Archive for the ‘Coaching’


Battling the 57%: From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank

Don’t be put off by the title. This might not be what you expect.  And sometimes that’s the point.

There is a lot of nuance behind the 57% statistic – the CEB research that says buyers are 57% through their purchase cycle before they contact a supplier – and there are things you should do before, during, and after, the 57% point, if indeed this applies to your business.  (I promise I will get to the romance shortly.)

I think it is important to reflect on what the 57% really means and the limit of its impact. It is getting a little out of control. (I have organized a webinar on March 25 to dispute/clarify/de-bunk/resolve a few of the myths.)  What is obvious is that you want to be in a position where you can educate the customer before they get to the 57% point. But let’s say that your buyer has indeed progressed 57% through their buying process before they contact you.  What do you do?

If the buyer is 57% through the cycle, then they will most likely have a preference for someone. If it is you then you might have a short sales cycle. Perhaps their search has been truly unbiased and you are now part of a short-list. But if their preference is for a competitor, you will need to change the criteria they have used to get this far.  Redefining customers’ purchase criteria is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor.  In the TAS methodology we refer to this a Flanking Strategy – and that gets me to a story I read in the December 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank.

Pfizer launched Viagra (the erectile dysfunction drug) in April 1998, with a record 600,000 prescriptions in that month alone at a price of $10 per dose. Pfizer created an entirely new market on the basis of one key criterion of purchase: efficacy. The drug got the job done! By 2001 annual sales had reached $1.5 billion.

Not long after that Cialis entered the market. Whereas Viagra was effective for four to five hours, Cialis lasted up to 36 hours, making it potentially much more convenient for customers to use.

At the time, the key criteria that physicians considered when prescribing were efficacy and safety with a combined relative importance of 70%. Duration had a relative importance of 10%.

The marketing team behind Cialis decided to emphasize the benefits of duration—being able to choose a time for intimacy in a 36-hour window, and set the price higher than Viagra to underscore its superiority.  The new criterion of purchase – marketed as romance and intimacy rather than sex – caught on. A BusinessWeek article reporting on an early positioning study stated, “Viagra users who had been informed of the attributes of both drugs were given a stack of objects and asked to sort them into two groups, one for Viagra and the other for Cialis. Red lace teddies, stiletto-heeled shoes, and champagne glasses were assigned to Viagra, while fluffy bathrobes and down pillows belonged to Cialis. In 2012 Cialis passed Viagra’s $1.9 billion in annual sales, with duration supplanting efficacy as the key criterion of purchase.

Flanking – redefining customers’ purchase criteria – is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor; you will undoubtedly have a powerful competitor if you truly only enter the deal 57% of the way through the process. To flank successfully you need something to flank to (i.e. your competitive UBV that the customer cares about) and someone to flank with (i.e. a supporter with the buyer’s organization who will help you navigate the last 43%).

I will discuss this and ways to avoid the 57% trap altogether on the webinar. I would love if you can join the conversation.

 

 

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Helping the Front-Line Sales Manager – It’s All about Rhythm

About once every six months I have the privilege of hosting some of our customers at our Customer Advisory Board meeting.  At these meetings we always learn a lot about how Dealmaker is being used to drive sales performance.  I am just back from San Francisco where we had gathered together a group of sales leaders to discuss our future plans and to get their input on how we can serve them better.

One of the topics we frequently discuss is the critical role of the front-line sales manager.  It is well understood that this important link in an organization’s sales ecosystem is a high-pressure role, but one that can be highly impactful when leveraged.  To help frame the discussion we had crafted a framework for the rhythm of a sales manager’s business.  The people in the room thought that this was helpful, so I thought I would share it with you.

(If you are interested in this topic we are hosting a Front-line Sales Manager webinar on Tuesday, February 25 with two of our customers; Salesforce.com and Shaw Industries. You can register here.)

One of the key observations is that effective sales managers can balance short-term current revenue activities (represented by your current forecast), with the future business pursuits (represented by your pipeline).  We endeavor to support both of these tasks with our Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight product, so we do have a vested interest in fully understanding the dynamics and efficacy of these competing motions.

temp-fcast-pipe

When most sales managers wake up every day they are concerned about the deals on the table right now.  Good sales managers triage the opportunities focusing where they can win and applying resources accordingly.  But at the same time they struggle with how to coach their teams, strategize future initiatives, ensure their teams are effectively enabled, worry about success at their existing accounts, hire and on-board new reps, performance-manage those existing reps who need help, liaise with marketing to help fill the funnel, and feed the corporate machine.

