Apr 302022
 

 

 

I posted an article on Sales Enablement recently. Much of the modern software used in that niche utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let us focus on AI now.

 

What Is AI?

Firstly, let us understand what AI is. Most of us will think back (forward?) to Arnold, Terminator and Skynet and why not? Machine Learning is a subset of AI, but more precisely Artificial Intelligence is programming that teaches a system to mimic human behaviour and actions, but obviously at a faster and more effective manner that brings with it the consistency of a machine. More completely, AI is a series of networks that leverages statistics and instructions over and over to emulate humans. It is designed to improve overtime as well because the more ‘experiences’ (a.k.a. statistics) it has the more complete it becomes.

One more thing, AI may be all the rage now, but it is hardly new. This notion goes back to Alan Turing and the 1950s. For an early application look up ELIZA from the 1960s.

So What (For Sales)?

The end goal, however, remains somewhat elusive. Systems are not perfect. It is thought that perfection has been attained when humans cannot fathom whether they are dealing with a machine or a human being and results are impeccable. If AI, therefore, includes Machine Learning, analytics, natural language, simulation, learning and interaction then how can it help the profession of sales? Here the idea is to take all the information and transaction in sales – conversations, e-mails, responses or lack thereof, every CRM entry, every sale, every lost deal, et cetra – and put them into one place in order to help the seller. The goal is to identify the correct course of action, the next step, the way to help customers and sellers and to win business. Is it possible? To some extent the answer is yes. The hesitation, however, stems from the unpredictability of human psychology and of course different cultures and needs or wants. Yet, AI is supposed to learn those too because after all, it is all data translated to action.

 

So, Is AI Going To Take Over The World And Rid Us Of Our Jobs (And Sustenance)?

Maybe. Still, as of today the reality on the ground is that AI is here to assist, help, improve and enhance the seller’s efforts not replace it. Put that way, would anyone argue against help? Which salesperson would claim he or she does not need help? One issue, that one can foresee easily, is that AI may be trained to be biased to think like a seller or a vendor. To be successful, this writer supposes, AI needs to think like a customer or prospect. That is the way to successfully sell after all.

 

So Which Are The Tools?

Like any other category, AI solutions are bound to be comprised of the good, the bad and the so-so and trials, proofs of concept and honest assessments are a must. It is smart to gauge results, ask the user community (the sales team) honestly and measure revenue enhancement before committing. Randomly picked, because TNG and SugarCRM are as good or bad as any other to keep an eye on, I have bookmarked this in order to track the revenue for my ‘proof is in the pudding’ hobby tracking, but truthfully the market will speak sooner or later.

 

One last thing. Candidly put whether effective or not, the reality is that the market for AI-driven solutions in sales is going to expand. Just keep in mind how much salespeople have traditionally disliked using CRM and yet the parallel expansion and growth of the sector! One factor that speaks to my hypothesis is the growth of AI in other niches. With increased adoption of AI in healthcare, customer service, arts and more the concept is becoming mainstream, which means more revenue for the sector to enable improvement and also for more people to become more comfortable with the notion.

 

Here goes a list of vendors and providers in the Sales AI space:

 

  • Affinity (including Nudge.ai) – A tracking CRM for industries where relationships are important.
  • Conversica – Provider of a conversational AI. Claims that all its AI Assistants are more accurate than a human. Suited for business development and marketing.
  • Clari – An opportunity management and forecasting tool to offer better visibility to sales teams.
  • Drift – Sales and Marketing conversation at the right time with the appropriate content plus insights especially for inbounds.
  • Exceed.AI (Part of Genesys) – Similar to drift geared towards inbound prospects and leads for sales and marketing, it automatically picks up the conversation, sets appointments and updates Calendars.
  • Gong.AI – Captures and analyzes customer interactions for insights and next steps.
  • Heyday – Tuned for retail, Heyday’s AI connects inventory and catalogue to customer search results and nudges sales to connect with customers when most appropriate.
  • Introhive – Relationship intelligence that leverages CRM to reveal ones network and relationships with customers.
  • Kixie – Automates calling and texting of the names in CRM and records and tracks the events.
  • People.ai – Provides persona-specific productivity tools and provides insights.
  • SalesDirector.ai – Offers predictive insights into sales team’s pipeline and customer interactions.
  • Salesforce – Salesforce, the leader in CRM, has embedded AI in much of its solutions for insights and automation.
  • Saleswhale (Part Of 6Sense) – An AI assistant to engage with and follow-up with leads.
  • VeloxyIO – A platform that integrates e-mail, CRM and calling into one solution and view.
  • Zendesk – Engage with and support customers across a myriad of channels and keep all interactions in one place.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: AI technology companies that are made to be acquired as opposed to being there long-term to help customers.

