Six Tips for Choosing Customer Success

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By Andrew Field

Customer success focuses on customers’ needs, goals, and challenges throughout the customer journey – instead of just rushing to close.

This approach puts customers first – building a great experience and turning them into advocates. At PFL we put customer success first and have been doing it for more than 20 years. The truth is, changing your culture to put customer success first isn’t something that happens overnight.

It has to be part of your corporate DNA. It has to be a priority in every department. It has to be your North Star. Our software solutions that put personalized, meaningful gifts into the sales process were internal tools long before we refined them to work in CRMs for everyone else as part of our software offerings.

The bottom line is this: You have to build customer success into every corner of your business. It takes a while, and it takes everyone. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Know your customer.

Customer success hinges on acquiring the right types of customers – the ones you can actually help. Ideal customers are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes, stay with you, and become advocates. But do you only have a fuzzy idea about who the right customer is?

Identifying how you can help a customer will help you know who you can help. Now filter the “who” – can they afford you? Are they showing the signs of growth you need? Are they a path into a new industry? Be as specific as you can. By focusing on the kind of customers you want to attract, you avoid chasing leads that are unlikely to develop into strong ongoing relationships.

2. Understand your customers’ desired outcomes and create a step-by-step plan to get them there.  

To achieve customer success, you must help lead your customers to their desired outcomes. In the end, however, they must do the walking. Ask yourself what your client really needs instead of focusing on your sale. Remember, no one needs a drill: they need to make a hole in something. The drill is just the tool that gets them to that goal. Keeping this in mind will help you stay on track with prioritizing your customer at all times.

Depending on the complexity of your product, customers may need demos, support, training and follow-up to achieve their desired outcomes. Follow your plan and monitor your customers to make sure they are progressing toward their goals.

3. Show your customers that you understand them and the challenges they face.

The best way to look like you really care is to really care.

It’s easy to get caught up focusing on your next point while your customer is talking. But it is essential that you resist this urge and pay attention to what your prospects are telling you about themselves and the challenges they face. Great salespeople know they only have one shot to gather the information they need, and that prospects tire of telling them the same information twice. Demonstrate that you are a worthy business partner by listening and then follow up in a way that shows you understand them and care about their needs.

4. Make your customers’ experience exceptional.

Building a great experience with your customer starts on day one. This means treating prospects like they’re already customers while not forgetting to treat them like humans. If you’ll be meeting your client personally, consider bringing food or a small gift. Actively reach out to new clients to answer questions and help them with problems. Monitor your customers and continue encouraging and problem solving until they have achieved the outcome they wanted.

5. Use technology to ensure you stay in touch.

A core tenet of customer success is that you don’t forget your customers once they’ve made an initial purchase. Follow up with them periodically to find out whether you are still meeting their needs and if they have new challenges or goals. Set task reminders for these follow-ups in your CRM – or, even better, implement a team dedicated to ongoing customer success.

6. Turn your customers into ambassadors by exceeding expectations.

Research shows that reviews and testimonials by current customers are a deciding factor for today’s B2B buyer. Sharing on social media provides social proof that also boosts new sales. Build these ambassadors with a great customer experience.

Many companies confuse customer success with “customer service” and relegate it to a customer service department or a subset of the sales team. But the sales or customer service staff can’t ensure customer success alone. Other teams and departments also must play a role in getting customers to their desired outcomes.

You can start building a culture of customer success one step at a time. Sales and marketing are the teams most likely to make a quick impact, spreading to customer service (obviously). But, for the idea to take root and grow, everyone has to make it a guiding force.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and president of Printing for Less (PFL), a marketing technology company providing printing, mailing, and fulfillment services, as well as software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness.

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Your Sales Team Isn’t Digital: Report from the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco

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By Joanne Black

Predictive analytics, social media, technology tools. All of these can be good productivity resources. But people do business with people – not with technology.

This was an overarching message from many of the speakers at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this year. And I was glad to hear it. Even in the digital age, relationships still rule in sales.

As Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power, put it, “Technology is getting better. How will people get better?” He reminded sales reps that peak performance comes from creating value for others, and he encouraged business leaders to start by engaging their workforces and taking care of them.

The message was loud and clear: Sales is still all about people.

Gerhard and I aren’t the only ones who think so. Below are some key takeaways from other thought leaders who spoke at Sales 2.0 this year.

“The Building Doesn’t Write Checks, People Do”

That was my favorite quote from Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing. He advised, “We are always selling to the people. Appeal to the people and sell to the account.”

It’s our job as salespeople to help buyers envision the outcome before they take action. That requires having conversations, which is one thing technology can’t do for us.

Matt reminded us to always start with the problem, not what your cool technology can do. No one cares about your technology. They only care how it can help their businesses.

