By Nora Weintraub
You’ve probably already been hearing (and getting excited!) about salesforce.com’s upcoming Dreamforce 2013 conference. The theme this year is “Join the Customer Company Revolution”—but what does that actually mean? To get everyone ready for the largest vendor-led tech conference, salesforce.com has been streaming live conversations with experts about the conference, but before you head to San Francisco in November, you must understand the key aspects of customer companies.
A customer company is completely obsessed with its clients and able to collaborate with them to create a strong brand. By being centered on its customer, the company develops a bond with them based on trust. How can your company do all of this? Now, we’re not going to give away all the insider secrets before Dreamforce, but here’s a few tips to help you become customer-obsessed, customer-collaborative and customer-trusted to truly start understanding your customers before the conference.
If you’re not 100% committed to your customer, what’re you left with? Most likely, a struggling business that just can’t find its market niche—and is suffering for it. Being a customer company means being completely infatuated with your client. This means constantly researching your customers to stay up to date on their business lines, what’s going on in their market and what their customers need. Being customer-obsessed requires your constant focus on providing your customer with the best experience with your company possible.
Doing this doesn’t have to be too difficult. Your company can realign its mission to officially make the business customer-centered and gather customer insights to get started. According to Customer Care News, your company can follow the likes of Apple and Starbucks to become an “experience maker.” Every time you connect with a customer, your company can be focused on creating a great experience.
Part of developing a wonderful customer experience is making sure your customer is able to tell you their opinion or concerns so you have the information to improve the experience. According to the blog Get Satisfaction, customer companies are able to turn negative interactions into positive ones by showing that the company truly understands the customer’s needs and is ready to work on providing them with solutions. This is where customer insights become vital—if you don’t have the knowledge to create that intelligent conversation with the customer, you can’t sell your solution or product. Customers want to feel as if you understand their concerns and can listen to their questions. If your company doesn’t use their feedback—or, even worse, doesn’t value it—your customers may not feel they can trust you.
The marketplace is more competitive than ever before, so your business needs to create a positive relationship with your customer to keep their business. Yet you can’t gain your client’s trust if you don’t know them and aren’t able to create an intelligent conversation. It’s because of this growing need to truly understand your customers that the customer company revolution began in the first place. Building trust requires a strong foundation that only customer-focused companies can provide.
Being a customer-centered business is vital to keeping your top enterprise accounts. If you’re not invested in your customer, they won’t invest in you. Creating a lasting relationship with your customers and driving your revenue stream is based on discovering how your company can become customer-focused. Dreamforce 2013 will give you countless ways to do just that, but it all starts with making a commitment to being obsessed with your customer and all of their needs.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
The yearly sales marathon is more than halfway done, so it’s that time of year when you may need to ramp up your sales productivity to hit end-of-the-year projections. Some reps are superstars at this; they’re able to push themselves all the way to the end-of-the-year finish line. Their secret? They’re in shape. They’re able to pace themselves throughout the year and gather sales intelligence early. Now, don’t think you can’t catch up—you can. The trick is to get out of your comfort zone, mentally zero in on your target and push yourself until the end of the year.
So here they are—five steps you can use to push yourself to hit your sales targets:
1. Determine What’s Holding You Back
There can be any number of things that are stopping your productivity. Is there one client that just won’t budge? Is your go-to sales approach just not working anymore? Identifying all your challenges can give you insight on your own sales productivity and help you realize the odds you’re up against. Pushing through to the end of the year relies on you knowing these barriers.
2. Use the Right Tools
Some of these challenges can be due to not using the tools at your disposal—or not having them at all. If you’re unable to connect with your customers, it’s probably because you’re not collecting customer insights in an efficient way. When running a race, you don’t put on sandals—you grab that pair of running shoes that fit your feet like a glove. Using the correct tools properly is one of the only ways you’ll be able to stay productive in the time you have left.
3. Do a Little More—On a Frequent Basis
According to the blog Time Management Ninja, creating daily goals that are larger than the day before’s can be a great way to start pushing yourself. Time Management Ninja suggested just taking an extra five minutes every day to finish a task or concentrating on making one extra sale a week can ramp up your productivity. Think of it as building your momentum so that you’re not struggling in the final stretch.
