Archive | Sales Strategy

B2B, Key Accounts, Referrals, Lead gen, Social Selling etc.

Value Propositions – packaging knowledge to support Social Selling

Wurlwind Social Selling - Value Propositions
Knowledge is a wonderful thing, and valuable when it solves problems.

And in business the value increases as we solve bigger and bigger problems, helping people to save time and money, to make money, to reduce risk and so on.

But time is precious, so the challenge is to maximise our value to prospects and customers and minimise the time spent on relatively low value activities.

The good news is that, with a bit of thought and preparation, we can make buying and selling easier by having packaged value propositions.

For the provider or vendor, packaged knowledge becomes easier to sell and to deliver multiple times, and is something to offer and promote through LinkedIn.

And for the buyer it is more tangible to buy, and lower risk if there are recommendations from other happy buyers, and it makes referrals and introductions easier.

And these packages don’t all have to be exchanged for money. They may be offered in exchange for information from the prospect, for example their email address, or filling in a form, or exchanged for their time, for example an exploratory meeting.

Quick start tips

There is a booming market for information products, especially for diagnostics and for training, so this is a good place to start looking for ideas.

  • Could you create a simple information product that you can give away in exchange for an email address or business card?
  • Could you provide a diagnostic or advisory product that enough people would pay £97 or similar for?
  • Could you package your high value products as a framework or methodology around which there are tailoring and customising options?

The additional benefit of this is to raise your credibility as an expert in your area, having invested to create product and gain social proof, endorsements, testimonials and recommendations.

Tips to identify what value propositions are worth packaging

On a simple basis there are three steps to making a sales: Get the buyer’s ATTENTION. Get their TIME. Get their MONEY. And these steps are reflected below.

1. What could you package and offer on a website registration page or in exchange for a business card?

Contact us forms and newsletter subscriptions are passe, as most prospects are looking for something with a much more tangible payback before they part with their email address these days

  • If you’re a Business Leader or Business Owner you could share your insights and expertise by having a book or presentation or even a video made where you impart some of your wisdom.
  • If you’re a Sales Leader or Sales Professional you could develop a compilation of client case studies as a PDF document to email to people on request
  • This is not the time to pitch product, but to assist the buyer to recognise ‘do we have a problem/opportunity?’ and how do I quickly investigate whether there’s a business case for more detailed investigation

Sales Pages and Landing Pages are the foundation of lead generation campaigns, and the payback of the packaged resource behind them is something that can be offered through LinkedIn.

2. Can you turn lead nurture on its head and turn it into Commercial Teaching?

Considered purchases entail research, not just into vendor solutions but also into internal costs and implementation. Vendors who help buyers, including business sponsors and line managers, to do their jobs better can become trusted advisors and heavily influence the purchase.

  • If there’s a time delay between initial interest and the purchase decision (for luke-warm prospects) it works well to deliver Commercial Teaching over a period of time, in which case an email sequence of suitable content could be very effective, and is trackable too.
  • If there is one principle buyer then a 1:1 meeting with an educational agenda, perhaps with some preparatory work for them plus some follow-on steps may be applicable
  • If there are several people involved in the purchase then buyer facilitation to shape the agenda and equip them to gain consensus and actually move forward could be best achieved in a group workshop.

Consider the buying timetable and the decision-making group (research via LinkedIn) and the issues they need to address in order to make a purchase as part of planning your packaged value proposition for this stage in the sales process.

3. Can you create an entry level chargeable educational product to offer?

There may be many people who have limited budgets but who also have a desire to gain an understanding, knowledge and skills in the topic you are an expert in.

  • Can you compile a list of questions that they are asking, plus those you know they should be asking, and structure them into a logical sequence?
  • Is the local market large enough, and the value high enough, for people to come to a training workshop at a suitable venue on a particular day?
  • Can the teaching be delivered at a distance, through webinars and online training (and do you have / can you get the resources to promote and administer this?)
  • Or maybe you can package and deliver this to larger clients on a company by company basis on their premises.

There are many variations available, to support the purchase / sale while also qualifying intent and earning income (or at least contributing to marketing and sales costs) along the way.

Notifying people of the course availability via LinkedIn is an option, and to advise 1st connections to see if the know anyone who would benefit from it.