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Are Your Sales Reps Pitching?

Barbara Weaver Smith, founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, shared alarming research. Enterprise-level buyers report that salespeople who come to see them are shallow. They only talk about what their products or services can do.

That’s not what these buyers want. They want to work with salespeople who can help them devise and achieve strategic outcomes – those who can talk to “Moby Dick” and have high-level conversations. Salespeople don’t have to have all the answers, Barbara said. But they need to ask very pertinent questions that show they know what is going on in the business world around them.

People Buy with Emotion and Justify with Fact

I thought that phrase was outdated now that so many people depend on technology. Not so, according to John Turner, SVP of sales for TriNet.

Making an emotional connection isn’t just a key way to reach prospects. It’s also important for sales leadership.

John pointed out that salespeople are free agents, and all of us have options. That’s why sales organizations need a strong mission and values. Everyone wants to be part of something meaningful. It’s hard to keep that focus and mindset in a growing organization. But, if sales teams know their leaders want to build a championship company, they will stay.

True Connections Matter, People Matter

Amanda Kahlow, founder and CEO of 6sense, brought along her dog, Calvin – not only because he’s the chief happiness officer, but also to illustrate a point. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows, if you give animals trust, they will respond and stay. If you set clear boundaries, they will live up to expectations. It’s exactly the same with people, said Amanda.

While it’s important to understand our markets, we must also understand our customers. Amanda underscored that empathy is essential to understanding where people are coming from, and that salespeople must truly care to make the important human connections that drive sales.

If You Want to Be a Trusted Advisor, You Need Two Things

“Trust and advice,” says Anthony Iannarino. Selling means caring enough to create value for other people, and helping them with business problems they couldn’t solve without you.

Level-4 salespeople are focused on value creation first, Anthony explained. They’re “other oriented” and never talk about themselves. They also have a future orientation. They collaborate with clients to build a vision of what the future looks like. He reminded us, “It’s not about the technology; it’s about the technology ‘up here.’”

Simply put: It’s all about the relationships.

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My Two Cents

Computers do many things more effectively and efficiently than humans, but – outside of a few terrifying science-fiction movies – there’s still one thing they can’t do: think for themselves. Technology expedites many tasks, but, at the end of the day, people do business with people. In fact, the more technology-driven this world gets, the more we appreciate actually talking to and working with people.

The challenge, then, is to balance the high-tech innovation that drives today’s business world with personal, high-touch relationships. It’s not technology versus humanity, and it’s not either/or. We want both. We’re not changing the need for humanity – just some of the requirements.

Joanne Black cold calling Sales 2.0Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling – the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System that Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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Don’t Lose the Good Ones: Six things You Must Do to Retain Your Best Salespeople

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By Alice Heiman

How well are you doing when it comes to retaining your best salespeople? The economy has changed – and, with that, people are more willing to change jobs. Several clients have shared with me that they have lost some very good salespeople. If you have top-notch salespeople, you know recruiters are calling them. It’s never been easy to hire great salespeople but, today, it seems to be very hard. They are in high demand and there just don’t seem to be enough of them.

Is There a Shortage of Salespeople?

There is currently a shortage of workers in general, and it is affecting your ability to hire and retain salespeople. According to the bizjournals.com December 2015 article “3 ways to survive the B2B sales talent shortage,” there are two main factors influencing the sales talent shortage. First, pre-IPO enterprise companies are recruiting on a massive scale. Second is the pervasive negative stereotype that sales is slimy and manipulative. This is very old school, but it prevails. The shortage of workers overall combined with the shortage of people willing to do sales means it’s time to get a retention strategy in place.

Do You Have a Retention Strategy?

If you have good salespeople, I recommend you make a plan and actively work to retain them. If you have great salespeople, I recommend you have a talk with them and learn about their satisfaction level and discuss what it will take to keep them happy and onboard.  

Will They Leave Because of Their Boss?

Keep in mind: Surveys tell us conclusively that most employees leave because of their boss. Your retention strategy needs to look heavily at your sales leadership and what they need to do to develop themselves into great leaders.