Apr 182022
 

 

Sales Enablement has been quite an oft-discussed concept in sales circles for the last decade or so. As the name suggests the concept should be simple. Sales Enablement is the who, what, where, when and how of enabling sales (defined here broadly as inside, outside, SME, enterprise, BDR, etc.) to achieve its goals in general and quota targets specifically. Simple enough. Yet, there is a lot more to helping sales, and indeed the whole company, deliver the value message to customers.

Personally, Sales Enablement for me is anything and everything that enables sales. As such, and for me, marketing is sales enablement. A company executive travelling or getting on the telephone with a salesperson to aid his or her effort is sales enablement. Training is sales enablement, et cetra.

However, there is a niche and segment for Sales Enablement all to its own in the marketplace. The segment is large given how the addressable market is vast. The number of vendors vying for a piece of the pie is large because sales is so crucial to everything everybody does. These vendors and suppliers define the market more narrowly than my definition and seek to inhabit the more focused and accepted definition of what the marketplace for their solutions is.

This narrower definition speaks to tools, solutions, programs, software and content that allow the Sales team to find prospects or take a top of the funnel prospect and convert it to a paying customer at the bottom of the funnel. Yes, it is still multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted, but defined more narrowly than my definition above. And with the advent of technology, Sales Enablement in the hands of its official suppliers and vendors has become more technical, more up-to-the-minute as pertains to the needs of the individual accessing it and more relevant for the type of sale it is accessed for and, notwithstanding the automation of much of it, has become more advanced and scientific. That automation piece is actually important because salespersons do not always have the will or time to engage with the technology proactively. it is a win for the sales team’s time and also insurance that the rights steps are being taken when the solution triggers events in an optimal sequence. Modern AI-powered solutions do wonders sometimes.

The more focused definition is fine and here you will find a list of the vendors in the space as of today. The sentence says ‘as of today’ because by the time this writer finishes this paragraph and hits the ‘publish’ button half a dozen vendors have sold themselves, merged or failed rendering the list dated. This is only half a joke. Another half a joke is how a company that is in Sales Enablement could not enable its sales team to take over the world (yet wants to help everyone else do the same). Yes, it is understood that many companies do not seek to remain or grow. Like any sector, half of the companies out there seek to be acquired and cash out. Here is another quip: it is said (by me) that any company with a a.ai domain is flashing a sign saying ‘buy me! buy me!!’

The list is coming shortly, but first a few bullet points on why Sales Enablement is seriously important and a comment on its integration with other departments.

 

Why are companies adopting formal Sales Enablement programs and solutions?

 

Sales is not an insular position. It needs and feeds everyone else at the company. From the management team to Marketing and Delivery sales needs to be hand in glove with everybody else. Sales and other departments need to be in sync. The right Sales Enablement environment enables this aspect. This is internal alignment.

Similarly, sales needs to be in sync with its prospects and customers. Sales needs to supply the right impetus, content and information to its customers – whether the two parties are speaking currently and directly with one another or not. Sales Enablement needs to ensure that the two sides (supply and demand) are related and relevant. This is external alignment.

Finally, all of this should be measurable and accountable. How many videos professionally filmed and uploaded by companies have you seen that despite clearly having cost time and a monetary bundle in preparation, lighting, filming and editing have a paltry one hundred views (half of which is the producing team)? Isn’t something amiss? Yes, there is. It is not serving the needs of sales or its customers obviously. How many leads from Marketing were garbage? How many quality leads were mishandled by Sales? Why are people not responding to content? These are mere examples of a mismatched Sales Enablement piece of the puzzle that is not performing and is screaming for a programmatic review, be it content-wise, consumption-wise or perhaps even forming an accessibility point-of-view challenge. Things need to be measurable so they can be manageable so we improve and consistently recaliber.

Finally, Sales Enablement should be integrated. The more all the sets of data, material and processes are integrated the more likely for them to actually work, to be leveraged by sales, to save the requisite time and ultimately to contribute rather than detract. Moreover, when all solutions are integrated the company can better measure the effectiveness and garner insight into what is working and what is not at scale.

Perhaps an ancillary reason to adopt these solutions is to recruit salespersons in the first place. Obviously, enablement tools help the team be successful, earn more and treat customers correctly, but what a recruitment tool? A company adopting the right tech can expect to have more successful sales teams and give people more reasons to work there, right? After all, this whole article is about adding value.

 

 

Is there a list of providers and vendors in this space?

