It’s been a week since Gigaom Structure Data wrapped up, and I’m still processing a lot of what we learned, the great conversations that we had and following up with people we connected with.
It was a great conference! Here are the top 3 things that attendees learned about FirstRain when they stopped by our booth:
I’ve also gone back through the full video archive (thanks Gigaom!) and selected three videos that I’ve been sharing with my colleagues and some of our enterprise B2B customers thinking about big data projects:
Thanks again to all who stopped by! If you didn’t have a chance to stop by our booth, email firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can setup a time to discuss how FirstRain Personal Business Analytics can give you a big-data view on your customers and markets.
The Hindustan Times ran a full-page feature on FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher today, in which she opened up about leadership and empowering women in business. As a longtime leader in Silicon Valley and advocate for diversity in the workplace, Penny has a lot to say about each of those topics. Some choice excerpts from the question-and-answer article:
“What is your best decision so far as a leader?” “My best decision would be hiring the team that I have now.”
“I really look up to Indira Gandhi. She was the first woman leader of such a large country. She showed that women can lead, innovate and become most inspiring leaders of the era.”
“My advice would be that don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. Do what you want to do and be what you want to be.”
Read the entire story here!
This morning, the TAS Group held their ”Battling the 57%” webinar, hosted by their CEO, Donal Daly. Mr. Daly spoke about the changing sales process and how salespeople can use the Challenger method to react better to the buying process and close the sale.
The internet, and the generally wide availability of information, has drastically altered the traditional buying process. By the time they contact you, a buyer is 57% of the way through their process, and have probably already started forming opinions of what solutions they think they want.
So it comes down to this: are you engaging the customer, or is the customer engaging you? Are you getting to them before that 57% threshold? As a seller, it’s up to you to create value—even if the client seems to be leaning away from you.
But how do you create value where the client sees none? The answer lies in truly understanding what’s moving your customers. Using customer insights and doing your research on a prospect will allow you to see how your solution will help them. It may also allow you to uncover challenges in their business they didn’t even know they had—and by creating that value for them (and showing them how your solution can solve their challenge), you’ll be seen as a trusted advisor, making them more inclined to do business with you.
Mr. Daly summed it up nicely: you want to “create, develop, pursue and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customers.” By thoroughly understanding a customer’s business, you can uncover whether your solution is a good fit for them—and, too, whether they are a good fit for your solution. Everyone wants to make the sale, but doing your research and using customer insights up front will help you focus your efforts on the areas they’ll be most effective.
Understanding your customer more deeply can lead to an increase in sales. In this data-driven world, the relationship between sales rep and prospect is different than it used to be. In the past, salespeople sold solutions to problems; they now sell insights, according to Mark Bergen of Vision Critical, an insight community technology provider.
With all of the information that is available to prospects today, they have little use for the same old solutions. They are also more likely to know right off the bat whether your services will work for them. Since they arrive into the sales funnel with more knowledge, the entire sales process is being turned on its head. When a sales rep can give them assistance on top of what they already know, this individual has an opportunity to become not just a sales person, but a colleague.
In this new landscape, the most powerful sales strategy is having insight into your customers market that no one else has. Once you have this information, you won’t just be selling clients a solution to a pain point, but valuable knowledge they can only get from you.
How to understand your customer’s end market There are several options, but one thing is clear: a simple Google search doesn’t cut it anymore. Knowing your customer’s market requires in-depth research, from scouring social media platforms to reading industry publications. It can be a time-consuming activity. That’s why the best option is to invest in a customer intelligence platform that will deliver personalized information about customers’ markets. The right solution will allow you to tune out the noise and focus just on relevant events and big data analytics.
Here are just two examples of what you can accomplish when you know your end-customer:
1. Sell your prospect an outcome Don’t work in the dark. Use key insights to determine what your client really needs, beyond how you believe your product can help them. According to Anthony Iannarino for Salesforce blog, you need to focus on the final outcome instead. By honing in on their market, you can develop a better understanding of what the customer is looking for. Successful salespeople pitch the future outcome that the client is looking for. However, depending on where the client is at in the buying process, they may not be aware of their desired outcome. As a valuable asset to your prospect, this is an idea you can help them develop. Iannarino also provides another valuable piece of advice: a sale will only happen if stakeholders are in agreement on the desired outcome. Using the market intelligence you’ve gleaned, you can help guide the decision-makers into a consensus on what direction operations could go.
2. See needs before your customers do According to Bergen, by monitoring your customer’s market very closely, you can often identify problems they don’t know they have. Bergen notes how his company, which provides software that facilitates communication between customers and businesses, found a solution for sports teams whose end-customer was sports fans. After doing some research, his firm determined that sports teams don’t offer the engagement tools that sports fans want. For instance, sports teams weren’t always reaching out on digital platforms. In addition, digital platforms enabling fans to branch out from just supporting local teams. This knowledge helped Bergen’s company pitch their product to sports teams.
When you are well-versed in all the elements that make your customer’s market tick, you have opportunities to provide valuable insight in addition to products and services. The role of the sales person is changing. Do you have the tools you need to be a 21st century sales rep?
