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Planning Assumptions for 2015

December 01, 2014

As SiriusDecisions looks toward the year ahead, we have identified critical planning assumptions for sales, marketing and product functions

SiriusDecisions has released 60 planning assumptions for b-to-b organizations seeking to maximize their effectiveness in 2015. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we summarize 10 of these planning assumptions and their implications for sales, marketing and product leaders.

Lead Management: Sales Generated Demand

Sales’ ongoing challenge is to find and qualify enough leads to fill the sales pipeline. The SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall has helped marketing align with sales on lead management, but marketing usually accounts for less than half of the leads that sales needs. Sales operations must apply the same rigor and process focus to sales generated demand. Sales prospecting is a core selling activity that, if not properly managed, can quickly become unproductive. To prospect efficiently and effectively, sales reps must have the skills and knowledge to build a pre-call plan, be prepared to properly engage prospects, and recognize or create the right level of buyer engagement to identify an active buying process. Sales operations must establish a process for sales reps to follow, metrics to measure success, and a data structure within the SFA platform to capture sales lead generation activities. 

SiriusAction: Establish a formal lead management process within sales. Align with marketing on the establishment of SLAs focused not only on marketing generated leads, but also on sales generated leads. Implement the SiriusDecisions Lead Spectrum for sales generated demand to help define lead levels and keep sales reps focused on the types of leads that are best managed by sales.

Customer Experience: Mapping Cross-Functional Alignment

Even though 60 percent of b-to-b companies have a customer experience function, many lack the scope and strategy required to make a significant impact. Customer experience functions need to align with other functions that contribute to customer experience, or their impact will remain limited to specific program execution. The best way to achieve this alignment is to create role-based maps of customer-facing activities that illustrate who does what and when, which enables gap analysis. A customer experience function needs to understand how to align other functions without insisting on ownership. Along with its strategy and coordination role, it must support visibility into customer experience via insights, and communicate what it learns to other contributing functions.

SiriusAction: Review the goals and scope of the customer experience function, and evaluate whether its resources and skills are sufficient to support development of strategy and alignment with other functions. If customer experience mapping has not been completed, expand the customer experience function’s role to include this activity.

Product Management: The Business Case and Post-Launch Results

Creation of a business case often involves fine-tuning financial goals and debating revenue projections. Product management leaders are under pressure to aim for faster, higher returns. Unfortunately, once the business case is approved, the projections and plans are often ignored, and the focus shifts to simply getting the product built. According to SiriusDecisions research, more than 40 percent of b-to-b companies analyze fewer than half of their products post-launch to match performance to business case projections. This represents a missed opportunity to improve each offering; it also causes significant misallocation of resources across the organization. Investing in products that do not provide the desired results means fewer funds are available to support initiatives that are producing strong returns. Product management leaders should hold their teams accountable for reviewing performance compared to business case projections, and leaders should conduct this analysis across the entire product portfolio.

SiriusAction: Require product goals and targets to be defined before commercial release, and schedule post-launch reviews. Review the performance of all products vs. business case projections as part of a portfolio optimization exercise that is conducted at least annually.

Marketing Technology: Focus on People and Skills

Effective demand creation and audience engagement often require the use of technologies including marketing automation, Web content management and predictive analytics. The challenge for most marketing organizations is not the expanding universe of technologies, but rather developing the proper skills to get full value from these technologies. Marketing automation, for example, improves nothing without the right skills and the right plan/build/run and content processes to use it correctly. In addition, people who possess both technical skills and deep marketing experience are scarce.

SiriusAction: Engage technical peers (e.g. the CIO or CTO) and technical recruiters to understand how to audit technical skills, find the right people with the right skills and develop strong onboarding processes. Depending on the technology used, a CMO may need to forego marketing knowledge to find people with the right technical expertise.

Productivity: Conduct a Content Audit

With low-quality or redundant content spread across multiple disorganized systems, content users at many b-to-b organizations find it nearly impossible to quickly find relevant, high-quality assets. Along with implementing a cross-functional content creation process, communications must take the lead on addressing issues with existing content by conducting a content audit. Many demand creation functions have taken the first step toward improving their content libraries by aligning and auditing assets against the buyer’s journey. Conduct a similar content audit across additional functions and audiences (e.g. influencers, buyers, customers, sales, employees) to strengthen content architecture and taxonomies, eliminate redundancy, purge low-quality content, identify gaps that justify investment in content creation, support greater reuse and leverage of content, and build greater transparency into the appropriate uses for each content asset to drive higher adoption.

SiriusAction: Using our content inventory framework and audit tool, conduct an enterprise-wide content audit led by a dedicated resource assigned to oversee the initiative. Set aggressive objectives for the percentage of content to be eliminated or consolidated, and audit content against an audience-centric framework in order to build a business case for filling content gaps uncovered during the audit.

Channel Sales: The Evolving Role of Channel Sales Operations

Because the enablement and support of indirect channel sales require a specific set of skills and responsibilities, many suppliers have established a channel sales operations role. This role reports to the head of channel sales and delivers programs, processes and tools that enable a variety of partner types (e.g. brokers, agents, distributors, systems integrators). Although managing the day-to-day execution of the partner program is a primary function of this role, its responsibilities also include tracking partner sales performance, managing partner onboarding, and mitigating or escalating channel conflict issues. We expect the channel sales operations role to evolve beyond tactical activities to include strategic planning responsibilities, including the creation of capacity planning models, developing partner pricing, setting margins and calculating supplier channel sales compensation. As the demand for greater channel productivity becomes a priority within heavily vested suppliers, the channel sales operations role will become more prominent in helping the function reach indirect sales objectives.

