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. 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.

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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

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Oct 302016
 

CMO has a nifty infographic on Online Marketing (also known as Web Marketing or Digital Marketing – in a moment you will know why I added the acronyms with which you are already familiar) they have borrowed that I wanted to share.

It is informative, easy to read and connects the dots on how to attract visitors, affiliates and buyers on the web. It is well worth a study to find the components and understand the relationships among the various concepts.

untitled

However, to make it easier for everyone and create an even more unified set below you will find the definitions* for all the terms involved as well offering the components for each topic under them. So here it is above (image) and below (definitions) for everything you need this side of good content, which itself should be

  • long-form,
  • current and updated and
  • shared directly and, in turn, by influencers who received it from you directly or indirectly.

 

SEM: Search Engine Marketing is the purchase of advertising on search engines based on specific words or phrases input by the person using the website.

Tracking Codes: similar to cookies, these are a unique set of letters and numbers, essentially a code, which track users across the web for variables such as referring website, geographic location, keywords used and more. On a URL address the tracking codes appear after the question mark (?).

Bid Management: is the optimization of marketing spend on Internet marketing and advertising.

CPC: Cost Per Click refers to the cost to the advertiser every time someone clicks on one of its advertisements and is directed towards a designated web page. It is also known as PPC.

PPC: Pay Per ClickSee CPC

CTR: Click-Through Rate is the percentage or proportion of viewers who click on an advertisement on the Internet versus the total number of visitors to the web page who potentially view it.

Conversion Rate: a subset of CTR, this is the number of visitors who click on an advertisement and take the action desired by the advertiser such as make a purchase or register for an event.


Mobile Advertising: is advertising to customers who use mobile devices, which access the Internet. The metric is rising in importance as, according to Wikipedia, as much as 45% of Internet traffic stems from mobile devices.

Smart Phones: are mobile telephones, which have features that allow users to visit the Internet. The term is anachronistic as these devices increasingly do much more than allow for telephone calls.

MMS: Multimedia Messaging Services is one protocol for exchanging rich media over mobile devices.

Mobile Web Banner: pictorial advertising on the Internet which is designed to be best viewed on mobile devices.

Mobile Rich Media: these are similar to mobile web banners, which also feature audio and video.

SMS: Short Message Service is the protocol for exchanging text-only communication over mobile devices.


Inbound Marketing: uses content, relevance and channels to attract consumers to you. Relevant content blogging is one example of this type of marketing. Attractive Instagram or Pinterest images are other examples.

Leads: are persons, collectives or organizations which are interested enough in what you offer to show active or passive interest. The definition needs to be agreed to by all concerned at the company.

Sales: is the receipt of money or something of value in exchange for a good or service that is wanted or needed by the buyer.

Customers: a person or organization who buys or consumes another’s goods or services.

Improvement: is the act of making the activities of inbound marketing better.

Buy Cycle: the period of time and patterns of customers issuing buying commands.

Traffic: the number of visitors to a website and how often they return.


SMM: Social Media Marketing is the use of so-called Social Media (Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) websites to reach a desired audience.

Communities Online: are the users and visitors to websites which marketers target based on their particular interests.

Viral Marketing: is the type of marketing that through interest or innovation encourages users to pass on the message and advertising to other persons such as contacts.

Multimedia: is the use of audio, graphics and video in an interrelated way to promote a marketer’s message.

Mash-ups: is a web application, which presents content and features from more than one source to present a new system, advertisement or service. An example is the use of Bing Maps to locate specific type of retailers.

PR: the use of websites to promote one’s message. The websites could range from industry-specific websites to posts on websites like LinkedIn and twitter.

Conversion Rate: a subset of CTR, this is the number of visitors who click on an advertisement and take the action desired by the advertiser such as make a purchase or register for an event.


SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the process by which webmasters design and promote their websites to place nearer the top of search engine results thus attracting more visitors

Offsite Optimization: is the portion of SEO that happens elsewhere on the Internet. This includes having other websites link in, mentions, presence on Social Media and more.

SERPs: Search Engine Results’ Page is the specific page referred by a search engine based on the user’s query.

Backlinks: are links elsewhere on the Internet which point to the website in question.

Meta-tags: are a piece of code in the Internet’s language, namely HTML, that allows search to classify the website.

