On this day in 1984, the space shuttle Discovery took off on its maiden voyage.
And just as the Discovery launch was another important step forward for NASA, FirstRain made another big advancement today with the launch of our newest product, Market Insights!
Our sales-focused solution, Customer Insights, is revolutionizing the big data analytics market and has become a valuable part of the daily workflow at many Fortune 500 companies. But some of these companies are already finding that sometimes customer intelligence alone isn’t enough—in order to truly put their go-to-market strategy into action, their marketing teams need market-focused intelligence as well.
And that’s why we created FirstRain Market Insights. Developed over the last year in collaboration with two of our leading enterprise customers (both major, Fortune 100 technology companies), Market Insights leverages our powerful semantic analytics technology in order to provide relevant, real-time market insights that CMOs, strategic leaders and entire marketing teams need about their specific lines of business.
The combination of our new Market Insights solution with our already popular Customer Insights product (not to mention our recently launched FirstRain for Touch) now makes a powerful suite of enterprise solutions providing unmatched business insights into your target markets and your top customers, helping you grow revenue and (finally!) putting your go-to-market strategy into action.
As with the rest of FirstRain’s products, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the road, at a customer site, on your iPads, iPhones or Android phones, via email, or integrated directly into company CRMs or social enterprise portals such as salesforce.com—we can deliver insight wherever and whenever you need it.
We’re over the moon about our new product. In fact, it’s left us starry-eyed with wonder—and our early adopters are, too—we hope you’ll let us know what you think of it!
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
When getting clients on board with what you have to offer, do you tend to ramble about how great your company is? Many of us may not realize it, but sometimes we go on a spiel about our own business’ successes instead of bringing it back to the client. I know you’re trying to convince the customer they need to work with your company to see results, but, let’s face it, there are times when your rehearsed speech is a waste of valuable meeting time—which is your time, by the way. Refocusing your attention on the customer and the product can help you quickly improve your sales productivity. In fact, sometimes your focus on your own company’s own greatness during a client meeting results from not knowing your customers well enough.
So here are three tricks to stop yourself from constantly talking about your own company and refocus on the customer’s needs:
1. It’s Not About You
In a recent Inc. magazine article, Geoffrey James wrote about receiving emails from companies that were focused on selling him on the business, not on providing him with a solution to his needs. While the companies in question got marks for telling a story to get his interest, James wrote it was all about them instead of him. And in the sales business, it should be all about the customer.
Exact Target suggested sales reps and marketing professionals remember who the audience is and target their speech accordingly. The customer isn’t there to be sold on your company itself but your product and how it can help them.
2. Leverage the Customer’s Own Stories
Every person has a story to tell about the one time they needed a certain solution, or had a bad experience, and as a sales rep you can take advantage of your client’s need to connect by asking them about a time when things went wrong; turn the story back on their company. Not only does this show the customer that you’re there to help them, but it builds trust between your company and theirs. They understand you’re in the business of selling them a product, so go ahead and get them to talk about how much they need it—you may find the client start to convince themselves to purchase your solution.
3. Know When to Talk—and When Not to
If I haven’t already scared you off, take heart by understanding that sometimes you should talk about yourself—just know when.
Exact Target recommended asking yourself before you speak if the information you are about to communicate to the client is actually worth their time. Now, this can be subjective, but it can be beneficial to watch what you communicate. Broadcasting is a great way to get clients on board with your company—just understand when something is irrelevant and switch gears back to the customer if you notice you’re off target.
James wrote that he would have bought one company’s product if they had spun their solution to him in the following way:
“Imagine you’re calling a vendor for support and the call center guy has NO CLUE what you’ve already bought,” James wrote. “Suddenly you’re spending your valuable time providing information that your vendor should already know. So here’s my question: how long before you start looking for a new vendor who has their [stuff] together?”
Bring everything back the client by refocusing your strategy on how you can help them, not the other way around.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
There’s so much to remember when you’re trying to close a sale—conduct customer research beforehand, make eye contact, have a firm handshake—that it can get overwhelming for new and experienced reps alike. Sometimes, the stress of keeping everything in mind can even cause even a skilled sales professional to stumble. Yet, you have options. Dan Cole, vice president for the International CES, recently gave sales reps 10 sales commandments. While 10 is an even, nice number, sometimes that many guidelines can be too much. So here’s just few commandments—five, not 10, because, let’s face it, sometimes less is more—to use to improve your sales productivity and make your life just a little bit easier.