In the modern, data-driven environment, we have myriad contact methods to reach prospects. The variety of choices can make it difficult for sales reps to determine which medium is the right one. However, making this choice can have a surprising impact on sales productivity. To be a good sales rep, you have to be aware that at any given point in the sales funnel, the right communication strategy is going to be different. On the other hand, the medium also depends on what you have to say.
This may sound entry-level, but if you use the wrong channel to relay information, it may not be received the way you intended; being successful in sales relies on picking up on nuances in the way people communicate. Business executives are busy people, and you want to make things as easy as possible for them. Choosing between email, phone and face-to-face may sound simple, but you have to consider at least two things: first, what is the best medium for what you’re trying to say; second, how will it be perceived by the client?
Think Before Making Contact In a recent article from Fast Company, the author related her surprise that many people contacting her had little knowledge of contemporary communications etiquette. She cited an example of receiving long-winded emails outlining a problem when a quick phone call would have saved time on both ends. Needless to say, when you’re dealing with prospects, you want to do everything you can to use their time most efficiently, and also make sure they actually comprehend your messages.
A similar argument can be made for email. For quick queries or check-ins, prospects are likely to appreciate the use of email over a phone call, because email allows for valuable multi-tasking time that the telephone doesn’t. A face-to-face meeting should be reserved for the most important conversations, according to Anthony Iannarino.
Another point Iannarino makes is that the method of communication sends a message about how important you consider the discussion to be. For this reason, it’s imperative that certain meetings be in-person.
Make Sure You’re Developing the Relationship In response to the email/phone/in-person debate, B2B Lead Blog noted that the primary concern in customer relationships is about developing a relationship. Whatever medium you choose to send your communications, make sure the message helps you build a relationship. So, even if you think your pitch warrants a face-to-face meeting, remember that your prospect probably isn’t ready for that yet, and being too forceful may turn them off.
Developing the kind of trusted relationship that actually creates sales requires that reps start early. Use big data analytics to find potential leads early on in the buying process. Then using expertise gleaned from this market intelligence, begin forming a relationship and nurturing the lead until they are ready to buy—earning you in the coveted role of advisor. You can demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of their field and use this information to gain their trust over time. Being a trusted colleague also means that you understand your customer and the fact that they may need more information before committing to a sale.
However, here’s where communications comes in: bombarding prospects with sales pitches or salesy information too early can be a deterrent. Based on where the prospect is in the buyer’s journey, you should carefully consider not only what you’re saying to them, but what method you’re using to send the message. And make sure you’re aligning the content of your communications correctly with the method you send them.
In sales, these subtleties can make all the difference.
FirstRain is excited to announce that we are participating in this year’s Gigaom Structure Data Conference! The conference will be March 19-20 at Chelsea Piers in New York.
900+ big data practitioners, technologists and executives will descend on NYC to explore “how big data can drive business success.” Personal Business Analytics(TM) fits squarely into that subject matter, as we’re creating an area of big data analytics that is largely new to the customer intelligence landscape: getting highly personalized, relevant and timely information to business users. Our customers can now get a 360-degree view of their customers, markets and competitors, increasing revenue and solidifying their strategy.
You can also get a 25% discount on registration through FirstRain! Use code SPONSOR25 when you register, then come by and say hi!
The infinite stream of information in the 21st century world has created many new possibilities for companies. Analytics that track consumers across Web pages, tweets, blogs and other content posted every minute create a wealth of resources for sales reps and marketers who need to develop a greater understanding of their customers’ movements and industries. However, all this information can be overwhelming and distracting. There’s simply too much of it to deal with. To many executives, Big Data is large and intimidating. However, if you find a way to cut through the noise, you can reduce the flood to a more manageable trickle. To do this you need the right infrastructure, tools and attitude.
Executives Want More Information For the most part, executives are on board with using data, even if they don’t know how to approach it. A CSO Insights survey cited by Business News Daily found 89 percent of executives believe that sales reps missed out on sales opportunities because they weren’t up to date on what was going on with customers and prospects. In addition, the survey found that salespeople often need to look at as many as 15 different sources to find usable information about prospects. The time spent looking through the CRM, social media accounts and doing Google searches all adds up. And after you’ve finished looking through all these sources, your data may not be organized.
Not All Data is the Right Data According to a recent article from Forbes, many businesses hear about big data analytics and try to jump on board without really thinking it through. As the magazine explains, you need to consider carefully which data will help you achieve your goals and what will just add more noise. You need the right tools to navigate the flood, otherwise it will remain unmanageable. For example, if your goal is to use market intelligence to gain a better understanding of your customer’s industry, you need to find a way to hone in on the details that matter.
How Companies Can Gain From the Right Intelligence When businesses have access to a platform that streamlines the Niagara-level flood of data into a navigable canal, sales reps and marketers suddenly have insight that can help improve revenue productivity. Your sales reps can plug into the client’s world and see trigger events they can use to create more targeted sales pitches. They can see events on the horizon that will change the market, like the introduction of new products, activity of competitors, or changing management. They will have the ability to answer questions their potential clients haven’t figured out how to ask yet. In short, while big data may seem unwieldy, you can harness it to improve sales productivity.
