1,600 years ago, St. Augustine defined the present as a knife edge between the past and the future. Information technology has dulled the edge of the present and created our obsession with real-time information. Modern philosophers talk about presentism, the theory that only present things exist, which makes the future and past unreal.
We get stock market updates in real time, follow live weather and news reports, get real-time analytics of our sales operations, tweet in real time, instantly upload images on Facebook in real time, check available parking spaces in real time, and get real-time updates of expected waiting time in emergency rooms.
As our curiosity gets locked into real-time mode, we become less interested in information that’s "aged." What’s discussed on TV talk shows and in bars or hair salons is a reflection of what is happening within a progressively narrow window of time. Today is Thursday and Sunday’s football games are history. Tonight you won’t hear David Letterman, Jay Leno, or any of the late-night comedy show hosts joke about something that happened last week. The earthquake that struck Haiti, the cataclysmic flood in Pakistan, the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or Tiger Woods wrecking his Cadillac…all that information has moved sideways, stored away beyond our field of vision.
The Real-Time Sales Process
We live in an age in which we have a wealth of information that creates poverty of attention. How does that translate into the world of selling? On one hand, we have salespeople who have notoriously short attention spans, and on the other hand, we have prospects who have less and less time available to speak with a salesperson. To take advantage of a sales opportunity, salespeople need to shift from the traditional time-delay process to real-time selling mode. What’s the difference? In the past, when a customer expressed a need, the salesperson said, “I will get back to you with a solution.” That time-delay process is dead. Information technology gives salespeople the opportunity to meet customers with relevant information that the salesperson can gather in real time. Typical examples are InsideView, OneSource, Chatter or Savo. What many sales organizations don’t realize is that with every second a customer spends waiting for information, the chances for a sale decrease. That’s why smart companies automate proposals (like Sant) or quotes (like BigMachines) or accelerate the response time for Web inquiries (like InsideSales).
The Downside of Real-Time Efficiency
I believe that our preoccupation with real time makes us clueless about the future. Case in point: The recession shredded long-term business planning. I remember one CEO saying, “I am no longer focusing on the next quarter; I focus on reaching our weekly goals.” I hear sales leaders talk like football coaches: “Let’s focus on the next ten yards.”
As we have our eyes glued on real-time information tools and what’s happening now, we don’t realize that the future has arrived, but we’re not seeing it because our peripheral vision has narrowed. Another case in point: There are car dealerships in rural areas that haven’t changed their sales and service processes since the eighties, and there are Lexus dealerships that offer clients the use of a gym to work out while they wait for their car to be serviced.
Earlier this week, I met with a sales-operations manager from a company that employs 400 salespeople who are not using a CRM system. At our last conference, I spoke with a VP of sales who told me that her salespeople spend up to two hours daily researching prospects using Google and LinkedIn. What prevents people from recognizing the technology that ensures the future of their business? Is it their love for tradition? Is it the fear of change? Is it their lack of imagination? William Gibson once said, “The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”
It’s time to take a break and scan the horizon for the telltale signs of our future. Could it be that by narrowing our field of vision we’ve moved the future sideways?
If you want to be part of the future of sales and marketing, check out the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, November 8–9, 2010, in San Francisco.
Yesterday morning I watched Godard Abel, CEO of BigMachines, present a glimpse into the future of selling. The company’s Big Ideas conference attracted more than 500 loyal customers and fans of the company. Its revenues have grown 269 percent over the past three years, a clear indication that the company has hit a sweet spot in an underserved market. The mission: make selling easier and faster for customers. The killer app: a SaaS solution that streamlines product configuration and sales quotations for sales teams and channel partners. Last night I had the opportunity to test-drive the app and was able to create a complex quote based on a set of specifications (that were over my head) in less than three minutes. How could I do that? The software offers a system called “guided selling,” in which the user is asked questions that will guide him or her to the recommended options. It offers tools such as images to assist choices and presents alternatives based on common needs.
The Selling Platform
In his keynote, Godard predicted a trend toward customer experience management (CEM). See my recent post on that subject.
