Can we build a sales effectiveness ecosystem?

4 minute read


Many of the significant developments in global markets (particularly in the technology industry) in recent decades have been driven by what I would call unusual partnerships. Here are two examples:

  1. According to IDG, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of Linux in the 2008-2009 period will be 23.6%. Compare that with an estimated 6.6% CAGR for Windows. Linux is now 18 years old, but it’s meteoric rise has been the result of a loose but collaborative partnerships between Linus Torvalds and his raggle-taggle band of software developers, leaders in information technology like IBM and HP, and the large corporations who ultimately became customers and beneficiaries of this new operating system. In the end, customers benefit.
  2. A year ago, we could not have conceived of a partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo. While competitors in the ‘search’ marketplace, the unusual partnership, announced on June 30 of this year, was driven by the need to compete with Google, their common enemy. Together Microsoft and Yahoo are striving to create a new marketplace for their offerings, integrating their collective reach with the best technology they can create with their combined resources. In the end, customers benefit.

Looking at the multi-billion dollar, but highly fragmented sales effectiveness industry we’ve wondered about what’s needed for a paradigm shift, and dramatic improvement, in the value delivered to customers. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, (see links below) you will know that there is an opportunity (perhaps a demand) to raise the quantum of value delivered to customers of sales effectiveness solutions.

Perhaps a new ecosystem of collaborative partnerships could be the solution. Imagine if a customer could get an integrated sales effectiveness solution from providers of complementary best-in-class components, all delivered in a single common platform. What would happen? Sounds awfully like the Linux platform, or the Microsoft/Yahoo alliance. In the end, customers would benefit.A successful market-making partner ecosystem for the sales effectiveness industry would place some non-trivial demands on the partners.


  • The complete solution offering must be predictable and reliable for the interoperability of the solution components.
  • The ultimate customers will require alternatives solutions providers to ensure competitive pricing and the continuous evolution of the solution functionality.
  • For the parties involved, the market must be big enough to be attractive to the initiators and intermediaries, and ‘safe’ for the ultimate end user customers.


  • Initiator – leads or creates the vision
  • Implementor – executes vision
  • Consultants/Advisers – translates vision/new paradigm for customers and others
  • Fellow Travelers – implementors, solution partners, system integrators, technology partners etc.
  • Evangelists – for the offering, as references and proof points
  • Customers – early adopters, early majority (borrowing from Geoffrey Moore)

The concept of a business ecosystem is not new, nor unproven. The basic definition comes from James F. Moore‘s 1996 publication The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. Moore defines a business ecosystem as:

An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals-the organisms of the business world. This economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organizations also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders. Over time, they co-evolve their capabilities and roles, and tend to align themselves with the directions set by one or more central companies.

The ecosystem concept was widely used by Cisco throughout the world. The company leveraged partners for all business functions except for developing their core patented products and business strategy. Partners were used for sales, marketing, manufacturing, technical support and new installations. Cisco lived up to the motto ‘do what you do best and leave the rest for others to do’. The partner services companies made-up a ‘virtual management board’ and an advisory board which met regularly to help improve and modify the living ‘ecosystem.’ The central team at Cisco set the governance, skill levels, roadmaps, market forecasts and approved new partners. In the end customers benefitted.

So, what about the Sales Effectiveness industry?: At The TAS Group, we believe that the gap between what’s possible – in terms of the sustained value providers in the sales effectiveness could deliver to their customers – and the current state (the value actually being received by customers today), is wider than any of the aforementioned examples. So, it’s definitely worth doing.In the end customers would benefit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 is going to be a significant date in the history of the sales effectiveness market. Whether you you are a provider or consumer of sales effectiveness solutions, this is important. Come back here to look for the announcement.



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