 

With that said and without further ado, here is a list of companies in the space. As mentioned, this is narrowly defined and offerings such as marketing-only, training-only or CRM are omitted.  One further ado: Having not personally used all these solutions, inclusion does not equal warrantee that it does what it says. My experience is that several are quite useful and helpful. A few are a waste of time and have proven themselves to be a nuisance. The advice goes doubly for readers who are not in the USA. Contact data are more scarce internationally in many of these tools and process norms do differ from country to country. Review and analysis before buying are your friends.

  • Adapt – Real-time customer data that integrates with your CRM
  • Apollo – Find prospects, segment them and connect with them
  • Bombora – Buyers’ intent data to understand who is looking to buy
  • CallMiner – Analyses your communication with your customers to drive your actions
  • Chorus – Conversation intelligence to analyse sales meetings and suggest improvements. Owned by Zoominfo since 2021
  • Cognism – Market and Sales intelligence including contact information and intent data
  • D&B Hoovers – Contact information including areas of responsibility and job titles
  • Datanyze – Contact information for businesses and which solutions they use
  • DealHub.io – Share information and quotations with customers, automate steps and track engagement
  • Demandbase – Connects first and third-party data for one view of accounts – now includes InsideView for CRM data management
  • DiscoverOrg – Contact information and profiles that is integrated with your CRM. Part of Zoominfo
  • Dooly – Organizes opportunity notes and fields and syncs them into Salesforce to share with others
  • Enablix – Connect Sales and Marketing content for data-driven decisions on what content is needed next. Also measures engagement
  • Enthu – Analyses team’s calls and collates them for management for intervention, training or other insights
  • ExecVision – Conversation intelligence and mining platform in multiple languages
  • Global Database – An international business directory
  • Gong – Captures and analyses customer interactions to determine best course of action and areas of hit and miss
  • Groove – Automates sales activities and lightens the administrative burden of sales. It also automates action items
  • Guru – Create, share and access data and within the sales workflow
  • Highspot – Combines content, customer engagement and knowledge sharing in multiple languages
  • InsideSales.com – Playbooks for sales to optimize sales interactions including appropriate contacts and triggers
  • Jiminny – A coaching tool to record, analyse, track and learn from your customer conversations to enable improvement and analytics
  • Klue – A competitor insight platform compiled from internal and external sources
  • Lead 411 – Company and employee contact information and triggers
  • Leadgenius – Scale your outbound by finding the right contacts and lists
  • LeadIQ – Targetted information on potential leads integrated with CRM
  • Lessonly – An eLearning solution including presentation, tracking and assignments. Purchased by Seismic in 2021
  • LinkedIn (Sales Navigator) – A professional networking and communication social media. LinkedIn is a part of Microsoft
  • Lusha – Identify a prospect’s e-mail and telephone number, especially in the USA. It acts as a browser extension
  • Mediafly – Create and enhance your presentations, including trackable links and analytics
  • MindTickle – Identify the right sales behaviour and train the team on it
  • Observe – An analysis of your customers’ audio calls and text communication to derive sentiment signals
  • Outreach – Helps create and manage sales workflows and track them
  • SalesHood – A Learning Management System (LMS) that includes testing and tracking
  • SalesIntel – Helps you identify your prospects with buying intent and provides contact information
  • Seamless – Finds your prospects’ contact and LinkedIn information
  • Seismic – A content management platform that allows Marketing to create and customize sales-related material and for the sales team to discover and brand it for a particular engagement
  • Showpad – Sales content management, training and coaching in one. Track content usage by the customers as well
  • 6Sense – Uncovers buying behaviour and information based on web activity, which triggers for ABM efforts
  • Slintel – A market intelligence and buyer intent. Part of 6Sense now
  • TechTarget – Identify target contacts and acquire their contact information
  • Uplead – Business and contact data including e-mail verification
  • Volley – Convert leads into customer using intent data and personalization
  • Zoominfo – 360 degree view of customers including intent data and hierarchies

 

Any names missing? Let me know.

One final important note: All applications should be tested for ease of use. Salespeople are busy and dislike spending time when a software is not user friendly. All purchase decisions should take this, as well as utility, into consideration. Need to heavily configure? Need to code? Need to wait minutes for it to load? Need to complete a curriculum to use the application? Need to become versed in boolean search parameters? Skip the tool.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Enablement solutions that make the sales team neither more effective nor more efficient

 

Oct 182020
 

Writing a Sales Territory Plan – as opposed to a Sales Account Plan – is conceptually not difficult. As a salesperson you are handed a territory and you would like to figure out where you are (point A) and like to get to a result (point B). How to get from point A to point B is the plan.

Below and attached (Scroll To The End Of This Article to find the link) is a cheat sheet for you. Please consider several items.

