Vendor Neutral Partners With Johns Hopkins University To Support The Next Generation of Sales Professionals

“Information is pretty thin stuff unless it’s mixed with experience” is as true today as it was nearly 100 years ago when author Clarence Day wrote those words. Real-world experience is critical to preparing students for life after graduation. That’s why Johns Hopkins University | Carey Business School Sales Force Management has once again partnered with Vendor Neutral to help students learn what it is like to purchase in the B2B world through the Sales Technology Audit & Virtual Engagement (STAVE) project.

Digital Transformation has dramatically shifted sales force management, and today’s graduates must have the right tools and knowledge to succeed in this dynamic environment. Vendor Neutral and Johns Hopkins are providing those tools and supporting the next generation of sales professionals through a summer competition.

Students participate in a sales technology assessment project that is much like the “Dragon’s Den” for students. This highly competitive process involves three Masters in Sales classes. Each class presents ~10 projects, so a total of ~30 technologies will be analyzed. Winning teams will be chosen at the end of summer by a panel of judges that act as venture capitalists

The Competition

Students select one of AppExchange’s technology and leverage Vendor Neutral’s framework to perform an entrepreneurial audit of their solution. Competitors must explore how the technology can improve a sales organization’s efficiency and effectiveness, as well as recommended areas of improvement.

Specifically, students research the following:

  • Inefficiencies within the sales organization that led to a problem that the new technology can solve.
  • How the technology can help the organization improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
  • What areas can the technology improve on in the future.

Each team will pitch their conclusions and ideas to the judges, led by Prof. Joël Le Bon, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Science of Digital Business Development Initiative. Acting as venture capitalists, the class will vote for the most promising Sales Technology Audit & Virtual Engagement (STAVE) project by allocating funding to the best team and entrepreneurial pitch. The competition provides a platform for students to leverage the concepts, frameworks, methodologies, and tools they studied in class to advance sales force management in the era of digital transformation.

The Research

The competitive nature of the contest requires that students delve deep into their research. They can opt to focus on buyer or seller related technologies, sales management related tech, or a tech tool that encompasses both. Examples in past years included AI, video selling, coaching, gamification, social CRM, and sales enablement.

Auditing and finding real-life examples of sales organizations that have benefited from their chosen technology is required. Students must evaluate the sales organizations’ efficiency, effectiveness, and what remains to be solved. They do their research based on two main areas.

  1. Primary data, including personal interviews.
  2. Secondary data, including market research and other collected data.

Vendor Neutral Lectures

To add further value, Vendor Neutral’s own Dan Cilley and Steven Wright, Chief Analyst will conduct a series of lectures for each of the three Masters in Sales classes participating in the ESTAP project. Vendor Neutral brings real-world applications by sharing some of the steps they follow with their own clients. Here’s a sampling of the Framework and expertise they bring to the table.

  • Engage stakeholders and establish goals for them. Identify vital roles within the organization’s sales hierarchy, including Sales Ops, Marketing, Sales Enablement, Sales Leadership, Demand Generation, IT/CISO, Inside Sales, and Field Sales. Including these stakeholders in the decision-making process is vital. Assign specific responsibilities in writing.
  • Identify technology gaps. What technology already exists within your organization? Does it currently bring value and the ROI you expect? Once you have determined that foundation of solutions, identify at which SalesTech hierarchy level in which you have gaps.
  • Audit capability gaps. Understand the organization’s capabilities and opportunities for development. Don’t fall for the “shiny object syndrome.” Think strategically instead of reacting to the latest and greatest tool.
  • Consider vendors that potentially align to your process, priorities, and challenges. To do this, organizations must look beyond the features and benefits of a solution. A vendor’s sales pitch is really just marketing spin. Instead, look deeper to clearly identify how they align with your process or match your priorities and challenges
  • Analyze solution fit and ROI. Ask the right questions of yourself, the provider, and your peers. Your questions could include:

What business objectives does this solution help with?

Who and what are the processes necessary to extract value?

Will we need to increase incremental headcount?

What kind of initial and ongoing training is required?

How quickly will we see a ROI?

What are the ongoing costs to support the solution?

What is the cost of doing nothing?

What does the solution need to be integrated with?

How much of the solution will we use?

How is performance measured?

Competition Results

We’re continually amazed by the quality of the presentations and pitches in this competition. And it’s our pleasure to announce the winners of the Johns Hopkins University Sales Technology Audit & Virtual Engagement Challenge projects for 2020:

  1. Drift – Presented by Team4
  2. InsightSquared – Presented by Team Bestseller
  3. Qualtrics – Presented by Team Amigos

Congratulations to the winners and everyone involved for a phenomenal effort. After reviewing the presentations in this competition, including those outside of the top 3, we’re left feeling very confident that the next generation of sales professionals are going to be very, very good at their craft.