Godard cited a University of Michigan study that tracked customer-satisfaction ratings and showed that the following industries are leading in CEM: food manufacturing, soft-drink manufacturing, Internet retail, express delivery, and automobiles. Godard cited Netflix and Amazon among the leading companies. The number one customer-satisfaction leader is Heinz.
The worst industries are wireless phone systems, network cable TV news, government, cable TV services, airlines, and newspapers. The company with the worst customer-satisfaction rating: United Airlines.
Godard’s key point: “We can improve the customer experience by moving to online self-service so we can ensure a great experience all the time.” BigMachines has created an online selling platform that allows B2B customers to quickly configure (without speaking to a salesperson) what they feel is the best solution and then connect with the supplier to place the order.
The selling platform allows salespeople to have a live conversation with customers and configure and price the product with the customer. If the customer insists on a special concession that goes beyond the salesperson’s authority, the salesperson can send the quote to the manager’s mobile phone via email to get the order approved.
To illustrate that the selling platform isn’t a new invention, Godard asked the audience, “How many of you have purchased from Amazon.com?” All 500 people in the audience raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you have ever spoken to someone at Amazon.com?” Only two hands went up. (Amazon has live support for Kindle users). The Amazon selling model continues to inspire SaaS vendors, and the BigMachines selling platform is just one of many more online sales innovations that will take the market by storm. I’ve had the opportunity to preview one of them, which is going to be revealed at the upcoming Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on November 8-9, 2010.
The Buzz from the Audience
During the break I had a chance to speak with several BigMachines customers. A manufacturer of agricultural machines who sells through a network of more than 1,000 dealers said that the dealers’ salespeople save a huge amount of time generating complex quotes. According to the sales operations manager, other benefits include the following:
The Key to Triple-Digit Growth in Three Years
Godard’s commitment to listening to his customers was notable. BigMachines customers help with design ideas, get to vote on product improvements, and can share their ideas on the next incremental improvements. The company employs 23 customer success managers – another indication that BigMachines solves its growth challenges by helping customers solve theirs. BigMachines is a great example of a company that co-creates products with its customer base and takes customer experience management seriously. No wonder many customers brought four or five staff members to this conference.
P.S. BigMachines has been voted a finalist for the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Awards in three categories.
The world of selling has changed with the incredible pace of innovation in online sales applications; however, the world around us has changed while we had our eyes focused on driving up operational efficiencies to counteract the impact of the recession.
I recently sat next to a surgeon on a plane ride to Boston. I was working on my iPad while he worked on his. During a break, I asked what brought him to Boston. He explained that he planned to attend a technology conference. He wanted to operate on patients with greater precision, greater speed, less pain, less blood loss, fewer infections, and faster recuperation time. When I asked him how technology changed his profession, he explained that he learned the traditional way of performing surgery with his hands and instruments. When he was introduced to robotic surgery, he was skeptical and resisted the training process. He described the struggle as an internal fight during which he had to learn to give up control to gain greater efficiency. He not only had to give up direct, manual control of the scalpel, he had to learn how to grip and manipulate a robotic arm that was inserted into the patient’s body. He felt that each movement was counterintuitive. What made the technology more compelling to him was the greater visibility inside the patient, which he could watch on the monitor. He stuck with the program and became a leader in the field of minimally invasive surgery.
Surgery 2.0: Minimally Invasive, Ultimate Flexibility, and Higher Precision
In the two-minute video below, surgeons demonstrate how they can pull the skin off a grape without losing a drop of juice.
Surgery 3.0: Telesurgery – the “Lindbergh Operation”
As we peek into the future, we notice the dawn of a new era: the amazing world of 3.0, in which the Internet leapfrogs space and time. In the example below, a surgeon sits in a NYC hospital; the patient lies in a hospital located in Strasbourg, France. Click on the video and watch the New York City-based surgeon perform gallbladder surgery on the patient who lives 6,000 miles east of New York in a time zone that’s six hours ahead.