Build a Retention Plan

  1. Compensate: Confirm that your compensation plan is in line with industry standards for your area. Although it’s not the main reason someone will stay, all the benefits, empowering workplace and great environment won’t keep someone if your compensation is not in line. Don’t believe it? It happened to my client recently. Many companies have not adjusted their wages since the recession. Now that the economy has changed, everyone is hiring. Do a wage survey. Larger global companies will usually pay more than local or regional. Those larger global companies are luring people with significantly larger salaries.
  2. Train and Coach: Training and coaching are not just for new hires. It’s an ongoing process. You are constantly assessing skills to find areas for improvement. Consistently provide training, practice, and coaching. There should be training quarterly that everyone attends and then each salesperson should have a development plan and get the individual training they need. Does it cost money to provide training? You bet it does! But it will come back in increased revenue if you are focused on the right things. Product training and sales training are the most obvious kinds of training, but it goes beyond that. Do they need to improve their writing skills? What about their presentation skills? How about dealing with difficult situations? Find out their challenges and provide training. It doesn’t always have to be expensive. Book clubs are a great way to learn new things. Peers can share in the areas of their strengths. There are tons of free and low-cost webinars. There is simply no excuse for not continually developing your sales team.
  3. Provide Tools: Great salespeople want to go out and sell. Are you making it easy or hard for them to do that? What tools do you provide to help them sell efficiently? Do they have sufficient training to use those tools efficiently? Do they have a working laptop or tablet that allows them to quickly and easily access information? Are you providing software that works and makes their jobs easier? Talk to your best salespeople and ask them what tools they need.
  4. Generate Leads: Are you generating leads for them or are they spending time doing your marketing function – trying to find lists of your target audience and building their own messaging and materials? It’s frustrating for a salesperson to be told, “Just go out and sell.” They have no collateral; the Website is lacking; and there is no brand awareness. This is not a position anyone wants to be in,  yet I see it all the time. Salespeople are not trained to do marketing. Yes, there are many ways salespeople can participate in lead generation, but don’t get marketing and sales confused – get them aligned!
  5. Support: Support them, their work goals, and their life dreams. Make sure they support each other. Provide a team environment that, although competitive, helps individuals win. Encourage them to get to know each other. Consider a peer mentoring program. Make sure there is organizational support. Look around – do you have a “Sales Prevention Department” lurking in your company? What does your company as a whole do to support the salespeople? What is your sales culture? Is there a pervasive negative attitude about sales? Determine how you can impact the sales culture so it is a positive, supportive culture. Do they have the marketing and administrative support they need? Make sure they have what they need so they can spend 90 percent of their time selling.
  6. Appreciate: This is probably one of the most important points. Do your salespeople feel appreciated? If you don’t know, ask them. Figure out what drives each of them and show appreciation to each in the way they prefer. Overall, one of the best ways to show you appreciate them is to focus on the positive. Most of the sales leaders I know are very quick to criticize and point out the problems. On any given day, your salespeople do more good things than bad. Yet it is so easy to go for the problems and harp on those. It’s very discouraging. Why not point out the positive things throughout the day? Focus on and encourage the positive behaviors and you will see more of them. Focus on the negative behaviors and you limit everyone’s ability to be successful. Yes, you will still have to handle the problems, but it will be much easier if everyone has a positive attitude and is feeling good.

Hard Reality

The reality is, you need to retain your good salespeople. I don’t mean at all costs – and I don’t mean you should retain anyone who is not doing their job or who has a negative attitude.

Assess your sales team and be critical. Who has a great attitude and is meeting or exceeding your expectations? Those are the people in whom you want to invest. Those are the people you want to keep. In fact, another reason salespeople leave is because they don’t want to work with others they feel are not doing a good job. They want to work with others like themselves that will push them and help them excel.

Do More

My suggestion is, don’t just retain them – help them become great.

  1. Figure out how to get them to their next level. In doing that act alone, you will build loyalty, which increases your retention rate.
  2. Celebrate their successes. Encourage them. Motivate them with positive words and appreciation.
  3. Help them improve by making a plan, training them, coaching them, and giving them thoughtful feedback.  

Call Us

For more information on retaining, hiring, training, or managing salespeople, please call 775/852-5020. We are always happy to spend 30 minutes on the phone with you solving your biggest sales challenge.

AliceHeiman_75x100Alice Heiman is Founder & Chief Sales Officer of Alice Heiman, LLC.

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What You Need to Know about the New Sales 3.0 Movement

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

In my morning keynote at the Sales 2.0 Conference here in San Francisco, I talked about the fact that Sales 2.0 has officially evolved. Today, sales organizations are living on the edge of Sales 3.0.

The Sales 3.0 movement is all about using technology to advise salespeople on three essential things.

  1. Which customer to call on.
  2. What to say to the customer to win the sale.
  3. How to execute the sale to successful completion.

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This movement is being fueled by both artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing. Here’s just a sample of industry leaders who say these technological advancements represent the future of selling and business.

Virginia Rometty IBM

CEO Microsoft Sales 2.0

Mark Hurd Oracle

Marc Benioff

Bill McDermott SAP

These leaders are articulating a vision of the future that is going to transform selling for good. How specifically are AI and analytics making customer transactions easier? Beyond analyzing purchasing habits to predict who is likely to buy from you, what they’re likely to buy, and when, AI can

  • create instant visibility into the cognitive flow of each conversation that sales reps conduct with their customers.
  • deliver the scripts of A players to B players in real time on a shared screen.
  • enhance and widen the addressable market.