SiriusAction: Identify the range of processes involved in recruiting, enabling and generating leads with partners. Identify the owner of each process, and determine how that resource integrates with the channel program. If there’s a lack of alignment, or processes are inconsistently delivered, consider creating a new operations role.

Portfolio Marketing: Implement a Launch Dashboard

Not everyone involved in the process of bringing an offering to life is aware of the growth targets and business objectives. Consequently, launch is treated as a routine, tactical process. The pressure to adapt to an agile approach also tends to turn launch into a tactical production line vs. a strategic activity to drive growth. The portfolio marketing leader can instill strategic focus throughout the launch process by ensuring that launches are consistently measured and tied to the organization’s growth initiatives via a launch dashboard. The dashboard should reflect the tiers (categories) of launch, ranging from large-scale initiatives to small, incremental updates. This enables all participants in the go-to-market process to understand the purpose of each activity and how their efforts contribute to growth. A dashboard also enables comparison of a current launch with previous launches. Establish a continuous learning and improvement process to instill discipline around measuring the impact of launch efforts.

SiriusAction: Audit the current launch process to determine how launches are currently measured. Work with marketing operations to build launch metrics, a launch dashboard and a communications process to inform internal constituents of launch status and performance metrics.

Demand Creation: Strengthen Teleprospecting

Even with new automation techniques, b-to-b transactions cannot occur without dialogue between buyers and sellers. Buyers may be interested in managing more of their buying process on their own through online channels, but they still engage in direct interaction with the seller before the deal is done. Qualifying marketing-sourced and tele-sourced demand for the benefit of quota-bearing direct and channel sales teams is a critical step in the demand creation process. An increasing number of organizations have recognized teleprospecting’s role in bringing marketing and sales together to drive greater pipeline and revenue. High-performing organizations are characterized by a strategically positioned and well-managed teleprospecting function.

SiriusAction: Use our decision support tool to select the best teleprospecting model. Define roles that teleprospecting reps or teams can play to support marketing campaigns, and develop rapid-response plays to fulfill sales requests for additional support. Enable teleprospecting teams to create their own demand with small-net fishing programs, and leverage process discipline, technology and data to improve productivity and yield from qualification efforts.

Sales Enablement: A Centralized Function

Sales enablement has evolved to include a growing scope of responsibilities, including the coordination and delivery of sales content, methodology/skills training, product training, onboarding and sales communications. To manage these activities and coordinate delivery to the field, we recommend a centralized sales enablement function headed by a strong leadership role that can position the function as a strategic resource within sales. Centralized sales enablement assigns subject matter experts to each of the core sales enablement responsibilities, creates consistent processes, metrics and tools, and facilitates alignment with marketing and product functions. In larger organizations, a centralized model may require sales enablement generalists to be aligned to sales teams (e.g. regionally or by segment) to support the execution and governance of initiatives. The leader of the centralized function should report directly to the chief sales officer, while the generalist roles should report directly to the sales enablement leader and indirectly to second- or first-line sales management.

SiriusAction: Appoint a head of sales enablement if the role does not currently exist. Identify enablement gaps or weak spots and develop a roadmap for developing centralized subject matter expertise. Focus the centralized function on the areas that will provide the biggest impact (e.g. sales content and onboarding). Work with sales operations to identify how key areas of enablement impact rep productivity and how operations can measure sales enablement’s impact.

Channel Marketing: Improve Program Delivery and Performance

Suppliers often allow partners to assemble and deliver marketing programs on their own. However, channel marketers may find that these programs demonstrate weak performance. To drive program effectiveness and partner results, suppliers can offer partners pre-packaged, menu-based plays and program execution guidance. Suppliers that create an end-to-end process and provide a formal partner development program can accelerate partners’ learning curve and increase marketing program ROI. Suppliers may also invest in outside demand creation vendors to create marketing program offerings mapped to buyer audiences. By offering marketing resources (e.g. content tools, digital marketing campaigns, teleservices) funded through market development fund programs, suppliers can develop channel programs that exceed industry standards for adoption and ROI.

SiriusAction: Review the current go-to-market process for delivering programs to partners. Evaluate whether the process prescriptively guides partners to the next step, and identify any gaps. Pilot new partner-led demand programs before rolling them out across a broad partner network. Review pilot results and identify weaknesses that may hinder partner performance or impede full deployment.

Marketing Operations: Get Serious About Marketing Planning

SiriusDecisions recommends that marketing avoid developing plans in isolation – although deadline-driven marketing departments are notorious for doing just that. There is much to be gained from relative targeting and campaign planning, which help ensure that marketing campaigns, programs and tactics are aligned with overall business objectives. Marketing operations should incorporate corporate, sales and product goals and priorities into campaign plans, taking into account geographic and channel sales priorities, product revenue and thought leadership initiatives – as well as the different type of reputation, demand creation and sales enablement actions required to support revenue objectives for new accounts, customer expansion and services expansion.

SiriusAction: Use the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework to lead a collaborative planning effort across the marketing functions. Integrate a strategic budget allocation model that incorporates the priorities of the sales and product organizations.