1. Thou Shalt Conduct Research
You can’t really sell a product successfully if you haven’t prepared. Reviewing what’s going on in the industry is essential to interacting with the customer. Not being able to speak to what they currently need—or will need in the future—can result in a difficult relationship. But collecting market insights is more than just a preparation technique to build a rapport—it shows the client that you respect their needs and are willing to go the extra mile to deliver results, and they’ll trust you for it.
2. Thou Shalt Stay Confident
This is on Cole’s list—and many others’, for that matter—for a reason. Being confident in your own abilities and the value you are providing can make all the difference. Positivity radiates from you, your body language is more open and you’re able to make the client laugh when you are confident. Making eye contact and having a firm handshake just happens naturally.
3. Thou Shalt Communicate
Grant Cardone, sales expert, advised professionals in an Entrepreneur article to focus on speaking and writing clearly. Effective communication is often overlooked by reps when there’s a sale on the line, but don’t forget your relationship with the client suffers when there’s confusion. Cardone suggested sales professionals tape themselves on a recorder to hear themselves. Sometimes we don’t know we’re not being clear. So pick up a video camera and speak with other members of your sales team.
But communication is more than just talking with another person—it’s also important to express yourself clearly in writing. Cardone recommended reps present a proposal in writing that is extensive but to the point to prevent any future confusion or unmet client expectations.
4. Thou Shalt Serve the Customer
Perhaps the golden rule of sales—focusing on the customer—yet it can take a backseat to other issues. But think about it—you’re providing a service that another person is paying for, so give them a reason to do business with you. This can take the form of listening to concerns with empathy and patience to showcasing a product’s results over its features. While Cole separated this golden rule into many smaller commandments, if you are constantly striving to serve the customer, other things, such as working hard and seeking understanding, come more easily.
5. Thou Shalt Never Quit
Last but not least, do not give up. You know when a sale is 100% not going to happen, and you know when to have hope. Don’t get pushy, but don’t get pushed to the side either. Cole recommended you not be satisfied and Cardone advised you to stay with the buyer. Yet you can take this one piece of wisdom from Tom Hopkins, a sales expert, that I got from Inc. magazine:
“The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.”
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
Often, sales reps forget that everything comes down to what a product can do for the client. It’s so easy for sales professionals to get caught up in identifying sales opportunities for the business and creating the perfect pitch that they lose sight of matching the right client with the right product. Sales intelligence software can get you halfway to closing the sale, but the rest comes down to remembering that clients interact with sellers all the time, so you have stand out. But how do you do that? You take your market research, start a dialogue with the client and actually discuss how the product will benefit them specifically.
Let the Product Speak
In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Kristin Zhivago, author and revenue coach, advised sales professionals to take a few moments to question if they are actually discouraging customers from purchasing the product without even meaning to.
Zhivago suggested reps take their customer intelligence research—since, let’s face it, we can’t get a look into our client’s brains—to identify what aspects of the product are actually right for them. The customer wants to be wooed by what you’re selling, so communicate the product’s results and features.
Go beyond the benefits that are easy to see. Showcase how this client specifically can smoothly transition to using the product and the immediate results of doing so. You can center your efforts on one result or feature and work from there.
According to Salesforce, speaking with the client directly and genuinely about the product can ensure you close the sale. Michael Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, told Salesforce’s director of social content marketing, Jennifer Burnham, that successfully selling a product is all about communication.
“Communicate, communicate and communicate,” Kassan said. “You have the opportunity today as a company and as an individual to have the highest level of direct communication with your customer [...] Utilizing that capability to its fullest is the key to success in business today.”
So, focus on the product: how its features have produced marked results and why it is perfect for them. You may begin to see a dialogue form between you and the client in which the product basically begins to sell itself—and all because you did your market research and kept your eye on the client.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
From cloud computing to collecting market insights, employing data is already important. But big data analytics is set to become essential to business strategies other than simply knowing where you should market or where there may be a sale. According to the Business 2 Community, a marketing resource, organizations often forget that customer intelligence relies on big data, and it’s essential that professionals consider big data as an integral part of any sales or marketing strategy.