Surgery 3.0 breaks down the limitations of space, eliminates travel, and delivers healing over the Internet. Similar breakthroughs appear in other fields. Here are a few more examples:
Video 3.0: Making Reality Disappear – in Real Time
Doctor Wolfgang Broll at the University of Ilmenau in Germany has created the world’s first “diminished reality” video system, which makes objects disappear from live video streams in real time. He offered a practical example: “Let’s say you want to replace a piece of furniture in your apartment. With the new technology, you can delete the existing furniture and see how the room looks rearranged. A city planner could eliminate an existing building and immediately replace it with a new one and study the impact on the skyline.”
Watch the 2 ½-minute video below to see how diminished reality works in real time.
Video 3.0 illustrates the notion that reality is what we make of it. For years we’ve augmented reality, enhanced images, and made them sharper and über-realistic. Now we’re waking up to the idea of subtracting images so we can better focus on what we really want to perceive.
Bionics 3.0: The Exoskeleton – Boosting Human Power and Endurance
UC Berkeley collaborated with Lockheed Martin on an exoskeleton – a mobile framework that augments the human capacity to carry heavy loads (up to 200 pounds) in a backpack attached to the exoskeleton – independent of the user’s power. Imagine running at 7 MPH with 200 pounds on your back. Impossible? Watch the 4-minute video below.
Not to be outdone, Raytheon created its own version of an exoskeleton, adding a huge amount of power to human arms.
Exoskeleton technology reveals the human capacity to accelerate evolution by combining art, design, science, and engineering into augmented human potential.
What Will Sales 3.0 Look Like?
In the Sales 1.0 era, salespeople owned the information that customers wanted. Presentations were product-centric, and salespeople persuaded clients by adding up the dollar value of each benefit associated with the product.
In the Sales 2.0 space, salespeople create a climate of trust and engage customers in solution-centric conversations.
Sales 3.0 will be shaped by three forces. First, mobile technology will deliver more relevant information to the salesperson in real time. As the windows of opportunity open and close faster, salespeople will have to recognize real opportunities faster and engage prospects with that relevant information.
Second, the boundaries between buying and selling will become blurred through social media. Satisfied buyers will become the marketing extension of the seller. Buyers will collaborate with sellers around ideas that the sellers will implement and sell to the buyer. Sales 3.0 will become an ecosystem where buyers and sellers sync their innovative capacities to actualize their “co-destinies.”
Third, sales technology will migrate from being sales-centric to being customer-centric. Imagine the impact on your sales if prospects were able to enter their data into your CRM tool and automatically create an opportunity whenever they have a need. Instead of advertisers attracting buyers, buyers would be instantly connecting to the best vendors, bypassing a Google search and connecting directly with the best and most competent salespeople. That would be the end of Google, and the company that created the technology would rule the world.
If you are interested in creating a better future for your sales and marketing organization, check out this amazing conference: Sales & Marketing 2.0. The theme: collaboration. The location: San Francisco, at the Four Seasons. Dates: November 8-9, 2010.
Last week I had an interesting phone conversation with Colleen Honan who will be a keynote speaker at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Nov 8-9 at the Four Seasons Hotel. Colleen is in charge of an international team of more than 160 salespeople. She started her career handling incoming calls on an 800 line and over time was promoted to the top sales position in the company. One of the key insights from our conversation was how she learned and applied a unique way to help salespeople take an intermediary step toward management, a sort of trial-management process that allows salespeople to advance if they have the talent and desire to move up. As a result, Colleen enjoys a solid sales-management infrastructure that focuses on ongoing learning and improvement.
In today's post, Colleen Honan, Sr Vice President of Global Sales at OneSource Information Services shares how her company's technology has opened doors for her sales team so they can close more sales.
At OneSource, we’ve always been focused on sales technologies to increase the velocity of prospecting and opportunities through the pipeline. I’ve been very fortunate in my role to have access to the complete family of InfoGroup and OneSource solutions for my team. In the beginning, like most of our customers, we used our own products to build suspect lists and then work with marketing on an outbound program basis to try to turn those suspects into prospects and leads. As more and more companies adopted tools like ours, it became more difficult to get the attention of the right contacts.
