Will Your Organization Be Left Behind as Consumer Healthcare Transforms?

Offer more value, and be willing to meet your customers in the messy middle.

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has changed the way consumers interact with healthcare. We see it in the proliferation of virtual care across the care continuum, from acute to chronic, episodic and now primary and preventive care. We see it in the embrace of new digital devices and programs designed to monitor chronic conditions at home. And we see it in the uptake of digital pharmacy services that promise ever-faster delivery times and simple, easier, prescription transfers. These shifting consumer need states are forcing companies to action.

Those that will win with consumers in the post-pandemic age are the ones that will accelerate innovation as they reimagine their business models – integrating and re-configuring assets around emergent consumer use cases.

Here are three healthcare business design imperatives for making markets and capturing post-pandemic value through big, bold and transformative moves:

1) Trade the value chain for value exchange

The old news? Payers, providers, pharmaceuticals and MedTech companies once controlled discrete pieces of the value chain. Today, they are operating as collaborators and competitors alongside one another – with non-healthcare entrants (financial services and technology companies) also looking for a piece of the pie.

The new news? “Who does what” doesn’t matter to consumers, instead they value the promise of an integrated approach to health. Whether you build, buy or partner, leaning into the discomfort of superseding the value chain can lead to transformative, new offers. Teladoc Health is a great example of a company that bet big on the idea that virtual primary care is here to stay. It built the Primary360 platform as an entryway to take advantage of its unique portfolio of assets from acute and episodic care (Teladoc Health) to chronic care (Livongo), behavioral health (BetterHelp), and more.

Alternatively, a company that took the partnership route is Cigna. They joined forces with Oscar Health to create an integrated, easily navigable approach to health plans for small businesses. By bringing together Cigna’s provider network and Oscar’s technology platform, they’ve created a relevant solution for the small business population that meets their needs.

2) Meet consumers in the messy middle

If transcending historical value chains is one way to play, another is to exploit the current outages in the value chain and become the middleware that bridges a care gap. Emerging care gaps could include areas like post-acute care, kidney care, pre-and post-Cancer treatment, and health conditions at the intersection of health and wellness (e.g. sleep, behavioral health).

Take recently acquired startup PatientPing, which focuses on the post-acute care space. Through its technology platform, the company can coordinate care by “pinging” healthcare providers when their patients are treated at other facilities. For instance, a provider could be notified in real-time when a patient is transferred from a nursing home to another outpatient setting. Now, with its acquisition by Appriss Health, close to 1 million healthcare professionals across all 50 states can be connected across care settings.

“Those that will win with consumers in the post-pandemic age are the ones that will accelerate innovation as they reimagine their business models.”

In another direction, Alula Health is a startup tackling the “messy middle” of the physical, emotional and financial changes involved with a cancer diagnosis and treatment process. Alula’s platform focuses on patients and their caregivers. They provide organizational tools such as spreadsheets and calendars to ease treatment coordination and a curated list of cancer-specific shopping items (e.g. post-surgery bras and robes with extra room for prostheses or drain management, “Travel to Treatment” bundles with pill organizers, sickness bags, sanitizing wipes, and face masks).

A final example is Talkspace, a platform aimed to make behavioral therapy more accessible. In a world where the dominant method of therapy was administered through expensive 1:1 sessions, Talkspace broke the prevailing mode of thinking and dispensed therapy through bite-sized, text-based interactions – a new modality for meeting the needs of those struggling with mental health challenges discreetly and without confining therapy to a set date/time. In doing so, they normalized therapy for a whole new, addressable market and have since expanded to partner with employers to offer its service as part of workplace benefits.

3) If it doesn’t have their name written on it, it’s not for them

The third hack for making markets through transformation is to address the unmet needs of unique consumer populations. Traditional provider-driven healthcare focuses on triage to identify a treatment path for every patient. But flipping this approach on its head allows for a deeper level of focus, prioritizing time, resources and expenses to solve the needs of one population group more effectively than a general solution.

Segment-specific opportunities are everywhere and can include:

  1. Those with a stigmatized condition
  2. An underserved population with unique needs
  3. An overly generalized population.

A good example of the first opportunity is Ro, self-styled as “the patient company”. Ro started by providing telemedicine and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction via its Roman brand, but gradually expanded to include other medical challenges like smoking cessation (via zero) and weight management (via Plenity). With the technology infrastructure, brand architecture and consumer base established, the company can pursue additional disease states with room for growth.