According to CIO, customer analytics allows companies to focus on the how they can help their clients instead of just becoming informed on the products. For example, CIO reported that IT companies are using big data as a way to examine how their solution will help the customer in real life. By examining what types of products customers need to tackle every day challenges, IT businesses are able to design a custom solution that can produce stronger results.
Big Data in Sales and Marketing
It’s so much easier to glean market insights when you have the right tools, and big data is the foundation of many types of customer intelligence software—including FirstRain. According to eWeek, an IT news resource, big data helps improve client and partner relations by providing a measurable connection between you and them. Accruing customer intelligence through traceable analytics ensures companies are able to raise their customer service and optimize their strategies for selling products or solutions.
Understanding that big data is an important aspect of your customer intelligence solution can help you optimize sales and marketing strategies. Being able to stay up-to-date on where your clients’ markets are headed and what types of solutions they’ll require can allow you to anticipate your sales or marketing growth. When you know that your customer is going to need a new information storage solution, or that the latest product innovation is gaining traction in the industry, you can create a realistic timeline and sales goals. Big data offers you a way to actually solve your customer’s problem, instead of simply selling them a solution that may not necessarily produce the desired results.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
The art of selling a product relies on getting the customer interested in what you have to offer, but many times sales reps get too excited themselves and botch the sale. Making sure your client is first enthusiastic about the product before asking for them to commit is important to closing the deal. In fact, knowing your customers and gathering sales intelligence are both integral aspects to making the product memorable. Customers want to feel they can trust the credibility of their sales rep and that the product will make a difference to their productivity. Here are three things to keep in mind to get clients on board with a product and close the sale:
1. Become a Dependable Source
In an article for Inc., sales expert Geoffrey James suggested reps ask themselves if their claims about the product are reliable. When you are speaking with a new customer, the first few minutes are important to sowing the seeds of a trustworthy and beneficial relationship. Ensuring each of your claims are credible and showcasing your expertise of the product can help inspire the customer.
This is where gathering market insights is key in the sales process. Assembling reliable testimonials from authoritative sources or speaking to how an expert in the field uses the product can help customers understand that you can back the claims you’re making about the product. This can also help clients be aware that other companies or professionals in the industry believe in the item or service, and they should too.
2. Speak to Results
Talking about the product’s features is often not enough—you need to be able to show its measurable results.
Gregg Schwartz, a sales and marketing profession, wrote in an article for Young Entrepreneur, an online entrepreneur community, that sales reps can lose a sale by being too evangelical about a product. This can be anything from depicting your product as being the greatest new invention to giving the customer unrealistic expectations about the product. So talk about how the product, service or solution will benefit the company, but be careful not to promise too much.
Entrepreneur also suggested reps bring along market research to the meeting so customers are able to see results firsthand. Allowing clients to read as well as listen to how the solution will help them can be crucial in getting customers energized.
3. Watch Your Wording
Perhaps one of the most important tips is to be cautious about the words you use when speaking to a client. While a document you may bring along uses the word “excited,” saying the word is not going to help the client feel enthusiastic about the product. Employing buzz words, like innovative or guarantee, may alarm rather than inspire. Customers are aware of which words or phrases may be rehearsed, or what Schwartz calls “mental spam.”
Making an effort to avoid overused words can help you be more creative with your sales approach. For example, instead of saying a product is new and improved, speak to its previous limitations and how the latest version is the answer to those challenges. One way to do this is by making a list of words you think may put off the client and stay focused on avoiding them during a meeting. Later on you may notice one or two instances where the word is applicable, but exciting the client is about showing them something they may not have seen before.
By Nora Weintraub
The year is already halfway done—take a moment to process that. You only have six more months to finish whatever you’ve put off, be it perfecting your sales pitch or identifying sales opportunities. Okay, maybe you have some grace period in January, but if you’d set out to accomplish something by the end of the year, half of your time is now gone. Now, take a breath and let that mid-year crisis feeling float away. By managing your time wisely, exercising just a few organizational skills and focusing on what you need to get done, you can reach your end-of-the-year sales goals (or any goal, really) by the deadline and start 2014 off fresh.