Getting Customer Intelligence in the C-Suite Businesses tend to perform better when they have high-level executives dedicated to successfully implementing big data initiatives. According to Mckinsey, different companies need to assess how management can best approach introducing analytics into the business sphere. Often, chief marketing officers may take the reigns on these initiatives. On the other hand, depending on the individual needs of your company, it could be an idea to create a whole new role to manage the implementation of customer intelligence and make sure it is successful from upper management down to the sales teams that use the knowledge to craft better pitches.
By choosing the right solution, your company can figure out how to use Big Data successfully to make a difference in your sales and marketing strategies.
Much of the time, your first contact with a prospect will be through email. However, sending out shoddy messages that appear mass-produced and untailored to the specific business can wreak havoc on your sales productivity. You have to treat each email like it’s a conversation, because that’s how your prospect will be thinking about it. Sending out a generic template just won’t cut it.
For instance, a typical email may tout the company, talk about your services and end with a call-to-action. This could literally be sent out to anyone, and probably is. Instead, you need to do a better job of targeting it.
Sympathize With Your Prospect
In Inc., sales expert Geoffrey James notes that if you think about how your emails look from the customer’s perspective, it may start to make more sense as to why leads aren’t biting. Most likely, they’re asking, “what does this have to do with me?” They may be wondering why you are reaching out to them at all, and they may even be truly annoyed that you wasted their time with spam. In each case, you’ve all but lost your prospect before you’ve begun.
Prioritize Customer Research
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you need to do some work figuring out who your prospect is before shooting off an email. Once again, a cursory look at their homepage probably won’t be enough. You want is to exceed their expectations, not barely meet them—so you need to dig deeper. Customer intelligence analytics allow you to not only see what your customer has been doing, but what’s going on in their marketplace.
How to Use Sales Insights to Write Messages
Generally, prospects are more likely to respond when a message is relevant to their interests. This means it’s best to contact someone who has been looking around your site. You should not only mention their presence on your page, but exactly what they looked at. However, intelligence gives you the details that can make a cold email work. For instance, it enables you to see trigger events that create new product needs. According to HubSpot, events like this can be an excellent way to open an email.
Now that you have a better idea of their industry, and what it takes to excel in this environment, you will have a much easier time getting into the client’s perspective and understanding what will compel them to respond to your email. Keep things simple. James suggests that you give examples, not just of businesses you’ve worked with, but what you’ve done for them. Even better, align this small pitch to their specific market niche.
Another tip HubSpot offers is that with the first email, you’re really looking for a response, not a sale. Try to establish yourself as a trustworthy source who cares about the outcome of their company rather than going after the pitch right away.
When you take the time to understand your customers, you can write messages that they really respond to.
Even the best sales people need some tips now and then. When it comes down to it, the problem could simply be one of time management—your reps may be spending too much time chasing down leads that will never convert. The sales funnel shouldn’t be a black hole; make sure salespeople know when to persevere and when to surrender in order to improve sales productivity.
1. Do More with Less
According to Geoffrey James for Salesforce blog, you may need to refocus your time to increase sales. While it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes you need to reduce the number of opportunities you go after in order to increase sales. The problem with chasing too many leads is that you may not be giving each one the time they deserve. Instead, choose the most qualified leads and prepare sufficiently for each pitch.
2. Know Your Customer
This point goes along with the first one. Going after the right leads means doing significant prep work. Utilizing sales intelligence and good, old-fashioned customer research are the best resources. Make sure you are having a sales conversation based on the needs of your potential client, suggests Selling Power. To be able to pitch a meaningful solution, you have to understand what drives their market. In the same regard, if you’ve done the research and it doesn’t seem like your product is the right fit for them, odds are the company’s buyers will come to the same conclusion. It will be more beneficial to focus your efforts elsewhere.
3. Work on Your Pitch
Once you’ve improved your time management and started focusing in on the sales you can actually make, it’s time to work on the most basic part of your strategy: the pitch. If you’re not effectively closing sales, the culprit could be the pitch itself. The problem could be that your pitch is too much of a hard sell, and not enough like a conversation. According to sales training group Fearless Selling, a canned pitch can really turn off your prospects. Once again, you need to respect your potential clients as individuals with specific needs—remember to pitch your solution to their pain points, not your product. Your product won’t work the same way for everyone, and neither will your pitch. Try ditching your notes and having a real talk instead of giving a presentation.
When you really think about how you’re working and try to perfect each element, the results can be surprising.
Some of the world’s largest Fortune 1000 Healthcare and Pharmaceutical companies are using personal business analytics from FirstRain to make their employees smarter, grow their business and drive revenue. Want to find out how your company can do the same?
Nima Niakan, FirstRain Fellow, will be showing webinar attendees how personalized business analytics from FirstRain are beneficial to companies in the healthcare industry by displaying the intersections between their markets, new legislation, competitive activity and geographies in a completely different way. With FirstRain, you can:
The session will be 30 minutes long and will include case studies and Q&A, as well as a demo of FirstRain.
To register, please follow this link: bit.ly/MzIz6q
Hope to see you there!