The release of OneSource iSell took Sales 2.0 to the next level for my sales team. It introduced to us the concept of sales triggers. Sales triggers are time-sensitive events such as executive changes, mergers and acquisitions, and funding announcements that present immediate sales opportunities. Industry experience demonstrates that sales prospects influenced by critical trigger events may be up to eight times more likely to buy than prospects not influenced by trigger events. Now my reps are alerted when the accounts they are following are most likely to buy.
The latest gift from our product-development team has been the integration of LinkedIn with iSell. This really solves the get-the-attention-of-the-right-contacts issue, because it consolidates two important tasks – prospecting and relationship networking – into a single step. Now my reps know who to call and when to call, are armed with relevant discussion points, and are shown how their connections can help them get in the door to start a conversation. I’d say the use of iSell and relationship networking in the selling process represents the next iteration of sales: It’s Sales 3.0!
Full disclosure: OneSource will be exhibiting at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Nov 8-9 2010. This will be the first conference where sales and marketing collaborate to create higher revenues.
UPDATE: Join me at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference, March 7-8, in San Francisco, where I'll be joined by speakers and Sales 2.0 and sales transformation evangelists Jeff Hayzlett, Clara Shih, and Michael Weening, and more. Early bird registration rates are in effect until Feb 16.
Today I had the pleasure of participating in an international Webinar moderated by Jonathan Farrington. The topic: Sales 2.0. Audience members were asked an interesting question: Did they have a clear definition of Sales 2.0? I was surprised that 60 percent said yes. It became clear to me that Sales 2.0 has become an unstoppable international movement.
In today’s post, Umberto Milletti, CEO of InsideView shares how his company has grown as a result of Sales 2.0 technology.
Like most organizations, improving sales productivity is priority number one for our company. Marketing generates a good percentage of our small and medium business leads which then get turned over to sales for qualification. In the enterprise market, there is a higher focus on sales-driven prospecting. At InsideView, we are fortunate to be at the forefront of using business and social intelligence to drive sales productivity for our customers. And that’s exactly what we delivered for our own sales reps when we implemented InsideView directly within their CRM workflow.
Here are some specific examples of how our sales team benefited from the InsideView implementation:
I am happy to report that our internal implementation has significantly improved our win rates and more than doubled our call volume by streamlining lead -qualification, as well as precall research. And naturally, the reps are much more credible selling a product they use daily and believe in!
Full disclosure: InsideView will be exhibiting at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Nov 8-9 2010. This will be the first conference where sales and marketing collaborate to create higher revenues.
In August this year, Aberdeen surveyed 453 companies to assess their state of sales and marketing alignment. The survey shows Best-in-Class companies in sales and marketing alignment and compared them to Laggard organizations. (You can download that survey for free until Dec. 3rd) Here is the bottom line:
Aberdeen’s survey underlines the fact that Sales and Marketing alignment isn’t a cakewalk, it requires a lot of work. Best –in-Class companies spend more time defining what is a qualified lead, work harder at creating a mutual understanding of lead management activities and achieve a greater understanding of each other’s goals (and alignment of these goals).
What’s best about this survey is that it comes with a self-assessment tool that allows you to measure your company’s Sales and Marketing Alignment readiness compared to the Best-in-Class companies.
Another interesting part is Aberdeen’s view on deploying Sales & Marketing 2.0 technology. The report says, “The technologies solutions Best-in-Class companies deploy are enhancing the organization’s structure, improving processes capabilities and increasing knowledge acquisition.”
What do others say about the role of sales and marketing technology?
Jon Miller, CMO at Marketo, a company that has enjoyed 100% year-over-year revenue growth told me:
“At Marketo, we’ve redesigned the traditional revenue cycle to achieve much higher revenue performance. We’ve shifted many traditional Sales functions – such as prospecting and educating potential buyers – to Marketing and use lead scoring to help Sales focus on just the hottest leads and opportunities. As a result of all this, fewer than 10% of our deals are sourced by Sales reps, and our reps carry a higher quota than typical SaaS companies – and they are making it. Most significantly, we earn a complete payback on every cent of Marketing and Sales investment in just nine months, compared to 18 months or more from comparable companies.”
