As mobile technology becomes ever more pervasive, enterprise sales managers have realized that having access to the right data, 24/7, no matter where they are, is an incredibly powerful tool for their sales teams. If it delivers the right business insights to the user, high-performing organizations can use mobility to increase deal size, decrease sales cycle timelines and profitably improve sales activity, according to Selling More with Mobile Solutions by Accenture.
The CSO Insights 2012 Sales Performance Optimization Study found that 97% of companies are actively using or starting to use tablet devices in their sales organization—and just about every business now realizes the upside of mobile. But a big problem for many companies is that they don’t have a targeted strategy for how their salespeople use smartphones and tablets, and nothing in place that will effectively drive mobile adoption so they can integrate is as part of their official workflow. To drive mobile selling, you need an app that can help salespeople:
Many enterprise apps struggle to gain adoption because many sales people can’t identify the big incentive: something that proves to their sales force that using mobile for more than just phone or text messages will win them more deals. Using personal business analytics on mobile means that salespeople have access to critical business insights at their fingertips—so no matter where they are, they can understand how to engage their customers about the critical events that are affecting them as they happen, helping them improve relationships, win more deals and drive more revenue.
A colleague in sales sent me a blog post by Mike Troutman the other day called, “Hey Marketers, Don’t Forget Your Biggest Customer.” In it, Troutman says that sales teams feel forgotten by marketers—but, as the marketing communications person here at FirstRain, I know how much time we in marketing spend trying to push content out specifically for the benefit of sales. And I know from talking to others in the industry that this disconnect is extremely common—and the implications of it are staggering to behold: 70% of marketing material is never used by the sales team, although 84% of marketers have uploaded collateral to their CRM. And 51% of sales teams say the biggest time waste in their day is trying to find collateral.
Setting my personal situation aside (I’ll deal with those sales folks later …), while reading Troutman discuss how salespeople are trying to find material they can use to drive more revenue, I couldn’t help but notice how similar that is to the challenge sales people experience in trying to find information they can use to find more opportunities, spot risk and really understand a customer’s business. Much like the salespeople in the article looking for usable collateral, many sales reps these days waste an incredible amount of time searching for customer insights that are really actionable.
In the content arena, Troutman notes that usually marketers just upload content to their company’s CRM, send an email alerting the sales team that something new is available, and that is that. That method assumes that “each salesperson has been trained and is competent in search and retrieval of collateral,” and the organizational structure of how the material is stored isn’t necessarily conducive to all users’ style.
The same is true with trying to find customer insights—but even more so. They’re out there, but throwing the salesperson into Google to find information that is relevant to them assumes that he or she is “competent in search and retrieval” of information. Even if he is particularly adept at search, the Web is just too big to see everything he needs to, and there’s too much noise for them to find the needle in a haystack they need to understand what drives their customer. To be able to drive more revenue, they need a solution that delivers relevant, timely customer insights that are personalized to the accounts they care about most—without them having to work to find it.
That’s exactly the problem that personal business analytics solve. The areas of interest are personalized to what they need to see and understand in order to drive more revenue. Customer insights from across the entire Web and social media are packaged up and delivered directly to the rep to the places they already are, whether that’s the company CRM, their email, or on their mobile device—whatever works best for them.
Personal business analytics deliver the sales teams “what they use and what is effective” and “reduce the time it takes to locate content”—the key things Troutman says marketers need to do to help their sales reps be more efficient and productive.
In this day and age, where widespread distribution and globalization is a given for enterprises, just knowing who is selling in a particular geography isn’t enough. We see with our own customers in industries like manufacturing that a major shift is needd in how data are used to make decisions. In fact, as DISC Corp.’s Herm Isenstein points out in The Art and Science of Sales Forecasting in the Electrical Market, “in what sense is supply equals demand meaningful when we know distributors are located in nearly 1,400 counties and that… end customers are located in about 3,100 counties?”
Isenstein is talking about the electrical supply industry in particular, but the same principle applies to any company that sells into many different geographies. With distribution so broad, it’s foolish to assume that buyers in drastically different markets have the same buying triggers, problems and priorities—their demand is almost undoubtedly different. Isenstein says in his piece, “Identifying demand is the most crucial element for measuring performance where the action takes place, at the trading area level.” And that’s why, in order to increase sales and sales productivity, it’s important for sales reps to know what the demand side is thinking in their specific market.
It would be extremely difficult to find the detailed information a sales rep need to be able to understand a specific trading area without one pointed, go-to source, and in many organizations today, reps are sifting through hundreds of noisy sources, making them less productive than they would like. More than ever, it’s important for sales productivity and forecasting accuracy to be able to understand what buyers in a particular market are saying about a certain need or problem they have, because it will help them be more effective during customer meetings and more accurately forecast their sales.
Personal business analytics allow users to see trends the particular market/s they care about, as well as understand what their end-customers care about. For a company who has sales across the country (or the world), being able to personalize what a rep sees means they’re better able to discover opportunities on the ground in their particular market by understanding what that market cares about. Because we’re acutely aware of these dynamics, FirstRain customers experience tailored, relevant information through personal business analytics—delivering the information that Isenstein believes sellers need, but can’t currently get.