  • It is important that the plan is frank and realistic.
  • It is important that the plan has specifics and is time-bound.
  • It is most important that the plan is implemented with on-going action. One too many plans are make-work projects that are ignored or forgotten thirty seconds after they are presented. The plan is there to help you succeed so you would do well to take it seriously if you take your job seriously.

Here is an outline of a Territory Plan:

Page 1: Title Page

  • Place Your Company Logo
  • Add Salesperson’s Name
  • Add Date

 

Page 2: Contents

  • Targets/Goals
  • Analysis
  • Existing Accounts
  • New/Prospect Accounts
  • Action Plan
  • Guide To Terms And Filling This Plan out

 

Page 3: Target And Target Breakdown

  • Numerical Targets/Goals
  • Break down into periods as needed
  • Existing Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Prospect Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Gap-To-Goal (based on above)

 

Page 4: Target Analysis And Insights

  • SWOT Analysis Of Territory
  • Priorities
  • How will you take advantage of the opportunities and counter the weaknesses

 

  • What works/what does not work
  • What will you do differently
  • What do you need to make it (i.e. your goals) happen?

 

Page 5: Existing Accounts

  • What does the territory look like?
  • Biggest accounts
  • Biggest account potentials
  • Break-down by size or geography or kind

 

  • Success Components
  • What needs to be done?
  • What tools are available and will work?
  • What is selling/what is not selling
  • What drives business?
  • Other

 

Page 6: New Accounts/Prospects

  • Prospect Names
  • Which industry, size or kind they are in?

 

  • Top # (insert a number here) Target Companies (Prospects)
  • Industry (if more than one applies)
  • What Do They Currently Own?
  • Have They Been Contacted by you? If not, when will you contact them, how often and in what intervals?

 

  • Other Prospects Contacted?
  • Industry?
  • Why Are They A Good Candidate for you?
  • Updates?
  • What is next and what do you need and by when?

 

Page 7: Action Plan

  • Consider SMART
  • Tactics
  • By When
  • Milestones
  • Resources Needed

 

Page 8: Guide

  • Consider SMART when thinking about the above
  • SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound: no vague inputs
  • Think in terms of milestones and break your actions down
  • Consider resources and input needed and think whether they adhere to the above concept

 

  • A Territory Plan has you starting at Point A (where you are today) and takes you to Point B (where you need to be).
  • Know your goals therefore
  • This is specific to your territory. There is not a universal formula that applies here

 

  • SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat

 

Feel free to download the attached and either use directly or copy/paste it into a slide deck of your choosing.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Planning That Occurs Only During The Presentation Session And Is Then Forgotten

Jun 072020
 

According to Gartner 100% of new market participants and 80% of current vendors will have a SAAS (Software As A Service) or Cloud offering by the end of this year. The market has spoken and no matter what the detractors say – and many of them have valid points – Cloud is where it is at.

This is a bona fide paradigm shift that, in the case of traditional providers, takes the whole of the company to pull off. Let us focus on sales and the available revenue streams for the purpose of this post.

1- Subscription: This is the monthly rent customers pay for use of the service. Sellers may charge by the month or for months or years in advance and make the cash flow more positive in exchange for a multi-term discount.

2- Higher Tiers: Which obviously are more expensive as they come with more features like customizations or customizations’ capability, synchronizations or integrations out of the box or higher ceilings for number of users, data and more. A higher tier may even allow a customer to work offline!

3- Resale: Your partners can resell your Cloud service just like they sold your traditional software or service. Think about all the providers for Microsoft 365 (Office 365).

4- Platform Sales: Think about Facebook’s platform that features so many third-party applications and affiliates that they easily dwarf the mothership. Google and Microsoft do a considerably worse job of this than Facebook and hence derive less revenue from third-party partners than do Salesforce via its AppExchange or Facebook. While it could be a category of its own I will throw in advertising a la Facebook or Google here too.

5- Fees: Set-up fees, support fees, data download fees, diagnostic fees, integration services fees, image fees… the list is endless.

Photograph Credit: Tumisu

SAAS may be low on margin and may offer customers the ability to churn, but you are not subsisting just on subscriptions, are you?

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Landlords Who Make Money From Monthly Rents Alone And Offering Sub-par Service

May 182020
 
Cloudy

Photograph Credit: Fabrizio Conti

It seems redundant, and even mildly amusing, to write about the value of the Cloud/xAAS and what the technology can offer a business in 2020. It is not all rainbows and butterflies and there are down-sides to this upheaval, but it is not an exaggeration to write that Cloud – and all its morphed categories – has had a profound impact on the way we consume technology and derive daily value.

