Let's face it: the moment the release date of the new iPhone, Xbox, tablet, or other consumer electronics goodie is announced, either we ourselves, or someone we know on Facebook, can hardly wait to get their hands on the new technology toy.
While the tech vendors serving the sales enablement market can only wish that enterprises exhibited the same behavior, the realities of corporate budgeting demand a far more judicious approach toward investing in hardware and applications that support their customer-facing personnel. As a result, we unfortunately do not have to look very hard to find aging Blackberrys, Office 2007 formatting, clunky product brochures, or the continued use of fax machines in contemporary B2B sales organizations.
Still, product managers within the tech vendor community continue to release new versions of their applications multiple times per year, promoted by extensive marketing roadshows. If we assume this behavior is rooted in an expectation of positive end user sales results, this means some companies are actually investing in the latest and greatest sales solutions on the market relatively soon after they are released.
The question then is: who are these buyers, and what benefit do they get (if any) from adopting new technologies early on?
Figure 1: Early Adoption of Sales Effectiveness Solutions Pays Off
Figure 1 tells two stories. First, the majority of organizations cluster around the less radical responses, with no significant deltas between Best-in-Class (those with the highest customer retention rate and annualized improvement in revenue, marketing contribution to sales pipeline, and sales cycle reduction) and under-performing companies.
More telling are the data at the extreme ends of the chart, which clearly define the correlation between stronger sales results and leading-edge attitudes toward technologies. The top performers are more than twice as likely as All Others (21% vs. 10%) to eagerly adapt to the newest sales effectiveness solutions available and, infinitely less often (0% vs. 18%), to wait for other organizations to take the lead.
Early Adopters Rise to the Top
The premise here is that the all-important B2B buyer experience ‒- which takes place after a frustrating hidden sales cycle has finally yielded a prized one-to-one sales conversational opportunity -‒ can potentially be handicapped if the seller is perceived as missing the boat regarding the latest and greatest tools of the trade. Think of it this way: If two sales reps meet with us on the same day offering competitive solutions, are we more impressed with the salesperson who is armed with the coolest new tech products, in addition to the traditional advantages of dressing well and sharing our interests? It’s very likely.
Lest this hypothesis be perceived as merely an intellectual construct, take a look at Figure 2, which compares the current business results of early versus late adopters. This data shows that in all facets of the customer management lifecycle, organizations that enable their sellers with more current tools perform better than non-adopters:
Figure 2: Early Adopters Score More Victories in Marketing, Sales, and Service
Here are three key takeaways from this chart:
Today's professional B2B marketers are not judged by activity-based 20th century metrics, such as the number of registrants, attendees, or eyeballs. Rather, today's KPIs are far more sales-centric -- see Aberdeen's Consider the Audience: Marketing Effectiveness Metrics for Everyone for confirmation. With a 50% higher lead acceptance rate (57% vs. 38%), early sales technology adopters are clearly partnered with more effective corporate marketers. This is because they more actively provide the sales team with access to the marketing automation platform, have a voice in messaging development, and follow other lessons from Aberdeen's data featured in Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Primer on Successful Collaboration.
Typically, more marketing leads accepted by sales will create cascading efficiency that yields a stronger batting average for the closers. Is a 9% delta in total team attainment of sales quota (63% vs. 58%) worth a more aggressive approach in providing your front line with better tools? Considering that Aberdeen's research shows the typical cost of replacing each B2B sales rep is over $29,000 and takes 7.3 months to hire and train, every percentage point that contributes toward the entire team's success is indeed well worth the technical investment.
Finally, sales organizations that adopt new tools sooner than later keep their customers around longer. Customers expect a seamless experience when buying and consuming from their sellers. They will not tolerate or respect a counterpart who is not enabled with the most up-to-date tools of their trade, for fear that the offerings of the company behind that rep are not future-focused.