Download our Pocket Guide to Social Selling

If you haven’t already done so get a copy of our guide, which covers more LinkedIn Tips and introduces the Social Selling Matrix.

Social Selling Goals and Objectives

Wurlwind - Social Selling Goals and ObjectivesAs time and resources are precious it’s understandable that decision-makers are looking for evidence that something new is going to work.

Measuring the ROI of LinkedIn use and Social Selling results is pretty tricky. Outlined below are various Goals and Objectives and ways to monitor activity and results.

To use a driving metaphor, knowing the destination and reaching it (sales target) is what really matters. Doing so safely, comfortably, courteously, economically etc. are also important. Being a ‘good driver’ and driving a clean and well-maintained car also count.

There are many ways to measure and track use of LinkedIn and Social Selling activities and link them to Sales. 

Working a plan that aligns and supports your other sales activities is the secret to success.

And a great way to track this is by developing a Dashboard. Track your progress and results over time on a chart so you can see how the momentum is building, and fine-tune your activities and you go.

Quick start tips

To avoid measurement becoming onerous let’s start by tracking the indicators that are readily available:

  • Check and track the number of 1st connections you have
  • Check and track your activity level, using the Recent Activity number
  • Check and track your SSI score (Social Selling Index) on a regular basis

Check your LinkedIn SSI here

  • Track the Enquiries and Referrals you get through LinkedIn on a week by week basis

Pick a time in the week where you can do this regularly, such as Friday evening or first thing on Monday morning.

As your network grows, your activity increases, and the quality of that activity improves, so there should be a payback in terms of Enquiries and Referrals, which you could then track through to eventual sales.

Tips to help you define your Social Selling Goals

1. Align goals with your sales process and metrics

Identifying and implementing techniques that are consistent with your marketing and sales is the start.

  • Sales – is the ultimate goal, but for example, be clear if this is from existing or new customers
  • Enquiries and Leads – be clear how these are defined, and the quality and quantity that are relevant
  • Referrals and Introductions – this is a major potential ROI of LinkedIn, especially if this is a big part of how you generate new business already.

Big numbers generated by some people sound attractive, but double check whether they are relevant to your business model, because if they are not then the techniques used to achieve them may well be inappropriate.

2. Build Assets as a measureable value from your activities

This is the side of LinkedIn that is enduring and has the potential to pay-back 24/7/365

  • Contacts – the number of connections you and your team have, and company page followers, are easily measurable and therefore trackable. Quality matters too, and LinkedIn provides stats on both.
  • Content – this is pretty important if you’re to be found and to have online sales relationships. Content also increases productivity, if there is an appropriate mix created and published and viewed.
  • Reputation – this is a tough one to measure objectively, but one that is non the less important to have as a goal or objective to inform decisions

Like physical assets, digital assets will decay unless maintained and used. A large network of contacts and lots of content are of little value in isolation, but are both much more valuable when they are connected, especially in a way that enhances your reputation.

3. Activity – the essential ingredient in order to get a return on investment

Reading articles, attending webinars, going on training courses, etc. are only really valuable when put into practice.

Like the traditional numbers game (eg. dialling 100 numbers a day), so too there are activity metrics that can be applied in the LinkedIn and Social Selling area. But again these need to be aligned with sales process and objectives. Here are some suggestions:

  • Track the activity to build lists of prospects through LinkedIn
  • Track the increase the quantity and quality of contacts in your network
  • Track the activity to stay visible to your network eg. your Recent Activity number
  • Track the Likes, Comments and Shares on your Posts and Company Page Updates
  • Track your progress using the Linkedin Social Selling Index (SSI)

Tracking these numbers takes time, so choose those that are easiest and most relevant to your business model.

The bigger Social Selling picture

The real payback occurs when techniques become more effective and they contribute to the achievement of the bigger Sales measures. The relative contribution against other techniques is important to consider. Developing new strategies and operational methods and skills for the long term is a by-product of short-term effort.

Doing all the heavy lifting by ourselves is tough. When our reputation develops and word of mouth and referrals carries our message far further than we can that the real benefits show up.

Which is why there should be a balance of short, medium and long term goals and objectives for Social Selling.

Download our Pocket Guide to Social Selling

If you haven’t already done so get a copy of our guide, which covers more LinkedIn Tips and introduces the Social Selling Matrix.