An example of the second segment-specific opportunity is Included Health, newly acquired by telemedicine provider Grand Rounds / Doctor on Demand. Included Health focuses on the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, who have all too often faced challenges finding culturally competent and affirming providers. The company works with employers to provide benefits to individuals that help them connect to physical care providers, mental care providers, community support and gender-affirming care.

The third-dimension type of play is to identify an overly generalized population – and the field of women’s health is a great example. While some companies have developed “female” healthcare brands, women have different needs by life stage. The spectrum of startups in today’s women’s health space demonstrates different focus areas such as reproductive/sexual health, pregnancy and postpartum, as well as menopause. Within each focus area, individual companies target specific challenges. For example within the category of reproductive/ sexual health, some companies focus on areas such as fertility (Modern Fertility, recently acquired by Ro), cycle tracking (Glow), birth control (Nurx) and more.


The pandemic has created new and exciting consumer use cases. Uncommon growth will only be captured through transformative moves that reconfigure assets and ecosystems. To capture this growth, companies can deploy one or more of the three design imperatives.  Incrementalism is a direct path to low growth and missed opportunities,  and capturing uncommon growth will require high-conviction leaders, cultural resilience and organizational agility. To help companies forge a path to uncommon growth, Prophet approaches each organization as though it were an individual – with a unique DNA, Body, Mind, and Soul.

Contact us to learn more about our proprietary Human-Centered Transformation Model and how we can deliver uncommon growth for your business.


Transforming Healthcare: The State of Digital Marketing and Selling in Life Sciences

Leaders in healthcare need to embrace a marketing and sales strategy that is digital and collaborative.

The pandemic accelerated the integration between marketing and sales – and it’s never going back to the way it was. Leaders in healthcare and life sciences will need to embrace a marketing and sales strategy that is both digital and collaborative to reach business goals. The reality is that if organizations fail to transform their go-to-market approach they will be at risk of losing customers.

Transforming Healthcare: The State of Digital Marketing & Selling in Life Sciences identifies and quantifies the salient trends and key practices used by top companies today. Based on data from Altimeter’s research for The 2020 State of Digital Marketing and The 2020 State of Digital Selling, this industry-specific report provides insights for healthcare and life sciences leaders looking to strengthen their marketing and sales functions and jumpstart a new era of uncommon growth.

Read this report to gain deeper insights on:

  • The top priorities of marketing and sales teams in healthcare and life sciences today
  • The biggest obstacles organizations are facing in terms of digital collaboration and performance
  • Marketing and sales leaders’ candid observations of what their teams are doing well – and how they need to do better
  • Four key recommendations for marketing and sales teams seeking significant performance gains

Download the full report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The State of Digital Marketing and Selling in Life Sciences

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Three Shifts in Content Strategy To Win Over Chinese Consumers

Our research finds that it’s time for companies to use content to build brands, not just increase transactions.

Content strategy has become increasingly important for brands to stay competitive in the ever-changing China market. As consumer expectations for relevant, branded content continue to climb, companies must regularly adapt internally to deliver on these needs.

In a recent report The 2021 State of Digital Content by Altimeter, a Prophet company, we surveyed 484 executives across the US, Europe (UK, Germany, Spain) and China, to understand how companies are shifting their strategies when it comes to content. Our study showed that Chinese companies, in particular, are taking a more proactive approach to winning with content.  73% percent of respondents indicated they’re focused on increasing output volume and scaling internal capabilities for better content production and processes.

Learn key insights and takeaways from the report, including how companies in China are redefining their approach to content strategy:

1. Beyond the Transaction: Building Brand Through Content

When it comes to measuring success, tangible revenue and lead generation are still important to marketers as an outcome of a successful content strategy. In China, 52% of companies mentioned transactional goals (e.g., lead generation, revenue increase, customer support) as the primary purpose of their content strategy. However, the shift towards a more brand-driven approach is increasingly apparent, with an almost equal number of companies (48%) responding with branding goals (e.g., brand awareness & sentiment, thought leadership) as the main driver.

Q: What is the primary goal for your content strategy?