Brett Wallace, VP Sales, Zoominfo, a business information search engine that provides profiles on people and companies explains how his company leverages Sales & Marketing 2.0 processes and technologies.
“We achieved better sales and marketing alignment. We worked hard to blur the lines and get Sales and Marketing on the same page. Marketing owns a revenue number that is tied to the sales quota each quarter and we have product marketers working right next to the salespeople in their segments. As a result, we are creating a more integrated and execution-oriented team.
Early examples we are seeing –
While we’re far from perfect, we see early signs of good progress and based on that I would highly encourage sales and marketing teams to spend time getting on the same page – it must start at the top and trickle down from there.”
Disclosure: Jon Miller and Brett Wallace will both share their best practices at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco Nov 8-9th. This is the first time sales and marketing executives will get together to collaborate under one roof and walk away with tons of ideas that will give them a fair chance to move up to best-in-class.
Sales processes would be far more effective if customers would start entering their opportunities directly into a salesperson’s CRM system. Since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, salespeople need to engage customers through focused conversations to identify and create that window of opportunity. It sounds simple, yet here is the problem: Customers have access to a wealth of information. And here is the consequence: A wealth of information creates poverty of attention. This means that the customer’s window of opportunity is opening and closing faster than ever before. As a general rule, the higher up you call on an organization, the less time you will get to engage your prospect. The mind of a C-level prospect moves quickly from one critical issue to another. If you are not able to offer information that is A) relevant, B) remarkable, and C) emotionally engaging, you won’t get even the chance of a second meeting.
But that’s just the beginning. Inside the window of opportunity resides the customer’s agenda. As new waves of information reach the customer, agendas may stall, accelerate, or move sideways. This is one more reason to be relevant, remarkable, and emotionally engaging on the first call.
The Salesperson’s leverage points for seizing an opportunity
Salespeople have more and more Sales 2.0 tools available to help them become relevant through real time access to mission critical information.
With such Sales 2.0 solutions as InsideView, Zoominfo, OneSource i-Sell, Workstreamer, FirstRain, Hoover's etc., salespeople can set triggers that instantly alert them of changes within an account. Armed with relevant information, salespeople will be able to engage their prospects in a productive business conversation.
It takes guts to be remarkable. For example, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff was not afraid to hire actors and cast them in the role of protesters outside a Siebel user conference. They chanted that traditional software was obsolete. Benioff also hired a fake TV crew to interview people who witnessed the stunt. The result: Salesforce got a lot of free press, and Benioff became a remarkable CEO.
We can all learn from showmen like Benioff, yet it is critical to be authentic and become remarkable on your own terms. But it takes some guts to stand out from the crowd.
How about showing up with a “sizzling offer” contained in this bacon briefcase?
Maya Angelo once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” To create an emotionally significant experience with a prospect, salespeople need to become emotionally engaging. Steve Jobs, Apple’s greatest salesman, is a master of achieving emotional engagement with his audience when delivering presentations. Take a look at his amazing skill. His ability to emotionally engage his audience has helped create a company valued at $264 billion ($52 billion more than Microsoft and $98 billion more than Google).
Why do salespeople miss the window of opportunity?
Seth Godin wrote in his blog:
“Understand the urgency of the situation. Half-measures simply won't do. The only way to grow is to abandon your strategy of doing what you did yesterday, but better.”
Unfortunately, many salespeople are clinging to old and obsolete strategies, and they keep repeating what they did yesterday, or they repeat a plan of attack that worked last year. Why? Because they don’t want to change!
Ten years ago, the sci fi TV series Stargate SG-1 broadcast an episode entitled “Window of Opportunity” where team members Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c repeatedly relived the same six hours during a mission on a planet.
This episode was based on the idea that was introduced in the classic movie Groundhog Day. The rest of the Stargate team was unaware of the situation, and O’Neill and Teal’c were forced to find a solution without outside help.