 

temp-cadence

 

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The chart here is a sample approach that you might consider.  The first column generally represents hygiene-factor activities but need to stay on the list.  Column 2 includes the most high-yield activities and as you move left to right you want to stay focused in the middle of the chart.  The last column is a necessary evil and can be almost completely off-loaded to technology. Spending time here adds no value to your business.

Our experience would suggest that if you can develop a rhythm in the business, balancing the important with the urgent, you will be more successful, particularly if you can off-load the management of the machine to someone else and leverage technology to automate as much of the reporting as is practical.

I am concerned about the current trends towards unguided use of analytics to ‘help’ the sales manager, and I have written about that before.  The experience of successful practitioners would suggest that sales domain expertise embedded in a structured business rhythm removes much of the friction.

 

 

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7 Principles for Individual Sales Success

You should only read this if you believe that your level of success is largely up to you. Yes, it’s impacted and influenced by external events, but it’s not your sales manager, employer, customer, product, partner, bank manager or religious leader who ultimately determines your destiny. It’s you, and in difficult selling times, that’s the first principle that you have to accept.

There are few professions where the inner strength of the individual protagonist is as critical as that of an individual salesperson. During each sales call, you put your own credibility – and that of your company – on the line. Most likely, you are the primary arbiter of success or failure, and you always face the risk of failure or rejection. But when you win, the sense of achievement and personal gratification are amplified just because you are always putting yourself out there.

There are 7 principles that winners exhibit more frequently than others.  These are not best practices, processes, methodology, or selling skills – but rather personal choices that you control to define your personal purpose – the ‘why’ you do what you do.

1. Ambition: To achieve your ambition, you first need to be very clear as to what it is. There are two main questions you should ask yourself;

  1. “Do I know what I really want to achieve?” and
  2. “Is my goal ambitious enough?”

A ‘shoot for the moon’ goal is a wonderful motivator. By figuring out your personal outrageous goal – conceived in a moment of suspended reality – you see what might be possible. Then you can plan to achieve that ambition by breaking it down into attainable and realistic steps. Winning sales professionals do this in small ways every day as they strategize how to maximize revenue from an account, or win a specific deal. Then it is the art of the possible, planning the realization of the ambition.

2. Commitment and Resilience: How badly do you want it? Will you stay the course? Invariably you will see seemingly ‘lucky’ people for whom everything just works out. Evidence of their hard work is sometimes hard to see. Enduring hardship is frequently the bedfellow of success, so you’ve got to be committed to your goal and both resilient and relentless in its pursuit. When you continue to do the right thing, and stick with it, good things invariably happen.

3. Honesty and Integrity: These are two of the least understood, and most under-valued, personal and business assets. A reputation for being honest or having high integrity is priceless. It brings trust and openness, deeper relationships and more productive engagement. Trust is ‘truth delivered over time’. It is hard to win but easy to lose. The sustained value of these assets cannot be overstated.

4. Inquisitiveness and Learning: In sales, as in life, it is better to be interested than it is to be interesting. You need to be inquisitive and curious about what matters to others and less focused on what ‘interesting’ stuff you have to say. When you have earned the right – you can then be interesting.

If you are in the right job/company/industry, being interested in your customers’ business/industry/market comes easily to you. You have a natural passion for what you do, choosing to continuously self-improve. Without this passion to learn, you will find it hard to be naturally inquisitive. Then you’re possibly in the wrong job/company/ industry – and probably stuck in mediocrity.

5. Empathy and Perspective: Without Empathy you can’t possibly appreciate what’s important to your customer or your own support team. Remember the last time you complained about your marketing / product department, ‘I just don’t understand why we never seem to get … [Insert leads, new features, competitive analysis, better pricing]. Usually when you start a sentence with ‘I just don’t under stand why …’, it’s usually just that – you don’t understand. Arrogance is usually bred from ignorance, and that’s never pretty or productive. Consider the other Perspective.

6. Vision: Innovation and Leadership: Ambition without vision is dangerous and usually counter-productive. Vision elevates ambition to a higher place, one where your insight, founded on innovative thinking and thought leadership (informed through Inquisitiveness and Learning), propels you to the front. (There is another V for Velocity – click here to learn more)

7. Enterprise: You’ve got to work hard, really hard, no really, really hard. Come up with the right strategy to fulfill your ambition, and then through your own initiative and resourcefulness, determine how you best execute your plan. Unless you have the requisite Commitment and Resilience you won’t reach the uncommon heights you’ve visualized in your ambition.

When you put these principles together – Ambition, Commitment, Honesty, Inquisitiveness, Empathy, Vision, Innovation, and Enterprise – you can choose to A.C.H.I.E.V.E. your goals.