Further driving the shift from short-term transactional goals to long-term brand building is the focus on engagement as a key metric of content performance. In our research, 49% of Chinese companies point to engagement metrics as the primary way to measure the success and effectiveness of a piece of content.

“The focus on engagement as a key metric of content performance.”

In China, e-commerce platforms, such as Alibaba’s Taobao, are recognizing the role that content plays as a vehicle for customer engagement. Taobao is rapidly building out the necessary tools to support both sellers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) in managing sales, content and customer/ fan engagement. In an interview with SCMP, Yu Feng, Alibaba’s vice-president who oversees Taobao’s content e-commerce noted: “We [are dedicated to] driving unique value propositions for long-term engagement and business opportunities for the ecosystem.”

2. Scaling Up: Delivering Data-Driven Personalization

When asked about content strategy priorities for the next 12 months, using data to create better, more personalized content tops the list for Chinese companies.

Q: Which of the following initiatives are your top priorities in the next 12 months?

And they are quickly scaling up their internal capabilities to meet these goals. As many as 68% of companies surveyed are already using centralized data systems (e.g., CRM) to help create customer segment-specific content rather than relying on disconnected data sources (versus 42% in the rest of the world).

Q: What sources of data do you use to create personalized/customized content?

To define these customer segments, 36% are leveraging AI-powered analysis of demographic, behavioral and psychographic data (versus 15% in the rest of the world). This data-driven customer segmentation allows brands to effectively create relevant, customized content for their consumers and adapt to changing trends based on continual data collection and analysis.

Q: How are you creating segments for customizing/personalizing content?

So-Young (新氧), a leading digital player in the booming medical cosmetology industry, shows how Chinese companies are building deep data capabilities to help power their content strategy. The app, which went public in 2019, acts as a platform for users to discover, evaluate and book plastic surgery and other medical cosmetic procedures online. It begins with an AI-powered “facial diagnosis,” the results of which lead to the user to recommended expert articles, blogger videos and reviews from other users. Based on the user’s in-app and purchasing behavior, the content is further refined and tailored, increasing customer engagement across the entire journey.

3. Breaking it Down: Leveraging Modular Content Management

Due to the hierarchical management style of most Chinese companies, coupled with their being in the earlier stages of content strategy development, content management is typically a centralized function.

79% of Chinese companies report managing content strategy within a single department or dedicated team that acts as the content owner across the organization (versus 60% in the rest of the world). To ensure quality and consistency across all elements of the brand, 74% utilize a central design system that includes visual and editorial guidelines (versus 52% in the rest of the world).

Q: Who is primarily responsible for your digital content strategy?

Nonetheless, this centralization and hierarchical model can hinder the speed at which content gets created. 59% of Chinese companies still share every piece of content with legal and compliance teams for approval.

Modular content management, however, is becoming more valued, as it allows brands to deliver content quickly across different channels and to different audiences. 30% of companies have adopted modular approval systems to break content into smaller pieces, increasing both efficiency and flexibility.

Q: How would you describe your current content approval process for compliance?

This modular content management is critical as the proliferation of Chinese content platforms is at an all-time high, with brands needing to manage various content mediums (e.g., imagery, video, live stream, user-generated) across a growing number of social media and e-commerce touchpoints. A centralized but agile management system is critical to balancing consistency, relevance and speed across content platforms.


Many Chinese brands are well aware of the critical role content plays in their overall business strategy. To compete effectively and win with content, we’re seeing companies in China double down in three key areas:

First, they are making the shift from treating content as a short-term lead and revenue generator to investing in content as a means to longer-term brand building. This means tracking how customers are engaging with content, beyond just conversion metrics.

Next, businesses in China realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to content is no longer sufficient. To meet growing customer demands for relevant content, they are building internal capabilities that can leverage digital data to create personalized content for their varying customer segments.

Lastly, to ensure that there is a cohesive content strategy across the business, Chinese companies are centralizing content management as a function. However, they are also developing agile processes such as modular content management in order to respond swiftly to fast-changing market trends and evolving consumer needs.

Download the full report for more details about the 2021 State of Digital Content.

Want to learn how to develop a winning content strategy? Get in touch today.


Webinar Replay: B2B Leaders Series feat. Randstad & Boston Medical Center

B2B leaders discuss the challenges of building the right culture and systems for digital transformation.