This episode reminds me of selling scenarios where salespeople follow a Groundhog Day process loop, knowing that they are not getting ahead, repeating the same old routine, and desperately trying to break out of their circular pattern.
The future lies in embracing new processes and exploring new technologies. The future lies in creating greater operational efficiencies while creating a better customer experience and greater customer success.
Note for sales leaders: To get your salespeople out of futile Groundhog Day processes and technology time loops, attend the next Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Check out the agenda now. www.sales20conf.com/collaboration
Times change, landscapes change, and when radical economic change happens, the vehicles we use to navigate the sales terrain will need to be adapted, as well. Selling is a lot of things, but at its core, selling is all about adapting to the dynamic and colorful scenery we find ourselves in. Remember this key point: Without historic change periodically, selling opportunities would stagnate.
Selling used to be a game of feet on the street. Covering a territory meant cranking up the combustible, revving the engine, cranking cups of coffee, and seeing how many firm handshakes you could get going in a day. Then, the firm handshake was slowly supplemented by electronic “handshakes.”
And the landscape began to be more about what you could get done with your “feet in the seat.”
The dynamic duo of phone and computer meant new adaptations to garner and harness the power of doing much of the legwork with your legs stuffed under the desk. The reach improved, productivity improved, and the cost of selling improved, and within a few short years the paradigm of the new selling forces included electronic engines that in many cases have replaced combustible ones.
Funny how the formal college education can cross disciplines and teach you things it never intended. I had always been fascinated with language, and during one of the drier linguistics classes I had ever endured, a small nugget somehow lodged in my mind: Languages, I was told, like rivers, will always be on the move toward simplifying.
Over the years, this principle in nature and economies to find the fastest and least-complex route to the greatest benefit at the least overall cost is the key driver behind the latest global shock that we call a recession. But in fact, this idea is nothing more than a natural consequence of the changes put into effect decades ago. My grandfather used to say, “Don’t be shocked if you plant corn seeds and get corn. Be shocked if you plant corn seeds and yield wheat.”
Adapt your Selling Strategy
There are three (at least) strategies that your company needs to bridge the latest changes that have occurred. Each day the new landscape emerges from the dust cloud to become more visible, as does the new economy we are selling into.
First, every company must have a technology road map in place that includes an integrated video strategy for almost every aspect of the prospect/client/partner relationship.
One of the missing pieces to the evolution of the transition from feet on the street to feet in the seat is the all important face-to-face meeting. At the end of the day, we are human beings, and connecting face-to-face creates a tangible connection, if not an emotional connection with the company or person we are partnering with. But this can be done today without ever throwing the first carbon atom at the ozone.
Secondly, there needs to be a full-court press to install the feet in the seat forces at the center of your selling and sales-support strategy.
The lingering bias continuously directed toward inside sales continues to amaze me. Most savvy CEOs long ago understood its economic potential, but combined with the video-collaboration technology today, the opportunity to transform the cost of selling and take it to the next level has never been more necessary. In this new economy, your top and bottom lines will do much better once you set the course to the new core selling model. Does this mean that field sales are over? No. It means that the fulcrum has tipped once and for all in this latest shakeup, and the convergence of technology all but plays directly into the needs the organization has to do much more with much less.
Thirdly, online sales must be a growing revenue engine that is constantly developing a personality to serve and sell to the global office park.
Contrary to some belief systems, this is where selling art and selling science have a clear line of demarcation. The potential of the dot-com bust meets the opportunity of the new economy, and this just happens to be occurring as the ability to tell your story in video revolutionizes how we sell online. What is your online revenue stream directly contributing through converted sales today? In the new economy, companies will be looking for this critical sales channel to become the key contributor in the next few years…and video is the river that will facilitate that transformation.
I realize that there are a myriad of selling giants who have a myriad of ideas and thoughts on the go-forward in this post-Armageddon economy. But I see it as all opportunity, and the really smart folks have already pulled the old, oily engines out and are toying around with ones that will make the whole company go greener.
Note: PGi is a premier sponsor of the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, November 8–9 in San Francisco. http://www.sales20conf.com/collaboration