Archive for the ‘Background’


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

…..

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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20 Facts about Sales Performance

At The TAS Group, we just recently completed a global study of sales performance.  The full report will probably be available by late April.  If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

The statistics are pretty revealing – so I thought I would share them with you now.

  1. 33% of sales people made quota in the last reporting period

  2. Only 52% of sales people say they can access the key players for a sale

  3. 39% of sales professionals say they are not able to effectively uncover customer problems, and

  4. 35% struggle with designing customer focused solutions

  5. 59% of sales close as originally forecasted

  6. Sales forecast accuracy jumps to 76% when sales methodology is applied well

  7. When the Sales function contributes to company strategy, quota attainment is 15% higher than when Sales is not involved

  8. Quota attainment is 25% higher when Sales and Marketing are aligned, and

  9. Win Rate is 15% higher when Sales and Marketing work well together

  10. 59% of sales reps are good at opportunity qualification

  11. 32% of sales professionals do not develop competitive strategies for their opportunities

  12. When competitive positioning is part of a company’s sales strategy, revenue increases by 30%

  13. 44% of reps are able to maximize the value of a sales opportunity

  14. Only 36% can maximize the value of their key accounts

  15. Salesforce.com has the highest % of CRM users with adoption > 50%

  16. TAS has the highest % of methodology users with adoption > 50% (We are very happy about this!)

  17. When methodology is integrated with CRM sales teams are 35% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% (As you know this has been my mantra for a long time!)

  18. The #1 reason why sales methodology is not used is that only some people use it.

  19. 60% of companies use a defined sales process

  20. Companies are 33% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% if they use a sales process.

We have analyzed all the data that we gathered – and it was a lot – and some of the insights are fascinating.  We are looking forward to getting this finished and published to share.

As I mentioned above – If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

 

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8 Steps to Effective Sales Methodology Implementation

There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that a sales methodology can dramatically increase the sales effectiveness of your entire sales organization, significantly increasing your sales revenue. The bad news is that not all sales methodology solutions are implemented well. There are few distinct topics in the world of the Sales VP that raise such polarized views as the effectiveness of sales methodologies. Sometimes the very phrase ‘Sales Methodology’ is enough to make Sales VPs reach for the Pepto-Bismol. On other occasions, sales leaders can point to successful implementations that delivered consistent revenue increases, and improved sales effectiveness.

In most cases where stellar (or steady) sales performance exists it is founded on well crafted and institutionalized selling processes, founded on a strong methodology, and customized to a company’s business. In other cases we’ve seen well intentioned executives make significant investments in Sales Methodology, Sales Process or Sales Training Programs, only to find sales representatives burdened by onerous processes that are too hard to use, and eventually just fall away.

We’ve put together this guide to help you become part of the winning crowd. Whether you choose to use the TAS Group’s methodology (which of course we’d prefer), or not, we do believe that you will achieve considerable benefit by adopting a sales process or methodology – but only if you are clear as to your objectives, what success means to your company, and what measurable benefits you plan to gain as a result of your investment.

Here we provide a list of what we believe to be some of the Critical Success Factors when adopting a sales methodology, including why we think they’re important. Also we have outlined a mechanism for you to consider them, and reflect on what achieving these CSFs would mean to your organization. We would encourage you to use this with your colleagues to score (and later rank) these for your own business and use them as you choose how to adopt a sales methodology. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you’re on the mark with all of these; then you’ve a much greater chance of success.

1. Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness

Any good methodology should help your sales team enhance their selling skills, shorten the sales cycle, and close more of the right kind of deals. Sub-optimal performance usually happens because of poor or late access to key decision makers, a failure to create value in the mind of the buyer, and/or when resources are wasted on opportunities that are not adequately qualified. If these issues resonate strongly with you, the methodology you select should have demonstrable models to show how they can be addressed.

Think about the impact that Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness could have on your organization and decide how important you think it might be as you choose your methodology solution.

2. Standard Sales Process and Common Language

Uncommon productivity results when a sales organization adopts a common way of selling that is understood, not just by the sales team, but by the rest of the departments that support the sales team. Sales representatives are speaking the same language as sales management. Marketing and customer support understand what is happening in the sales cycle, and there is a common understanding of when a sale will close.