White Hat: refers to SEO techniques that are considered to honestly improve SERP and contrast with deceptive methods such as spam backlinks or including false descriptions in meta-tags.

Onsite Optimization: is the portion of SEO that happens on the website itself. This includes having visitors, mentions, coding, offering video content and more.


Web Site: is a collection of pages on the Internet or World Wide Web (www) that reside under one domain name.

URL: stands for the Uniform Resource Locator and is the alpha-numeric address associated with a website.

CMS: Content Management System allows for the creation and maintenance of the components of a website such as text, audio and video and their organization.

E-commerce: Electronic Commerce refers to the conduct of business on the Internet and could be as simple as the exchange of e-mails or a sophisticated purchasing and interaction engine.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is an Internet language which gives form to the way a web page is presented and with which sources it interacts.

JS: Java Script is an online and offline language that in the context of the Internet is used in conjunction with HTML to typically address the website’s interactions with its visitors and functionality. JS, among others, detects the browser, device or operating system used to visit it.

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor is a language for the servers on which websites reside. It allows for dynamics websites and operation.

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language is the default language of the Internet used to create web pages’ content and format.


Media: images, audio or video presented or distributed or consumed on the Internet.

Images: a digital picture.

Ads: attracting attention to one’s goods or services on the Internet.

Videos: including visual media on a particular website.

Articles: including text information on the website.

Banner: pictorial advertising on the Internet.

Slides: refer to communicating through a presentation on the Internet.

Comments: a program that allows users and visitors to leave comments on websites to encourage visitors and interaction.


Affiliate Marketing: is an arrangement whereby website owners share revenue with ‘affiliates’ in exchange for web traffic, sales, promotions or registrations.

Advertiser: is the website owner in the affiliate marketing relationship.

Pay Per Lead: also known as PPL, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on number of conversions or leads.

Cost Per Action: also known as CPA, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on a predetermined contractual action such as visitors or sales.

Publisher: is the person or organization that promotes a product or service belonging to the advertiser in the affiliate marketing relationship.

Pay Per Sale: also known as PPS, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on actual sales figures stemming from the affiliate. This metric has lower conversion rates, but is most ideal for advertisers whose goal is sales.

Affiliate Networks: is typically a middle-man or intermediary organization sitting between the website owners and advertiser and their publishers or affiliates. In exchange for a share of the revenue affiliate networks allow website owners to reach a larger audience and broader channel.


E-mail Marketing: is sending e-mails with commercial intent to either prospects or customers.

Landing Pages: is the web page a visitors arrives at based on clicking or responding to an advertisement or invitation.

Spam: also known as junk mail is the kind of e-mail which is unsolicited and often illegal.

B2B: short for business-to-business, this type of marketing is often more focused as it deals with the aim of commerce between two organizations.

B2C: short for business-to-customer or business-to-consumer, this type of marketing is often more broad as it deals with the aim of commerce between an organization and persons as customers. It is expected that B2C has shorter time span and is simultaneously quicker than B2B on average.

Clients: are customers (whether persons or organizations) or users of a product or service.

Links: often highlighted and underlined, links are pieces of code on the Internet whereby clicking on them allows users to jump to another web page or website.

Newsletter: or e-newsletter as sometimes called in Internet parlance, is a regularly or semi-regularly sent to actively communicate with prospects or customers.


Banner: is a graphic advertisement on a web page that is often clickable.

Adclicks: advertisement clicks are the number of times a form of advertising on a web page are clicked on by visitors.

Impressions: refers to the number of times an ad on the web is fetched by its ad server and sent to be viewed based on the presence of a viewer. Impressions, sometimes roughly called ‘eye balls,’ are monetized through the CPC or Cost Per Impression price.

Hover Ads: are web ads that hover over the page and are not dismissed by scrolling elsewhere on the web page.

Ad Server: is a server on the Internet which holds different ads for different participating websites and ‘serves’ them conditional on certain criteria such as the presence of visitors.

Content Ads: content advertisements are ones which offer more information and information than the standard ad aiming to persuade with an educational element. Other ad types are concept ads, which offer high production values, pop up ads and more.

Skyscraper: no surprise that skyscraper ads are vertical banner ads that run along the side of a web page.