It really is up to you.

 

 

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A little sales dashboard humor

dogberts-consults-dashboards

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You know it matters that the data is accurate if you want to understand how to improve your sales performance.

Here’s a Slideshare that shows you how to figure out how much you sell by focusing just on the Four Levers of Sales Velocity (aka Forget the Pipeline!)

It’s not all about the size of your pipeline.

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7 Principles for Successful Sales Leadership

One of the perks of my job is the interaction I am privileged to have with so many great sales leaders. During the beta phase for a new solution we just launched (to help sales managers understand the potential vulnerabilities in the sales performance of their teams), I had more intensive interaction than usual with a number of sales leaders.  Going beyond the challenges of the front-line sales manager, which is really the problem that Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight helps with, I was struck by some common principles that seem to be consistently applied by those sales leaders who are at the top of their game.  Here is my synthesis of those conversations.

1.    Lead with Purpose:  Your team cares less about what you are telling them to do, but more about why you are asking them to do it. With a shared understanding of where you are headed together, you can more easily collaborate and communicate.  If you can articulate a higher purpose than just hitting the targets – they know they have to do that without you telling them – they will understand the ‘why’ you are taking the direction you are taking, and that is always more powerful than the ‘what’.  When ‘why’ is understood, the team has a better chance of figuring out the ‘how’.

2.    Set High Standards – Hold Everyone Accountable:  Inspire your team to execute to the best of their ability – every time. Every single internal and external interaction matters.  It reflects on your values if you let poor practices develop without instant intervention. Slow response to a customer, casual email communication, bad manners to internal colleagues, poor quality proposals to customers, or arriving late or unprepared to a meeting, all let you (and the whole team) down.

3.    Write the Plays – and then Play them Right: Sales strategy is relatively easy. Constant execution and sales discipline is harder, and separate the great from the mediocre.  From business development through follow-up after the sale, the overall sales process (or go-to-market strategy) will contain milestones, trigger points, best practices, disciplines, and specific recommended tactics. Writes the plays, and then ensure that they are rigorously adopted, every day.

4.    Be the Role Model: As a sales leader you will undoubtedly have other things on your plate distracting from your core task. De-prioritize these time thieves.  Spend your time on exhibiting to your team how you are holding yourself accountable to the high standards that you have set.  Lead from the front. Execute your plays. Remember, you are in charge.

5.    Be Prepared to Rebuild: If you don’t have the team you need, you must be prepared to re-build. Always be recruiting and building a bench. Just like nurturing prospects for future business, the sales people that you want to hire are probably not immediately available the first time you connect with them. Start the conversation early.

6.    Prepare to Win: Winning doesn’t happen by accident. It usually happens when you are better prepared than your competitor.  Methodology helps, but systematic planning will equip you to deal with situations that arise without warning.  Deal reviews, account plans, sales process refinement, smart sales software, are tools you might use. Once the game starts they are usually on their own and it is then too late to help your team.  You need to prepare them in advance to win.

7.    Embrace Change Methodically:  The business world continues to evolve. Buyers change. New competitors emerge. Economic stability fluctuates.  Responding to change is never easy – particularly when things are already going well. When things are going badly you might feel the need to press the restart button. In either case you must accept two constants; (1) you need to make this quarter’s number working with what you have today and (2) what you have today will need to change just in time to serve your needs tomorrow.

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Surprise Your Customer

Flying from Ireland to San Francisco on the way to Dreamforce 2013, I was thinking about a session I was going to deliver. It was important. It was the first of 10 sessions we were involved in at Dreamforce and I wanted to kick it off well.  It was also the first public showing of our new Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight solution, so I felt the pressure of a product launch.  The session had been over-subscribed to the extent that it had to be moved to a larger venue, and still it sold out. No pressure.

The plan was that Joe Ryan, the session host, and product manager at Salesforce’s Work.com business, was going to talk about Work.com and the capability for partners (like The TAS Group, Xactly, Hirevue and others) to extend Work.com and the Salesforce Chatter profile in general.

That’s where I come in.

Joe would intro me “And now I’d like to introduce Donal Daly, CEO of the TAS Group, ….“, and I would come on go … “Hi, I’m Donal Daly with The TAS Group” (the audience knew that already – a waste of 5 seconds), “and The TAS Group’s unique combination of sales methodology and smart software has been helping companies like HP, Salesforce, Autodesk to grow revenue by …” (are you yawning yet? Seriously, I want to know).  Zzzzzz.

