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.

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(13:16) You talked about compressed differentiation and you wrote that 80% of managers believed that their company had strong differentiated products, but fewer than 10% of those firms customers agreed, why the gap?

Tiffani:            (13:30) Oh yeah there is so much behind that one as well Vala and a great question and we can talk about this one all day to. But here’s what I would say. I’d say that Gartner started talking about this as well at its Symposium a couple of years ago. It’s our big event we kick off every year in Orlando and we said all companies are going to become digital companies right. And all companies are going to actually become IT companies. And what we mean by that is as CIO’s start to digitalize their own business, they start to behave like their own service provider and vendors, servicing their customers internally.

(14:03) So a lot of that comment as you know, they start to become, meaning the CIO starts to become more definitive on their strategy around digitalization and what products and services they’re actually launching and delivering to their customers. Sometimes they actually become appropriate to take out to market. You know you could say, is Coca-Cola a beverage company or a digital company? Is Disney now an amusement and entertainment company or are they a digital company, you know with their Disney bands and there’s examples everywhere right, of where many companies you would not have normally thought of being an IT company doing that.

(14:44) GE is I think the third largest software vendor in the world, not somebody you would have considered to be right. And you see a lot of CIO’s that are embracing the digitalization in a way to actually create even greater differentiated advantage.

(14:59) Now, I think the disconnect as I think about myself as a seller and marketer, right would be that they may have a view of what they’re actually delivering from a product perspective, yet the end user doesn’t feel that same thing. From the 10% to the 80%, that disconnect between the two. And I think that has a lot to do with messaging and positioning for that CIO or CMO’s marketing department to really understand what the product and service is and the value it brings to the business, and making sure that they are clearly communicating that to their customers.

(15:37) And if the CIO believes one thing and if the customer believes another, the truth is somewhere in the middle, right, it’s got to be somewhere more in the middle. So it means we’ve got to help educate the customer more and we’ve got to get more information out of the CIO’s mind to the marketer. So that bridge between the CIO and the CMO is becoming even more important.

Michael:         (15:58) Tiffani, as you’re talking about digitalization or sometimes you hear the term digital transformation. It seems that you are making the assumption that the CIO is the center of that world, which I assume because so much technology is driving it. But in reality, is the CIO the center of that world? Is the CIO the leader in a sense, or is the CIO the executer of the business strategy that is being formed in other parts of the company?

Tiffani:            (16:37) Great question, here’s what I’d say there. It absolutely depends on what vertical in industry you’re talking about. So if we pick supply chain, you know they’re developing some piece, it could be a washer or you know some kind of manufacturing part. And you might say and it’s probably safe to assume there’s no CMO there. Right, because it’s way down in the supply chain and developing a product and it’s being invented or deployed out into other peoples’ technology.

(17:13) But if you think about industries like retail where the Chief Marketing Officer is so important in the entire strategic direction of a company and around how are they going to use digital channels in order to communicate and engage and leverage customers, whether it’s social or mobile. You know so I would answer that by saying it depends on what industry, because in some cases the CIO is totally leading it. In other cases it’s the CMO driving the sort of the brand positioning and brand strategy and really how and where that’s happening.

(17:45) But I would say that, I like to think about looking at it in a connected model. We started talking about this last year or so, and we said, what’s the product, who’s the customer and how do they want to buy? And if you can connect that conversation, it’s the team that’s deciding on what’s the right strategic direction, right. It isn’t the product department saying, here’s a product and they toss it over the fence to marketing. And marketing goes and takes it to market to anybody and then tosses it over the fence to sales and say, here’s the price go, right and be free.

(18:19) Right, that connection between you know, what is the product and who is the customer and how do they want to buy, really becomes critical.

Michael:         (18:27) Okay, you mentioned customers, and okay, you’ve been talking about the impact of technology meeting business process changing the business, but what’s happening with the customers?

Tiffani:            (18:42) Yeah, I actually believe the most disruptive thing in the market today is not technology, it’s the customer. And why I say that is because as you mentioned earlier Michael, that if they knew more information, and Vala said they have more detail, they’re going out to their trusted advisers and peers etc. so the customer now, we are all consumers in our personal life.

(19:04) And we have this experience with technology when we’re at home, and with our smart phones, and with our televisions, and with our computers etc. we expect that same kind of relationship with our technology at work, and there is definitely a gap between those two things. So the customer has become far more disruptive, like they are more demanding in what they want, and they know what they want. Now, the trick with that is that they may have misperceptions of what technology can do. They may have their own perception of what they should be looking at and what they need.

(19:38) And so for me, I don’t think any decision should be made without talking to the customers, because that’s the reason we’re all in business right. We are in business to make sure we’re satisfying and delighting our customers, and really driving fantastic user experience and customer experiences every day. If we are not doing it for that, then what are we doing it for right. I know we are doing it for shareholders and value and revenue and all of that, but if you do not have a happy set of customers it just gets more difficult.

Vala:               (20:07) In a Gartner blog, you wrote a theoretical scenario where you are asked if you had $1 million to invest in marketing, where would you invest. And it was pretty cool how you answer that question. A very interesting, clever and insightful answer, would you mind giving us a little bit of an overview of how you answered that question.

