The first seller to be completely responsive to the buyer’s need for information wins. #salesRT @ZeroTimeSelling
Selling isn’t telling. It’s listening, diagnosing, aligning solutions and providing clear value. #sales RT @revenuedoctor
A Holistic Solution for Meaningful and Profitable Customer Relationships
Falling short of customer expectations can be fatal. Once iconic businesses like Polaroid, Yellow Pages, Border’s, Circuit City, Pontiac, and Blockbuster have ceased to exist. There are no doubt widely varying factors that contributed to their ultimate disappearance. But some may have fallen prey to what digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist Brian Solis calls “Digital Darwinism” in his book The End Of Business As Usual. How well did these companies keep pace with customer relationship expectations?
At my firm, EDL Consulting, we take a unique point-of-view on customer relationships that we call “Engagement-to-Cash.” It’s a process that allows businesses to turn the liability of disjointed customer relationships into integrated, holistic customer interactions.
Engagement-to-Cash is deliberately represented as a cyclical process as opposed to a linear one. Each phase is interdependent, and if managed properly, the cycle will renew based on your customers’ willingness to repeat it. Your customers will grow your business over time if they continue to derive value from their relationship with you.
EDL Consulting was founded in 2001 with a perspective that businesses operate more efficiently and effectively when marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service functions (the “front office” or “customer facing” functions) work together holistically.
The Internet, the acceptance of cloud computing, as well as mobile, social, and real-time communications have radically accelerated the transformation of what is possible and what is necessary for Engagement-to-Cash. The rules of the customer relationship have changed profoundly. If you are still managing these core business functions as you did even 3-4 years ago, you are behind the curve.
Taking this holistic point of view enables our clients to maximize performance by increasing engagement and customer satisfaction, increasing revenues and customer lifetime value, and trimming customer acquisition and retention costs across multiple disciplines.
There are several key enablers of these results:
- Cloud Computing – Businesses can now pivot with more agility than ever before with flexible and scalable IT infrastructures and applications, no longer tied to the “digital concrete” of heavy, on-premise systems.
- Social Media – There is more meaningful customer information and interaction for businesses to leverage than ever before. By joining social conversations, companies can engage customers with meaningful, value-add content.
- A Unified Customer Database – The holistic Engagement-to-Cash cycle represents technology as well as process. A world-class, integrated Force.com framework is delivering on the CRM promise of “one version of the truth.”
Viewing the front office in this way frustrates traditional point solution technology vendors, whose products typically apply to a distinct piece of the total solution such as marketing automation, social media, eCommerce, or customer service, and whose products therefore fail to address the inherent interdependencies of a holistic business cycle.
There are two flaws with a point-solution approach.
The Silo Effect: For example, an eCommerce solution may include a powerful new system, but because the vendor focuses only on the eCommerce component, the new system will most likely involve a disparate customer database than exists within the enterprise CRM system, bringing the implied added costs of maintaining, developing, and integrating two source systems.
The Hammer Looking for a Nail: This is a fundamental distinction between Engagement-to-Cash and traditional point solution philosophies. The holistic approach is not limited to a one-size-fits-all answer. It ensures that you bring forward what you need, not what they have.
In sharp contrast, through our strategic alignment with salesforce.com and BigMachines, EDL Consulting has found technology partners that complement our Engagement-to-Cash philosophy. Salesforce and BigMachines provide a state of the art, cloud-based platform and flexible, software-as-a-service continuum along which our customers can begin where they prefer and then evolve as they prefer, moving in a modular fashion to optimize their Engagement-to-Cash cycle, regardless of where they start the journey and where they are headed. Each of the phases of the Engagement-to-Cash cycle can be addressed by these technologies.