So, as I thought about this, somewhere over Greenland, I thought to myself, “You know that is not the way to do this.” This is an audience that will sit through hours and hours of sessions at Dreamforce – hopefully many of them ours – and they don’t need the standard “Hi, I’m Fred from XYZ,  we leverage the power of the blah, blah ….”.

So, as British Airways 285 left the coast of Greenland and continued on towards the east coast of Canada, I challenged myself to come up with a whole new intro; one that described our unique value in a way that the audience would remember amidst all of the noise at Dreamforce, and then I remembered a conversation that I had with one of our customers just a few days earlier.

No surprises“, Rob said. “What I love about what Dealmaker does is that it means we have no surprises; Surprise wins, surprise losses, surprise competitors, surprise price pressure, surprises in the forecast, surprises in the pipeline.  They are all bad and a waste of time. Now, because we plan better, and bring more value to our customers, and Dealmaker keeps us on track, we don’t get caught off-guard as much, and that’s why the revenue is up.”

Surprises. We help our customers avoid sales surprises.

The best way to prevent a surprise is to create one, and the best way to create a surprise in sales is to bring uncommon value to your customer.  We try to do that for our customers and help our customers do that for theirs.

So, go ahead. Surprise your customer.

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10 Rules for Great Sales Coaching

Over the last number of years I have given a lot of thought to Sales Performance Management.  I think that most experienced practitioners and observers recognize that the front-line sales manager is the key to scaling sales performance. But it is a really hard job. And if sales managers are in fact the linch-pin of the sales organization, then when sales management fails, sales fails. Bouncing from task to task, managing up, out and wide, getting to the important tasks often suffers under the pressure of the urgent. One of the important tasks that get relegated to the ‘I-know-I-should-do-it-but-I-just-can’t-get-to-it’ bucket is sales coaching. I thought that I would share some thoughts here on how you might make what every coaching time that you have most effective.

But first, some facts:

  • According to SEC/CEB, Coaching can improve sales productivity by 88%
  • Per Gallup, when sales coaching is effectively deployed, customer loyalty increases by 56%.
  • This is not surprising given that in a recent report from CEB, 53% of customers see the ‘Purchase Experience’ as the primary driver of customer loyalty.
  • Sales Management Association conducted a study looking at issues that are “important to sales force success” and examined the resource that was applied to those initiatives.  Sales Coaching stands alone, as being recognized as being important but not getting the attention it deserves.
  • According to a separate Sales Management Association study, most sales managers are spending less than 5% of their time on sales coaching. Perhaps given all of the time they are spending on all of the other activity, perhaps this is not a surprise.  But it is still worrisome.

We looked at why Sales Managers don’t coach, and saw a combination of (1) the lack of time, and (2) uncertainty about what to look for as two of the major obstacles.  As you would probably expect from me – I believe that technology and smart automation has a huge role to play in resolving both of these issues to empower the sales manager to (a) understand the vulnerabilities in his/her team and (b) provide coaching to help the team members improve.  (Disclosure: This is precisely what we do with Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight.)

But it is worth stepping back to consider what good coaching looks like:

Here are my 10 Rules for Great Sales Coaching

(I want to thank all of the experienced practitioners who contributed/validated/improved my work in creating a list and then reducing it to a manageable number of just 10!)

 

1. Collaborative:  collaborative

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Coaching should be a joint process. It is not about the manager telling the sales person what to do.  It must be viewed as connected to a shared positive purpose, with agreed expectations and suggested preparation.  You may jointly want to progress a deal, learn from a loss, or review strategy – but the emphasis needs to be on jointly – it must be a two-way flow.

2. Regular Cadence:cadence

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Coaching should be embedded in how you manage your sales business. If centered around deal reviews, assessment of account plans, discussing a sales process, coaching should not be viewed as an event.  Regular, scheduled coaching sessions will develop a consciousness and familiarity with the process that will grease the wheels and make each coaching session less challenging and more productive.

3. Consistent Framework:  framework

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Consider, for example, a Deal Review.  You should create a consistent framework that the sales team is familiar with.  You might start with an overview of the deal, allow for clarification questions, identify risks and vulnerabilities and then brainstorm solutions and strategy.  Do it the same way every time and it will flow more easily.

4. Apply Buyer’s View:buyer

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In truth there is only one perspective that really matters, and that is what the customer thinks.  Remember that the impact on a customer of a bad buying decision is typically greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal.  So the sales manager, or others in the coaching session, should take the perspective of the buyer. Honestly answer the question: “If I was the customer, would I buy from us?”  It’s a great lens to use to focus your thinking on what the customer cares about.