How important do you think a Standard Sales Process and Common Language is for your organization?

 3. Adoption Rate: Ease of Use and Level of Sustained Usage

To achieve any real sustained benefit from a sales methodology it’s important that the sales person uses it consistently. We think the sales person’s perspective is as important as that of sales management to make this happen. Perhaps the question should be “What’s good for the sales person, what helps him increase his sales?”, rather than “Wouldn’t it be good if you got your sales team to do this?” If the sales person wants to use the sales methodology; isn’t it more likely that it would truly deliver value to him, and by extension his sales management. Spend some time on this issue. Seek out the average adoption rates of the methodology vendors’ customers. Look for tools that are powerful – yet easy to use. Seek out easy-to-use reinforcement tools that keep the methodology alive and part of the sales person’s everyday life.

Reflect on how important Adoption Rate, Ease of Use, and Level of Sustained Usage is to you as you consider investing in a sales methodology and score its importance to your organization.

4. Leverage Existing Investments: Integrate with your CRM system [Fully!]

If you use a CRM system, you’re already asking your sales team to enter their opportunity information. You’re asking them to work their opportunities in the CRM system.  We would suggest that it would then make sense that the methodology that you choose should integrate tightly with the CRM system, to amplify the benefits of both.  Let’s say you are using Salesforce.  You probably want to make sure that all of the data captured in the methodology application is inherently accessible to Salesforce reports, dashboards, and other applications.  When properly integrated, you do not have to worry about the security of a third party cloud, the data transfer issues that occur with non-native solutions, or the reliability of a third party hosting infrastructure.  Examine the relationship between the methodology vendor and the CRM vendor. Make sure they are strategically aligned – so that as you grow with your CRM system, your methodology integration can keep pace. This means that the learning and methodology can be available just-in-time and in context. As the sales person works with an opportunity in the CRM system, the methodology should be always present, just where the sales person needs it.

For your organization, how important do you think it is to Leverage Existing Investments and Integrate with your CRM system as you deploy a sales methodology?

5. Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy: Know when deals will close

One of the results of deploying a sales methodology should be a consistent sales process used throughout the sales team. When that happens you can remove much of the subjectivity from trying to assess when a deal will close if the methodology provides tools to convert qualitative progress into meaningful quantitative forecast data. Inaccurate forecasts can cause credibility problems for the sales organization, and real operational difficulties (cash management, production, etc.) for the business. If this is important to you we would recommend that you examine how the methodologies that you are evaluating meet this requirement.

What is the impact of inaccurate sales forecasts on your business? Is this a problem that you want to have fixed as part of the sales methodology implementation?

6. Gain Control of the Sales Process by Creating Value for the Customer

If a sales opportunity is real, the customer understands the need to change. He may not, as yet, have figured out the transformation that may be necessary, but an effective sales person, with the right tools, will guide him through that discovery and, through that journey, demonstrate evidence of his understanding of his customer’s business and his ability to create value for him. The methodology you select should provide your sales team with tools to support them gain control of the sale.

More than just assessing the health of the opportunity or defining the appropriate strategy, is your new methodology/process going to help you move deals through the funnel faster?

7. Customized to (the multiple sales functions in) your Business

Is the methodology you are adopting flexible enough to allow customization to your company’s way of doing business, or do you have to adapt what you do to fit in with the methodology? It’s important that a methodology brings structure, but not at the expense of how you want to run your sales team. The methodology needs to be prescriptive enough to optimize sales effectiveness while still being flexible enough to fit your business and support your business objectives. Ideally you should be able to have a common base methodology for your entire sales function, but yet be able to substantially tailor it to reflect the different needs of, for example, an inside sales team as well as a field sales teams, or a new business team alongside existing customer account management.

One of the strengths of a methodology is that it provides a structured approach. But can it be adopted to the rhythms of the different part of your business while maintaining that structure? You should rank this as important if you have small and large sales, new business and renewals etc.

8. Track Record of the Methodology Vendor’s Previous Implementations

The sales methodology market is very fragmented and served by a myriad of vendors. The success of an implementation is a function of the core methodology, how it is applied to your business, the implementation and after sales support, as well as the consultants or trainers who engage with you. We think there is always considerable merit in checking out the past record of your supplier, just as you should do when you are hiring a sales person. Ask about the preparation in advance of the engagement, the actual delivery and training, the experience post implementation, how well what was implemented is being used, and most importantly how it supports the core business objectives.

 

Where Next? – Get Internal Alignment

To really focus on what’s important to your organization, you might like to list the scores that you recorded for each of the questions, and then in the summary table rank which is most important to you. Pick the CSF that you want above all others and place 1 in the Rank column, then move on to the next most important and place 2 in the Rank column, and so on. If you share this exercise with others involved in the project it will help you achieve alignment, uncover what’s really important, and make success more likely.

 

Sales Methodology Implementation Critical Success Factor Summary

Topic

Score

Rank

Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness

                   

Standard Sales Process and Common Language

                   

Adoption Rate: Ease of Use and Level of Sustained Usage

                   

Leverage Existing Investments: Integrate with your CRM system

                   

Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy: Know when deals will close

                   

Gain Control of the Sales Process by Creating Value for the Customer

                   

Customized to (the multiple sales functions in) your Business

                   

Track Record of the Methodology Vendor’s Previous Implementations

                   

Other:

                   

Other:

                   

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Business, Customer, Method, or Quota?

I have observed something very interesting lately, that you may find enlightening. I think I always knew it – but only recently did I start to formalize it. It is a critical area of focus for successful sales people, and it might not be the one you expect.

Over the past year, I have been privileged to spend a lot of time speaking at sales meetings and other customer events.  During these sessions I always try to spend as much time as I can chatting with the sales people in the room.  These people are the reason why I am there in the first place.  Nearly every person I meet teaches me something about the realities of selling in their particular industry. As I move from company to company and industry to industry there are may differences in how buyers buy and consequently how good sellers sell.  However, as you would expect there are also many similarities.

As I observed some of those similarities I started asking the sales professionals I met how they thought about their job.  What was the one thing they focused on everyday? I gave them four options:

  1. Building their (personal) business
  2. Making their customer successful
  3. Applying a sales methodology
  4. Achieving their quota

Then I correlated their answers with their actual sales performance in the preceding year. I was trying to establish which mindset was most closely related to top performance, and whether one could indeed make a meaningful correlation.

Tom, Karen, Steve and Jim are good examples of each mindset.

  • Tom is an example of a rep who looks at his sales job as his own business. Every year he builds out his plan, sets out some goals and objectives, looks to identify obstacles and what resources he might need to succeed.  He updates his plan every quarter adjusting his strategy and tactics as he goes.  Part of his week is business development, he spends time working on the deals in his pipeline, and he leverages the other functions in his company to support his activities.  Tom is a reliable contributor to his company and is viewed as part of the team.
  • When a customer deployment clashed with President’s Club, Karen chose not to go to Club.  She wanted to be with her customer.  “It was the least I could do – they had trusted me with their business.”  Karen is completely focused on her customer’s success – sometimes to the frustration of her sales manager. “Karen will never push the customer to sign a deal at the end of a quarter if she feels the customer is not ready to do so.  But, her customers love her, and she is our number one or two sales person every year.”  Karen, like Tom, also manages her business in a very organized manner, but the customer is the absolute center of her universe.  She makes sure that she has enough in her pipeline that she never has to pressure a customer for a deal – and she always takes the long-term view.  “If I do right by them, they will do right by me.”
  • Steve is a methodology zealot – a true TAS fanatic.  He qualifies rigorously and is very disciplined in his pursuit of each sales opportunity. He will never be found chasing deals where he does not have a good Solution Fit for his customer and works hard to make sure that he has appropriate access to all of the influencers.  He defines a Competitive Strategy for every encounter and, because he works hard on researching his customers’ business he brings valuable Insight to every conversation.  When Steve pursues an opportunity his Win Rate is greater than 50%.  He joins Tom and Karen at Club most every year.
  • Jim knows his goal. He knows his compensation plan, and he knows his quota, and that is where he is focused.  He is a very capable sales person. “When I get enough opportunities from marketing, I can make my number. Without that, what am I supposed to do?”  Ken tries to ensure that is working on enough deals to make his quota every quarter, but will do little to find deals himself. He actively engages with the person in the buyer’s organization who ‘owns the project’ but does not sell wide or invest enough time in understanding the customer’s business.  He will frequently be found debating his targets and goals – though often will not make the Club trip.

In truth, Tom and Karen are very similar.  These are not sales people – they are in fact sales entrepreneurs. They too exhibit ‘role model’ behavior when it comes to disciplined application of sales methodology.  In nearly every case, Tom and Karen are the ‘A Players’ in their companies’ sales teams and need little external stimulus to succeed.

Steve is a great example of a “B Player” who has benefited from the investment his company has made in sales methodology.  There are many ‘Steves’ out there – in fact they are the majority of most sales organizations. Those who apply methodology achieve steady if unremarkable success.  Those who don’t, don’t.  This is an important coterie of contributors who deserve attention.

Unless something changes, Jim is past his sell-by date.   His innate selling skills are being applied in the wrong way. He can close deals – but only where a Frontal Strategy works.  He will sometimes convince himself that he is adopting a Flanking Strategy – because that makes him feel like he is being strategic.  In fact he usually does not follow through on the Flanking Strategy as it requires a change of relationship strategy as well as a repositioned solution. A singular focus on quota attainment without the requisite ‘business-person focus’ is no longer close to enough to survive (if it ever was.)  The sad thing is – Jim is really very capable, but without a change in his behavior he will at best be a ‘C Player”.  If Jim works for you, then it is time to help him,  He needs structure, discipline, coaching, and a guiding hand to help him build his confidence.

All of this points to a need to understand that there are many ways to succeed.  A focus on Business,  Customer or Methodology works. A singular focus on Quota without the other attendant behaviors doesn’t. You might want to ask my ‘focus question’ of  your sales team and act accordingly. The results could be very rewarding.

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A Blog Post (about sheep) for the Holidays

I don’t often post funny things – but given the time of year, and the fact that I have not posted in a while – I’ve been writing a book, more about that later – I thought that I would write this post to make you smile.

You never thought you could have this much fun with sheep! Watch the video right to the end – it is just a little over two minutes. I promise you will chuckle at least once!

 

IF the video does not display in your browser you can click here:

Now you did laugh, right?

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The Challenger Sale Debate – Is it missing the point?

There has been a lot a debate among the sales training / sales enablement community about The Challenger Sale from CEB’s Sales Executive Council.  Some of it has been cogent and balanced, but unfortunately a lot has been mud-slinging and poorly articulated or uninformed specious commentary that does not reflect well on the sales training industry. Most of the latter type has, probably predictably, come from those who might have good reason to be threatened by the seeming ubiquity or pervasiveness of TCS.  On the other hand, where measured arguments have been put forward, it seems that these originate more often from users, practitioners, or observers who acknowledge the value of TCS while wondering about its place in an overall sales eco-system.

I have read commentary from Linda Richardson, HRChally, Jonathan Farrington, Dave Stein, Tamara Schenk, Solution Selling, and others, and you can look at the links and judge for yourself who is engaging in productive debate, who is posturing to protect their own patch, and who is being downright unprofessional.   Methinks the latter doth protest too much!

Most of the anti-Challenger rhetoric seems to rail primarily against how the Sales Executive Council has presented Challenger to the market, and less about the substance of the TCS model, or the research behind its findings.  Many of the commentators take umbridge at SEC’s positioning of the findings as being new or noteworthy.  “There is nothing new or unique here” is a common cant.  Well, clearly that is not true: Otherwise TCS would not have captured the attention that is has, resonated as strongly with the marketplace, or evoked such a – sometimes vitriolic – response from those who feel threatened by it.

At The TAS Group, we faced similar criticism from some of the traditional sales training players when we introduced Dealmaker to the market.  We presented a view that effective adoption of methodology could only happen when supported by intelligent software and integrated into the daily workflow of the sales professional by combining the application of methodology with usage of the CRM. We were subsequently positioned by our competitors as only focused on technology, and we were questioned by the analysts as how we could maintain deep research in methodology and technology at the same time.  Well, that was six years ago, and the evidence suggests that we were not as misguided as some would have thought.   Now, although not everyone has the depth of technology resources that we do, everyone recognizes the need for software as an integral part of a sales performance system.  And, the advancements we have made in methodology during that time has served our customers very well.

I don’t think TCS is either perfect or a complete sales system, or a one-size-fits-all solution; nor do I believe that the folks at the Sales Executive Council think so either.  (By the way, I am struck by the fact that it is evident that many of those who are criticizing TCS had not spoken to the SEC before they expressed their views.)  A complete sales performance system requires everything from market planning to territory segmentation, account stratification, account management, opportunity management and sales process, all supported by skills and technology.

But TCS has a number of undeniable strengths.  It has done a better job of highlighting the need for greater sales and marketing alignment than many of its forerunners.  (I have written about that problem here, here, here, here, here, and here.)  With a level of clarity all too rarely seen in the industry, it has debunked the myth of the Relationship seller.  Where others represent it as arrogant that a sales person should bring insight, or being able to ‘teach’ the customer as being arrogant, I see it as a customer focused approach, and an acknowledgement that buyers are more informed and therefore the sales person has to prepare much more diligently.  It demands that the sales person work hard to understand their customer and the customer’s industry, and requires a level of intellectual capital that all customers should look for from their suppliers.   In my opinion, any effective sales person should be able to bring insights to her customer of what has worked elsewhere.  I think that is table stakes.

Through its membership community, SEC has an effective petri dish to test its approaches, before unleashing them on the market.  Their heritage in research is a matter of fact – not of opinion. While they still have a way to go, I would have hoped that constructive inclusion, a recognition of how TCS complements other methodologies, would have been the response, but sadly …

More importantly though, the success of Challenger – and it is unquestionably successful – points to a failure of traditional providers, particularly those who focus on sales skills.  The fact that TCS has been so quickly embraced points to a deficiency in the alternatives.  Otherwise why would there be a gap in the market for SEC?

Make no mistake.  SEC has done a remarkable job of positioning TCS in the market, and indeed is using the principles espoused by Dixon and Adamson in their book to effectively challenge the status quo.  Something is working – and the response of the detractors only validates the approach.

 

 

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Space

Space – no not the Star Trek variety as in “Space – the Final Frontier, but the gaps in conversation that you need to leave when speaking to someone.

Let me start with this:  The only way we can express the worth of our own opinions is by valuing the opinions of others.

Too many times I see sales people (and indeed many others) sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting for a break in the conversation, or waiting until the other person pauses for breath, to jump in with whatever is one their mind.

This is not active listening, and if you are one of these early jumpers, it only demonstrates that you are not really interested in what the other person has to say, and that you think that you know better. You don’t have time to consider what the other person has said, nor do you have time to consider your response in the context of what they just said.  It is both disrespectful and ineffective.

I remember many years ago when my daughter, then 5 years old, came home from school and told me she was going to be a shepherd in the school Christmas play.  Usually she would be excited about going on stage, but this time I sensed only a moderate excitement.  When I asked how she was selected to be a shepherd, she responded “Well, the teacher asked who wanted to be shepherds, and me and Alice put our hands up,  but, but, but, how were we supposed to know she was then going to ask who wanted to be angels?”

When someone stops talking, it does not mean they have told you everything they are thinking, or that they have said all they want to say. When you make a statement or express an opinion but don’t leave adequate space in the conversation for others to consider what you said,  or respond fully with their own thoughts, you are missing out on an opportunity to learn, and signalling to them that you are not interested in their opinion.

Leaving space in a conversation for follow on comments or questions, may illuminate areas that you did not even know were in the shade.

The old adage of “You have two ears and one mouth – so you should use them in that proportion”, is truly valuable. But if you have one ear on the left side of your head, and one on the right, then you might consider that Space is in fact, as our Star Trek friends would have you believe – the Final Front Ear. (Sorry!)

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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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6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales – Part 1

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.  My session – entitled Six Factors that are Transforming B2B Sales – seemed to strike a chord.  Over the next few posts I want to recount the thoughts I shared and get your views.

I started my presentation with a perspective on the current landscape and the environment in which we all seek to survive and thrive.

– o – o – o – o – o –

Do you ever have one of those days when you get up and hope that just for one day nothing changes?  Sometimes it feels as if we are barely hanging on, buffeted by a torrent of innovation and evolution.  But maybe today will be the day when you won’t have to adjust or adapt, reorganize or rework …

But, I don’t think so.

