Category: Sales & Marketing

12/13/06

09:35:00 am, Categories: Sales & Marketing, Business Trends, Web 2.0  

Numerous sales intelligence tools are touting their wares in the market today. Some provide news feeds on specific accounts, others provide industry reports and yet others scour the Internet using crawlers to put together massive information repositories. Sales reps are just as impacted by information overload as the rest of us are.

Ray Lane, in his article on the new software landscape talks about how Web 2.0 vendors are providing personalized services to niche markets. I believe some of the “laws” that Ray describes could very well be adapted to the sales intelligence market.

What are some of the issues in sales intelligence today? CRM / SFA tools are of very little value. Industry reports give sales reps buy-side knowledge, when what they really need is sell-side insights. And the tools out there tend to be sector oriented (2 – 3 digits of the SAIC / NAICS), and thus too generic.

Assume that your sales rep has generated his lead, made the cold call, secured the appointment and is sitting in front of the decision maker. Now what? How does he build credibility, identify the customer’s pain points, and position his solution? All of the above need one crucial component – relevant, contextual industry and business knowledge. The sales rep needs to know the top 3 business issues that the customer is facing today that he has some prayer of addressing with his offerings. He needs to know the trends in the customer’s industry that the guy he is sitting across from is worried about. He needs to have a well-thought out value proposition that helps him position his wares with each of the decision makers influencing the deal.

Getting to this level of sophisticated sales intelligence will take about half a day’s worth of research, for each call, which probably explains why most sales reps don’t go prepared to sales calls! My contention is that this type of sales intelligence is not unique to a sales rep, company or industry. Given the product that a sales rep is attempting to sell and the customer’s industry (4 – 5 digits of the SAIC / NAICS, a bit more granular), delivering the type of sales intelligence described above as a personalized service is very viable and will take a sales rep about 80% of the way to becoming a sophisticated “solution” sales rep. Sure there are other dimensions (customer’s org structure / politics, relationships, competition, budget cycles, customer’s specific travails) that will impact the outcome of the deal. But I will pick 90% over 0% any day …

Sampath

Permalink 418 words by Sampath, 1881 views • Send feedback

11/15/06

A couple of months ago, I was talking to a sales VP at a computer peripherals manufacturer about SalesQB’s sales planning services. She was excited about the fact that we could help her sales reps bridge the gap between their products and their customer’s business issues. But, one of her comments left me thinking. She said, “Our industry is rapidly moving to a solution selling model and, now, we are all about business process improvement.”

Over the past 15 years, sales reps have effectively sold business process improvement products / services (viz. ERP, CRM, SCM etc.) worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Business process reengineering (BPR) was the mantra that was chorused by software / hardware vendors, industry analysts, academia and management consulting firms during the 1990s. The idea looked great on paper and spawned huge process reengineering projects among large and mid-sized companies. Today, most analysts will agree that not all the results that BPR promised have indeed been delivered. In fact, I would argue that the web 2.0 trend is helping us move in the other direction, away from consolidation and best practices to smaller, nimble, personalized services that cater to niche audiences,

The undercurrent here is that industry sectors that have lagged the solution selling cycle are very easily seduced by the BPR value proposition. But it is too little, too late. Yes, end-users and mid-management decision makers might still be receptive to process improvement pitches, but it is now very difficult to make a board-room sale with a BPR value proposition. Executives have a “been-there, done-that”, lackadaisical attitude towards BPR. What executives do care about today are hard KPIs (key performance indicators) that directly impact them. For example, a sales VP cares about deal closure rates, average sales cycle length, sales support costs and new rep ramp-up time. A sales VP today doesn’t care much about improving his sales process or methods.

So, a word of advice for reps who are still selling BPR solutions. Identify your executive sponsor, figure out what KPIs he loses sleep over and develop a value proposition that enables him to improve his KPIs. You will dramatically improve your deal closure rates!

Let me know what you think.

Sampath

Permalink 367 words by Sampath, 1171 views • Send feedback

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