59 min

Watch the webinar replay in which you’ll learn about the challenges that B2B organizations face in undertaking transformation on a large scale and how they address them. The discussion features Rene Steenvoorden, Chief Digital Officer, Randstad, Heather Thiltgen, President, Boston Medical Center/WellSence Health Plan, and Fred Geyer, Senior Partner at Prophet, who were interviewed by Joerg Niessing, Senior Affiliate Marketing Professor at INSEAD.

Two of the participants, Fred Geyer and Joerg Niessing, co-authored ‘The Definitive Guide to B2B Digital Transformation’. Get your copy of the book here.

If you have any questions or would like to learn how our Marketing & Sales practice helps clients identify a clearer path to a digital transformation that powers growth with real and measurable results, contact us today.


To Transform Digital Selling, Must Sales & Marketing Converge?

Despite historical differences, sales and marketing teams now see that more collaboration equals more revenue.

In our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report, we found a consistent theme: the more in sync sales and marketing was, the better the outcome for sales, in terms of revenue, customer satisfaction and other metrics. That, and the tremendous growth of executives managing both functions—LinkedIn has identified the Chief Revenue Officer as the fastest-growing C-Suite role—has led to an emphasis on studying this convergence as part of my research on the digital transformation of sales. In this post, I’ll look at the impact of this convergence, which was discussed in my recent webinar with our research director, Omar Akhtar.

Convergence or Collaboration?

Convergence of sales and marketing today is embodied by the rise of new C-suite leaders, often with the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) title, who manage both sales and marketing—often with a new combined Revenue Operations team supporting both. What is the line between convergence and collaboration? It’s undoubtedly possible for these teams to align and collaborate so well that they could appear converged and achieve the same benefits. A question my research will answer this year is: what points of convergence or collaboration are required to digitally transform sales?

Clearly, the trend is in favor of convergence as shown by research indicating the CRO title is the fastest growing in the C-suite. What benefits are CEOs seeking with convergence?

An important benefit was a clear finding in my recent report which found the high performance of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Account-Based Selling (ABS). One factor we evaluated was the type of digital sales model employed, in terms of scale as measured by the size of the deal, lead time and level of collaboration employed. Our research found that high-touch, high-value, long lead-time sales that rely on a well-coordinated team and unique sales planning with marketing paid off well. Top performers (represented in the purple bars in the chart below) follow this model, and it was even the most frequent model among average performers as well (shown by the index in blue).

The benefits of collaboration are high. Consider the enormous investment marketing teams have made in technology, data, and skills development. Much of that investment can be leveraged by sales to digitize selling. By sharing the same data, enablement tools and customer experience platforms, costs can be reduced, and effectiveness increased, as near-real-time decisions can be used to nurture leads and provide the intelligence needed to up-sell, cross-sell and re-sell.

Barriers Are Deep-Rooted

Too many times, sellers and marketers don’t see eye-to-eye. In a recent conversation with a marketing leader, we discussed whether this is a left-brain/right-brain issue: marketers being more analytical and sales being more relationship and instinct-driven. Yes, these are broad generalizations, but they hold in my experience too. This impacts trust. Sales’ digital transformation will rely on new levels of trust among sales teams for the data and tools they use to navigate digital selling. This trust is lacking among the average digital seller, but high among top performers. For example, when we asked sellers if they trusted marketing’s data, 61% reported that they don’t—they want their own.

Perhaps the most fundamental challenge is misaligned priorities. In our recent 2020 State of Digital Marketing report, we found that marketing deprioritized sales-focused efforts, such as creating more sales qualified leads to buyers, supporting sales team productivity and growing e-commerce.

“An equal partnership in the form of an executive steering committee—or through CRO convergence—can address these barriers.”

Building trust is essential to sales’ transformation: if, as I believe, sales needs marketing’s help to digitally transform, we must tackle cultural mindsets and increase alignment focus. It may not be easy for sales leaders to accept marketing’s help given the risk of marketing dominating sales’ digital transformation, at the expense of what makes sales different from marketing. An equal partnership in the form of an executive steering committee—or through CRO convergence—can address these barriers.