My teams and I worked at Microsoft in the early 2010s. Microsoft was introducing, launching, operationalizing and commercializing Cloud products like Office 365 (now Microsoft 365),  Azure, Intune and others and simultaneously shifting millions of customers from on-premises Dynamics and its BPOS and Lync services (anyone remembers the play for time strategy that was “software-plus-services”?) to the new Cloud offerings. The time-line was aggressive, quotas and targets were nearly insane and there was so much to do and propagate both internally and externally.

One critical aspect of this was to drag the partners along for the ride. Famously, some 95% of Microsoft’s business transacts through a reseller of some sorts and bringing them along was imperative. Part of the trick was to get ‘pull’ demand from end-users, which is a time-honoured Microsoft drill. With billions of dollars and millions of customers flowing through thousands of partner resellers the stakes were high.

This is fodder for another post, but there are many ways a company, and not just Microsoft, can monetize an ‘as-a-service’ model. Subscription is just one of them. More of everything is another. Connections (commonly known as APIs), an ecosystem and reporting services are others. It is critical to enforce and reinforce the model among the partner base of the company because most companies are not in the position of doing it themselves. They either have traditionally relied on ‘resellers’ to earn money and ‘channel’ their offerings or newly need the expertise and scale of a channel to make the business work and stick.

With that in mind here are steps on how to launch and maintain, as well as examining the factors needed to improve, a Cloud Channel Partner Program. In the process the main thing to keep in mind is that a good traditional Partner is not necessarily a good Cloud Partner. The revenue model, the production of services and the consumption of the benefits follow a different trajectory. Microsoft, SAP, Sage, Salesforce, Oracle and others all pursue and accommodate for this to some degree and at varying degrees of success.

Photograph Credit: K Mitch Hodge

Without further ado here are the elements years of selling and managing Cloud teach us are imperative for a Cloud Partner Program.

Pull.

  1. Do not exclusively rely on the ‘Push’ model. The ‘Pull’ or demand side needs consideration, work and marketing. The benefits’ statements, the buyer personas and messaging needs to be revamped. While most IT companies relied on selling to the technology folks it was a rude awakening when they found themselves flanked by Salesforce, which had pulled the rug from under their feet and knocked on the doors of the Sales and Marketing departments. Is the product ready and able and have all the commercials been vetted from an end-user perspective? Sage threw in ‘free’ goodies to convert customers. In all weather conditions – Cloudy or not – the customer experience is critical. Multiply that by a magnitude for a changeover and successful conversion.

Renew.

  1. Can your partner work with and articulate consistent technological change? Cloud solutions are always on and always being modernized. Can your partner keep up with this change and the defined process for handling, absorbing and passing on this knowledge between vendor and partner and partner and consumer in practice? These aforementioned factors fall in place only if you have asked for and received true buy-in – then verified it. With that in place the partner, as your organ and megaphone, needs to be vetted as it was when the partnership was initially instituted.

Commercials.

  1. What about a scalable commercial process? Is your reseller/partner/ecosystem in-tune with the revenue delivery model? Are the definitions completely and verifiably understood and rigorously followed? This change management is critical. As distinct, but related, companies the Channel and you are joined at the hip, but are separate entities. There can be no decoupling now or anymore. Have you thoroughly defined and coached the channel on how this whole thing works? At Microsoft everyone was consumed with pushing material, collateral, training, business justifications and methodology out to the ecosystem. People fanned out to partners of all grades to make the change and happen and stick. Crucially, and let us be frank, Microsoft succeeded no small part because much of the early adopter business was bought by another name. Call it MDF, Co-op dollars, training allowances, financing services and complementary ISVs, call it whatever.

Profit.

  1. This one is the easiest to articulate so I will keep it short: As with any partner program how will your Channel make money?

 

There is another point that I deliberately left to the bottom of this post. In the early days of the SAAS model many observers and pundits laughed at the Channel and predicted its demise. In fact, what time and experience has shown us is that partners are suitable for this brave new world. No one is laughing now. It is just that a different kind of partner is desirable.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Launching And Shoehorning Cloud Partner Programs Without The Necessary Preparation. It is better to skip the approach and sell directly absent the footwork.

 

money-on-computer

Photograph Credit: rupixen

Feb 192020
 

… What is the difference between Sales and Marketing? My last post discussed Social Selling and Marketing.

Well, what is the difference between Sales and Marketing? Most have a fairly good gut feeling regarding the difference between sales and the marketing fields, but defining the demarcation line is somewhat trickier. Most know, for example, that Marketing is a degree at universities and colleges while Sales is not (link to courses) and, perhaps just by sheer force of practice at this stage, Sales has become defined as customer facing while Marketing has managed itself into a back office role, but where does one end and the other begin? Is there a clearly defined border? Why do they often speak about the departments and professionals as separate and distinct? In order to contrast the two we can draw a distinction.