We all get burned out, so taking some time to yourself can help you recharge and refocus. In a piece for Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, recommended building up your productivity through intervals. Just like running a marathon, you can only push yourself for so long when you’re just starting something new. Try taking a longer lunch break to relax for a while so you’re more efficient when you return.
5. Know You’re Better Than You Think
Superstars often reach their targets because they know they can. Confidence is key in sales, so if you don’t think pushing yourself is a possibility, think again. Recognize that you’re stronger than you think, and all you have to do is tap into that power. Getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself relies on understanding you can be a sales superstar if you want to. You just need to condition yourself to think that way.
So get moving! Push yourself to make those sales and reach your goals, otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself later in the year. Take a cue from your rock star colleagues and leave your comfort zone—you’ll thank yourself when you succeed. It may seem cliché, but you can do it!
FirstRain is revving up for Dreamforce 2013, and to make sure we’ve got all the latest information, we’ve been watching The Road to Dreamforce on Salesforce Live. It’s been really informative and has helped get our creative juices flowing—except they stillwon’t tell us who the band is! Come on, guys!
The best part is that anyone can participate. If you have a question, you can easily ask in real-time: just go on Twitter and use #salesforceLIVE during the session. You might even get an on-air shout out and be famous like Justine!
If you missed yesterday’s episode, don’t worry. You can watch it here.
By Daniela Barbosa, Director of Business Development
It’s no secret that companies of all sizes are adopting tablets in the office. According to this poll of 610 professionals by CDW, more than half of the American workforce have used a tablet at work for more than a year. From being able to take a presentation on the go to accessing vital information outside of the office, tablets are the perfect gadget for today’s professionals. But if we are talking about revenue enablement, there isn’t anyone that benefits more from tablet use than salespeople.
Salesforce.com recently pointed out that 40% of sales teams use a tablet, according to the Sales Management Association, and they outlined six ways how tablets are transforming sales. How? For example, portable devices allow you to conduct B2B market research when you’re about to head into a client meeting and even to optimize your product pitch based on the sales intelligence you gather. Yet these aren’t the only reasons tablets are ideal for sales reps.
Makes Multitasking Easy
Tablets are everything rolled into one—laptop, your product catalogue and even means of communication with the rest of your team. In the CDW survey, this ability to do many things at once provides us with more than 1.1 hours in gained productivity every day. According to the survey’s info graphic, 84% of the respondents said tablets make them better multitaskers.
This is essential to sales reps who are driving revenue. It frees up time when you’re able to add another slide to your presentation before entering a client meeting and take notes right on your tablet instead of having to transcribe them into the computer later on. With sales reps already pressed for time, salesforce.com suggested tablets provide teams with access to insights in real-time, which results in smarter selling strategies—and here at FirstRain we have many enterprise customers that are already seeing these benefits with FirstRain for Touch solutions.
Increase Customer Visibility
You always need to have your finger on the pulse of your customer’s market, but this can be difficult when you can’t access information when you’re away from your desk. Apps from FirstRain and companies like salesforce.com provide teams with a way to collect customer insights, which can do more than just help you maximize sales strategy.
Salesforce.com suggested reps use tablets to boost customer engagement by loading the device with videos, slideshows and other types of media. When your client is able to see your pitch in action, they’re often more willing to purchase it.
Stay Constantly Connected
One of the greatest advantages of tablets is the ability to always be connected with the rest of the team. According to the survey, respondents said they couldn’t live without email access when they are away from the office—we all know how that feels! In addition to being connected, being able to communicate with co-workers can help sales reps improve their sales pitch and receive additional insight about their customer’s markets.
In fact, salesforce.com says that being able to communicate with colleagues on the go is a great advantage to sales reps. With cloud-based CRM systems, professionals can access customer records and keep track of opportunities. There is no question that being able to connect with your team and your CRM system is essential to maximizing your time and ensuring no opportunity is lost.
So yes, tablets are transforming the sales environment—is your team ready?