Most company executives know they need to jump on the big data bandwagon. They understand that having access to big data analytics can help them raise sales productivity, and so they’ve sourced a solution to take advantage of gathering and indexing their internal data. Maybe they’re even enlightened enough to look outside of their own sales data into the wild, wild Web for information on their customers.
But is the data they’re collecting really helping their employees? In an enterprise—and even within the same sales organization—it’s unlikely that employees will all benefit from the same business intelligence. A sales rep is unlikely to care about the buying activity of another account; and a VP certainly doesn’t have enough time to look at every customer and prospect in great detail (that’s why they have sales reps and account managers in the first place!).
It’s well known that if someone doesn’t find a product useful to them personally, even if it’s a great product in and of itself, they simply won’t use it—and that’s not helping sales productivity, which is the reason it was introduced in the first place. But what if they could customize the product to fit their needs exactly? The same holds true for big data: for data to be truly helpful to each and every employee, the business intelligence has to be personal.
Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between what an SVP needs to know versus what an account manager needs. According to Anthony Iannarino on SalesGravy, his number one non-personnel focus is ensuring a healthy pipeline. To do that, he is focused on:
The sales rep, on the other hand, is involved in the nitty gritty:
It’s clear that the two have very different priorities, so giving them the same information is not only inefficient, they won’t use it—so it won’t be effective. By giving each of them business intelligence customized to their needs, however, allows each of them to target what’s most useful to them. The account managers can see their target accounts and geographies to help plan out their next sale, and the SVP can strategize a more informed direction of attack, raising the sales productivity of the entire organization.
Shortening the sales cycle can lead to an improvement in sales productivity. The shorter your sales cycle is, the more prospects you will be able to reach. On the other hand, shortening the sales cycle can be a monumental task, which may have to begin with reassessing your entire sales strategy.
1. Define Your Sales Strategies
In an article for Salesforce blog, Jason Jordan describes the importance of creating common definitions for sales terms. Until your team members are all operating under the same expectations, it will be difficult to make these procedures more efficient. Do all your people have the same definitions for company-wide sales processes? You may be surprised. Jordan describes an experience at one firm where two sales managers had vastly different pipelines because they had different opinions of what types of leads should be entered into them. These kinds of discrepancies can lead to confusion among sales teams. Neither method was wrong, but the inconsistency was causing problems. Make sure all your sales reps define and qualify leads the same way.
2. Eliminate the Junk
Most sales reps talk about qualifying leads, according to Tibor Shanto in a Salesforce blog. However, when you’re trying to whittle down your sales cycle, what you really need to work on is disqualifying leads. It’s often more efficient to focus on eliminating the prospects that aren’t going to convert so you can focus on the ones that will. This may require more work as well. While you’re defining a consistent sales strategy, also think about a procedure for getting rid of weak leads. As Shanto puts it, if you mistakenly eliminate a good lead, you will always be able to give them a second try. Your time, however, is a precious resource that you can’t get back.
3. Define Objectives
Shanto also notes that businesses are quick to pounce on solutions that help them avoid negative consequences or situations. While many sales reps pitch “solutions” this very term implies a problem that buyers probably don’t want to think about. The best way to demonstrate your product or service’s ability to solve this problem is to provide a measurable objective that you can help them meet. Rather than telling your prospect you can solve X issue for them, avoid mentioning the problem entirely. Instead, tell them you will deliver X objective. Put it in positive terms. In order to do so, however, you’ll have to do a fair amount of customer research. Determine the prospect’s needs and what their market looks like. Making it easy for prospects to say “yes” shortens the sales cycle.
4. Aim High
Aiming your pitch at decision-makers can cut some time off of the sales cycle if done correctly. Most sales reps tend to play it safe by calling someone at a lower level and getting the message passed up to higher management slowly. However, since these individuals don’t actually have the buying power, negotiating with them is often a waste of time. In Inc., Mark Suster suggests that reps aim even higher than the decision-maker. Instead of reaching a project manager, aim for the CEO or CTO. They will likely inform you that they aren’t involved in the decision, and will pass the query down to the person who is. However, the high level executive will probably have the power to prioritize the project. On the other hand, these individuals will also be able to shoot down the project immediately, allowing you to disqualify them as a lead. On top of these benefits, starting high can help you start to develop a relationship with the company. Before making the call, learn as much as you can using customer intelligence so you know how to make your pitch in a way that will make them respond.
In today’s hyper-growth, rapidly changing markets, companies diversify for many reasons. Maybe you are trying to expand into a new market, or have launched a new product. No matter what, you need to strike a balance between gaining net-new customers and expanding your footprint within current customers—and one of the most important things you need to have access to is in-depth, reliable customer intelligence.
Although you may have a lot of data points on your current customer, chances are you are probably not an expert on the different business lines of the company, go-to-market strategies, or specifically what their executive focus is. If it’s a new client in a new market or industry, then they will likely have vastly different challenges and care-abouts than what you’re used to.