What It Means & What You Can Do

The place to start is to look at the key touchpoints between sales and marketing that represent hand-offs, which tend to be problematic. The table below shows what I believe to be those key areas and the relative digital maturity of marketing and sales. As you can see, marketing and sales are complementary:

Planning. Much of planning integration is solved when sales and marketing collaborate through ABM/ABS. I’ve spoken with one large manufacturing business that plans GTM strategy holistically: team members from marketing, sales and service create a strategy through carefully structured workshops, spanning up to 5 days together working as a team. This not only ensures alignment, but time together can bridge cultural barriers.

Content. The content touchpoint includes selling assets, like playbooks, scripts and content that nurture leads to conversion. This area is most often led by marketing, but I continue to hear sales complain about the content they’re asked to share: it may not be easily personalized for the buyer, or the seller may not know how to position it for the prospect’s unique needs. Often training is the heart of the issue, but part of the root cause is a misalignment in strategy and insights. Sales need to be much more involved in content strategy and learn the tools necessary to use and measure content effectiveness.

Lead Management. Best next moves during lead nurturing are important in digital selling, because of the near real-time response that must be coordinated between sales and marketing. For example, after a lead downloads a white paper provided by marketing, what shared customer intelligence signals the best next step for sales? I’m also questioning whether lead management belongs in a digitally transformed sales organization that can do its own prospecting. As sales become increasingly comfortable with automation and data, the definition of a “marketing qualified lead” and “sales qualified lead” will surely evolve.

Data. My digital sales research has shown that top performers align performance metrics between sales and marketing, such as customer satisfaction, revenue goals, etc. In fact, there was a 34% spread in digital selling maturity between the index and top performers when KPIs, incentives and compensation were aligned between teams. But I also found that sales don’t necessarily trust marketing’s data—which brings us back to the cultural issues that must be addressed. The solution is also found in last year’s 2020 State of Digital Selling report: top performers collaborate with marketing on both a data architecture and technology stack roadmap to keep aligned—much more so than the index of average performers.

Technology. Technology touchpoints are dual: internally, represented by sales and marketing enablement (e.g., CRM, SFA, etc.), and externally, customer-facing digital experiences, such as websites, apps and social media. Marketing is leading CX work today, but as sales become more digital, they need to be part of a highly collaborative process with marketing and service teams to create a seamless customer experience that crosses their functions.

Ongoing Teamwork. Customer experience worries for the sales team don’t stop after the sale. Some of the most integrated sales and marketing teams work within a growing part of the economy: Software as a Service or SaaS. For example, a salesperson who has sold a SaaS HR system needs to understand whether their customer is utilizing the system to its full potential. If the customer is underutilizing the system, they may have bought the wrong product; if they’re overutilizing the system, there’s an upsell opportunity. Even if your product isn’t SaaS-oriented, it helps a lot to think of it that way by demanding marketing and service customer insights that may guide your sales strategy for an account.


Webinar Replay: The Digital Sales & Marketing Convergence

To find exceptional growth, both disciplines are leaning on one another for more support and collaboration.

56 min


The 2021 State of Digital Content

Operations support, agility and revenue are priorities, as firms race to smooth out work-from-home challenges.

Benchmarks for Building an Agile Content System

The biggest challenge for today’s businesses is to consistently produce personalized content at a large scale, deliver it at breakneck speed, and credibly have an impact on revenue. The businesses that are successful in this endeavor have invested in an innovative set of capabilities that make up an “Agile Content System”.

For this report, we surveyed 375 respondents from businesses around the world to determine maturity benchmarks for each of these key content capabilities, and the practices that underpin them. Companies can use these benchmarks to rate their own progress and chart a path of improvement for their content teams.

Key Report Findings

  • Brand awareness (35%) and thought leadership (28%) are the top content goals.
  • Content teams that focused on more business-centric goals such as lead generation, sales enablement and customer support were more digitally mature in practices such as data analysis, personalization and content production at scale.
  • Producing content based on customer data is the top challenge for companies, followed by aligning teams on a strategy and hiring the right skills.
  • A central content team is the most common production model (50%), but increasingly companies are shifting to a decentralized model (32%) to keep up with demand.
  • Despite technological advancement, most companies still deploy inefficient “one-item-at-a-time” processes (62%) for content review and approval.
  • Increasingly, businesses are using AI to help create audience segments (18%), generate content variations (19%) and power content testing processes (24%).

Download the full report below.