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
Every aspect of the business needs a standard methodology, but nothing requires an official set of procedures more than sales. With generating revenue being central to the business’ success, sales reps need a specific process to follow to optimize their interactions with clients. Even if your team already uses a set sales methodology, if it’s not focused on gathering and employing customer intelligence, you’re not going to see all of the sales opportunities you could be. Creating a customer-focused procedure that is standard to your team can boost your sales and improve client relationships.
Understanding What “Sales Methodology” Means
According to sales training firm Richardson, your team should think of sales methodology as “the system a sales organization follows to win business.” Now, this can include many things, such as documenting the process of pitching a sale, to the tools the team uses to conduct customer intelligence, but for sales teams to be successful, each aspect of the methodology it uses should be client-centered.
Yet it’s much easier to develop a customer-focused sales methodology than it is to alter an existing one. However, teams can revamp their standard procedures by taking a look at each aspect of the selling process. Does the first contact with the client focus on how your team can help them, or on what their issues are? If you can’t answer that question with a client-centered answer, it may be time for you to overhaul your outdated sales methodology.
Steps that Work
According to Salesforce, the Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe (BANT) methodology is no longer applicable to today’s customers. They say BANT doesn’t work anymore because 70% of all purchasing decisions are made before the sales rep is even present.
Suster calls this process PUCCKA. Each of these steps answers part of the customer’s question, “why should I buy from you?” Clients are continually focused on what you can do for them, so your entire sales methodology should be compelling your whole client contact team—including those in customer service—to always be interacting with clients in a regulated method that is centered on their needs.
The Key: Gathering Customer Intelligence
According to Suster, outdated sales methodologies are the biggest reason most sales don’t close; many don’t focus on providing a solution to client needs. A customer-centered methodology is essential to today’s sales team, and every procedure relies on one main tactic: how you gather insight into your customers and their market.
With a customer insights tool that allows you to research your client’s markets, you’re able to identify what is driving your customers to seek out a solution and determine the right champion for the sales team. Conducting customer intelligence allows key players in the sales process—most notably, the reps—to understand how to interact with the client and even identify if there is leeway in pricing. You’re able to understand the challenges they are currently facing—and may face in the future—and develop a unique selling proposition centered around that information.
It’s on: We’re going to Dreamforce again! And this time, we’ve moved on up to Silver Sponsor status. Our booth last year was packed and buzzing with great conservations, with both attendees and salesforce.com employees wanting to learn more about FirstRain. So, this year we’ll have some more elbow room—and, in typical FirstRain fashion, we absolutely guarantee to have something extra special that will make you want to come on by!
These past few weeks have been really exciting at FirstRain with our launch of our new product, Market Insights, but now it’s time to start looking ahead. The Dreamforce momentum is really picking up, and we can’t wait to participate and show the Cloud community how FirstRain’s big data insight solutions can help companies increase revenue and put their go-to-market strategy into action.
For news and updates as we get closer to November 18, you can follow us on Twitter at @firstrain, and check us out on Facebook. Also, while you’re tuning into Dreamforce buzz (and hopefully getting as excited as we are), don’t forget to listen in to salesforce’s own “The Road to Dreamforce” weekly show to get the latest news and tips to make Dreamforce 2013 the best Dreamforce ever!
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
Sometimes, you may think that anything is easier than gaining that one picky client’s trust. But, believe it or not, you can do it, because having the right knowledge at the right time is the key to understanding your customers. Yep, it’s a superpower every sales rep can have if they have the right tools and the right attitude.
So, here’s what you need to do: Take a deep look into your customer markets to get a complete picture of what’s going on and how you can help clients, then take that knowledge and build the relationship the old-fashioned way—with some good team-building techniques and a little bit of courage.
Get the Low-Down on Your Customers
Just because customers are in a similar market as another doesn’t mean they have the same needs—so, sorry to say it, but you need to do research on both. The solution that may work for Company A might just need to be tweaked for Company B, or you might have to change your entire strategy—so you need to know that before you delve into the selling process.
According to Salesforce, you need to utilize customer analytics to identify the key factors that are influencing your customer. Do they need a technical focus or a functional one? Salesforce recommended gaining knowledge about the finer points of your client’s market and their share of that market before you start trying to build a relationship.