Social Selling Matrix – the Business Development Blueprint for Consultants

Many people have an official or unofficial role as a consultant.

They are Trusted Advisors who make recommendations based on their knowledge and assessment of a particular situation.

Medical Consultants are a great example. They assess complex situations. They also educate and advise their less experienced colleagues.

In Business most disciplines and functions have people in consultant roles, going through a similar work pattern.

– Business Consultants
– Management Consultants
– Sales Consultants
– Marketing Consultants
– IT Consultants
– HR Consultants
– Technical Consultants
– Legal Consultants
– and so on

NEXT PAGE >> Goals & Objectives

 Trust is Critical

Successful Consultants are Trusted in their area of expertise. The advice the provide has significant implications on the recipient.

In a medical context it may be the difference between life and death, with huge implications on the patient and their loved ones.

In business it may be the difference between growth and profit of the client, or missed opportunities, liability, fines, or worse.

Reputation is Key

As a patient or client we probably don’t know enough to judge whether one consultant is better than another.

So we rely on third parties to verify and validate the consultant credentials.

Have they passed relevant exams? Are the respected by their peers? Who are their clients? What results have they achieved?

Multiple Clients

Senior advisors within an organisation will have established channels through which they gain opportunities to add value.

Independent Consultants need to gain multiple and regular opportunities to contribute – to have a bank of clients who seek them out.

The Hybrid Network – Off-line and On-line

The rise of the Internet, websites, search, social media and more has extended the options to develop a network considerable.

While the principles of attracting clients and finding new customers still apply there are far more choices that can be used.

At Wurlwind we’ve developed an end-to-end, joined up, full-cycle approach to business development for Consultants.

This reflects the subtle and significant ways BUYING IS CHANGING

And in response Marketing, Sales and Business Development is CHANGING TOO.

It is the Internet and access to information and the ability to publish that lies behind this disruptive change.

And in the Business to Business (B2B) market it is the LinkedIn platform, network and community that is providing a means for independent consultants to respond.

Why we developed the Social Selling Matrix for Consultants

To help consultants to understand, plan and implement changes at strategic, operational and tactical levels we’ve developed the Social Selling Matrix.

The Matrix is grounded in 30 years B2B sales experience plus deep understanding of LinkedIn and participation in the evolution of Social Selling.

There are 10 elements to the Social Selling Matrix which encompass all the areas of business development that are essential.

Each of the following 10 pages introduces that section or topic.

The top of each page provides highlights and quick actionable tips – with the lower part providing additional tips if that’s where you want to drill down.

The Social Selling Matrix sections:

To put the sections into a logical sequence for someone approaching this for the first time:

1. Goals and Objectives

Four Foundations
2. Ideal Client
3. Value Proposition(s)
4. Personal Brand and Profile
5. Company Brand and Page

Three Stages of the Sales Funnel
6. Attracting and Finding Clients
7. Gaining Agreement
8. Nurturing Clients and partners

Supporting Resources
9. Content
10. Technology – Apps and Tools

Where’s the payback?

There are some quick win highlighted throughout the matrix. The Worksheets and Toolkits are the way into these.

The main payback is a change of mindset, culture, sales operations and resources.

This is a journey. And it may take 3-6 months for people to make appreciable progress.

Do you want to Develop your Consulting Practice and Win more Clients?

If so – Click here to Start Your Journey into Social Selling with me, Mark Stonham, Founder of Wurlwind.

 

Or, if you’d like a chat first, send an email to me, Mark Stonham at mark@wurlwind.co.uk, and I’ll be in touch asap.

NEXT PAGE >> Goals & Objectives

 

Sales Relationships win deals

Wurlwind Social Selling - Sales RelationshipsQuick Tips:

1. Use LinkedIn as a research tool to find out about prospects at milestones in the buying process: especially before you have the first meeting, and before you start writing a significant bid or sales proposal. In particular look at who you have in common, as that could give you an inside track to gems that will improve your chances of winning the deal. This is one area where having a strong foundation network pays dividends.

2. Use LinkedIn as an additional way to keep in touch with customers and prospects. Even if they don’t give much away about themselves you can use LinkedIn as a channel through which to share news and insight with them, and pick up signals from various sources to inform your sales approach.

Explanation

1. