Marketing, Sales

Want Bulletproof Customer Connections? Flip Your Triangles


Here is a selling concept that is arguably a fundamental, but it’s a fundamental that is too often missed…

The “One and Done” Account Relationship.

“So what,” you might say, “One relationship is all that I need to get my contract signed!” That may be true. But it’s very short-sighted. I guarantee that in today’s dynamic business environment, one relationship will not keep that account for you – much less keep it growing.

We all know that our connections at an account must be deep, and constantly refreshed. But sometimes we forget that they also must be – Plentiful.

Picture two triangles bonded by one point a the apex. Only the tips of these triangles are holding them together.  Our one point of connection equals our one relationship – you and your key contact. No matter how strong this one relationship, how strong do you think it will be the account level?  Not strong enough! Even if that relationship is the Chairman of the Board or the CEO, there will be changes in careers, dynamics in responsibility, relocations, re-orgs, spin-offs, changing priorities, and on and on. Here’s another challenge to your one-point connection…Imagine that your top competitor comes to town and decides to buy the business and co-opt your contact by building momentum with other buyers in the account? News flash…Your single connection is toast.

Relationships point

 

Now, picture the same two triangles, only this time they are bonded by many points along their bases. Our many points of connection equal our many relationships.  You, your President, your COO, your Marketing Director, your VP of Distribution, your Customer Service Manager, etc. – all connected through you to their peers at your Account.  Now, no matter what happens to one or two of them, the bond is strong. Imagine that same competitor coming to town in this scenario.  Even if they get an opportunity, they will simply bounce right off. It’s unbreakable. It’s…Bulletproof.  

Relationships 2

 

Challenge: Think through your Account list right now.  How many of your key accounts are linked by only one connection?  More than half? Don’t feel bad.  That sums up my informal poll over the last 25 years.

There are plenty of great books out there for building deeper and more abundant client relationships. Here is a quick Amazon search with some great recently published books on the subject.

But here’s the thing – regardless of your methods to build those relationships, you should not be wondering what to do on Monday morning.  Plot your course and expand those connections…Flip Your Triangles!

Collaboration, Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Powering Mass Collaboration with Salesforce Communities


salesforceportalsVcommunities

My firm works with our clients to deliver world-customer service and collaboration solutions on salesforce.com. Many of our clients cite interoperability with front-office systems (sales, marketing, customer support, and others) as a priority outcome of their collaboration initiatives. For those who are contemplating, or have already invested in the Salesforce platform,Salesforce Communities offers a powerful solution.

Driven by CEO Marc Benioff’s relentless vision for social business and mobile innovation on the platform, Salesforce Communities has evolved over the past few years from a simple chat application to a robust collaboration platform, fully mobile responsive. These changes have transformed Salesforce into a recognized leader in enterprise social collaboration with some distinct advantages in certain areas:

100% Data Driven: Salesforce is always in sync and interoperable with production data on accounts, contacts, opportunities, campaigns, and more – right out of the box, with no need for a traditional data integration effort.

“Lead with Mobile” Philosophy: Salesforce has extended the full functionality of the Salesforce platform, enabling you to automatically leverage your knowledge workers in the field to dramatically increase the freshness and accuracy of data. This built-in mobility also allows you to spend more of your implementation effort on functionality and outcomes vs. development of a “mobile version” of your social applications.

Mass Collaboration on “One Version of the Truth”: You can include customers, employees, and partners directly and securely into your front office processes on one, central database. Having this system of record dramatically improves data leveraged in the user experience. The various components of Salesforce Communities – such as Chatter, Chatter Answers, Knowledge, Cases and even Visual Workflow all leverage a consistent data set within your community.

Connect and Extend: When the need arises to integrate to core systems outside the front office, the Salesforce platform is among the most secure, and extensible on the market. The freedom to further enrich the customer/partner/employee experience by syndicating data from other enterprise systems is another way that Salesforce Communities can increase system-use efficiency and enterprise collaboration.

Measure to Manage: The Salesforce platform embeds powerful analytics to make fact-based decisions on the iterative evolution of your social business. You can share reports, and now Salesforce dashboards with Salesforce Communities users to measure and guide behaviors for community activation, adoption, and ongoing optimization.

Link to the Broader Public Conversation: Salesforce allows you to participate in the conversations that happen outside of your four walls as well, with social listening and outreach tools such as Exact Target Marketing Cloud and Radian6 Social listening and strategy are a core offering of 7Summits. We can now integrate these enabling technologies to complement your Salesforce system for real-time open social feedback on your collaboration efforts.

Mass collaboration and social business solutions can be a powerful factor in driving your business outcomes and aligning your front-office operations.

If your enterprise technology playbook includes Salesforce, 7Summits can help you take those outcomes to the next level.  Feel free to contact me to continue the conversation: (Twitter) @tim_kocher

Marketing, Sales

The Economics of Attention: Why Your Prospects Aren’t Listening to You (via Andy Paul)


Information overload, conceptual imageI just read an outstanding post from the author of “Zero Time Selling,” Andy Paul.

In it, Andy explains the theory of economist Herbert Simon from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Simon wrote: ”…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

Due to the absolute overload of the digital information age, your prospects are completely barraged and consumed with messages each and every minute of the day.

The key message?  Andy says this – “Selling with Maximum Impact in the Least Time requires planning. Each interaction with a prospect has to create value for them. Whether it is a phone call, email, text, video chat or sales call, planning for the next prospect interaction has to answer the question: what information does the prospect need from us today, or what questions do they need answered today, to move to the next step in their buying process?

Great food for thought as you decide what sales and marketing messages you chose to engage in with your clients and prospects this week.

While you’re at it, be sure to read Andy Paul’s book “Zero-Time Selling.”  It’s a must read for practical ideas to apply the principle of Return on Time Invested (ROTI). Meaning, what is the prospect’s return on time invested talking with you?!

Sales

In Customer Relationships, Stasis is a Myth


ImageStasis (n.) from Greek στάσις “a standing still” may refer to:  A state of stability, in which all forces are equal and opposing, therefore they cancel each other out .

Stasis in your customer relationships is a myth.

Consider these situations in your life.

Personal relationships are either improving or declining. There is no stasis.  It’s true with siblings, spouses, friends, bosses, and on and on.

Physical fitness – either you are putting the time in at the gym or outdoors and you are getting more fit, or your are not and you are growing less fit.  It is hard to find an equilibrium.

It is also true for the seller and the customer. You are either getting closer to your buyers in an account or falling further away.  There is no such thing as “everything is fine.”

The number one challenge on corporations’ minds today is customer intimacy.  So what are you doing about it? The good new is that there are more choices and tools to leverage than ever before to help you go from stasis to proactive customer engagement. But, you have to be in it to win it.

Here are just a few examples of approaches to being more proactive on customer engagement:

  • CRM and Customer Service Platforms – Manage the customer relationship in 360 degrees
  • Social Media  – Access more opinions publicly than ever before – but only if you tune in
  • Portals/Communities – Transform customer service into customer collaboration 
  • Mobility – Interact with your customers where, when and how they choose
  • Web meetings / Video conferencing – Warm up  typical conference calls with visual queues
  • Face to face meetings – The no-substitute preference for establishing rapport and consensus

The bottom line…as outlined in a recent Forbes article, “The Future Of Marketing: A Little Less Campaign And A Little More ActionCompanies are shifting from “awareness and acquisition” towards the “customer experience and retention.”  They are asking, ”How can we better serve and support the customers we have?” and they are taking concrete steps to get it done.

Don’t imagine “everything is fine” with that customer – Or it may be your competitor who teaches you that stasis is a myth.

Sales

No News Is Bad News


No News is Bad News

General rule in life (if you’re an optimist like me)…No news is good news.  Example: “My kid is away at summer camp, and no news is good news.”

But in sales there is a natural law…
No news is BAD news.

However you track your sales process – whether it’s a sales funnel, a buyer’s process, sales stages, contract milestones, etc., No news is BAD news.

Here’s what I mean…

As your potential customer gets closer to awarding you the business, you should see an ever increasing dialogue.  You should receive more and more questions, objections, clarifications, contracts red lines, requests for references, etc.

