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Technology Is Cool and All, But …

September 20, 2012 | By Jonathan Block

Now more than ever, it’s often everything the vendor offers beyond the technology that buyers should focus on to determine true differentiation between providers.

The introduction of new technologies for b-to-b sales and marketing organizations is accelerating more and more each day. In fact, it’s accelerating to the point where buyers are having trouble discerning one vendor’s solution from another. Even technologies once considered advanced, such as predictive and text analytics, are finding themselves commoditized to a certain extent. Now more than ever, it’s often everything the vendor offers beyond the technology that buyers should focus on to determine true differentiation between providers.

Despite offering strong functionality, we see many vendors fall short in helping customers execute. It’s critical for organizations to consider what we call “essential elements,” the ability of a vendor to deliver and implement its solution. There are two key essential element categories:

  • Deployment. Does the vendor offer an effective implementation plan based on your technical environment, process maturity and marketing skill level? If it doesn’t provide this expertise itself, does it at least have a robust partner network? An implementation plan should drive improvement throughout the deployment process rather than being limited to the start or completion of the installation. Integration is also a critical implementation issue: Make sure the vendor can point to references that demonstrate the ability to integrate well with other sales and marketing systems.

  • Enablement. Can the vendor provide support during local business hours and in an appropriate language to support your global needs? What initial and ongoing training does the vendor provide in terms of best practices, management support/oversight and administration? How is this training delivered, what will it cost, and how does it figure into the overall solution? Finally, learning from the experiences of others (good or bad) helps any deployment proceed more smoothly. Has the vendor incorporated these lessons into its products and services?

Technology is a critical enabler of the sales and marketing operational triumvirate, which also includes skills and process. But it’s often very difficult to tell one technology solution from another from only a features and functionality perspective. Look beyond the technology to choose vendors that can provide the services needed today as well as contribute to a sustainable, successful ongoing relationship.

 

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is Vice President and Practice Director, Technology, at SiriusDecisions. He has developed key models and frameworks that enable b-to-b organizations to understand, evaluate and implement appropriate marketing and sales technologies, as well as advised executive clients on the role of technology to help drive sales and marketing integration and enterprise alignment. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jblock.

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