What you need to know about sales innovation: Tiffani Bova, Gartner distinguished analyst

Tiffani Bova, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, is passionate about helping her clients grow and increase competitiveness through sales innovation. She discusses that and why she believes the most disruptive thing in the market today is not technology, it’s the customer.


When the world’s largest technology companies need guidance on business transformation and sales innovation, they call Tiffani Bova, a VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. Clients consider Tiffani one of the preeminent thought leaders in the industry. Her current emphasis is focused on improving sales methodologies, processes and performance. She is passionate about helping her clients grow and increase competitiveness through sales innovation. She is constantly on the lookout for transformative sales models with the potential for profound impact on the way products and services are brought to market.

Watch the video and read the complete transcript of the broadcast.

Michael:         (00:02) Hello, welcome to episode number 99 of CXOTalk. Your place in the hot sun on a cold day, with my gloriously warm co-host Vala Afshar. Vala how are you?

Vala:               (00:19) Michael I’m doing great. I’m not as warm as I would like to be but I’m doing wonderful thank you for asking.

Michael:         (00:28) And I saw you did a vine like a what like 12 foot snow banks outside of your window there.

Vala:               (00:33) Right outside of my house there’s about 10 to 12 feet of snow.

Michael:         (00:38) I was in Cincinnati yesterday doing a talk on something related to innovation and startups and they have like a couple in inches of snow, but it was colder than here. It was really cold.

Vala:               (00:50) Well the good news is our guest is going to heat things up for us in terms of sales and marketing and innovation, so maybe Michael you can help with introductions.

Michael:         (00:59) We are here today talking with Tiffani Bova, who is vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. Tiffani, how are you today?

Tiffani:            (01:11) Hi guys, well thankfully I am warm in southern California and I think it’s a balmy 68 degrees out and not a cloud in the sky. So I’m glad I’m not shoveling snow. I’m just watching the birds fly by and the clouds go by and the sun. This is the time where you really appreciate being in the west.

Michael:         (01:34) Vala…why are we doing the show here and not there?

Vala:               (01:39) Tiffani, thank you for rubbing it in and you’re right Michael we need to take CXOTalk on the road, but before we do that, maybe you can tell us briefly a little about your background.

Tiffani:            (01:49) Well I am a Gartner analyst and I have been here almost nine years and I focus exclusively on go to market strategies and sales and transformation, innovation for big technology companies. I work very closely with all of our other analyst on looking at the trends and what’s the implication to vendors on how they then take their products and services to market.

(02:12) So, I like to say that I’m a recovering seller that gets to live through my clients without actually having to carry a quota. It’s a good place to be I have to say.

Michael:         (02:25) So sales innovation, is that another way of phrasing it?

Tiffani:            (02:30) Absolutely I mean I think there’s always ways to improve, and I try to help my clients not to look backwards, and in the rearview mirror I really think about you know, how they should be considering new ways in which to engage and sell to their customers.

Vala:               (02:48) So you recently wrote this awesome article in the Harvard business review, and it was entitled, reinvent your sales process while still hitting the Numbers. And you talked about sales need to generate new revenue streams, learn how to sell the products to expand the channels and applications and customer segments. What is happening in the technology market that’s affecting sales today?

Tiffani:            (03:12) Well I think as any sales leader the biggest challenge and really the heart of that article is that we are responsible – and notice I still say we because once again I still buy (carelessly? 03:24) sell, but we are faced with the difficult challenge of hitting our numbers on a quarterly basis, especially if it is a publicly traded company. Right, so you have to start there.

(03:35) And even if you’re not publicly traded and you’re a smaller company or large and just not public, you know you have to keep the lights on right, and at the same time as a hitting quota and hitting your revenue numbers and keeping those lights on, you have to think about the transformation you have to make in the salesforce and it’s a very delicate dance, and I coined that ‘the seller’s dilemma’s a number of years ago and it has really taken hold. And I took advantage of the innovators dilemma and everything that that brought to the market and how people thought about it. And I said, you’ve got to think about it from how you actually sell.

(04:08) So if at the end of the quarter when you’re getting pulled to make your numbers, and you are really in the middle of a project trying to prepare your sales force for two to three quarters out. You will always default back to hitting your quarterly numbers. And it just consistently delays that effort of thinking out to the future in what kind of sales organization you need.

(04:31)It’s a really difficult place now – not only for sales leaders, right, you’ve got chief executives and chief marketing officers. And everybody is challenged with hitting and delivering their value and stock prices and revenue numbers, while they are in the middle of trying to respond to the needs of the customer today. It’s really tough.

Michael:         (04:51) So there’s all these changes going on – cloud, social, mobile, data, analytics, what are the impacts of these forces – I was going to say trends but they are actually forces. What’s the impact on sales?

Tiffani:            (05:09) Well I like to start by saying that there’s one thing that I think I know for sure. Having sold technology for about 15 years before I took this job, technology is significantly different than it was just five years ago.

(05:24) And within that, Gartner talks about the nexus of forces with things like social, mobile, cloud and information. And when you look at those they are really just driving completely different consumption models out to the market, and customers have different demands. And with that, CIO’s are extremely challenged on how they are going to maintain enterprises because of these forces in the market and how they are going to respond to their customers.