Tiffani:            (20:28) Well now we are here amongst friends, here is how I would have spent. I would have spent it on a trip to Tahiti and went on research. That’s what I really would have done. But since you’re not really asking that question I would say this, I would say I wouldn’t do anything until I understood what’s working and what’s not working within the existing spend of marketing. That’s the first thing I would do.

(20:50) The second thing I’d say is you know, what’s going on with our customers. What do they need, what are they trying to solve, what kinds of business problems. And then I would say, if we don’t have an alignment with sales it doesn’t really matter right.

(21:08) We wrote that blog and it was a lot of fun. We did it with me as the recovering seller and two of the guys on my team, Hank Barvins and Todd Berkowitz came at it from a marketing angle, so it was two against one which I don’t know how that happened. But it was two against one and I came at it and said you know, the first thing I’d say with that million bucks is that maybe I would have to incent marketing to go on sales calls, because that’s probably the first thing I would do.

(21:33) Because I think that marketing really needs to not only think differently about how they bring the brand to market, but they’ve got to get close to customers beyond just data.

Vala:               (21:46) At the end you were saying with all that savings in marketing you would just hire more sales, but…

Tiffani:            (21:53) Yeah, I was kidding.

Michael:         (21:56) So actually I have a question for both of you, but first I just want to tell everybody, you’re watching CXOTalk and at the top of the screen there is a little button that says subscribe. Press it and subscribe to our newsletter please.

(22:15) So Tiffani, we can say that you represent sales, and Vala we can say as a CMO you represent marketing. Who’s more important?

Tiffani:            (22:35) I want a little jib-jab.

Michael:         (22:42) Which matters most and when and who’s got the easier job?

Vala:               (22:47) The hardest job in any business is sales.

Tiffani:            (22:51) Oh Vala, we have love.

Michael:         (22:53) That was easy so I guess our work here is done

Tiffani:            (22:56) Please Tweet that out from a CMO. Please Tweet that out!

Vala:               (23:00) I will do that. You know, I started my career as a software developer and just being naive, I thought folks that were working on building custom silicon basic and they had the toughest job in the company, but I grew up and no doubt, the hardest job in any company is sales.

Tiffani:            (23:25) Yes so I’d say this, you know in all fairness, I bleed sales blood and I also run marketing. And here’s what I’d say, I think one of the dangers I’m starting to feel is that we’ve always had a difficult time being close between marketing saying, look we are driving leads and sales doesn’t follow up. And then sales saying we’re getting leads, but they’re not good leads all the materials that are given with the content that’s produced isn’t effective for the customers. So I end up rewriting it all on my own.

(24:02) There’s always been this tit-for-tat between sales and marketing. And well we are not going to solve that in 15 minutes for sure. The one thing I would say is that I worry as more and more digital starts to take over, and marketing starts driving more digital, that it actually is creating a larger divide between sales and marketing.

(24:23) Because you see replication of duties in the marketing department, like marketing operations. Well you know, sales operations has always been there, so why don’t they just leverage sales operations? Well they don’t leveraged sales operations because there might not be a lot of trust and so building trust between the sales and marketing department is becoming you know something that I think just can’t continue to be ignored.

(24:46) We’ve got to find a way to bring it together vs. dividing it further by by saying marketing is going to have it more control over revenue, and buying, and the buying journey. And we don’t need sales to touch it at all, and it’s all going to just happen through digital means and through marketing means. And I think that is true.

(25:05)However, I also believe that if there’s a touch along the way, we’ve got to make sure that the two are working together, right. Because if you’ve got people pulling it in separate directions, the customer knows it right away. If the customer feels that the brand is talking out of two sides of their mouth, one for marketing content, and then than the sales rep shows up in front of them is almost a completely different conversation. That’s a terrible experience, right.

(25:30)So you know, while I joke that I’m the seller and you’re the marketer, I think at the end of the day we’ve got to find a way that the same kind of synergies we are trying to create between the CIO and the CMO. We absolutely have to create between the CMO and the chief sales officer or chief revenue officer.

(25:48)And once again I’m going to go back to I think it has to be the triangulation between all three. I think all three have got to come together to work more closely and it’s a United front, you know it isn’t one who owns it and the others are sort of executing right, one strategizing and you know one’s executing. It’s all strategizing, and then each play the part in the execution of it.

Michael:         (26:10) How many organizations have that. That’s a very difficult thing to make happen to align CIOs, CMO’s, sales marketing and IT. It’s very difficult to make happen.

Tiffani:            (26:24) Yeah and because I work here at Gartner, and where I am in the Gartner ecosystem of analysts, my clientele is 98% tech companies, so I can speak pretty specifically about them, and it is unfortunately common. When I went out and did some primary research a couple of years back and I asked this question, as a sales leader or as a channel sales leader, how often are you involved in product development, project management and product marketing meetings as solutions for products that are being developed and it was a sad response.

(27:06) I think I had two out of 15 that I talked to who said it was a regular occurrence and others were like it’s kind of spotty and that’s you know the product gets tossed over the fence marketing gets engaged, and figures out are we going to market it and start creating collateral. And then it gets tossed over the fence and then sales has to go sell it.

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