 

 *The definitions are mine and offered, as much as possible, in the specific context of this article.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Intrusive, Invisible Or Opaque Marketing That Also Breach Privacy Rights 

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Jul 222016
 

How many lies, half-truths and jibs do you recognize? They are everywhere, right?

big Mac corporate lies Trump Lies

Many people will likely consider themselves smart enough to spot the above. What about sales-related information though?

Do you enjoy learning from the various statistics and infographics on sales you find on the Internet in places like LinkedIn, Twitter or sales blogs? Do you know anyone who takes these for granted, ‘likes’ them or quotes them? The folks in charge of the Internet sites have as much inclination to check facts as Pizza Hut has to supply you and I with nutrition.

One of the books I read years ago, which still sits on my shelf, was Trust Us We’re Experts! The book narrates real-life stories of experts and so-called scientists whose claim are factually inaccurate and whose facts are anything but. Think that is bad?

Here is something worse: when the experts and data sources do not even exist… they are all made up… and people like you and I rely on them, quote them and internalize them. Look at this one:

false-sales-information

The problem? The source for the depicted ‘data’ in unknown and likely non-existent. To start, National Sales Executive Association does not exist. Go ahead and check it.

So, the next time someone disseminates one of these icons with many neat and packaged data bites question the information and ask the person to take a second look. At the very least, we will all have more free time to learn something factual instead of wasting time being fed myths.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Quoting And Reposting Infographics And Articles With Dubious Source Material

 

 

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May 252016
 

On May 18th Bloomberg ran an article about Atlassian Software, whose sales last year topped $320 million and may reach $450 million this year, “without a single salesperson on the payroll.”

Here is the article: This $5 Billion Software Company Has No Sales Staff

This was not the first article out there on the topic and Atlassian. Others had also written about the company and its business model. An analyst also offers a cautionary note: “Though Atlassian counts more than half of the Fortune 500 as customers, no single customer accounts for more than 1% of revenue. In other words, no single client pays Atlassian more than $3.5M.” That suggests the company is hitting a ceiling in how much revenue it can derive from its customers.

This is not a rebuttal or an article that is designed to be contrarian. Like many other people I read the article with interest and appreciated a company whose product’s name, project management software Jira, is better known than the corporation behind it. Think Kleenex and Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. or Popsicles and Unilever. In today’s modern society, everyone and everything has to be justified and that includes sales professionals.

The article does note that the low sales (and marketing) expenditure came about accidentally when the company received an order off its fax machine. However, reading the article one could read into a little bit of a different story.

The company’s co-CEO states, customers “much rather be able to find the answers on the website.” That is, of course, much easier said than done. I am not referring to the power of search technology. I am referring to the power of finding, reading, understanding and not having any questions.

The company advertises. One expenditure cited is “mostly on ads.”

Another expenditure, and this is important so pay attention, is “payments to partners,” which is described as “one-fifth of that” presumably referring to the software firm’s revenue. Would it be wrong to assume partners exist to resell, the company has a channel as a model for leverage and scale and these partners have professional sales teams?

However, what was most interesting were the quotes from several executives like president Jay Simons who is quoted as saying, “lower prices and more investment in research and development to refine software, making it easier to try, understand, and purchase.” One cannot help, but notice that he, and others, are doing some selling here. He sounds like a good salesperson for his firm, doesn’t he? … Or is it just me?

What do you think?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Not Counting Public Relations, Media, Marketing Or Partners As Sales

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Apr 242016
 

How would you answer were one to ask you what is a hallmark of good branding? How would you respond were someone to ask you to cite an example of a successful internal organization?

Customer First Organization

The thought came to me when I realized that during the last fifteen or so years I have read about so many Cisco reorganizations that fact became fiction became legend which, in turn, became one melding into another. This is not meant to be an exercise in being an armchair expert, but the number of public, as well as less publicized, reorgs at the networking giant are widely known. Why mention Cisco? The changes are examples for inward looking organizational structures.
The most recent organizational structure has the company divided into the following divisions:

• Networking
• Security
• IOT & Applications
• Cloud Services & Platforms

One notes that the business is organized according to internal imperatives (development, engineering, marketing and fiefdoms probably) and not according to customer needs. It would indeed be the scarce customer, which would have a group or department dedicated to Cloud Services, which would be distinct and separate from IOT. The same applies to any other combination of Cisco’s four groups.
This is not a knock against Cisco, which certainly makes competitive products, or even an article about the Silicon Valley mainstay. It is about what the successful companies of the future should give thought to.
So, let us take a look at the quintessential success story of the day, namely Apple. What is Apple known for? It certainly is not divisions for computers, phones, mp3 players and operating systems. Apple is known for, wait for it, simplicity, elegance and functionality. These are things customers care for, garners their attention and for which they certainly pay extra. Moreover, all its products are sold under one roof. The Tiffany & Co. company is known for style and luxury. Customers are not expected to deal with a salesperson for earrings, another for gemstones and another for third party products. In fact, the salesperson-slash-concierge personally takes the shopper from corner to corner and ensures a seamless transition. Again, the experience is designed to be oriented towards what the customer would like and enjoy. Contrast that with HP where customers would have had to speak to different persons for printers, laptops, servers and so forth. It is no secret that HP’s star had been diminishing and the company recently threw in the towel by chopping itself into two. Ironically, the move may be a harbinger of focus and good things for the remaining parties, although past experiences do not bode well (does anyone remember Palm and 3Com, to pick a HP-related example)?

Capture

The Brand Pivot To Culture

We are here to hear an argument for creating a uniform culture that is focused on customers, for customers and based on employees winning when customers win. By definition, such a culture negates fiefdoms, internal divisions, competition and trains and rewards employees to deliver on the brand promise, but there is a catch. The brand promise too has to be focused on the customer

• Here is a brand focused on the customer: See Your Business In Our Software – Oracle (where I used to work)
• Here is another: Grow Your Company With Our Solutions – Fictional company
• Here is the reverse and one that is misguided in that it is inwardly focused: The Largest Distributor Of Cola

You see, customers do not care that you are the largest distributor of anything and least of all a certain brand. In contrast, companies do care what you can do for them. It should be about them.

Walking The Talk Of Culture

More critically, and this is actually important, there should be a supporting structure behind the outward and customer-oriented brand. Everything should be designed to support the outwardly focused branding. Aside from deliberate hiring, structure and the functional day-to-day work the company must absolutely insist on employees behaving as such. Companies must align pay, bonus and promotions accordingly. What is the sum total of the design just enumerated? Culture. A culture, which is the enabling structure for a successful company.
This would be a real shock to the system for companies, which foster internal competition, tolerate nepotism and turfs and reward managers who are in it for themselves and their egos.
However, if there is one thing you take away from this article it is this most important concept. The key is that the organizational culture will conform, follow and match what the leadership puts in place for the group. It is not about instilling the culture per se; it is about creating and moderating the enabling structures and guidance that points to the correct orientation. The analogy is that of children and their parents. Parents can say whatever they wish and could instruct their children as much as they want, but unless the walk matches the rhetoric the organization will never follow.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Arrogant Corporate Culture

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Mar 282016
 

EnterpriseAppsToday has a short summary of today’s leading ERP vendors. It is noteworthy that each listed vendor has multiple suites for different purposes with different names, but the website lists one specific offering per vendor. Interestingly, there is the comment by an analyst who dismisses other vendors in that fragmented market. He may have a point.

ERP buying Guide: Top Tier Vendors

The site also offers an interesting analysis of the CRM Market. The elephant in the room is the actual ROI of CRM and the user base’s resistance to the product. Is it too controversial to believe Microsoft Excel is the largest ‘CRM’ in the world?

CRM Market Leaders

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Ignoring vertical specialist ERP and CRM solutions

CRMERP

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Mar 142016
 

Wikipedia defines a Product Manager’s role as, “investigates, selects and drives the development of products for an organization, performing the activities of product management.” These activities include researching intended demographic, the products offered by the competition and how they fits with the company’s business model.

Product managers are the bridges between the company’s line items, developers and sales and marketing.

The job is both becoming more simple and more arduous at the same time. The advent of Internet and sources of research and communication at one’s fingertips have made the collection of data almost seamless compared to days of yore (a.k.a. 20 years ago). The same efficiencies have made the market that much more fast-moving and prone to shifts.

Elsewhere, the buying process has changed drastically. Buyers come to the table much better informed, less dependent on sales and marketing. The old spectrum and funnel definitions and directions do not apply. In such an environment it behoves any company to use the job function closest to the market and its customers. Who are these mystery people? Why the sales team of course.

This is why it is such a surprise that in an informal survey of my contacts in sales and sales management the grand total number of companies in which there existed a formal process of communication between sales and product management was…. One.