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


How To Sell Insurance in the Post-Pandemic Digital Age

Agents need organization structures to help navigate a fast-changing, digital environment. Our roadmap helps.

The insurance game is changing. The past year has seen life completely upended for insurance agents, whose success once hinged on a certain skillset, often with physical touchpoints. While many insurance providers have raced to increase digital selling efforts in reaction to COVID-19, the results have been mixed. It’s going to keep changing too, so it’s time to adapt to fuel a post-pandemic recovery and lead the way to future growth.

Embracing Digital Selling from our dedicated Financial Services practice outlines a roadmap for digital selling with the steps to take now in order to create a strategy that supports new digital tools, efficient models and the development of the necessary capabilities.

In this report you will learn:

  • The four primary challenges insurers need to overcome to compete in the digital world
  • How insurers can maximize digital selling efforts for both short and long term growth
  • A roadmap to guide how to install a structure that helps agents navigate a fast-changing, digital selling environment

Download the full report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The State of Digital Marketing and Selling in Life Sciences

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Why Are Leaders More Optimistic Than Sales Teams About Digital Sales Transformation?

Our research reveals a scary disconnect: Leaders are more positive about transformation than their sales staff.

In our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report, we found disconnects between the views of front-line sales staff and their leaders. Leaders view their progress in digital sales transformation more positively than sales staff in three areas: technology, customer experience, and organization/people-readiness. This post delves into those disconnects to help leaders and staff better understand their respective sales transformation realities and ends with recommendations on how to close the gap.

Technology & Data

For front-line sales teams, technology is far less effective than what their leaders believe. The largest gap was the effectiveness of foundational CRM and sales automation tools, which only 22% of front-line team members rate “highly effective” vs 38% of leaders. Only 23% of staff strongly believe increased use of digital tools has helped them meet their objectives through the COVID-19 pandemic, vs 40% of sales leaders.

“The root cause of the tech gap is skills and training.”

One clue that points to the root cause of the tech gap is skills and training: 31% of sales staff say that it is the biggest digital selling transformation challenge, vs. just 21% of leaders—who instead name technology as the greatest transformational challenge.

Customer Experience

Front-line sales staff view customer experience much differently than sales leaders. The front-line would like to expand buyer digital tools to match buyer preference and self-service (41% front line vs. 29% leaders). Front-line sales teams understand CX from direct engagement with customers and prospects, while sales leaders are a step removed and often rely on IT or CX experts to recommend digital tools. To tackle this disconnect, leaders should engage the front-line more in CX development.

The biggest disconnect was the value of content and selling assets: only 24% of front-line staff strongly agree they have the right selling assets based on the customer journey vs. 44% among managers. Reinforcing this disconnect, only 26% of sales staff strongly agree that sales and marketing successfully collaborate to deliver the right content at the right time to move leads to conversion (vs. 37% of sales leaders). At the end of the sales funnel, only 27% of front-line staff strongly believe the handoff from sales to customer success teams results in high customer satisfaction (vs. 39% of leaders).

In addition, when it comes to content, I hear a consistent story from front-line sales: they don’t know how to select, customize and share (within the customer’s context) content. All too often, content is shared without adequate context from the seller, and this leaves the customer with less reason to read it. This is a training issue. Part of the problem could be the complexity of tools sales teams are asked to use, but training on the “why” and “how” of content is also a challenge.

People & Organization

Front-line sales staff perceive sales and marketing collaboration as much less effective than leaders do. Only 24% of sales staff view collaboration as effective (vs. 35% of leaders). This attitude shows up in two areas: the ability of sales and marketing to collaborate and refine what a sales qualified lead is (32% staff vs. 43% leaders) and the provision of timely customer intelligence to understand prospects (30% vs. 40%).

No doubt, part of this may be a visibility problem: leaders are more likely to work cross-functionally (including with marketing) than front-line sales. The more problematic issue is the front-line’s view that sales qualified leads aren’t well defined, and the fact they’re not getting adequate customer intelligence to understand leads. This should trouble leadership, as both of these issues have a direct impact on the front line’s results. Leaders likely have metrics that indicate access to customer intelligence, but it won’t tell them how effective it was in closing a deal. Of course, an upward trend in usage data indicates growing reliance on it and so is a good indication of ultimate usefulness. If leaders don’t see an upward trend, there’s likely a problem that can be uncovered through direct conversations (or field polling) of the front-line—something metrics won’t tell managers.