EDL organizes the Engagement to Cash process into eight distinct phases which are explained in greater detail below:
Engagement – Foster Customer Intimacy
Customers are talking about your company. The only question is, are you participating in the conversation? EDL helps to ensure that you have the systems and processes in place to join in. EDL can enable your organization with best practices for planning and internalizing best practices in engagement through social media, as well as best-in-breed tools like Radian6 from salesforce.com to help you enhance customer engagement. This engagement continues throughout the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle as a thread of each phase.
Demand Generation – Turn Targets Into Leads
There are a variety of channels you can use to communicate with your customers – your website, social media, marketing, field sales, campaigns, events, etc. How do you fill your funnel and turn targets into prospects and leads? EDL leverages the best in breed marketing functionality and campaign management of salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to ensure you have a more focused and effective demand generation effort.
Lead Management – Creation to Qualification
It’s a question that keeps marketing and sales executives up at night – “Have we followed up on your leads?” EDL helps our customers put processes in place to close the loop from lead creation to qualification. How does your organization contact, qualify and promote leads to opportunities? This process helps create certainty that you’ve followed through on your important investment in leads by leveraging best practices in salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud lead management functionality.
Opportunity Management – Prioritize and Qualify
Now that you’ve created the opportunities, you’re trying to allocate your company’s finite resources to the most appropriate opportunities to maximize customer satisfaction and revenue. We help you to ensure you have the process and systems in place to effectively track and prioritize sales activity and qualification through the sales pipeline. EDL leverages salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to enable measurement and proper management your pursuits.
Configuration – Fast and Accurate Pricing, and Quoting
The importance of getting quick, accurate estimates and proposals to your customers can be the difference between winning and losing business. EDL excels at implementation of both the basic product pricing in saleforce.com, and the more robust configuration, pricing, and quoting (CPQ) solutions of BigMachines, the best-in-breed software CPQ solution in the salesforce.com ecosystem.
eCommerce – Enterprise-class Cross-Channel eCommerce
EDL brings deep experience in resolving and simplifying the complexities of developing and maintaining effective eCommerce systems.
With over ten years of experience improving online tractions, we bring the domain expertise to address your eCommerce needs.
We have packaged all that knowledge in a best in breed product called CloudCraze developed natively on saleforce.com’s Force.com platform.
Order Management – Improve Operational Efficiencies
The order management process results in a faster path to improved operational efficiencies and higher customer satisfaction. Depending on your business model, there is/are? a myriad of ways to fulfill an order – download, shipping, integrate with your existing systems. EDL can provide the integration experience to connect your eCommerce system with your back office systems.
Customer Service – Create Long-Term Customer Relationships
Your customer interaction will either lead to a “once and done” transaction, or a long-term relationship. EDL can help enable your organization with the processes and tools to move to long-term relationships with repeat transactions. Each of your interactions is a precious opportunity to further customer engagement. Your customers are demanding more and better service. EDL can help you provide a more holistic experience across all channels‹from the contact center to customer social networks by implementing saleforce.com’s Service Cloud. Continued follow up and nurturing of relationship helps guide the conversation from problem resolution to new sales opportunities.
Let’s Get Started…
Engagement-to-Cash is a fresh perspective, one that leverages decades of technology and business experience into a holistic solution approach, helping companies forge deeper and more successful customer relationships with systems that integrate cleanly among your customer relationship processes.
I would be delighted to discuss your business objectives for the coming year, the ways in which your organization currently handles the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle, the many benefits that our customers are realizing by changing the game – and you can too.
Fascinating perspective: Products and Services Are Dead http://t.co/igwscGHf via @westfallonline RT @salesdujour
True! The way you position yourself at the beginning of a relationship has profound impact on where you end up #sales #smbiz RT @ronkarr
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?
