FirstRain understands sales. Who should I be calling today? What should I say to attract their attention? Is my team prepared for that meeting? Are we all on the same page? How is my competition doing? What are they pitching? How do I intersect the value proposition with my customer’s needs? These are the questions that run through your mind every day. We got answers.
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This is the final part of a 4-part series addressing how Personal Business Analytics help our customers respond to the emerging mega-trends set forth by McKinsey on the Salesforce blog.
Growth through learning
These days, the market can change so much and so quickly that those who can’t keep up will lose out to those who can. According to McKinsey’s mega-trends, “collaborative technologies and lower experimentation costs are game-changers for business economics” and the “premium today is on learning quickly, not planning.”
But to really get value from learning from every customer interaction, companies need to be much more agile. From their supply chain operations, to human resources, to how their sales people adapt to changing customer situations, every group should be ready and able to pivot and shift on short notice.
When looking at learning specifically for sales teams, there is more data available than ever before, as the amount of content on the Web has boomed. Today, insights can be found in all the nooks and crannies of the web—but many sales intelligence tools only look at a small subset of content available, leaving sales teams with the same insights as their competitors or forcing them to have to spend valuable selling time using non-professional tools like Google to find what they need. As McKinsey previously outlined, in a world where sellers have to keep up with highly-networked super buyers, the emphasis on learning can easily turn to catastrophe if it means that employees are spending too much time searching for the information they need.
To meet this need and stay on top of this mega-trend of “growth through learning,” FirstRain customers are using very personalized information experiences across almost every business function: supply chain organizations use it to track market shifts and spot risk; human resources stays on top of trends in hiring processes; marketers get ahead of emerging industry trends and sales teams grow revenue by maximizing “learning from every customer or potential customer interaction” through insights that intelligently guide them through their sales cycles.
Agility and understanding go hand-in-hand, and having a solution that makes you both smarter and more flexible can change the game.
This is part 3 of a 4-part series addressing how Personal Business Analytics help our customers respond to the emerging mega-trends set forth by McKinsey on the Salesforce blog.
B2C-inspired customer expectations
With the proliferation of mobile in consumers’ everyday lives, as well as increased expectation of BYOD workplaces, both B2B employees and customers are coming to expect the same level of personalization that they get as consumers. In order to meet these B2C-inspired consumer expectations, “sales leaders need to develop frictionless and personalized models to connect with the customer across any channel.”
The need to understand how to really connect with your customers has led to the rise of CRM and enterprise collaboration platforms, but employees tend to resist change in their existing workflows—which can result not only in stagnating customer relationships but also in slowing sales cycles. The answer is to place intelligent guidance right where sales already lives, while providing value-based information stickiness in the tools you need them to use. This can be done with very specific, granular insights based on their role, product lines they sell, regions they cover, industry focus and market and competitor relationships.
Connecting with your customer anywhere, anytime is a priority—and as our FirstRain usage stats show across some of the biggest global sales organizations, mobile is the fastest growing platform to connect sellers with buyers’ needs. But for many organizations, gathering the customer intelligence needed to turn the sales team into customer experts is time-consuming. They are simply unable to create very personal experiences with basic sales intelligence tools they may have previously invested in, many of which don’t even have native mobile apps. Consumers today have access to almost everything they need on their mobile devices, from banking to finding their next date, so consumer expectations now mean having the same experience when it comes to customer intelligence. They want their phone to help them build better relationships with their customers so they can win more deals; so, when selecting a tool to match the needs of these sellers, consider:
Drop us a note if you’d like to learn more about enabling your sales teams with frictionless and personalized views that help them connect with your customers.
This is part 2 of a 4-part series addressing how Personal Business Analytics help our customers respond to the emerging mega-trends set forth by McKinsey on the Salesforce blog.
Today, shifting buyer demographics are forcing companies to change their go-to-market strategies. For example, they must reflect the new buying behaviors that are emerging as millennials outnumber Gen-Xers and as cities in emerging economies contain the majority of new urban consumers globally. These shifts are leading simultaneously to more granular geographic opportunities and new but shared global behaviors. In order to be competitive moving forward, companies will need to develop strategies and philosophies that are flexible to meet both sets of needs.
These shifts are why FirstRain customers are leveraging personal business analytics to help their sales teams stay on top of the trends that are happening in their customers’ target markets—down to spending patterns. They need to know what’s top of mind for the consumers their own customers are targeting—is it security, ease of use, cost—and monitor those things based on how their own solutions can provide value down the line. What we are seeing more and more is that business professionals need a very dialed-in view of their customers’ customer, down to the micro-segment they are targeting. Getting specifics is difficult due to the amount of information available on the web today.