What It Means & What You Can Do

It’s not unusual to see differences in attitudes by role in our research, but this consistent gap between front-line sales staff and sales leaders drew attention because it was persistent (across all questions we asked). These gaps could hamper the progress of those organizations seeking to digitally transform their sales teams and so are worth paying attention to. Keep the following in mind to successfully transform sales:

  • Regularly poll front-line staff to understand their perspective and compare to related metrics like content effectiveness and sales tool enablement adoption. Sales managers and leaders should question those metrics that indicate front-line use of data, content and tools without proof that the front-line is truly getting the value A salesperson downloading a white paper to share with a prospect is a vanity metric. It doesn’t indicate whether that content was effectively shared and made a difference in converting the prospect.
  • No one likes to take a great salesperson off the front line, but you need to in order to best match transformation tactics to real-world experience. If you have a digital selling transformation council or team, include some of your best sales staff to ensure your whiteboard ambitions address real-world needs. In addition to basic capabilities, tools, etc., involve the front-line in the selection and prioritization of metrics leaders see when it comes to sales enablement.
  • Regularly analyze buyer and customer surveys to understand key disconnects, e.g., front line sales staff see the need for additional customer-facing digital tools that leaders are clearing missing. You’ll discover those gaps—and others—by better understanding digitally-savvy buyers.
  • To compare perspectives in your organization, take our 12-question digital selling maturity After taking the survey, results are emailed to the taker. Have leaders and staff forward their results to someone who can analyze them and identify areas of disconnect that require a deeper look.

Have you identified sales transformation gaps between leaders and staff? What were they and how did you handle them? 

More Digital Selling Resources from Altimeter


Customer Relevance: 5 Ways That B2B Brands Differ From B2C Brands

B2B brands may make it easy for customers to buy, but they disappoint on consistency and emotional connection.

To be the relevant choice, the go-to brand for customers has been shown to drive profitable growth and to help insulate businesses from unexpected shocks such as COVID-19. The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently than brands that focus only on B2C customers.

As part of the study, we compared 57 brands with significant B2B businesses such as Amazon, General Electric, FedEx and IBM with 171 pure B2C brands such as Lego, Peloton, Netflix and Etsy. Both cohorts of brands with significant B2B business and the pure B2C brands increased relevance to their customers over the course of 2020.  The B2C group had a greater range of high and poor performers with brands such as Peloton, Kitchen Aid and Lego in the top five and Popeye’s, Burger King and Facebook in the bottom three. Technology brands were the best performing in both the B2C and B2B cohorts. Apple led the pack followed closely by Amazon ranked tenth overall.

“The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently.”

When we analyzed the drivers of customer centricity and pragmatism, key differences appeared.

When compared to B2C focused brands, B2B reliant brands…

1. Meet Important Needs

On average B2B reliant brands outperform B2C-focused brands on meeting their customers’ important needs by a remarkable 28 percent.  3M for example, is rated 64 percent higher than the average B2B brand on meeting important needs and being a brand the customer cannot live without. That said, it is one of the worst-performing brands in the survey on making the customer happy by connecting with emotion.

2. Make It Easy

B2B reliant brands are 25 percent more likely to make it easier for their customers than B2C-focused brands. Microsoft, for example, performs a bit above the average of B2C brands on consistent performance and being dependable, but excels at making the consumers’ lives easier.

3. Don’t Deliver Consistently

B2B reliant companies are 17 percent less likely to perform as well as B2C companies on “consistent delivery.” GE is a typical example. It ranks in the top one hundred brands with very high customer scores on most dimensions of pragmatism, such as makes it easier and is dependable but ranks only average on consistent delivery.

4.&5.  Fail to Connect Emotionally and Don’t Make the Customer Happy

This doesn’t appear to be a surprise as emotion is important for B2C brands but not to the same extent as B2B brands. What is surprising is the size of the difference; a 47 percent difference for happiness between B2B reliant and B2C focused brands. Adobe demonstrates the challenge.  It outperforms other technology-oriented B2B companies such as HP and IBM on being a brand customers can’t live without but is rated 75 percent lower on makes the customer happy and connects with emotion.