5. Look for Evidence:  evidence

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Always look for evidence.  When presented with comments like “Joe Smith really likes us,” or “We have strong compelling event,” you should always respond with questions like “How do we know?”  Be clear about the evidence of customer action that helps support those assertions.

6. Elicit Critical Thinking:thinking

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The role of the coach is to elicit critical thinking from the sales person.  Start with “If we were to lose the deal, or fail in this account, what would be the top three reasons?”  Then, when these risks have been identified, allow the sales person to come up with their own answers.  This critical thinking is a muscle that can be developed with progress.

7. Praise Good Insight:  good-insight

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People respond to praise – particularly in front of their peers.  If you don’t acknowledge or recognize valuable contribution, you are less likely to get that same contribution again.  You audience will think either that you don’t get the value – or think that you are too important (in your own mind) to respect their opinions.

8. Be Objective & Curious:  curious

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As Albert Einstein said, “Never stop questioning.”  Remove any bias that you have about account, the opportunity or the sales person.  Remain objective and seek the truth that will serve you all.

9. Don’t Take Over:  no-control

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It is not your job to close the deal, be too prescriptive on strategy or directive on the next action.  Don’t feel that you are the only one who can call the customer, or do the research, or plan the account.  You are trying to develop new behaviors and that only happens with practice.  Don’t take over.

10. Document Actions:document

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If the coaching session was worth doing, then it is worth recording what happened, the insights you learned, and the actions that were agreed, and then follow up.

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10 Things Every Sales Manager Should Know About Sales Performance (Infographic)

Thanks to our friends over at Work.com for helping us with this infographic.

10 Things Every Sales Manager Should Know

 

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The data in this infographic is based largely on the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study.

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The Four Phases of Customer Evolution

There are only four customer phases, and all customers will be in one of these at all times.  There are many erudite articles written about the interdependence between sales processes and buying processes, but – being primarily focused on new customer acquisition – many miss a critical consideration; The Four Phases of Customer Evolution.

Customers go through three Growing Phases and one Dying Phase.  You should understand the phases and particularly the reason why customers more from the Growth Phases to the Dying Phase.  The critical thing is not just to recognize which phase they are in – that is fairly obvious – but to understand that if they are to become a customer, then they will inevitably morph from phase to phase.  It is only a matter of time.

The four phases are:

  1. Prospect
  2. Customer
  3. Loyal Customer
  4. Former Customer

The fundamental substance of all the management theory, strategic advice and best practice writings about customer management, key account management or account planning any should be to accelerate phase transition through the Growing Phases; phase 1, 2 and 3, and then decelerate the inevitable transition to phase 4, the Dying Phase.

 

Here are some facts to chew over:

  • The cost of new customer acquisition is 500% that of customer retention
  • Increasing customer retention by 2% equates to decreasing costs by 10%
  • Reducing customer defections by 5% can increase profitability by up to 125% (depending on industry).
Source (Leading on the Edge of Chaos – Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy)

 

The Road to Customer Defection

Before you read the rest of this section, I want you to consider two different scenarios. Each is real, and I hope you will easily identify with them both.

Scenario A: In the first scenario you (or your company) are selling a product or service to your customer. This scenario should be real and should relate specifically to your existing company.  Stop and think for a minute about why prior customers have stopped doing business with you.

  • Why have they left you or your company?
  • What do you think are the top three reasons?
  • Write them down – now, before you play out the next scenario.

Scenario B: In the second scenario; you are the customer.  We might all be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a supplier – but that is not always the case.

In this scenario you need to think about the last time you (or your company) decided to stop doing business with a particular source.

If you take a personal perspective on this, that source might be a restaurant, a clothing store, a hairdresser, an online bookstore, an airline, or an online community.   From the perspective of your company, the source may be your stationery provider, IT services supplier, sales trainer, telecommunication equipment vendor, or any one of the many other options.

Combine the personal and company perspectives (if you have both) and write down the top three reasons why you defected.

If you are like most people, the answer to Scenario A will start with price or product features, and the answer to Scenario B is more likely to be more focused on ‘how I was treated’.

The problem is that in the real world these two scenarios converge and the disconnect between what suppliers think and the opinions of their customers send their relationship hurtling from a Growing Phase straight into the spiral of the Dying Phase.

Why do customers leave?  The reality might be different than you think.

According to Rightnow Technologies (now part of Oracle):

  • 73% of customers leave because they are dissatisfied with customer service, but companies think just 21% leave for this reason.
  • Company thinks that nearly half (48%) leave because of price, when in fact, according to the customer perspective, this happens only 25% of the time.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support these findings. According to their research:

  • 68% leave because they are upset with the treatment they’ve received (Customer Service)
  • 14% are dissatisfied with the product or service

Serenade your customer

You’ve abandoned me. 
Love don’t live here anymore.
Just a vacancy
Love don’t live here anymore

The lyrics here are from the 1978 song Love don’t live here anymore by Rose Royce, an American soul and R&B group who had a number of hit singles in the 1970s.  While the reference to this song might be a little contrived – I’m a sucker for musical references – the sentiment is well expressed and relevant.

If your customers leave you, it is because they don’t love you, and that is usually because they feel unloved.  The reason they don’t love you is usually because they feel you have abandoned them. If there is a vacancy – your competitor will rush to fill it, and your customer will inevitably become a former customer.

It is hard to accept that the reason your customers don’t love you is because you have underserved them. It is much easier if you can point to price or product features as the determinants of defection.  That hurts less because you can convince yourself that there is little you could have done about it.

Ask yourself this.  If you knew that the customer was going to move from a Growing Phase to the Dying Phase, and there was nothing that you could do about price or product features, what actions would you take to serve them better so they would stay?

So what are you waiting for?  Write down your answers – and take action now.

 

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Carpe Tabulam – Seize the Tablet: The mobile sales force

[This is the second in a series on 6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales in 2012.]

The inexorable rise of mobile device ownership is one of the most significant changes in the business landscape that any of us has witnessed in our lifetimes.  In most developed economies in the world, practically everyone has a cell phone, an increasing number of which are smartphones, and the rapid growth of tablet ownership, pioneered by Apple’s iPad, is the fastest market penetration of any device we have ever seen.

The Mobile Landscape

Unless mobile is a core element of the strategic plan of any business, the business will face severe challenges over the next few short years.  For business strategists, marketers, sellers and buyers alike, mobile is becoming the hub around which business revolves.  And within the mobile landscape, we are seeing pointers to an app-centric (native or web-app) smart device with a slick user interface and multi-touch gestures as the horizon to which we are all heading.

As I write this in early 2012, it is not unreasonable to ask whether Nokia or Research in Motion (the makers of Blackberry) will survive the hyper-competitive environment that has been thrust upon them by Apple and Google (Android) devices.  Formerly titans of the cell phone market, Nokia and RIM are struggling to match the ingenuity and velocity of their more inventive competitors.

Nokia, struggling to reinvent its smartphone business around Microsoft’s Windows software, had a loss of €929 million in the first quarter of 2012 as sales plunged 29 percent because of flagging demand for its older Symbian smartphones. The loss, equivalent to $1.2 billion, contrasts with a €344 million profit a year earlier. Sales fell to €7.4 billion in the quarter from €10.4 billion a year earlier. The Nokia president and chief executive, Stephen Elop, said Nokia would accelerate its cost-cutting efforts amid what he described as a mixed response to its new Lumia smartphones with Microsoft.

For Research in Motion, it is difficult to see how they will survive as a standalone entity.  RIM’s stock declined 75% in the twelve months to April 2012, and in the enterprise, its core market, it is losing market share at a very damaging rate.  While email, instant messaging, and the other network services RIM provides its customers remain extremely popular with users and respected as first-rate technology, the company has struggled mightily to keep its BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook tablet products relevant in the face of increased competition from Apple and Google.

The other major casualty of the rise of Apple has been Adobe’s Flash. Flash is a multimedia platform produced by Adobe.  Flash has been the standard for adding video, interactivity, and animation to websites.  According to Adobe:

  • 98% of enterprises rely on Flash Player.
  • 85% of the most used sites use Flash.
  • 75% of web video is viewed using Flash Player.
  • 70% of web games are made in Flash.

But in 2010, Steve Jobs had the courage to question the applicability of the Flash technology going forward.  Jobs made waves and enemies when he banned Flash from use on all iOS devices.  iOS is the operating system from Apple.  Jobs was almost unanimously criticized by the industry.

After a largely public battle between Apple and Adobe, the latter capitulated in November 2011 announcing that Adobe is stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile and increasing their investments in HTML5, Apple’s recommended platform.

When you combine all of these data points, you can derive your own picture of how the short-term mobile landscape will evolve.  If you accept my hypothesis that mobile is in fact one of the most significant changes in the business landscape that any of us has witnessed in our lifetime, then you should consider what that might look like in terms of required capabilities for your business and the mobile platforms that will dominate.

In our own business, we’ve committed to delivering our Dealmaker sales performance application solutions in a mobile world; and, it is possibly interesting to relate how our customers’ opinion changed during the lifecycle of our mobile project.