The Human Element: What is Your Mindset?

But Sales 3.0 is not all about technology. There is a human element involved.

In the U.S. alone, 3.5 million software developers are creating better machines. But while the machines are getting better, people aren’t necessarily following suit.

In fact, people have  a hard time changing and coping with change. People have a hard time with their own internal navigation system. Unlike machines, people question themselves all the time. Right now, many of your salespeople are asking themselves questions like:

  • “What am I supposed to really be doing in the world?”
  • “How do I succeed?”
  • “How can I raise a family while juggling work and career?”

Living in a technological age can cause a lot of stress. Sales leaders want to create organizations with lots of forward momentum. But how can you do that considering that many people (including some of the people on your sales team) are or will be paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and depression?

Moreover, Gallup reports that 50.8% of people are not fully engaged at work. These are the people who show up to work and “play office.” But they don’t advance the needle, because they’re not focused.

Get Your Team to Peak Performance Levels

What sales leaders must do is figure out how to activate more people to get to peak performance levels. Collectively, we need to eradicate cognitive dysfunction. Crazy things are happening in the world all the time. Shootings, terrorist attacks and political malevolence can make you wonder what’s wrong with people and why they act this way.

It is possible to redirect aggression and negotiate conflict. It is possible to create a better world. To do that, you need people who understand human nature. Computers can’t do it.

Sales leaders want to create a better society, and we can start by creating a happier workplaces. Open up, listen to people, care about them and do something for them. Don’t just expect your employees to show up and engage in a rat race that’s essentially meaningless.  Instead, help them develop a peak performance mindset.

Life is like walking in the opposite direction of a moving walkway. If you walk against the direction of the walkway, you won’t make progress. If you stand still on a moving walkway, you go backwards.

Sales 2.0

To get ahead, you have to hustle and move in the right direction. There’s no way you can succeed without hustling. Sales 3.0 won’t wait for you. You have to earn it. Wake up and say to yourself, “Today I will do whatever I take for as long as it takes to reach my goal.”

The world of 3.0 is about developing the unlimited peak performance mindset. Technology teaches us there are no limits. So why don’t we buy into this for ourselves? We can create extraordinary performance. We can run a marathon at the age of 82. We can live for 120 years. It’s all up to how we train ourselves to think and act. My hope is that you challenge yourself to be a no-limit, 3.0 sales leader, starting today.

Gerhard Gschwandtner Selling PowerGerhard Gschwandtner is the Founder and CEO of Selling Power and the publisher of Selling Power magazine. He conducts a popular Daily Report video series featuring interviews with top sales/marketing executives/CEOs and regularly hosts the Sales 2.0 Conference. Read his blog or watch his popular YouTube videos

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Learn How to Elevate Your Sales Game: July 18 and 19 in San Francisco

Tris Brown Sales 2.0 Conference

All leaders face challenges; but not too many people understand the particular challenges of sales leadership.

That’s why we make a point to invite real-world sales practitioners (and experts who work with actual sales leaders) as speakers at Sales 2.0 Conferences.

In a recent Q&A on the Selling Power Blog, one of our speakers (Oracle’s global vice president of customer experience, Dennis Michalis) shared a preview of some of the practices and tools he uses to create a high-performance sales team. Here are two essential elements he uses.

  1. Gamification. First, Michalis hires people who display a natural drive and motivation. Next, he keeps them hungry using gamification. However, he points out that gamification is a means to an end. “In sales organizations, it does what a fitness tracker does: it gives you a tap on the shoulder to say, ‘Hey, you haven’t gotten up and moved around in a while,'” he explains. “What’s even more important today is the need to learn from others. Through storytelling, I share competitive scenarios in which we prevailed, and let the drama of the pursuit unfold.
  2. A sales portal. Michalis uses Oracle Sales Cloud (no surprise) and says it helps keep the infrastructure simple for salespeople and customers. “It is our central nervous system and our brain in terms of giving us ready access to everything we need to know about our business.”

On July 18 and 19, Michalis will join sales leaders and experts who will share success stories and tips based on personal experience running a sales organization. Here are three sessions you won’t want to miss.