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:
- Wireless internet during a flight: Go-Go in-flight internet on American Airlines (converting 4 dormant hours to productive time)
- Cloud-based CRM: salesforce.com and integrated Outlook email
- Online intelligence: Data.com, Google Finance
- Social media: Radian6, HootSuite, and LinkedIn
- 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
Trust is built through listening, honesty, competence and commitment. RT @revenuedoctor
Great stuff from @iannarino: The Two Sales Activities That Must Dominate Your Time — S. Anthony Iannarino http://t.co/izGT7Qvn
How To Create Raving Fans http://t.co/t6UJjhiB #sales RT @mike_kunkle: Via @fearlessselling
Just commented on What Do You Think? Is it possible to build a pipeline without cold calling? http://t.co/A5Oi5zRv RT @soldlab
Don’t ask the close-ended “Are you the decision maker?”. Ask the (revealing) open-ended “How will the decision be made?” RT @revenuedoctor
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
5 Tricks from a LinkedIn Jedi http://ow.ly/8ili4 @EricMarkowitz RT @incmagazine
Good Read for Salespeople – 7 Things Salespeople Should NOT do in 2012 http://thesaleshunter.com/4592 RT @thesaleshunter
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:
- “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.”
- “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!
There are as many models for “buyer roles” in the sales marketplace today as there are sales methodologies. But as is often true with a tool that works (you’ll pry my Moleskine notebook from my cold, dead hands) I have my favorite model for buyer roles too – the “Buying Influences” of Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman.
Miller-Heiman’s Strategic Selling was a ground-breaking sales methodology that like Neil Rackham’s S.P.I.N. Selling has influenced almost all thinking on the subject since it was introduced. In the Strategic Selling methodology, a key tenant was thinking about selling through the eyes of the buyer broken down by role or “buying influence.”
The epiphany of this model included:
- “Selling” should really be looked at through the buyer’s eyes. This was revolutionary and still remains a challenge in some organizations.
- The single-sale-to-single-buyer paradigm is no longer relevant. Buying is done by a group, either in organized or loosely federated teams. This is a truth to this day, arguably accelerated by the internet and social media providing the opportunity for buyers to be more educated than ever, and instilling a drive to have a voice in collaborative decision-making.
- These teams had various roles, and the roles could be grouped into common types with common business priorities:
- Economic: The one buyer with $ authority
- User: The person or people who will interact with the solution on a daily basis.
- Technical: the person or people who will need to deeply understand the solution or do the care and feeding.
- Coach: An active fan of your solution, who will help you sell it into their organization.
- The salesperson should incorporate this into the sales strategy.
If you’re still looking at selling from the inside out, and think you have one buyer per sale, it is a very valuable exercise to dust off your copy of this book (or get digital and download it to your Kindle) and do a gut check.
You’ll be glad you took the time to sell under the influence!
But if you are like most organizations, I would wager that you and your sales team have a natural tendency to “shoot at anything that moves.”
Acting with the discipline to treat opportunities differently depending on their qualification can pay huge dividends as a return on organizational effort.
We all have a limited set of differentiated offerings. It is also true that available time for selling is tighter than ever before. So it makes the manner in which you identify, qualify, and pursue opportunities a higher stakes game than ever before.
In his re-creation of Michal T. Bosworth’s concepts in The New Solution Selling, author Keith M. Eades draws one key distinction that can be helpful in sorting the wheat from the chaff. The image above is a modified version of the “Solution Selling Process Flow Chart Model.” In it you will notice that opportunities fall into two types: “Latent,” where the client is not actively looking, but your solution is a strong fit; and “Active,” where the client is looking for a solution to a specific problem, and your solution may be a strong fit.
You can quickly sort opportunities at your firm into these two types as one way to triage potential pursuits and if/how you are going to manage them.
Sales to Latent opportunities are typically longer (more nurturing, education and collaboration with clients) but also generate less competition and more profit per deal.
Sales to Active opportunities need to be scrutinized (what is our unique win strategy? What is our profit position? Should we pursue?) but are often a faster path to closure.
The challenge is not to develop the perfect process, but to begin to differentiate the way in which you engage on pursuits.
Interesting things will happen when you do. Your hit rate should increase, you should see a higher return on your effort, and people on your team will begin to feel that you are playing to win.