In late 2010 and early 2011, when we first discussed with our customers their need for an iPad enabled Dealmaker, the interest level was only moderate.  Our customers indicated that they would indeed be looking at it in the future – but that it was not generally a topic that was urgent.  We listened to our customers, but also listened to our gut instincts. We took a view that if we wanted to maintain our leadership in the sales performance application marketplace, that we should invest ahead of the (mobile) market demand, and trust our instincts.  So we ploughed ahead with the technology investment to deliver a HTML5 based web-app that would operate equally well in a web browser on a laptop as well as on iOS (from Apple) and Android (from Google) mobile platforms.

Dealmaker is a complex product with a broad range of capabilities that help sales organization to sell smarter – to win more sales opportunities – through intelligent sales process, automated deal coaching and collaboration tools, and to manage better – through accurate sales forecasts, predictive sales analytics and deep account planning and management methodologies embedded in the software.  We decided that if we were to deliver Dealmaker on a mobile platform, then should go “all in” and provide all of these capabilities in the hands of the mobile sales worker.  This was not an insignificant task.

When we first showed Dealmaker on an iPad at a customer event in November 2011, our customers were very impressed with the capability, but were singularly unimpressed or surprised by the fact that we had undertaken this initiative.  These were many of the same people who, just nine or twelve months earlier, had expressed just tepid interest in mobile solutions for their sales teams. It was a  lesson in product management and the need to balance customer input and market research with informed vision – and we were happy that we had made the right decision.  During 2011, mobile solutions, almost surreptitiously, became a baseline requirement – fueled by a ubiquity that caught many people by surprise.

The evolution of the mobile-centric economy

At the end of 2011 there were just over 327m mobile subscribers in the US.  That’s in a country of 315m people.  What are they doing with those devices, (apart from following Lady Gaga on Twitter)?

Well, for most of us, our mobile device has become an extension or part of who we are, plugged in, and always on, in an increasingly connected network.

In the first three months of 2012, Verizon Wireless, the largest cellphone services in the US, reported that fewer customers joined its service compared to the same period in 2011.  The predicament for carriers is that because most people who want a cellphone already have one, their subscriber growth has been anemic. That was the case for Verizon, which said it added 734,000 subscribers in the first quarter, 16 percent fewer than a year earlier.  However, Verizon still managed to post a profit of $1.7 billion for the quarter, largely because of the fees that customers pay to watch videos, browse the Web or play music over Verizon’s network on their smartphones and tablets. Revenues generated from mobile data services were $6.6 billion, up 21.1 percent.

According to estimates by Cisco, by 2016 there will be 10 billion mobile Internet devices in use globally in a world where the population is projected to be 7.3 billion.  In that same time-frame, smartphone traffic will grow to 50 times the size it is today, according to Cisco. To cope with this increasing demand, all the carriers say that they need more spectrum, the government-rationed radio waves that carry phone calls and wireless data.

As an example, in Verizon’s case, to get more radio waves, they made a deal in December 2011 to buy spectrum licenses from a consortium of cable companies including Time Warner, Comcast and Cox Communications, for $3.6 billion. (T-Mobile USA and Metro PCS, smaller wireless carriers, have urged the Federal Communications Commission to block the deal, claiming it would put too much spectrum in the hands of the nation’s largest carrier.)

And just in case we were unsure about mobile being the hub of future Internet traffic, Facebook paying $1 Billion dollars for Instagram is another data point to consider.  The three-day sprint to the deal started on April 5, 2012 when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, picked up the phone and asked Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram to meet. At the time, Systrom was just hours from signing a deal for a $50 million venture-capital investment that would put a $500 million value on his company, which had just 13 employees and no revenue.

Instagram makes a smartphone “app” that lets people take photos, dress them up with special effects, and easily share them with friends. In the first three months of this year, its user base nearly doubled, to about 30 million, the company said at the time. After Instagram released a version of its app for phones powered by Google’s Android software on April 3, the user base shot up again, to around 35 million at the time of the Facebook deal.

Mark Zuckerberg was particularly concerned when he saw millions of people signing up for the Android app, people familiar with the matter said. One concern: Facebook was falling behind in mobile as younger start-ups were innovating more quickly.

Knowing your mobile customer

The market that we serve is business-to-business (B2B) sales organizations. The promise we make is that we can help our customers to increase revenue and gain more predictability in their business through our Dealmaker solution.  We believe the unique value we deliver is the result of combining two disciplines; (1) intelligent software applications and (2) deep sales methodologies. Innovation is at the core of our efforts and the Dealmaker intelligent software platform is the engine driving revenue growth for our customers.