If you are seeing less and less communication, you’re dead meat.  It may be because humans don’t like to deliver bad news, or it may be that they don’t have time to keep the losers up to speed on their decision making process (because they are too busy finalizing things with the winners!).  In the end it does not matter why.

20 years has taught me, as you’re approaching the moment of truth, there had better be more talking!

Marketing, Sales

4 Ways to Leapfrog your Competitors Using Salesforce Communities


Community

How do you improve some of the best portal applications on the market today? If you are salesforce.com, you transform them into Salesforce Communities.

Perhaps you are like most of my clients – focused on improving the experience of those most precious constituent groups: customers, employees and partners. If you have not yet seen what Salesforce has done to evolve their Customer Portal and Partner Portal products, it’s really worth a look. You can read more on that topic in this Salesforce Communities Post by my colleague Phil Weinmeister, who was one of the early explorers to pop the hood with salesforce.com and take Communities for a spin.

Once you see the power of Salesforce Communities, your mind will begin to race thinking of the many ways to apply this unique framework (which unlike the competition comes out-of-the-box completely integrated with your CRM system, offering that illusive 360 degree view of the customer). Here are just a few ways that you can leverage Communities to take the lead in your competitive space:

1. Form tighter customer relationships and harvest best practices by Connecting Customers:

Your competitors are wasting precious cycles playing the telephone game by collecting and redistributing ideas from their customers.

Leapfrog them by connecting customers with customers and moderating the discussion. This is a subtle but powerful way to provide differentiation and credibility. You add the “voice of the customer” to your customer service portfolio of activities. You can also feed the best answers (as voted by your customers) back to the community – and even to your call center to improve your basic customer service in the process.

2. Make it easier for your partners to select you with a Communities Knowledge Base:

If you have ever tried to navigate an FAQ section of a website you know what your competitors may be putting their trade partners through.

Leapfrog them by providing your partners with a self-improving knowledge base powered by Communities. Participants rank answers to their questions, making it easier for members to find relevant content and absorb the information you have to share. This body of knowledge grows in quantity and quality allowing you to provide superior value more quickly than your competitors.through.

3. Harness the “power of the hive” to attack your priorities with a Communities Intranet Solution:

Let’s face it. Intranets can be boring and hard to use. Your competitors have the same old corporate departmental folders and they force their employees to dive into directories and send emails to find the right information.

Leapfrog them by providing your employee base with curated content, and a Chatter-powered collaboration space that allows real-time collaboration and problem-solving, quickly aligning experts in your firm with the people who need them in a timely fashion.

4. Provide 24×7 project communications with a Communities Project Collaboration Space:

We’ve all been there. It’s 6pm and you need the latest version of the project plan, but everyone has left for the day. Your competitors wait until tomorrow to start to solve their problem.

Leapfrog them by quickly finding the right document in a central project repository and then instantly sending a one-to-many communication to your entire project team via Chatter so that everyone starts their day tomorrow running with the answer, not waking up to a question.

These are just a few of the many solutions that Salesforce Communities can bring to your organization. The limits are your imagination and your business case. And again, the value of having this information contained in the same database as all other customer interactions cannot be overstated from the perspective of user-experience, business benefit, and ongoing cost-of-ownership.

If you would like to learn more about how your organization can make gains in your industry by leveraging Salesforce Communities, I would love the opportunity to brainstorm further with you and your Team. Feel free to reach out.

#SFCommunities

Sales

4 Lessons a Salesperson Can Learn from the Chicago Blackhawks


Hawks

(Disclaimer…I’m still beaming with Chicago pride at the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, so this post may be a bit over the top for any out-of-towners).

Last night was one of the best final minutes of any sporting event in recent memory.  What a great ending to a tough series!

Seems like many of the selling situations we’re in become tougher by the year as well.

So what lessons can a salesperson (or any competitor for that matter) glean from the 2013 Blackhawks?

  1. It’s not over until the buzzer. Really – until. the. buzzer.  Play through.  Whether your winning or losing, it can be taken by you or taken from you in the final minutes of the game.  The tying and winning goals were scored within 17 seconds in the last 1.5 minutes of that game.  You need to play with all you’ve got until you’ve got the ink.
  2. Listen to your coaches.  Joel Quenneville helps his players out.  He gives them credit and they help each other win.  He now has 2 Stanley Cups as a Head Coach.  He got there by supporting his players.  You need the support of a coach too.  You know what to do…Connect with a good coach in each selling situation (are those situations without an internal coach really worth your time anyway?).
  3. Don’t listen to your critics (or at least neutralize your detractors).  Chicago goalie Corey Crawford said it best when the smack talk started about some perceived weaknesses.  “I’m not really listening to it,” he said. “I have a job to do and whatever is being said is not going to affect what I am going to do on the ice.”  Good advice.
  4. Prepare.  No one cares more about your success than you do.  During the NHL lockout that threatened this season, Team Captain Jonathan Toews organized informal workouts with the team.  How often do you go the extra mile to prepare for a big sales meeting when no one is looking?

GO Hawks!

Sales

One More Question…


One More Question...
One More Question…

I was working with a long-term client of mine recently.  After scoping a project, we were discussing and nearing terms on the price.  We agreed on the terms for the project and I went back to the office to get the final documents together, organize the team, and begin planning the kickoff.  On my drive home, My client called me.  “One more question…”  She wanted to know if we could cut the cost by 10%.  “We are really at our limit relative to costs on this project,” I said.  “And none of my competitors can give you someone with the skills of Joe [a consultant on my team] in this area.”  “Well, OK,” she said, “A girl’s gotta ask.”  I agreed, shared that although we could not reduce our price I understood her request, and we completed the contract and the project on-time and on-budget.  It was a good reminder to me that:

  1. Buyers will always ask for that one more thing (many times a reduced price)
  2. Don’t sell on price so it does not come down to price being your only concession point, and
  3. Don’t blame buyers, be surprised, or take it personally – because…”A girl’s gotta ask”
Marketing, Sales, Social Media

The Value of “The Human Interface”


face to faceIt’s an unfortunate paradox, but one that is harder and harder to ignore.  The more energy we all pour into our computers, social media, and mobile interfaces, the less time we spend on our person-to-person, human interface.  There are many articles highlighting this dynamic – that social media is ironically making us less social human beings. A great Facebook-focused article on this topic can be found here in The Atlantic.

But you don’t need to do comprehensive research for this information, the anecdotal evidence is all around us – kids texting from across a school bus aisle, adults arguing via Facebook posts, even teens impersonating other teens using “text spoofing” and other electronic interfaces.

The Workplace version of this story took on a new reality last week.  Here is what happened, according to Tech Crunch:

While at a Python programming conference, a developer who used to work for a company called Playhaven apparently made a joke about “big” dongles and “forking someone’s repo.”

Adria Richards, a developer evangelist sitting in front of them, called them out on Twitter and in a blog post for making the conference environment unwelcoming toward women

A huge, nasty online exchange erupted on the social media universe, and ultimately, both the programmer and Adria lost their jobs.  Very serious.  Very sad.

What if instead Adria had simply turned around and told the programmer that she found his comments offensive?  It’s easy to imagine that with face-to-face communication, this conflict could have been resolved much more effectively.

So, what does this have to do with sales and marketing?  A lot, I think.

I believe that we as Sales and Marketing Professionals have also lost some practice with direct human communication.  We use voicemail, email, text, and even social media to carry out much of the communication that was once almost exclusively face-to-face with our customers.  Have there been efficiency improvements, absolutely.  But, I can’t help but wonder how much more effective some of our critical conversations would be if we delivered them on the human interface.

Sales

What Your Sales Manager Should Never Have to Manage


You

I found this awesome blog post by Anthony Iannarino @iannarino: What Your Sales Manager Should Never Have to Manage.  In his post, Anthony calls out many transactional and even strategic aspects of your sales career that should not have to be managed.  You need to power these aspects of your career (activities, beliefs, commitments, accurate CRM info, etc.).

Read his blog post and think about it: http://t.co/weQsAfXpiA.

Sales

Does You Customer NEED To Buy?


Need v Want

Picked up this tweet last week and finally read it – boy did it hit home.  Have a read…

Wanting To Buy Is Insufficient, Does Your Customer NEED To Buy? http://t.co/HEP4jIrMQD RT @davidabrock

How much time have you spent with people who honestly had the budget, authority and timetable to buy, but in the end did not actually NEED to buy your solution?  It’s very hard for them to prioritize and take action unless the want is really a NEED.

As David Brock says in his post – “No business case, No Deal.”

Marketing, Sales

Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Have Time



No Time
Read a great blog post today.  Some blunt but true statements about a negative phrase that we have all repeated to ourselves on many occations…

I Don’t Have Time.

The blog post’s author, Brendan Howe, says that “One of the most important things any successful person can master is time management…If you EVER use this phrase or a variation of it, I will suggest two things about you:

  1. You are not as accountable as you should be
  2. You are bad at time management.”

Worth the read at:    http://t.co/13HAOcZr6B

Sales

4 Awesome Questions for Leaders


Just found this nugget in an article in Business Insider.  The article explains that in his letter to shareholders, then newly appointed IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano explains that he was recently looking over his notes from his first meeting as chairman back in 2003. He was surprised to see how little he wrote. At the top of the page, he had only four questions:

  • Why would someone invest in us?
  • Why would customers buy from us?
  • Why would someone work here?
  • Why would society allow us to operate?
Powerful questions for any organizational leader to ask.  What would you say?
Sales, Social Media

Time Travel…A Tale of Sales Tool Evolution!


The tools of the [sales] trade have changed remarkably since I began my career 20 years ago.  That fact struck me on a recent business trip to San Diego even harder than the strange weather (It was 30 degrees warmer in Chicago than Southern California – in March!).  On this trip, I got more work done during my flight than I could have done over the course of an entire week 20 years ago.  It was truly like time travel.

Yes, sales tools have changed…Actually, sales tools have been radically transformed over the past 20 years.  Only after the day had ended, when I was eating dinner and reflecting, did I piece together just how amazing the transformation has been.

Here is a summary of the tools that I leveraged.

First, the travel itself.  I booked my trip through Travelocity, managed my trip through Tripit on my iPhone, and boarded the plane (using my mobile boarding pass of course).  In the “old days” this would have called for me collaborating with a travel agent via phone while the agent looked up options on their private terminal.  Then, I would have received physical tickets in the mail, and checked in at the airport to receive physical boarding passes.

On to the research.  I began by  the exploring the backgrounds of the clients with whom I was to meet, literally gathering more information than a team of people could have done over several days in the 1990s.  I accessed bios on each attendee of my meetings via LinkedIn, then accessed breakdowns on their company via Data.com and Google Finance.  Finally, I Checked Radian6 and HootSuite for any social media postings by or about them or their company.

Then there was the preparation of meeting materials.  While in the air for the 4 hour flight (which used to be 4 dead hours) I worked on my PowerPoint presentation, connected to the in-flight wi-fi on American Airlines, collaborated with my co-workers via Skype to complete the presentation, then emailed it to my team at the destination.

Suddenly, Radian6, my social media listening tool flagged a newly published article about another key client of mine.  Before I landed in California, I had clipped that article, emailed it with a congratulatory note the my key contacts at this important client, and landed a meeting with their CEO, all of which was neatly and automatically tracked and summarized in my cloud-based CRM system, salesforce.com.

On the way to my meeting, I called up the mobile version of salesforce.com on my iphone, downloaded a map to the meeting place, called my contact, and logged a note to remind myself of our conversation.

Amazing.  Nothing short of stunning, really.

In one day, I had leveraged “sales 2.0” tools including:

  1. Wireless internet during a flight: Go-Go in-flight internet on American Airlines (converting 4 dormant hours to productive time)
  2. Cloud-based CRM: salesforce.com and integrated Outlook email
  3. Online intelligence:  Data.com, Google Finance
  4. Social media: Radian6, HootSuite, and LinkedIn
  5. Mobile solutions: salesforce.com mobile, Google Maps,

This is such a fundamental paradigm shift for someone who began in sales at a time when the fax machine was breaking its own paradigm of physical document delivery (Remember?…”It sends the contracts over the phone lines as data and then re-assembles them on the receiving machine!”).

So, before jumping into your next big day, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the progress we’ve made.

Of course, as a famous time traveler once said,”It’s always a big day tomorrow – I’ve got a time machine; I skip the little ones!” ~The Doctor

Sales

Green Bananas


One day earlier this month, I got up for my morning routine and went to pack my breakfast – which, since my wife became a nutrition coach and got me on a solid path, usually consists of some whole grains and fresh fruit. I’d been craving a banana and had not had one in a while. I rounded the corner to my kitchen, filled up my coffee, reached into the fruit basket and without even looking broke off a banana from the bunch. The ensuing “snap” let me know what my eyes now confirmed – it was a [very] green banana and was not going to do me any good that day. “Maybe by the end of the week,” I said. The more familiar scenario in my house is that we find there are several brown spotted bananas which we quickly convert to banana bread and all is well. But as I completed my commute to work that day it got me thinking. Do we have any “green bananas” in our pipeline?

Looking at my firm’s business after the big push to the finish in 2011 had my team wondering about the top of our sales funnel, which we had not done in a while.

After spending so much time nurturing the mature opportunities through the more time-consuming stages of qualification, proposals, contracts, and closure, we turned our eyes to the top of the funnel, and were not happy with what we saw. We had just baked a big loaf of banana bread but the basket was lower than we liked, except for a some [very] green bananas.

How many times have you found yourself dealing with the mature deals in your pipeline like those ripe bananas and wondering, “Now what?” Or, looking at a bunch of green bananas and wondering how long it would be until you could eat?

Well, it’s all about managing your produce.

  1. Block out time and buy some green bananas. Treat your demand generation and lead follow-up time as sacred. Book time during your week for this “appointment” of new sales activities and keep that meeting no matter what. Bring in the fresh stock!
  2. Spend time balancing ripeness. Get face-to-face with your clients.  Never Eat Alone. Use coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon as ways to strike up conversations in your network to keep the produce moving through the process. It may not pay off today, but your deals will mature when you need them down the line. Personally, I’m finding more people willing to grab a quick coffee or be treated to an eat-in lunch at their office these days than taking time for dinners or playing rounds of golf like the heyday.  The point is, you need to spend one-on-one time to ripen your deals.
  3. Rotate your stock. My firm uses salesforce.com for CRM (full disclosure, we also do consulting on the product and it is my personal favorite after using many over the years – contact me if you’s like to learn more) but whatever CRM system you use, be sure that it serves its core purpose – to allocate your precious resources across the portfolio of opportunities to maximize your business by helping your customers. To do this, you need to be sure about where you are in the buying/selling process. You need to know that you are taking the right action and applying the right resources. Use your CRM system to ensure you are not ignoring new opportunities while you’re focused exclusively on the “closing” end of the funnel. You need to spend time in each stage to get the most out of your produce.

Stick with this more balanced approach to your selling activities and you’ll create a more balanced sales funnel. You’ll have some nice green bananas, some delicious yellow ripe ones – and yes, hopefully, you’ll also be making lots of bread!

Sales

Most of Us Have a Sales Process, But Do We Use It?


I ran across a great post today by one of my favorite Sales Bloggers, S. Anthony Iannarino of The Sales Blog.  If you are in sales or sales management and have not subscribed to this blog – do it immediately.  The jist of this post was that most of us have a sales process, but few of us use it and even fewer work to tweak and improve use and adoption.  These points struck me in particular:

  1. “Salespeople make too much of their sales process, and sales managers too little. Having a sales process and not using it is the same as not having a sales process. It means you aren’t following your best practices for stacking the deck in your favor, and there is no reason not to do so.”
  2. “Salespeople aren’t avoiding the sales process; they’re avoiding asking for and obtaining the commitments that they need and that are embedded in the sales process.”

Are you leveraging and repeating your best sales cycles into all sales cycles?  Are you gaining the commitments from your clients early in the sale to ensure a higher close ratio? 

These are questions that we can all benefit from reviewing.

Give this post, “A Sales Process in Peril,” a read and become a subscriber.  Anthony always has great information!