Focus on Using Your Knowledge for Good, Not Evil
The best superheroes know when to show off their stuff and when to hide it—and they always have other peoples’ needs in mind. Earning your customer’s trust lies in focusing your research and subsequent pitch on their pain points. In a piece for Entrepreneur, Nadia Goodman, an expert on the psychology of entrepreneurship, suggested showing your customers they can trust you through demonstrating you understand their needs and have their best interests at heart.
Roderick Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, told Goodman that trust develops when you show the customer that you are consistently working to improve their bottom line.
“Trust-building and maintenance take vigilance and sustained effort,” Kramer said. “Once you have it, you can’t rest on your laurels.”
Bring the Client into Your Team
According to Salesforce, you may need to enter uncomfortable territory to build trust—meaning you need to think outside of the box. Sometimes, team-building activities like inviting a customer to the company retreat can go a long way. Take them out to lunch with your manager or the rest of your team. When you show the customer you value their business so much that you’re going to bring them into your team, it can be the boost they need to realize that you can be trusted.
The One Thing You Can’t Forget
However, Salesforce recommended that one thing must be consistent—your behavior. This is where knowledge is your secret power. If you provide exceptional customer service during your first encounter, but drop the ball by not knowing of the big merger between two of their competitors and how it may affect them during your second, their belief in you can falter.
Building a trusting relationship with your customer takes time and consistency. Conducting research into your client and their market isn’t just important—it’s essential if you want to develop that trust. Gathering knowledge about your customer can set you apart from your competitors and gain the confidence of a client.
By Daniela Barbosa, Director of Business Development
Simply just being on networking sites isn’t enough anymore—to stay competitive you have to be creative with the content you are putting out there, showcasing your expertise and even creating a new social community. With all of its challenges, social media continues to be one of the most effective ways you can market your company and connect with clients. When your customers are able to interact with your company online, you’ll understand what is currently driving them to purchase a certain product or favor a specific brand. But think beyond just sharing content with your clients—develop an engagement strategy that’s specific to your target consumer and you will begin to see stronger sales.
Forbes says that digital marketing campaigns are starting to move toward more purpose-driven content and branding, according to this infographic from We First, a B2B training company. The infographic highlighted that 54% of consumers don’t trust that brands are being genuine. Let that sink in for a minute. Your social media initiative is under customer scrutiny most of the time, and you need to figure out a way to bridge that disconnect and really interact with your customers. A main challenge to achieving this end is that the majority of employees, about 54%, said they didn’t clearly understand their company’s mission and so were unable to effectively communicate with customers online. After you make sure your employees really know what your company is trying to achieve, then you can turn to your customers. One of the key ways the infographic suggested for building customer loyalty online is by showcasing the humanizing aspects of your company, such as charity involvement, or highlighting a strong volunteer culture.
By developing a comprehensive social media strategy around your customers’ needs that all of your employees can follow, you will not only improve worker knowledge, but also ensure everyone is on the same page.
Learn From Entrepreneurs
But how do you make this a reality? Well, understanding your customers is key, but you should also gather some insider secrets from a few innovative professionals who have conducted successful social initiatives.
Entrepreneurs are often better able to think strategically about what they want to accomplish. According to a case study by Entrepreneur magazine, three startups gained strong sales early on by adopting a customer-centric—and, unsurprisingly, innovative—social media strategy.
One of these young professionals, Warby Parker, decided to increase awareness about his New York city-based online eyeglass company’s brand by encouraging clients to share their own stories and content on social media. Warby was able to promote his company by providing customers with the opportunity to try on the eyeglasses before buying, and then asking them to speak about their experience online, like whether they decided to purchase the frames. The strategy was focused on generating positive buzz about the company.
David Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby’s company, told Entrepreneur that the marketing idea was a grassroots-type strategy for the brand.
“Don’t view social media as just another way to push your marketing messaging,” Gilboa said. “Think of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as critical customer service gateways and take the time to respond to each and every customer who reaches out to you there. Each comment, photo and tweet gives you an opening to directly communicate with them on a meaningful, personalized basis that encourages brand loyalty.”