To deliver on our promise, it is critical that we can view the market through the eyes of our customers – and in the context of mobile, we need to understand how our customers themselves can deploy mobile solutions, and how their customers are using mobile in their day-to-day interactions.

If you are a sales person, sales leader or business leader, then you should join me in seeking a deep understanding of how to make your sales person’s interactions with their customers more effective. How will she and her customer communicate, learn, and engage, both internally and externally?

The short answer is that the business world in which they operate is: always on, increasingly connected, and peppered by frequent interruptions.

Attention span is short.

Instant gratification carries a premium.  Information is plentiful, but effective analysis of that information is lacking.

Yesterday’s news is a valueless currency as we use our mobile devices to learn about business happenings, world events, and personal activities in a torrent of up-to-the-minute information flow.

- o – o -

A business thrives when it can influence its customers’ thinking in a positive way.  In order to do that, the business must first understand how the customer wants to interact, before the sales cycle, during the sales cycle and after the sale. To change the mind of the customer you first need to get inside it, and understand what is important to the specific profile of target buyer that you seek to influence.

According to Pew Research, smartphone usage in February 2012 is most prevalent among the 18-29 age group, 66% of whom own a smart phone, followed closely by the 30-49 age group (59%).  Other key indicators of smartphone usage are the level of household income where smartphone penetration is at 68% among the $75,000+ income group; 60% where users are college educated; and men (49%) slightly outpace women (44%) when it comes to smartphone adoption.

The accelerating pace of change

And as I mentioned earlier, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Looking just at the last ten years, we can observe the rate at which different technologies were adopted.

Starting with Apple’s iPod in 2002, it took nearly a year for Apple to reach the milestone of a million units shipped. RIM’s Blackberry actually outpaced the iPod in 2002 reaching that threshold in 300 days.  In a continuing move towards increased mobility, the world embraced netbooks in 2007 and bought one million units in just six months.  The time to achieve this level of penetration has continued to shorten and Apple’s iPhone took just 70 days in 2007.

When the iPad was released a whole new market opened up and in just one month, a million users were experiencing  new ways to consume information, browse the web and interact online.

The tablet phenomenon has outstripped everyone expectations. At this point in time (April 2012), 20% of all US adults own a tablet device. Propelled by an unparalleled user experience, increased bandwidth availability, and a drive for instant access everywhere, tablet ownership almost doubled between December 2011 and January 2012.

When the iPad 3, or New IPad as it was called, was released in March 2012, Apple shipped three million units in the launch weekend, making the time to reach a million less than one day!

The number of iPads now been sold by Apple is outstripping laptops sales from any of the traditional manufacturers.

Conclusion

As we reflect on how to equip our sales teams to interact with their increasingly mobile customers, we need to consider how they learn, how they use our business systems, collaborate, and communicate; all through the lens of a mobile worker.  Using an iPad (or other tablet) in a sales meeting changes the dynamic of the meeting. The psychological barrier that accompanies the traditional sales person presenting from behind the lid of a laptop goes away. Customers become involved and reach for the sales person’s iPad to run the presentation themselves, or, in a software demonstration, they often want to take control and see what happens as the swipe, tap and pinch.

Workers leave their iPad sitting around on their kitchen table, always on, always connected, a portal to their corporate information systems, their daily news sources, or their learning environment.  Skype or Facetime calls from iPads, iPhones or other similarly equipped devices puts video interactivity just a tap away, and new and more intimate communication norms are emerging.

As you develop your strategies for your sales force in 2012 and beyond, I’d encourage you to ask yourself if you’ve considered whether you’ve adequately factored in this unstoppable force.  Are all of your systems fully mobile-ware? Can new hires learn about your company, your products, your customers, and your target market from their mobile device?  How much have you thought about the shortening attention span of learners and users alike that accompanies the mobile mindset? When your managers seek to support and coach their direct reports, can they find the information they need on their mobile device, and collaborate with them in that mode?

Most new technologies go through two phases of adoption; the first is when we find new and better ways to do things that we already do, and the second – and definitely more exciting phase – is when we uncover things that we can now do that we could never do before.

Now is the time to Carpe Tabulam – seize the tablet.  (I’m sure the Latin scholars out there will correct any inaccuracies in my grammar.)

As ever, I’d welcome your comments.

[The next post in this series will explore the impact of Social Networks on selling.  If you want to be notified of new blog posts you can always subscribe at the top right of the blog here, or follow me on Twitter @dealmaker365]

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