 

Think of Marketing and Sales as a linear process with Marketing at the beginning and Sales picking up in the middle. Marketing’s job is to create interest, obtain leads and turn these into prospects for the said goods and services. Sales has to take the baton of these leads and prospects and turn them into paying customers. Defined as such, salespeople running goods, services or territory campaigns are marketing. By extension, Marketing is focused on a market comprised of a larger audience than Sales focuses on. It is a funnel and Marketing is the top and Sales is the narrow bottom part. One can see how Sales is more intimate and closer to the customer, but reliant on Marketing.

Marketing and Sales have one goal, are the continuation of one another and cannot be successful without one another and yet it is amusing and amazing that at many companies they are separated, segregated and do not even know one another. A friend of mine who works at the Marketing department of a bigger company cannot even name a single salesperson at her company.

Marketing should bring prospects to Sales, which in turn, assists the lead to a transaction.

Both should measure and track their activities, but that is a different post.

The two share a common goal: to sell the organization’s goods or services and complement and complete each other, but they are two disciplines clearly practiced by two sets of people with differing skills and temperaments.

Photograph Credit: Domeckopol

Things That Should Go Away: Sales And Marketing Employees Being Like Two Planets Orbiting One Another Without Ever Relating

Feb 092020
 

 

The problem is many salespersons, or their managers, see the word ‘selling’ and mechanically assume certain behaviour has to follow. Social selling begins with social marketing and should be implemented as such. One cannot skip Baltic to get to Boardwalk. Social selling is undeniably a sales technique and one of the tools at the disposal of the modern sales organization; however, for it to function it should be treated as relationship building with a long tail. Given the tools of social media, the seller learns about the habits, likes and lives of the prospect and gets to work being helpful and relevant. For example, if the prospect is ‘liking’ a certain type of charitable action online then the seller can bring opportunities to be involved and help with the cause to the prospect’s attention. Perhaps the prospect shows a keen interest in a certain vertical or industry. Then it makes sense to share insights or experiences within that industry with the prospect. It is about bonding with the person. The salesperson can be on the lookout for questions the prospect poses and bring answers to the table. In other words, one is not selling a good or service initially; one is selling a relationship and connection by being relevant and helpful. It is by giving value that one hopes to elicit value. It is by showing expertise that one hopes to elicit a favourable picture of oneself as a worthwhile advisor.

 

Photograph Credit: Helloquence

The key here is that knowledge of the needs and wants of customers is finally available in such a way that the keen and observant salesperson can micro-target his or her efforts in a relevant way. It takes consistency of course, but customers are typically advanced in their buying cycles before contacting sales nowadays and, as such, their social activity may be providing an early view of their buying intentions. Listening and reading is learning and gaining a tactical advantage. It is a spectacular method of researching one’s prospects, targeting customers and customizing the approach to leads and potentially even monitoring prospects’ and competitors’ interactions.

Contrast this approach with what often passes as social selling: someone connects with or follows a prospect on social media. Then soon enough comes the request for a conversation or a demo or a meeting and that after one ‘like’ or whatever and nothing more. The sales pitch is crude and not taking advantage of the facilities of social media.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: The New LinkedIn Contact From Yesterday Has A Demo For You

Jan 312018
 

Not every sale requires a presentation, but most do and that has led to an abundance of wasted time. And boredom. And the audience checking e-mails and messages. And even more subsequent presentations.

Sales presentations are both over and under-rated. They are over-rated because most of them are about the seller and are the software equivalent of the “don’t hesitate to phone or e-mail me if you have any questions” line all salespeople use at the end of all calls with all customers (doh, you bet the customer already knows the obvious). Sales presentations, on the other hand, could be under-rated for their sheer efficiency and effectiveness to excite, motivate and move things along. The latter variety is the exception and needs preparation.

Photo Credit: Hans

How to do so? First and foremost a presentation is about the buyer. I repeat, a presentation is not about you the salesperson, your company or your way of selling it. It is about them, the prospect. The problem typically starts with the marketing and product management groups. Nothing against these important departments, but the stock presentations they generate violate the abovementioned rule. Then sales plays tag using the templated presentations and carries on with slide after slide of ‘who we are’ and ‘where we are’ et cetra.

Sales must resist the urge to dole out this information in favour of information relevant to the customer, its process, its buying habits and specific needs. Customers care about the seller’s information only insofar as it concerns their needs. The problem, however, often is that the correct information to be included in a pertinent presentation is not known to the salesperson. Either the salesperson has not asked/not dug enough in advance or the buyer has resisted giving the information out and the seller has copped out and not persisted. This is to the detriment of both the buyer and seller.