(05:52) But more importantly, you know manufacturers of technology are now having to think differently about what kinds of products and services that they take to market. And I think the pace of innovation has increased, but more importantly it’s just really complicating the way in which companies need to take their products to market.

Vala:               (06:13) Sure, so I have the privilege of talking to CIOs on a fairly regular basis – weekly at a minimum, and I find that what’s different today or perhaps a couple of years ago even, is if I had to rank the process in which they are going through, the buying process, especially early on is the number one independently researched in vendor and technology and trends. And maybe half the time in independent research, then it’s pure collaboration. They’re talking to other IT leaders and different line of business leaders.

(06:52) And then lastly it feels that they are talking to a partner or a vendor. Is this the power of social and hyper connective world that we live in, where independent research and pure collaboration is dominating who they decide on, and who they shortlist by vendor and begin their buying process.

Tiffani:            (07:10) Well there’s so much underneath that question right, We can spend all day on that. I’d start from a high level and I would say that if you look back in time it used to be that vendors were much more in control of the buyers journey. Right, as salespeople we would call 100 people and 10 people would take our call, and then we would set two meetings up and then we would show up. And we would open up our laptop and give the PowerPoint presentation about our business and this is what we do, and our technology and why it is better etc.

(07:43) And we were really in control of timing the information that the customer or prospect got from us. That is totally different now. Now I think one of the most disruptive things in the sales world is that the customer, to your point Vala absolutely has more control of their own journey.

(08:00) They are going out and looking for information first, they’re talking to their peers, they’re looking for expert opinion whether it’s Gartner or others. And the provider ends up being fourth or fifth actually on that list you know as they are looking for information. So by the time they show up to a salesperson, they’re 50% or so through their buying a journey already.

(08:25) Which means sales has to respond very differently. So that’s the first thing I would say. The second thing that I would say to what you just said is not only is the CIO going and doing their own information and search, but as you know from Gartner, we said that we think marketing officers are going to hold a larger budget in IT in the coming years.

(08:46) And behind that is how some of our research involves when you think about CIOs holding the budget end to end. So I’m looking for a solution and I’m going to find it and I’m going to buy it, and they do it alone. That only happens about 25% of the time now. What ends up happening is IT reaches out to the line of business owners and then they will solve the problem in tandem, driven by IT and supported by line of business.

(09:13) The opposite of that is line of business drives, IT support and then they go and sell, or line of businesses doing all on their own. Right, and so CIOs are faced now with the impact of this digitalization business, and social, mobile and cloud, opening up opportunities and not only challenge their infrastructure right, in the way that they can manage secure and keep their environment running the way that they want to.

(09:40) So I think there’s two things happening. They’re going to different places, but the complexity of the buying process because of line of business demands is really taxing the CIOs.

Michael:          (09:51) And that has given rise to as Gartner terms it, my mobile IT and I’ve seen other organizations and vendor’s call it to speed IT. So in a sense you got to types of IT departments coexisting together under one roof.

Tiffani:            (10:11) Yeah, you’re right on, and I think my mobile and the two speeds of IT we started talking about it a number of views ago. And I think that when you look at speed one it’s really focused renovating the core of the business. Keeping the lights on.

(10:28) And in best case scenario and best in class, about 65% of the budget sits there, that’s kind of project-based steady-state RFP, long delivery times, you know it’s very scope of work focused. It’s big renovating a data center, even standing up Infrastructure-as-a-Service. ERP deployment, it’s that big kind of heavy lift in the data center and in the infrastructure.

(10:54) Speed two is much quicker, you know you’ve got to think of a marathon runner in speed one and a kind of sprinter in speed two. And it doesn’t mean inside and outside of IT, it just means the speed at which the projects are being deployed. So speed two is much quicker, it’s about kind of innovate for new and once again in best in class that’s sort of around 35%. And everything that starts in speed two eventually ends up in maintaining and keeping the lights on right, so it’s this constant starts in one and ends up in the other.

(11:23) And it’s really about building a much more agile enterprise, and it isn’t that we think CIOs need to run necessarily two separate divisions until the end of time, you know a team at speed one and a team at speed two.

(11:34) But earlier on CIOs were really thinking about separating those groups to get some traction and understanding what’s needed in that speed to environment. Thinking of an IT-as-a-Service broker being much better about hybrid IT and delivering consumption in new ways and bringing that towards one consistent role. But we’ve got CIOs who are very comfortable in speed one, and we’ve got CIOs who are very comfortable in speed two, and so as a personality, being a CIO who can run at two speeds is proving much more challenging than I think people have initially expected.

Vala:               (12:15) Sure and I believe there is still a digital divide. The CIOs that I speak to I still classify under traditional CIOs and innovative CIOs and the ones that are more social and collaborative, you’d have other ones that are doing more independent research that are more innovative CIOs. And recently, in fact this week Gartner news, published a survey of 2,800 CIOs around the globe segmented of geography, China, North America, Europe and the majority of CIOs in the U.S. viewed themselves as more digital savvy than their peers around the globe. And there seems to be a perception gap as based on different lines of business view IT and it seems like there is still more work to be done. Can you actually talk about this gap again in your awesome Harvard business blog. I only call blogs awesome if I read it three times, and I read yours three times because there was so much cool content in it.

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