The market is more competitive, products are commoditized, customer demands and appetites are changing and changing more rapidly and alignment is minimal or one-way at best.

Should product management at all companies not have a formal, standardized and consistent standard for using the sales team as the company’s canaries in the mine so to speak?

Sales need product management’s assistance and input. Product management needs input from the individuals who are on the front lines and most exposed to customers.

Does your company have a formal sales-to-product management process?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Product Managers Who Have No Time For Sales

communciate udnerstand support

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Mar 062016
 

It is often noted that successful salespersons interact with the right employees of their prospects/customers.

What is less often discussed is with how many of these folk a salesperson should interact. The question is more and more relevant because decision-making is increasingly and more and more diffused.

IDC’s 2010-2012 survey has something to say about this question.

In a survey of IT buyers (see figure 8) customers/buyers report the following statistics when asked “How many people were on your buying team including yourself — that is, the group actively involved in influencing the short list of vendors considered and making the purchase decision?”:

  • Companies with 100-499 employees: 3 to 4 people
  • Companies with 500-999 employees: 4 to 6 people
  • Companies with over 1,000 employees: 5 to 7 people

multiple lanes

Noteworthy is that in two out of three scenarios the number of employees involved in making a decision is increasing.

What a salesperson needs to know is that buying is a collaborative effort. As such, not only a wider view of the process is needed the typical marketing funnel and CRM single-person view of leads is lacking in a broader view of how customers buy unless used by sales as a single strand in a larger weave.

sales funnel

*Things That Need To Go Away: Marketing and sales efforts, which focus on persons, contacts and a decision-maker and are not holistically geared at accounts i.e. multiple persons.

 

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Jan 112016
 

Several years ago I wrote about Not Competing On Price. Sales organizations are in an unenviable state of affairs where competition is more fierce than ever, pressure on sales margins is unrelenting and, due to both information overload and borderline fantasy marketing by sellers, customers are either blind to what sets you apart or, more likely, do not want to pick up enough cues, which would set you apart from the competition.

I say “more likely” because customers are in fact more informed than ever. Partly as a result, Gartner believes that buyers see their interaction with sales as their least valuable part of their buying process.

How should organizations and sales departments respond? Put another way, the question is, how do organizations and sales departments differentiate themselves enough to hold a competitive edge? The answer should be simple. Have a better product and convey the strength to customers already suffering from cognitive dissonance. Easier said than done of course. Where it exists sales must know it and articulate it. Among other things a sales process must become

  • Better aligned to the contemporary buying process, which means not being strict about the pipeline and funnel milestones as defined in your CRM
  • Offer more domain knowledge,
  • A much better understanding of vertical KBRs is a must because you would want to align it to the customer’s purchase
  • Moreover, support and maintenance are tangible factors that remain dissimilar across companies.

Notice that, given our dilemma, these are still non-product differentiators. To keep our feet firmly planted in reality we are not going to see sales managers measuring their salespersons differently. Why? Wall Street, Bay Street, whatever quarterly measuring street.

Where a competitive edge does not exist the price pressure is even more acute.

What to do when a customer sees you as a commodity? What to do when a customer sees you as one of many? The answer is ‘disruption.’ A seller has to disrupt current customer thinking through one or more of the below:

  • Know yourself. If you cannot educate your customer to your differences then you are at a disadvantage. Do you have superior communication and articulation? Either way, you must get better. Do you have valid reasons, experience and stories? If so, maximize their utility. Importantly, be careful assuming that your customer’s knowledge of you is perfect. What they may know may not match what you know. Check and compare.
  • Know your competition. Educate your customer on the competition. Do you know their limitations? Do you know how they are processing their sales strategy?
  • Know your customer. This includes their hot buttons, preferred relationship parameters and interaction style preferences and big picture. The last item implies that the seller could go beyond the point solution and make truly constructive suggestions to customers. The triangulation of engineering, marketing and sales becomes more important than ever. Is this wishful thinking? Quite possibly. Selling organizations are as resource and time challenged as buyers. However, the extra effort and fastidiousness is worth it.

All products being roughly equal, or being perceived as such, something has to give. It will either be the price or your non-product differentiators.

*Things That Need To Go Away: companies and sellers who cannot articulate why they have a raison d’etre.

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