1. Identify Where You’re Behind
What’s lacking? Do you still have a couple outstanding sales? Did you not meet your sales goals for a few consecutive months? Did you mean to start being active on Twitter? Start off your personal program to meet those targets by taking a look at what you still have to do—even if you’d rather not. You may not have gotten everything done at the beginning of the year, but you still have another six months to accomplish it all. Carve out some time in your busy schedule and make a good old fashioned to-do list, then place it in an area you see every single day. The key is to take a look at what you still have to do on a daily basis so that it stays at the forefront of your mind.
2. Create Personal Deadlines
On your to-do list, make your own deadlines. If you need to meet a certain sales goal by October, make an effort to get it done by mid-September. In an interview with Inc., Krissi Barr, founder of consulting firm Barr Corporate Success, advised professionals to establish their own goals and make them shorter than the official deadline.
“If I think something is going to take me an hour, I give myself 40 minutes,” Barr said. “By shrinking your mental deadlines, you work faster and with greater focus.”
Knowing that you only have another two months to close a sale can help you make it a priority, even if it doesn’t have to be done for three months. You can then take that extra month to establish a strong relationship with the client or fix any issues so you aren’t struggling with numerous challenges come December.
3. Start Your Day Calm and Energized
Wake up half an hour early and go for a run or hop on your bike. Getting some exercise in the morning, even if it’s just a few stretches or walking around the block, can help you get your brain moving before you enter the office. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise enhances a person’s mood and helps him or her feel motivated for the rest of the day. It also helps condition the brain to deal with stress better, making the mind stronger in the long term. Exercising can also normalize your rest patterns, helping you to get to sleep faster and better able to tackle the next day.
4. Don’t Quit
This may be the most important item on this list—do not give up. There will be kinks in the road to reaching your goals, but don’t let them stop you. In an article for Entrepreneur, business expert Grant Cardone reminded professionals that roadblocks only mean you need to get more creative in your sales strategy. If a customer has turned down your business, take the opportunity to connect on social media or follow up a few weeks later. The will to succeed is one of the best qualities a sales rep can have.
By Nora Weintraub
It's hard to be productive when there are so many things eating up your time. A disorganized inbox, a cluttered schedule and distractions during times when you're motivated can result in lower sales numbers and revenue productivity. Optimizing your sales strategy relies on streamlining your desk and schedule. Even eliminating just a few things can make a big difference in your performance. You may even see a reduction in stress, which can lead to better client relationships. Here are just a few tips you can use to improve your sales productivity:
1. Spring Clean Your Inbox
You probably forgot to clean out your emails and to-do list in the spring, so do it now. Organizing your inbox and updating what you need to get done are often overlooked when things get busy and workloads increase simply because there isn't enough time. While it may take an hour or so to go through email, it can make a massive difference down the road when, instead of scrolling through hundreds of emails, you come across a desired message with no problem. An easy action to take is to make individual folders for each client's emails and then maintain the organization as you accumulate more messages.
In fact, many of those emails are often internal and may no longer be necessary to keep, especially those on which you were just CC'ed. Inc. suggested helping yourself by minimizing the length of your internal emails to keep clutter down.
2. Organize Your Desk and Computer
Your physical workspace is an essential aspect of your productivity, as a disorganized desk and computer may not only result in lost files, but even unnecessary stress. In an interview with Entrepreneur, professional organizer Jennifer Hofmann recommended professionals think of their desk as part of their workflow.
"Your desk says who you are, what you value, where you're going and what your dreams are," Hofmann said. "It's a litmus test for your life. If it doesn't portray an accurate picture, you need to change that."
3. Identify Your Most Productive Times
Do you work better at 7 a.m. than the early afternoon? Or do you need to eat lunch to really get your brain working? In sales you have a little flexibility with your schedule, but between all of the client communication and sales meetings, you have to get in other tasks when you can. Yet, if you know you perform better in the morning, organize your schedule so that you can actually get things done at that time. If a meeting time doesn't work for you, speak up and find an alternate time. Rearranging certain duties to other times of the day can help you stay productive.