Elevate Your Sales Game: How I Am Building a High-Performance Culture
The sales game has changed: data, analytics, innovative coaching techniques, and new incentives are providing a competitive advantage. Building a winning sales team in this ‘New Performance Culture’ is no small feat – even at enterprise technology companies that are well equipped to compete. Hear how one sales leader is building discipline and consistency and gaining insights from activity to overcome obstacles, improve productivity, foster collaboration, mentor rising stars, and build a high-performance sales team.
Speaker: Dennis Michalis, Group Vice President, Oracle Customer Experience, Oracle

How to Create a “Victory Plan” that Drives Peak Performance
John Turner, Senior Vice President of Sales for TriNet, will share his process for creating a “Victory Plan” that engages salespeople and sales leaders in a quest to grow sales and profits through a disciplined, metrics-driven Championship Organization. John will share the process, the strategies, the underlying psychology, and the financial and psychological reward system that leads to peak performance.
Speaker: John Turner, Senior Vice President, Sales, TriNet

Maximizing Sales Performance: Recognizing the 15 Warning Signs that Your Sales Team Is Headed in the Wrong Direction
Based upon LSA Global‘s research of 410 companies across eight industries, we know that highly aligned companies grow 58 percent faster and are 72 percent more profitable. Neither sales talent, nor sales culture, nor sales strategy alone will produce consistent and extraordinary sales growth. Sales forces that get it right grow faster. Those that get it wrong struggle to compete.
This thought-provoking session will help you:

  • Determine if your sales strategy is clear enough to create sales growth
  • Identify if you have a high-performance sales culture – with the sales DNA to succeed when it matters most
  • Attract, develop, and retain differentiated and customer-centric sales talent
  • Avoid the 15 warning signs of an underperforming sales team

Laurie Sewell, CEO of Servicon Systems, will share how LSA’s organizational alignment methodology helped her improve goal clarity by 45 percent and increase sales-process effectiveness by 43 percent to drive growth.
Speakers:
Tris Brown, Chairman & CEO, LSA Global
Laurie Sewell, President & CEO, Servicon Systems

Join us at the Sales 2.0 Conference on July 18 and 19 at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco! Register now.

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Three Ways Predictive Analytics Can Help You Achieve Higher Win Rates

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By Niveditha Viswanathan

Increasingly, sales organizations are adapting to the new, digital, mobile workforce. Almost every enterprise is jumping on the boat that is sailing toward a well-defined mobile and digital strategy.

In this new world, data and predictive analytics are the undisputed heroes. Here are three ways predictive analytics can truly help sales teams work better and witness higher success rates.

  1. Predictive calendaring

    Daily life for a sales rep and her manager revolves around a set of defined activities that all need to be carried out in order to ensure every lead is pursued well. So, why not have a way to slot the rep’s calendar while she is sleeping? When the rep wakes up, her calendar provides her the agenda, route, and plan for the day.

    And this is not just a simplistic function. Today’s business realities mean meetings get rescheduled all the time. So, when your rep finds herself with a two-hour slot suddenly opened up, why not suggest two other leads she can meet with in the same zip code? This ensures your reps always make the best use of their time and look to move each task or lead to closure.

  2. Smart lead allocation

    A well-allocated lead helps ensure a successful outcome. Some sales reps are innately good at closing some lead profiles versus others. Thus, matching the right rep to the right lead profile will a) ensure the rep is motivated to follow up with the lead and b) maximize the success rate from overall allocation.

    Secondly, having well-defined rules to select the best possible lead will ensure your organizational preferences are mirrored and you are encouraging expected behavior. Want the time to call minimized? Allocate the lead to the nearest rep. Want the high-potential client to convert fast? Allocate to the rep with the highest win rate consistency.

  3. Cognitive coaching

    As you allocate your leads well and your reps are busy checking off their calendars, there are times when it is good to pause, reflect, and engage – in real time. Notice that a rep has dropped three leads in row? Ensure that manager and rep get real-time alerts, giving the manager a chance to schedule a coaching session. See that the reps in a certain region are about to fall short of their goals at the end of the month? Catch that signal ahead of time and schedule corrective measures.

    By ensuring that your managers are proactively getting key result area (KRA) signals and coaching alerts for their reps early, the entire team becomes more skilled, better trained, and more proactive.

Incorporating predictive and cognitive analytics will help you overcome the most common challenges that plague sales teams. Consider making the following improvements.

  1. Don’t ask sales reps to divide their time between meeting leads and reporting – mostly, resist reporting.
  2. Make sure managers at headquarters have good visibility into field activities and outcomes.
  3. Give management and executive leaders ways to personalize measures to drive outcomes and behaviors.

Imagine a sales team that is not facing any of these challenges. Doesn’t that present the recipe for a high-performing sales team? So, do you have a robust predictive engine configured for your sales team yet?

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 5.59.49 PMNiveditha heads product and marketing at Vymo, a smart personal assistant for sales teams. Starting her career with McKinsey, Niveditha has worked across locations and sectors, focusing on technology solutions to make people’s lives better. Meet Niveditha at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on July 18 and 19, representing Vymo and sharing experiences on scaling high-performing sales teams.

