Interview with Alinean 2/24/2016

Let’s Get Real.

In this series, we interview sales tool providers and get real about the problems they’re solving and why you should care (or not).

This week I interview Tom Pisello, CEO and Founder of Alinean.

Nancy: I ask guests to answer the first question using what I call the “You know how…” format. Tell us, what does your solution do?

Tom: You know how buyers have been shaped by the Great Recession and slow recovery, to be more skeptical and frugal? This has resulted in a difficult sales environment, where 58% of deals don’t go to you or a competitor, but end in “No Decision”, this according to Sales Benchmark Index.

Your sales reps are not convincing your prospects as to the high cost of “Do Nothing” and as to unique value of your solution substantially outweighing the proposed investment.

In fact, buyers indicate that less than 1 in 10 sales reps are good at helping them better uncover their challenges and articulating value. In research by Forrester, the overwhelming majority of sales reps are still pitching products / services, or asking a few discovery questions, before they jump into a canned PowerPoint or demo.

There is a decided Value Gap between an the sales rep and their all too common sales pitch and a new breed of buyer who is hyper-focused on business outcomes and value.

Nancy: That sounds like a problem worth solving (and a worthy solution). But let’s get real, sales and marketing organizations have a lot of challenges and they have to make choices about which to solve first. Why shouldn’t they continue with things the way they are if they’re getting by? What are the ramifications of not solving the problems you outlined?

Tom: Most organizations are recognizing something is broken. When sales execs where surveyed by SiriusDecisions, 71% indicated that the top issue as to why sales reps are not making quota was not a lack of sales training, product knowledge, social selling skills or qualified leads. The number one issue was the inability for sales reps to effectively communicate and quantify unique value. And the recognition of this issue isn’t new, as its been the #1 priority for the past 5 years, believe it or not since 2011.

And sales execs know the Value Gap has a real cost. In 2016, estimates are that over 50% of your sales reps won’t make quota. For a 100 person sales team, this could translate to a $150-200M shortfall from plan, mostly because sales reps haven’t transitioned successfully to value selling.

And the deals lost to “No Decision”? For every $100M in closed business, there’s over $230M in pipeline squandered, because sales reps are not convincing your prospects that the investment is worth the value of change.


Nancy: What types of questions should sales leaders ask to decide whether solving this problem should be a high priority?

Tom: The questions I would ask as a sales leader are:

  1. How much of our current pipeline is ending with “No Decision”?
  2. What percentage of our sales reps won’t make quota this year?
  3. Do we have a clear understanding of our unique value?
  4. Do our sales reps /partners have and use the right value-focused content?
  5. What percentage of our sales reps / partners are still using a “show up & throw up” product pitch approach?
  6. How do our buyers rate their buying experience and the value add of the sales engagement?

Nancy: This question is your choice. What do you want to ask that I haven’t?

Tom: I’d want you to ask, “So how can you solve the value gap challenge?”

Your journey should start with having the right content, to helps sellers better communicate and quantify value. This means dumping company / product centric PowerPoints and other collateral that aren’t empowering your sales reps and channel partners to interactively engage with buyers.

To develop the right content, you often need to take a step back – to gain clarity as to your unique value, and develop a value messaging guide with all the provocative insights and value messaging codified by role and industry – the foundation for better value conversations.

Then, the team should bring the messaging to life, with value-centric content, so your reps and partners have the fuel for more compelling value conversations and outcome engagements.
And to be most effective, this content should advance from static white papers and PowerPoints to interactive content enabling sales to dynamically engage with prospects, guided to

  • Diagnose their issues,
  • Deliver industry specific insights, messaging and benchmark comparisons,
  • Quantify the value you can uniquely deliver.

Nancy: How can people do that?

Tom: There are three keys to value selling success:

  1. Keep the tools simple so the reps and prospects aren’t overwhelmed with endless questions or complex calculators and Supercharge the tools with visual value storytelling and interactive infographics.
  2. Leverage 3rd party metrics and targeted success stories to build trust.
  3. Go beyond just a tool, to a program, providing value training and support to sales reps and channel partners, so they are competent, confident, credible in advancing sales conversations from product to value.

Nancy: What should people do next?

Tom: As we enter an economic rough patch, or perhaps worse, another recession, buyers will be even more focused on financials than ever before. It’ll be survival of the fittest vendor making your ability to more effectively communicate and quantify your unique value more important than ever before.

Checkout this video to learn more about how much the Value Gap could be costing you, and what you can do to advance your current efforts to success.

Or visit And if you’ll be attending the Value Selling & Realization Summit in Dallas next week, please be sure to stop by one of my sessions, or say hello at our booth.