It is the job of the salesperson to ask the ‘why’ questions, understand the need, understand the customer’s buying process including MAN (Money, Authority, Need). This information should then be used in the subsequent customized presentation that speaks to the information the buyer would find valuable.

  1. Gather the information that is relevant to what the customer finds important (it is fair if as an expert you have data that similar customers have found useful and relevant).
  2. Know the ideal outcome (based on the concept of the buyer) that should follow the presentation.
  3. Create the presentation based on the above. Keep it pertinent, do not be copy-heavy and focus on the customer.
  4. Practice your presentation in advance of delivering it.
  5. Delete or shorten what is unnecessary. The less complex and the smaller the solution/product/service the more focused and succinct the presentation should be.

 

Addendum: in all cases do not think the ‘what’ is sufficient. Think ‘why.’ Why is this point important, why is this information offered and why did you decide to leave this text in your presentation when others did not make the final cut. Let the audience know. Do not assume they know or understand why you included something. Again, hint: you collected the context from the audience. As you can see the majority of the work was done in advance of the presentation itself. This is an investment, Explain to them that this text/bullet/page is there because as the expert in the product/service/pitch it is what you picked up from them and know it is important. Explain and elaborate the ‘why’ before you make your point so the context is clear before the actual point is given.

Here is an example: “Jane, Tammy and Joe you had mentioned that ten percent of employees use your current dispenser. I have included a point about adoption of our dispensers because their ease-of-use makes for a much wider adoption than what you currently see. We see this at all our customers and wanted to share the number with you. So here goes, as you see on the second bullet you will see eighty-percent adoption with our dispensers, which is key for you.”

 

While we are on the subject, and going back to the opening sentence, salespeople should not assume or insist on a presentation. If a sale can proceed without then by all means allow it to.

 

What are your thoughts? Click on ‘Comments’ and let me know.

*Things That Need To Go Away: We were founded in 1981, which makes us 37 years old and are located in more than 15 countries and over 20 cities. Let me tell you about our president and founders now…

Photo Credit: Robinsonk26

May 142017
 

The world has advanced much and there is a lot of useful and productive technology to work with and leverage whether it is an industry, company or individual that is the topic of discussion. This website has touched on many of them with much more to come, but this post is about good old fashioned customer service.

A good friend of mine Nissar Ahamed who runs the CareerMetis website e-mailed me reminiscing about a business, which I once had introduced to him. By introducing, I mean, he and I once walked over to grab an egg sandwich. He also picked up a coffee. It is a simple, and rather small, coffee stand in the PATH below King Street West in Toronto called Treats. The name is unimportant as is the location really. Down there one literally finds dozens of counters and shops serving morning coffee, banana bread, croissants and juice to passers-by on their way to work. Nissar dropped me a message saying how he misses the (non-descript, cramped, limited menu, with no name recognition, plain – these are my words) place. In fact, Treats is a mini-chain, but as far as companies go theirs is rather unknown and, as mentioned, the take-out only coffee shop is barely noticeable or stands out amidst the plethora of better-known and flashier competition. Nissar even mentioned that the Tim Hortons he now frequents (since his office location has changed) is no match for the old place.

Photo Credit: Nousnou Iwasaki

Now, you are asking yourself, what is so great about this bona fide kiosk that beats everyone else and puts a $3.5 billion company to shame? Is it the coffee? Is it the muffins? Is it the croissants? Could it be the egg sandwich they prepare? Is it the swift service or the bottom-less beverages? Perhaps they have the best banana and apples in the bowl ready for customers every morning?

The answer: none of the above. It is the… customer service. Oh, how… non-digital.

Grossly assuming they have 250 customers a day I made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that on average they have over 66,000 individuals to serve a year. Yet, the middle-aged East Asian couple who run the place will always smile, always thank you, always semi-bow or wave and seem grateful to have you as a customer. There is a glint in their eyes (don’t worry, inside sales professionals, there could be a ‘glint’ in the voice too). It is a small thing that costs them nothing and they do not have to do, but recurs day in and day out.

The result? Customer loyalty,  well wishes and a very small business that can stand head and shoulders above mega-chains, flashier competitors, cool businesses with Instagram accounts, advertising budgets, marketing departments and real-estate location managers. The experience and service there are tools in their arsenal that they deploy without presumably even meaning to and, in this day and age, the genuine care translates to word-of-mouth, loyalty and business.

What does interest one is how whether it is a cultural thing or an ingrained habit they seem to be unaware of their own behaviour.