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Making the Shift to a New Era of Sales Engagement

By Meera Mehta

When I first started working in CRM, the technology landscape for sales was relatively simple (if inefficient). IT would provide sales with standard software – email, Web conferencing, and a productivity suite. Content lived on sales reps’ laptops and desktops and we ended up sharing and storing content in email. Sales operations teams would implement and institute CRM methodologies and systems – and mandate/encourage/cajole sales teams to adhere to processes.

Suddenly, the “sales tech” landscape has exploded with new vendors and solutions emerging every day. We have become inundated with vendor pitches and complicated frameworks on trends and tools. The proliferation of tools is exciting as we finally have the opportunity to move beyond “generic” software to technology specifically designed for sales teams – their roles, needs, and processes.

At the same time, navigating your organization’s needs and sorting through the vendor chaos is daunting. And the last thing we want to risk is complicated evaluations – or worse – investing in a new tool that only complicates the sales process further, slows down rep productivity, or doesn’t fit with how sales, marketing, and sales operations work together to support customers.

A new report from leading analyst firm Aragon Research, Digitize the Sales Force: Leverage Sales Engagement Platforms to Gain a Competitive Advantage, provides insights on how sales leaders can shift toward modern tools optimized for selling effectively in a digital, always-on world.

Aragon Research predicts that Sales Engagement Platforms will grow into a five-billion dollar industry over the next five years. This growth will be fueled by demands from sales and marketing teams to better communicate and engage with customers through an integrated, easy-to-use, highly mobile platform – one that enables the sharing of high-impact content, delivers insights for what to do next, and integrates and auto-logs to CRM.

There are hundreds of sales enablement tools available, but most only accomplish a small part of the selling process. Stitching together disjointed tools can be confusing for sales rep adoption, hard for enablement and operations teams to manage, and may actually limit productivity. In fact, Aragon Research reports that the average sales rep must use anywhere from five to eight different tools to reach prospects.

The Sales Engagement Platform supports the customer lifecycle from prospect, to close, to support and expansion, and consists of sales communications, sales content management, and analytics, including:

  • Content management and customization for unique customer needs
  • Communicating with prospects and customers (phone, email, and face to face); and
  • Advanced engagement analytics data.

A critical component is ensuring the data is seamlessly integrated to CRM systems and other partner applications to fit within existing workflow and processes (especially between different departments servicing customers). The Sales Engagement Platform becomes the ideal platform to support guided selling and predictive analytics – as the platform centralizes the customer engagement data needed to inform the sales cycle based on the customer’s unique needs, response, and engagement.

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Source: Aragon Research, 2016

Sales Engagement Platforms can also help shorten sales cycles, as reps are equipped with customer engagement data to more effectively respond to prospect signals (regardless of the channel) throughout sales cycles.

Business applications, such as the Sales Engagement Platform ClearSlide offers, are the answer to the challenge of connecting with and engaging with sophisticated buyers. Aragon Research also finds that shifting to more modern and advanced sales engagement solutions can be more cost effective than general-purpose tools (e.g., Web conferencing, email tracking) and improve productivity by seamlessly integrating within sales reps’ existing processes.

We have seen this transition before. Today, we can’t even imagine starting our day without Microsoft Office or Google Apps. Yet we used to rely on separate, individual tools for word processing, email, spreadsheets, and presentations. It’s finally time for a digital sales suite specifically tailored for driving rep productivity, delivering sales analytics, connecting marketing and sales operations, and empowering sales teams to more effectively engage and deliver value to our customers. Don’t we all deserve something as easy and useful as “Office for Sales”?

To learn more about the requirements and best practices for digitizing sales and recommendations for navigating the latest trends, download the Aragon Research report here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 2.24.40 PMToday’s post is by Meera Mehta, senior director, product marketing at ClearSlide, the leading provider of Sales Engagement Platforms. Meera has more than 15 years of experience leading sales and marketing teams, and her passion and focus are to help ClearSlide transform the business of selling by producing quantifiable results in sales rep productivity, leader insights, and marketing impact. 

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Master the Art of “Thank You” to Improve the Customer Experience

By Andrew Field

In our previous blog post on overcoming repeat sales problems, we showed how gifting your prospects lets you stand out and prompts them to act. Today we’re breaking down another important way to use gifting: perfecting the art of appreciation to improve the customer experience.

While appreciating your prospects doesn’t pose the same hurdles as getting their attention in the first place, it still requires a well-thought-out approach. As you know, the sales cycle never truly ends – even once you’ve closed the deal.

Great Customer Experience Drives Customer Advocacy

Customers have the power, and that isn’t a bad thing. But this means nothing is more important than word-of-mouth advocacy. A colossal 92 percent of customers trust recommendations over all other types of advertising.

And, with word-of-mouth marketing being the primary factor for up to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions, it makes sense that companies that foster relationships are companies that win. So, while your competition practices their sales pitch, you could be building real relationships with customers through meaningful gestures like gifting.

