I have written about vendor efforts to use artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics in their applications targeted at sales and revenue teams to improve focus and prioritize activities, both for pipeline management as well as individual opportunities. Since then, vendors have continued to innovate, and there have been more releases showcasing efforts to aid sales and revenue. And with this continuing innovation, we believe that by 2026, two-thirds of revenue leaders will begin considering a new generation of revenue analytics and data-driven applications designed to improve performance and productivity.
You would be forgiven for thinking that no one buys anything in person any more given the pages of digital ink spilled over the rise of digital commerce led by the rise and rise of Amazon. However, one quick errand run on a Saturday morning would easily give lie to this, as parking lots are full, not just at grocery stores but for everyday retail as well as big box stores. Likewise, in business-to-business (B2B) commerce, despite the advertised demise, person-to-person sales are still a major part of B2B purchases.
There are more digital channels in the commerce space than ever before: the web, mobile apps, text, voice-activated “agents,” video and social channels. Conversational computing and hyper-personalization are transforming customer engagement, and organizations may need to undergo a digital platform renovation to optimize customer and product experiences or risk lagging behind competitors. B2B selling and buying are increasingly using methods similar to B2C digital approaches to mirror the digital commerce experience that has grown substantially within the last few years. Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the platforms utilizing this approach.
“Lead to cash” is an often-used term and is a companion to “quote to cash” and “order to cash”. What they all represent is an approach which recognizes that there is a process designed to convert a lead from a qualified interest to an active sale, through quote and contract negotiation, to order or contract, invoice and payment. “Quote to cash” and “order to cash” are subsets of this process, with different starting places, but ultimately end in the same place: with a payment for a delivered product or service.
Many – myself included – have written about the growth in technologies designed to aid in business-to-business sales and sales management by serving sales reps, line managers, executives and operations. But one area that has been ill-served is technical presales, or sales engineering. You may ask why this should matter. Aren’t presales engineers all about demonstrations? How could technology – beyond video conferencing – help?
Ventana Research is happy to share insights gleaned from the latest Value Index research, an assessment of how well vendors’ offerings meet buyers’ requirements. The 2022 Revenue Performance Management (RPM) Value Index is the distillation of a year of market and product research. Drawing on our Benchmark Research, we apply a structured methodology built on evaluation categories that reflect the real-world criteria incorporated in a request for proposal to vendors supporting the spectrum of revenue performance management. Using this methodology, we evaluated vendor submissions in seven categories: five relevant to the Product Experience ﹘ Adaptability, Capability, Manageability, Reliability and Usability ﹘ and two related to the Customer Experience ﹘ Total Cost of Ownership or Return on Investment and Vendor Validation.
As organizations shift focus to a broader definition of sales that includes all sources of revenue, vendors are also pivoting to include “revenue” as part of promotional messaging. But it’s my view that just changing your message or description does not necessarily deliver the capabilities and product experiences customers need to successfully plan, execute and achieve revenue targets and objectives. The just-completed 2022 Ventana Research Value Index for Revenue Performance Management addressed this shift, focusing on available product capabilities that support customer needs as well as their overall experience.
Ventana Research defines subscription management as the processes and technology needed to manage the subscriber experience from the first digital touch to the continuous modifications of orders for services and billing. Effective subscription management requires a new generation of applications designed to manage the life cycle of subscriptions and provide subscribers with the experiences they expect. The subscription business model has grown in popularity across many industries, and for many organizations it is now part of how they conduct business. Organizations, whether through line extensions, completely new businesses or through mergers and acquisitions, now have a mixed business model combining subscription and usage with one-time sales, often as a bundle of related products and services. The model establishes a regular, predictable income stream and monetizes existing and new assets. In addition, usage-based pricing is preferred by many consumers, both B2B and B2C, because it is more closely aligned to actual consumption patterns. For product companies, selling by subscription enables them to maintain ongoing contact with customers to facilitate future sales. Subscription is also popular with customers as it allows a degree of control from the buyer’s point of view and can be cancelled or modified, typically online, in a frictionless manner.
Digital Transformation. The Subscription Economy. Omni-Channel Selling. Customer Centric. These are all terms used to label trends and events that are changing the way business is being conducted, a change that has accelerated due to recent events. Regardless of the terminology, there is no doubt that the way vendors and buyers are interacting, whether B2C or B2B, is different today for many organizations than it was even five years ago. But to be fair, no technology on its own can transform your business without changes to the other two key elements: people and processes. In addition, change is unlikely to happen if you are also relying on your existing ERP or CRM systems.
There is much vendor activity and customer interest in making better use of data, to improve the sales process in the face of increased pressure to achieve organization revenue goals. As detailed in my Analyst Perspective: The Art and Science of Sales from the “Inside Out," enhanced buyer research as well as the inclusion of more people in the buying process, have made selling harder, evidenced by a general trend of declining quota attainment. There is no denying that better use of data can help in prioritizing and helping to advance the sales process more effectively. But this is not the whole story. Whereas generating interest and qualifying opportunity is a key part of the sales team’s role, all this progress can be undone with a cumbersome and clunky configure, price and quoting (CPQ) and contract life cycle management (CLM) process. Automated and digitized systems that handle these elements aid greatly toward a winning/successful close process and will set the right tenor for a continuing and sustained customer relationship. And although CPQ is often thought of as part of the finance department, as contracts are with legal, both of these processes should be seen as adjuncts of the sales process, and both sales and revenue leadership and operations teams need to align with finance and legal. My colleague Robert Kugel covers the finance perspective in more detail in his Analyst Perspective: Configure, Price and Quote Software Supports Profitability Management.