4. Prioritize Your Responses
You don't have to drop everything to answer an email from a co-worker right away, no matter how much you feel like you must. Inc. suggested you think of your own time as valuable and realize that immediately responding gives others permission to continually interrupt you with unimportant things, even if they know you are busy. There are times when you need to focus on your own tasks—especially if it's during your most productive time of day—so others can wait awhile. So prioritize when you respond to a message or create a separate email account or alert where only the most important messages are received. Doing so can help others understand when you can talk and when you need to be productive.
By Nora Weintraub
With so many professionals turning to social media, it made fiscal sense for tech giant Microsoft to acquire enterprise networking tool Yammer last year. And since Microsoft has started to invest in cloud computing software and placing social tools into some of its product upgrades—yes, Office 365 and SharePoint, I'm talking about you—obtaining a social media platform for professionals was a logical next step.
Financial Jabber About Yammer
After investing a cool $1.2 billion, Microsoft saw the enterprise social networking tool experience unprecedented growth. According to the updated calculations, the number of registered Yammer users grew more than 55 percent in 12 months, topping out at nearly 8 million. In fact, activity has doubled since the acquisition, with users messaging each other more than ever before.
TechCrunch reported that just last year only 20 percent of Yammer subscribers paid for services—that's still about 800,000 people. A few months shy of Microsoft's one-year anniversary with Yammer, nearly 7 million users were paid subscribers, which is a growth of 165% in less than 12 months.
Sales reps and teams that collaborate on Yammer may continue to see the enterprise networking tool keep up its significant growth. And with Microsoft's history of frequent enhancements, Yammer is also set to get a few. TechCrunch reported the social platform will become integrated with email, users may be able to access documents stored on the company's cloud, and Yammer could receive an external communication improvement.
Whether the email feature will be Outlook-exclusive or the external messaging implementation will just be with Skype, TechCrunch does not say. Whether you use Yammer or not, utilizing a social media platform can help you stay engaged with colleagues.
While social media is just one tool to connect with your fellow sales reps and marketers, it is important to note that everything you do in the digital realm should lead you to boost sales. In fact, networking sites allow professionals to share market research and customer insights quickly and easily. So as platforms like Yammer take off, you should remember that social sites help you to connect with your colleagues and get insight into how to close the sale.
Happy One Year from us and our enterprise customers happily Yammering away.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
Turning that sales lead into a qualified one rarely happens on accident; sales reps put hours of time and effort into preparing the perfect pitch. However, it may not always lead to a sale. You knew exactly what aspects of the product you were going to highlight in the pitch, conducted your B2B market research and identified the perfect sales opportunity. So what went wrong? Maybe you forgot one essential thing–selling the product in a real interaction.
Connect with the Client
During a business meeting it is often easier to give a presentation to the client because you stick to your sales pitch. While you are being professional and organized, remember to set aside a chunk of time for the client to ask questions. Taking a few moments of the interaction to have a dialogue with the customer can go a long way to closing the sale. This can be the perfect opportunity to tell a story about how the product has benefited others.
In a piece for Business Insider, Eric Barker wrote every salesperson must have empathy to be successful. Barker, a writer at Wired Magazine, suggested showing you want to address the client's concerns by imitating their body language. Barker cited research has shown that mimicking can make a sales pitch 20 percent more effective. By mirroring the client, you are better able to respond to customer questions and the client is more likely to feel as if they can trust you—and that's going to result in higher revenue productivity.
Remember! Results Vs Features
You completed hours of customer research and gleaned a lifetime of market intelligence–just don't forget to optimize your pitch by focusing on the results the client will get from the product, not necessarily the features. According to sales expert Geoffrey James at Inc.com, one of the biggest mistakes sales professionals make is skipping over how the product will benefit the client. Instead, sales reps center their pitch on the product's advanced features, thinking that is enough to make the client want to buy the product. Yet, James recommended sales professionals remember clients want to know how this product is different than all the rest, why it is perfect for them and how it will affect their bottom line.
Keep in mind that the client knows you are trying to sell them a product, so keep your head straight and focus on earning their trust.