Using analytics to see emerging trends while they are still in their nascent stages is nothing new to large B2B companies, but when it’s delivered with intelligent guidance to sales so they know exactly what to do next, all sizes of company can develop a go-to-market strategy that is agile and responsive. And when they are the first to see what’s coming and adjust accordingly, they will always be one step ahead of the competition.
This is part 1 of a 4-part series addressing how Personal Business Analytics help our customers respond to the emerging mega-trends set forth by McKinsey on the Salesforce blog.
Highly-networked super buyers
According to McKinsey, new technologies are making gathering information—and processing it—easy and cheap, resulting in a community of “super-user” buyers, who interact with and influence each other by learning from each others’ challenges and solutions. In an age where social media is prevalent and options for whatever products you need are easy to find—74% of B2B decision makers are using LinkedIn for business reasons, while 42% use Twitter—sales leaders today need to deeply understand context, provide relevant answers to customers’ questions, and shape their customers’ thinking in order to improve the quality and frequency of customer engagements – and win.
So how can sales leaders achieve the same information experience that buyers have, but from the seller’s point-of-view? Only with powerful tools that scan the entire web for sales-driving insights can they become “super-sellers” and trusted advisors in the eyes of their buyers. It’s clear that without targeted, role-based enterprise tools, the noise and information overload from consumer-grade solutions is just too much. As many of our customer success stories demonstrate, having a dynamic, 360-degree view of customers helps sellers in verticals like technology and communications understand exactly what their own customers’ challenges are—along with WHOM and HOW they should engage. Reaching B2B decision-makers is not an easy task, so when you get there you must be well-equipped to strengthen those relationships with meaningful conversations that both teach and influence their buying decisions.
Whether a sales team needs to know about Data Center adoption trends, government regulations, or changing industry buying practices, getting the right breadth and depth of content and insights about their customers is the first step to adding value for these highly-networked super buyers.
Ask yourself: in order to go head-to-head with these new super buyers, are your sales teams easily able to:
If the majority of them are not, tell us why!
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.
Training your salespeople is vital to the continuing success of any business. Even if they can’t turn back time by flying around the world in reverse, sales superheros can turn a bad pitch into a closed deal. In a rapidly changing world, it’s a mistake to assume that your best sales reps don’t need any more training. Whether your salespeople are veterans or just entering the world of sales, it’s necessary to provide them with the training they need to best represent your company. Training sales reps is important for:
Here are some ideas for training your sales people:
Hire a trainer
Most businesses can benefit from hiring a trainer. However, be careful that you hire the right person, according to Geoffrey James for Salesforce. Different professionals have different areas of expertise. If they don’t have what you need, the investment won’t be worthwhile.
Make development of sales staff a part of every sales meeting. Try to set a goal for how much time you’ll spend on it. According to Caron Beesley on the government’s Small Business Administration website, one training session is rarely sufficient. Make sure your reps are up-to-date on the state of the market and even new research that would be beneficial in sales tactics.
An often overlooked way to increase the success of your sales team is to make sure they know your competitors as well as they know your company. As Beesley says, it’s a good idea to encourage role playing exercises that involve competitive selling techniques.
Make training part of your routine
Have sales reps incorporate training into their day by encouraging them to share information via social media or over group lunches.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Market Development
In sales, there's been a lot of hype about the importance of knowing your customers. While it's easy to talk about, the truth of the matter is companies are struggling to gain insights into their clients' realities. Although there are a number of tools available to help make sense of all the disparate data sources out there, many sales teams are still getting bogged down with complexity, and that can negatively impact sales productivity. With disrupters entering the market more frequently, businesses need to know their customers and their customers' market conditions. While this sounds like a daunting task, making processes simpler can improve revenue gains and customer relationships. When you focus on customers, it's easier to design processes with them in mind.
Stop Using Complexity as an Excuse
New sales methodologies crop up all the time, and it's pretty clear that some organizations are agile enough to adapt. Despite this, firms need to put customers first. But if companies hide behind the excuse of tricky market conditions, difficult-to-know customers or internal operations, a competitor can easily enter the market and snatch business away, according to an article by Dave Brock for Salesforce. Many organizations default to doing the things the same way they always have.