Whether you’re thanking someone for moving your deal forward or recognizing a milestone with an existing customer, Intelligent GiftingTM makes the experience one to talk about.

Let’s look at a few different instances where you can use Intelligent Gifting to demonstrate your appreciation and improve the overall customer experience.

Gifting Thanks Prospects for Setting an Appointment

Everyone’s been there  – you had an initial meeting with a decision maker and he’s genuinely interested. But, when it comes time to schedule a follow-up meeting, he directs you to his assistant. This is where warm deals can go cold. If you’re having a hard time getting him to commit to a date, don’t just sit back and hope. Take action.

At this point it’s the assistant who holds the booking power. Send her a small gift along with a personal note. For gifting instances like this, office items like travel mugs, modern stationary, or gadget accessories are great options.

When it comes to writing the note, you’ll want to thank her for her time and say you look forward to working out a date for your second meeting. This may be your best shot at nailing a follow-up and closing the deal, so make it thoughtful.

Use Gifts to Reward a High-Value Customer

When it comes to sending a gift, it’s always good to ask yourself what the current value of each customer relationship is. The more valuable the customer, the greater your gifting investment can be.

This is where it’s important to remember the difference between promotional products and gifts. While promotional products can be wonderful in the right context, this isn’t it. We’re talking about appreciation. That means it’s all about them, not you. It may be easy to walk over to the supply closet and grab an extra company coffee mug, but you’re better than that. Consider the fact that a true customer advocate spends twice as much as regular customers – and skip the mug.

Instead, send something that reflects the investment the customer has made in your company.

Use Social Selling to Improve Your Gifting Strategy

This is when social selling becomes crucial. What’s really going to blow your customer away is a well-thought-out gift that matches their lifestyle. The answer to what you should send won’t always be obvious. You have to get creative.

Perhaps you have one customer who is always sharing their playlist on social media. Consider sending the music lover a sleek Bluetooth speaker. Or, perhaps, most of their Twitter feed is full of updates on their triathlon training. Send some high-end gear or set them up for massage therapy when the race is done. Make sure your personalized note underscores why you chose these gifts. This is the type of personalization that carries a powerful human touch.

As the sales industry moves away from the sales pitch approach of yesterday, giving becomes a huge part of winning customer loyalty. Intelligent Gifting is a simple way to establish yourself as a leader, build a better customer experience, and capitalize on customer advocacy.

Want more ideas to get you started? Check out our Idea Book for tips on how to use gifting to say thank you and increase customer loyalty.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and President of Printing for Less (PFL), a Marketing Technology company providing software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness, as well as printing, mailing, and fulfillment services.

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Six Leaders Who Will Speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this July

On July 18 and 19 the Sales 2.0 Conference is coming to San Francisco! Join us to hear these awesome speakers and more — discounted rates apply until June 13.

Dan Waldenschmidt Speaker: Dan Waldschmidt, Managing Director, Waldschmidt Partners International
Session: Why Every Sales Leader Needs to Run 300 Miles

Dan Waldschmidt is on a quest to break the world record for running the fastest 500K – just days before the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

In his mindset–shattering, rapid–fire presentation, Dan will give an exclusive first look at what went right (and wrong) as well as the mindset and methods he used – and how you can use Dan’s lessons to conquer your own business challenges and boost your sales process over 400 percent without having to run 100 5Ks in a row (maybe).

Judy BuchholzSpeaker: Judy Buchholz, General Manager Digital Sales, IBM
Session: Building a Digital Sales Culture

Client buying behavior is shifting from face-to-face to “virtual engagement,” where digital and social interaction is key. Nearly 80 percent of IT buyers use text chat to interact with their sellers; half use video chat and social media. More and more B2B buyers execute their purchases on the Web – often assisted by a “digital seller.” They expect personalized response, industry and solution expertise, accessibility, and speed from sellers.

In this fireside chat with Selling Power founder Gerhard Gschwandtner, Judy Buchholz will discuss the transformation of the IBM inside sales team to a digital sales force that is enabled to engage clients in new – and more successful – ways.

Anthony Iannarino Sales 2.0Speaker:
Anthony Iannarino, International speaker, Author, and Sales Leader
Session: How to Create and Sustain Relationships of Value

The ability to create value is a key element to winning new business and keeping customers happy. Join Anthony Iannarino, an international speaker, author, and sales leader, for this free webinar. You will learn how to teach your sales team to:

  • Create more value throughout the entire sales process
  • Create and win more opportunities – at a higher margin
  • Increase revenues from within your existing client base


Brian Frank LInkedIn Sales 2.0Speaker:
Brian Frank, Vice President of Sales Operations, LinkedIn
Session: How LinkedIn Uses Data, Social, and Culture to Sell Smarter

As Vice President of Sales Operations, Brian Frank has helped make LinkedIn one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in history. In this session, Brian will discuss the strategies and tactics LinkedIn uses to build and scale sales organizations using data, social selling, and LinkedIn’s internal sales methodology. Give your company a competitive advantage by getting this rare peek inside LinkedIn!