To improve your sales and marketing efforts—and successfully enter a new market—you need customer intelligence “but transaction data doesn’t improve the customer experience unless you combine it with some other data to learn something new and useful,” according to CIO.com author Allen Bernard (@CIOUpdate). What large enterprise B2B companies have found is that by using a particular practice of Big Data, personal business analytics, you can have even more strategic conversations with customers by gaining true insight into their business—not based on click data, but reflective of the customers own voice and needs. You learn valuable things, including:
Going into a new market blind rarely, if ever, ends well… so take advantage of the customer intelligence technology that’s now available to you and your teams. Make sure you’re always learning something new and useful that will lead you on a successful path.
Many people about how to make a good first impression, but not as much about a second impression. Why even worry about a second impression, though? No matter what situation you happen to be in, forging a professional relationship is often a multi-step process. Whether you’re coming in for a second job interview, or making a second contact with a prospect, the second impression is just as important as the first. While you may have been lucky enough to impress them the first time, you need to follow through once more (or multiple times) before totally winning them over.
As Tim Sanders puts it in an article for Oprah, the first meeting is often about gauging surface details like likability and basic skillsets. The next meeting will hone in on your competency. When gaining the trust of a potential client, you’re going to have to meet them multiple times. Learning to make a lasting second impression could be the key to improving sales productivity. Here are some tips for meeting with a business colleague or prospect for the second time:
Keep Discussion Centered on Them
Thinking about this in terms of a social call may relieve some of the pressure. When you’re going over to the neighbors’ house for dinner, you should ask them about themselves. A business situation is similar: you want them to know their industry is important to you, so you have to ask a question that demonstrates you’ve been keeping up with their progress online or in the media. Make sure you’re doing customer research between meetings so that you know of anything relevant you can bring up. While it’s tempting to fill any lull in the conversation with small talk, this is the ideal time to guide the direction in a more constructive way. According to Geoffrey James for Inc., a good question would be something along the lines of, “I saw on your blog that you were at the Worldcomp conference in Vegas this year. Did you see any innovative products that caught your eye?”
Another way to start off the conversation on the right foot is to reference your last meeting, according to Sanders. If you learned something poignant or important from your last meeting with the prospect, bring it up again. Ideally, you will have taken down notes during or after your first meeting so that you can retain this information.
Talk About Why You’re Meeting For a Second Time
Not too long into this conversation, you’re going to have to drive toward the heart of the matter. If you scheduled this meeting, it’s time to explain why. Don’t be too blunt, but don’t wait too long either. If you’ve brushed up on your customer research, it should be fairly straightforward to explain what you’d like to tackle.
Listen hard while they are talking, see if they give you something you can use to relate to the customer research you did and guide the conversation organically towards your product or their problem point. Odds are, they’ll give you an in. If not, make sure you’ve responded to their story about Worldcomp conference before diving into your pitch. Make your point quickly, and give them a chance to respond.
When you contact this person for a second meeting, try to let them know exactly how much time you expect it to take. This shows you’re respectful of their time. Once you’re on the way out the door, thank them again for taking the time to talk to you.
Lead qualification can be a point of tension between sales and marketing teams. Sales reps often claim the marketing team doesn’t give them high-quality leads, while the marketing team argues that sales simply isn’t following up on the best leads they’ve been handed. Sometimes the problem is simply that these departments’ definitions of what makes a qualified lead are misaligned. On the other hand, the problem could be a misunderstanding of what qualities can predict a lead’s likelihood to buy.
Cut Down On the Noise
Some established companies have more leads than they know what to do with. By finding a better strategy to weed out the most unlikely leads, business can significantly improve sales productivity. Imagine a world where you can easily identify the junk before you devote too much time nurturing a lead that has no chance of converting. This world is possible, but will take some time and research.
Turn on the Lights
When your teams are stumbling around in the dark, it’s impossible to coordinate marketing and sales effectively. With a customer analytics platform, these departments will have access to the same intelligence data, including market events, mergers and introduction of new technology. Once the two teams are looking at the same information, they can gain a better awareness of what qualities are good predictors of a qualified lead. B2B Lead Blog suggests doing research to determine a correlation between leads and current customers to further identify the signals that your company has a good chance of making a sale. Once these two teams have a more complete picture, they can start coming up with better definitions for sales and marketing-qualified leads.
Learn Who Your Customers Are
An article from Forbes demonstrates how big data analytics can improve the performance of marketing automation software by telling marketers not just what qualities will predict a conversion, but who the customer really is. What analytics actually enable marketers and sales reps to do is develop an understanding of a company’s attributes outside of just the numbers. By collecting intelligence from across the Web, including viral social media posts, sales reps and marketers can really construct a picture of what it’s like to work in a specific industry. Customer intelligence allows marketers and sales reps to go deeper. When marketers are able to look at their leads’ markets through their perspectives, they can create marketing campaigns that really target the right companies.
A customer intelligence platform can deliver the In-depth information marketers and sales reps need to improve their collaboration and increase sales productivity.