In fact, organizational complexity can make it harder to solve problems because sales teams or other departments are trying to approach them the wrong way. Some companies have a set way of approaching issues and are afraid to diverge, even when there's a new opportunity. Brock noted startups are often better at solving problems and addressing clients' needs because they aren't stuck in the same rut of taking an established route. Startups don't necessarily experience less complexity, but they don't rely on the same approaches all the time.
Simplifying sales methods, processes and organizational attitudes isn't always an easy task. Past habits and beliefs can prevent team members from seeing the big picture and maximizing productivity. But if your sales reps are spending more time arguing in internal meetings than serving customers, something needs to change. You need to consider things from your customers' perspectives to make adjustments.
Putting Your Customers—Not Your Pitches—First Will Improve Sales
They say you catch more flies with honey, and your sales team may land more deals by catering to customers' needs and preferences, rather than having a pitch ready at all times. Although your reps should absolutely know your product or service offerings back and forth, this shouldn't be the information they lead with. If you want to boost sales, you should address customers first. Talk about them—their companies, their markets—and ask questions rather than just speak, Tom Searcy wrote for Inc. magazine.
In the past, salespeople would go to meetings and talk about why their products were the best, but now your team needs to be more subtle. Don't be caught selling. Your team can be a lot more successful by focusing on issues related to your clients' businesses. You can then offer insights into these problems by placing the emphasis on the context of the business, rather than the context of products you are trying to tell. Reps that take this approach wait to be asked to solve the problem. They do not push their own solutions. But expressing this concern about customer pain points helps establish a deeper sense of trust. These salespeople transform themselves into strategic partners and advisors instead of just a contact after the sale.
Market Insight Is Key
Without a firm knowledge of the conditions, competitors and geopolitical events in a customer's market, your team can't deliver this kind of service to clients or prospects. Although your customers are more informed about their options, you need to know what they are facing to meet them on their own terms and sell without selling.
By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Marketing
In today’s world of the empowered customer, it’s no longer an option to just tell people your organization is customer-centric. Your sales reps need to uphold this promise by tailoring their approaches to each prospect or client they meet, and this holds especially true for high-powered executive buyers. If your team is failing to cater to this particular group, your organization could lose business in the blink of an eye. Knowing your customers and meeting their specific needs has never been more important.
In fact, Mark Lindwall of Forrester quoted his colleague, David Cooperstein, in his blog, stating, “It’s no longer sufficient to say that you are simply ‘customer-centric’ or ‘customer-focused.’ The only successful strategy in the age of the customer is to become customer-obsessed—to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on how your customers expect you to engage them.”
Failing to do so is a critical mistake for your organization. Customers have higher expectations than ever before and if your sales team isn’t meeting its clients on level ground, it can miss the chance to strengthen the relationship.
Are Salespeople Missing the Mark with Executive Buyers? Your sales reps may leave every meeting feeling like they nailed the pitch, but there’s a good chance this isn’t the case. Forrester surveyed a number of executive buyers, and less than 40 percent said meetings with their representatives fulfill their expectations. Lindwall also noted that only 25 percent of salespeople even have access to executive buyers, which means there are limited possibilities for face-to-face meetings. This gap can cripple sales productivity.
Although companies are funneling money into sales onboarding, training and extra development, the missing crucial element could be empathy. Executives want salespeople to express genuine concern and understanding, and if they don’t, your team is losing opportunities by being out of sync.
Even though customers can empower themselves to make informed decisions, sales reps need to be able to walk in the shoes of their customers to be able to maximize every opportunity. You need to understand how each customer perceives value, risk and cost. At the end of the day, executives aren’t really interested in products—they want something that will solve their companies’ pain points. If your sales representatives go to meetings just to discuss key product features, they probably aren’t talking about the things that are truly important to the client and they may miss the deal.
How to Become Customer-obsessed
1. Use Your CRM Correctly
The more information reps have when they enter the meeting, the more likely they are to deliver the experience the client wants. A simple step like ensuring CRM information is always up to date can make a big difference.
2. Be Responsive, But Keep It Short
Although customer-centricity involves more than just being there when customers need you, your sales reps can’t leave clients hanging. If they can’t respond right away, a short note detailing when they will get in touch can help build trust with executive buyers. However, if you’re getting in touch with these people on your terms, don’t ramble. Voicemails and emails should be short and to the point.
3. Represent Yourself as the Product
Since executives are more interested in problem-solving than products themselves, your salespeople need to create a positive association in the client’s mind. The executive may end up continuing the relationship with the rep for years, so it needs to start by meeting and exceeding expectations.