Josiane Feigon Sales 2.0Speaker: Josiane Feigon, President, TeleSmart Communications
Session: Creating Change: What’s It Going to Take for My Sales Teams to Start Selling?

Something is broken when 58 percent of sales reps are struggling to meet quota and spending 25 percent of their sales time on unproductive prospects. What does it take to create real, positive change and get your sales teams selling?

The number one frustration voiced by sales leaders and managers is their inability to influence change – despite big investments in expensive training, new sales tools, and the best work environments for their sales reps. They desperately want to find the secret to managing and motivating their multigenerational, multicultural sales teams to work smarter, be cohesive, and stay with the organization longer. And they need that secret now: because today’s sales leaders need to invigorate and innovate or die.

Join us in an interactive discussion that will point you in the direction of positive change:

  • Learn the seven transformational secrets to becoming a change master.
  • Understand what it takes to grow and sustain an agile and futuristic sales organization.

Amanda KahlowSpeaker: Amanda Kahlow, CEO, 6sense
Session: How Culture, Leadership and Passion Fuel High-Performing Sales Teams

While there are no cookie-cutter approaches that work for every organization when building out the perfect sales team, one key principle is often true across the board – a sales force can only be as successful and effective as its management. Join 6sense CEO Amanda Kahlow as she outlines the tactics, hires, and steps she took to ensure not only a high-performing sales team, but one that was executing on her vision and mission for the company. At the end of the day, the focus on a dynamic company culture, savvy leadership decisions, and a product any sales team could get passionate about have been the differentiating factors crucial to success and growth.

There’s still time to register for the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco at discounted rates! See the full agenda or register now.

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An Effective Tactic to Grab the Attention of Busy Prospects

By Andrew Field

As a sales professional, you wear more hats than meet the eye. You’re an expert in your space, a curator of information, and a ruthless researcher. You bounce back from rejection. You’re tougher than Rudy and Rocky Balboa combined.

But even the most resourceful sales teams scratch their heads when they face the same obstacles again and again. Let’s take a look at some common problems and an effective tactic you’ve probably never considered.

Gaining Initial Access to the Decision Maker

You’ve done your research and have contact information for the decision maker at a large account. But your calls and emails go unanswered despite your strong message. You know that if you could just get your foot in the door and make your pitch, you’d land the new business.

Problem solved: When people get a personal package in the mail, they don’t throw it away without opening it. While email and voicemail are important parts of your sales strategy, they often go straight to the trash. So send the decision maker something she doesn’t expect: your collateral in printed form, along with a nice gift and a handwritten note.

A tangible gift sails past the spam filter and lands right on the desk of the decision maker. Your note adds a personal touch that stands out. Include a PURL so you can drive digital traffic with your dimensional mail piece.

Pro tip: Send your package through FedEx to receive notice when your gift has arrived. Then time your follow-up call for right after she receives it. She’ll be excited to take your call so she can thank you for the thoughtful gift. Door officially opened.

Reigniting Interest When a Busy Prospect Goes Dark

Just like you, your leads are busy. Perhaps a hot prospect has cooled down as her internal workload grows. She expressed interest during your last meeting but needed more time to sell your solution within the company. It’s been two weeks and all you hear are crickets.

Problem solved: Instead of placing another follow-up call, remind her of your pending contract with a gift that will surprise and delight. The more targeted the gift, the better. On your last call, did the fact that she’s a tech junkie come up? Send her a stylish gadget holder that organizes all of her tech in one place. It will be just the push she needs to feel valued, re-engage, and get your proposal moving again. Not to mention your thoughtfulness will blow her away!

Thoughtful items like this also create a natural advocacy for your company. She’ll show her coworkers (especially when they see her open the package) and relay the story every time she’s asked about her slick new gadget case. That keeps you top of mind.

Pro tip: For even more impact, fill the gift with useful branded goodies, such as office supplies, a phone charger, memory stick, or external hard drive. Not only is it a nice gesture, it ensures she’ll encounter your brand several times a day – prompting her to think of you.

No matter where you are in the sales cycle, sending real stuff gets results. According to Robert B. Cialdini, author of The Psychology of Persuasion, people who receive gifts are 10 times more likely to respond when asked for something in the future.

Want to see other scenarios like these? Check out our Idea Book for more tips on how to get better results in any sales scenario.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and President of Printing for Less (PFL), a Marketing Technology company providing software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness, as well as printing, mailing, and fulfillment services.

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