The key takeaway for B2B reliant brands is to break out of the trap of trading off performance with emotion. Great brands, such as Apple deliver to both B2C and B2B customers, don’t make this tradeoff; so why should Adobe settle for it? The other key takeaway is to focus on technology. The most technologically advanced B2B brands we examined by industry outperformed their peers on meeting important customer needs and making it easy for the customer.

Learn more about brands in your industry

This post provides just a snapshot of the 228 brands evaluated in the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®. For more insights on this year’s top-performing brands, visit this website.


How Prepared Are You For Digital Selling?

Our research shows companies are moving toward digital selling techniques faster than they’d planned.

Sales teams have had a tough year. The forced push into selling virtually through tools like social media and video conferencing have disrupted both sellers’ sales funnels and their customers’ journey.  We’ve developed a tool to help you quickly assess your organization’s digital selling readiness for the key capabilities used by top performing sales organizations discovered in our 2020 State of Digital Selling research report. You don’t have to be in sales to find this useful: marketers will play a key supporting role in the digital transformation of the sales organizations they support.

Sales have watched for years (largely on the sidelines) as the influence of B2C e-commerce changed the expectations of B2B buyers, who now increasingly favor seamless digital experiences that make their lives easier. Many sales teams polished their LinkedIn profiles to engage prospects in the digital landscape only to realize that without great content and integration with backend CRM and SFA systems, those profiles are hollow attempts at transformation. Post-COVID, don’t expect selling practices to go back to “normal,” because there’s no undoing the changes in buyer and seller behavior the global pandemic has caused.

“Post-COVID, don’t expect selling practices to go back to “normal,” because there’s no undoing the changes in buyer and seller behavior the global pandemic has caused.”

Our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report found that 73% of surveyed sales organizations will transition to digital selling techniques faster than planned. And McKinsey’s research found “Looking forward, B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.” The question our research sought to answer is which capabilities are needed (and most important) to digitally transform sales.

What is Digital Selling?

Like any technology disruption, defining it in the early phases of adoption can be tricky. It’s sure to evolve as seller and buyer behavior continues to change.  Here’s a starting point:

Digital Selling is the use of technology-focused commerce practices to meet the needs of digitally savvy buyers and by sellers to seamlessly integrate the sales funnel across marketing, sales and service.

Just as marketing has transformed into a technology and analytics-lead discipline, the digital transformation of sales is underway to position sales as an equal digital partner.

Don’t think of digital selling as entirely end-to-end virtual or digital experiences, but rather a practice that finds the right balance of the complementary offline and online forces. Our research found that top-performing sales organizations combine the human touch needed to influence and sell with digital enablement tools and analytics that give them a significant edge in key sales metrics, including win rates, quota achievement and customer satisfaction. In fact, the best sales team practices were based on the digitization of the Key Accounts sales model, in which a cross-function team of marketers, sellers and service pros focus on key account wins (see chart below).

Which digital practices make a difference?

In our research, we chose to study the digital transformation of sales from the perspective of the capabilities a sales organization needs to succeed.  These capabilities will be familiar to any sales professional.  To understand the relative importance of each, we compared top performers (defined as the top 10% of sales professionals by sales goal attainment) shown in the green bars below against the index of all sales teams in blue.  This chart provides an overview of this model, which includes 8 key capabilities as well as three underlying enablers to the overall model.

The report breaks down each of these capabilities further into sub-capabilities that again show the gap between top performers against the industry average. Our new (free) digital selling diagnostic will rate your organization’s maturity against each of these 11 areas.


Where do you and your organization stand?

Our report on the digital transformation of sales is rich with data and insight. It’s an insightful deep-dive, but for those who want a quick assessment of how mature your digital sales capabilities are, we’ve developed an easy assessment in the form of a 12-question survey. Answering the survey questions is one way to understand the capabilities of top-performing sales organizations. Following the survey, you’ll get a custom report with your score and highlights from the report to help you understand the digital capabilities most important to prioritize now. At the end of the survey, you’ll have the opportunity to tell me more about your challenges, and with your permission, I will reach out to some of you and offer a free 1-hour consultancy on your situation.

So, take 3 minutes and see how you’re doing!

Digital Selling Resources


Webinar Replay: 2021 Digital Trends for Businesses in Asia

Digital transformation, an integral part of business in Asia, is becoming its own discipline and department

37 min

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