Things are happening more quickly than ever.  In the next 30 minutes;

  • 700,000 apps will be downloaded from the AppStore,
  • Users will spend 146 days on Facebook – yes, in the next 30 minutes – think about that, and
  • 21,000 new Twitter accounts will be created

“But wait”, I hear you say, I’m concerned about B2B sales – should I care that Lady Gaga has 20 million followers on Twitter? (That’s about one person for every 20 people in the US, or one for every 400 in the world.)

I think we can learn from this – not just from the fact that Lady Gaga has 20 million Twitter followers – but the overall metamorphosis of human interaction that we are witnessing first hand. Because, if we observe carefully, we will see that consumers are often the first to travel the journey that businesses subsequently follow.

Consumer Behavior is a Predictor of Business Behavior

Consider the changes you’ve seen in business over the past 10 years – particularly when it comes to technology – and you will notice that consumer behavior is always a good indicator of what will happen in the business world.  Trends that you see in B2C interactions are usually followed by similar engagement in the B2B world.

As an example: Consumers were the first players in the App Economy, downloading applications from Apple’s  AppStore, only to be followed by businesses that are now both distributing and consuming applications in this self-service model.

In the software world, online application stores from new-economy players such as the AppExchange from salesforce.com, and Google’s Marketplace, now sit alongside offerings from the traditional software companies.  SAP provides the Ecohub that it describes as ‘the community-powered online solution marketplace that is your trusted source for discovering, evaluating, and buying solutions from SAP’.  Microsoft – who for a long time might have been accused of fighting the subscription economy – now has it’s own Marketplace where, as of March 2012, provided 70,000 apps, and looking to one of its main business application areas, Microsoft has made considerable investments in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace where it serves up ERP and CRM solutions.

HP and Oracle also jumped on the appstore bandwagon, both unveiling platforms (in late 2011) designed to help others get their own app store initiatives underway.  HP’s Storefront Portal offers a framework capable of enabling two-sided business models: wholesale and retail.  Oracle announced its own Digital Store platform, designed to help service providers manage the complete content lifecycle, spanning content submission, test and approval and storefront management of their app stores.

In April 2012, Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services business, facing looming competition for its business of renting online data storage and computing, announced a store where customers will be able to rent business software from a number of third-party providers, including I.B.M., Microsoft and SAP. The offering appears to be something of a blend of the software as a service, or SaaS, business of companies like Salesforce.com and NetSuite, and the mobile app stores popularized by Apple and Google. Like SaaS, customers are renting their software, and can easily discontinue use in favor of another vendor, something much more difficult using traditional packaged software. And like an app store, the AWS Marketplace has several vendors, plus a means of discovery and comparison among products.

Think about this: Not all consumers are B2B buyers, but all B2B buyers are consumers. As if by osmosis, people are conditioned to new ways of thinking by the interactions they have as consumers, and begin to expect similar capability or convenience in their business connections and interplays. And it happens without any one noticing; incremental changes in behavior and expectation, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

The fact remains that all business people – including both sellers and buyers – are consumers, and the lessons they learn in ‘consumer-land’ shape their thinking and expectations in “business-land’.

Consumers, salespeople and B2B buyers are changing, and not just in a small way. It’s almost as if we are seeing a remodeling or metamorphosis of the rules of both intrinsic and extrinsic behaviors before our eyes.  If we take the time to step back for a minute we can observe continuous evolution.  It is evident in how people connect, communicate, and collaborate, their quest for visible progress and feedback, their limited attention span, changing personal motivations, unusually peripatetic career paths, a desire for increased autonomy and self-mastery, actions more redolent of entrepreneurialism than traditional workplace obedience, a preference for where and how they work, an expectation or demand for an array of tools to apply, an acceptance of disruption and interruption, and a predilection to disrupt and interrupt.

If you’re hoping that today will be the day it doesn’t change, then I expect you are out of luck, and the best you could hope for is that the rate at which change is happening will find cause for pause, and you might get a chance to catch your breath.

On the other hand, you could choose to embrace the change, and be part of it, seeking new ways to do the tasks that are perhaps mundane or not operating optimally, and then – and here is the exciting part – you might find that there are new opportunities emerging that you never thought possible.

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