, and it was particularly helpful for me as a B2B marketer to attend an event that provides the sales-team point of view on demand generation activities.
Did you attend Sales 2.0 Boston? What did you think? What were your impressions and learnings? What would you add to some of my observations above? Would love to see your thoughts.