It is a lesson for all of us in the sales game, management business, human-to-human interaction domain and for anyone who has noticed the world is being commoditized.  I once personally walked 10 minutes out of my way to get to the couple, walking past tens of businesses who could have sold me something very similar for a morning sandwich. The point is not the mere minutes, but the many other choices en route. I don’t even drink coffee.

Photo Credit: Mike Wilson

*Things That Need To Go Away: Assuming technology overcomes the need for cherishing and serving customers.

Nov 052016
 

Target Marketing is the concept of identifying interested and relevant prospects and introducing one’s goods and services to them through appropriate channels.

The key concept here is the adjective ‘relevant.’ However, wherever you look and whichever metric you measure it by this concept is a bust for the advertiser and the professional marketer. The failure of the concept, however, is even more dramatic when one contrasts it with the riches earned by the media and the channels involved.

Here are a couple of examples of the failure of the concept, which are directly related to the dearth of success in personalization as a key component of relevance:

The traditionally obvious example is your TV or radio set. They propagate advertising messages that are irrelevant or undesirable to the vast majority of their viewers. Here is the analogy: imagine if you had a $100 grocery budget every week and managed to waste $80 of it. In other words 80% of the budget is spent on items that end up down the proverbial drain or into trash. That clearly would be unacceptable, yet that is what is happening week in and week out (in TV and radio advertising, hopefully not your grocery budget). The 20% effectiveness rate may of course be quite exaggerated.

irrelevant

Enter the baron of personalization and relevance: the Internet. The web is the forum that leverages the magic of technology to render old media, well, old, and cure what ails marketing. A myriad of technologies have popped up to track the audience online and ensure relevance and effectiveness. Except let us actually examine the evidence. Here are two examples to which conceptually many could relate:

  • You are fifteen-years old and go on the Internet to watch a video of your favourite Montreal, Canada-based death metal band on YouTube. First, however, you have to watch a thirty-second video of an application called Grammarly, which is a grammatically inaccurate name for a company and namesake product that improves one’s grammar when applying for jobs, writing to a love interest or asking for a raise and other reasons.
  • You are a dutiful daughter who lives in an apartment and on a Saturday morning decide to order your retired mother a book on gardening from Amazon. The mother, you see, maintains a small garden behind her house as a hobby and a passion. Thereafter and forevermore – or at least until the daughter dumps the cookies and PIEs – she will see a selection of gardening books, tools and paraphernalia every time she visits Amazon (from the comfort of her twelfth floor pad).

The missed opportunity is not just in millions of wasted advertising dollars. It is also in the realization that there is an opportunity cost in not delivering relevant content to where it belongs and the potential for ill will. Does anyone not believe that annoying customers with impertinent advertising content is a wasteful marketing sin? Moreover, annoying potential customers can have a lingering adverse effect. Thousands of viewers were annoyed by Burger King years ago when the fast food chain’s commercials overlaid the live game during the world cup of football.

So, what needs to happen on the Internet and the coming universe of IOT? There is the promise of cognitive analytics to give tooth to target marketing, but fact of the matter remains that as of today the potential is unrealized. What then? The answer: give users options. The use of the word ‘option’ is deliberate and used as a contrast to ‘choice.’ Users do not have a choice given how not accepting cookies, PIEs, location-based tracking or registering renders many websites unavailable or useless. Instead of insisting on personalizing based on an algorithm and software imposed on users let the user community have full control on the information exchanged and degree of trade off. Being upfront and blunt about the tracking and information extracted and giving users options to consent or deny whilst explaining what withholding consent may mean is the only results-oriented path. This, however, should never result in a lack of access or being denied service. Customers should be able to search the web, buy books and leave comments on a forum, as examples, without the force of being tracked and targeted if they so choose. The proportion of the population that does consent to personalization and targeted marketing should be able to do so in degrees and in a customized fashion. What that means is the power to say ‘yes’ to tailored deals like those for metal band sweatshirts, but simultaneously and on the same platform, being able to say ‘no’ to grammar optimization apps (and 1,000 other equally unwanted ads). Another option, of course, is to say no to all of it: age, gender, income, location, the lot of it.

The down-side and why this is not done? A much smaller proportion of the audience will opt in. Marketing and technology have to live by the sword and die by the sword of results.

The up-side? The information provided by consenting users is much richer, pertinent and likely to lead to marketing success.

In other words, no more annoyingly immaterial gardening books being pushed to someone living on the twelfth floor while pretending relevant ads are being consumed.

mismatch

*Things That Need To Go Away: Claiming Customer Benefit As A Euphemism For Ensuring More Sales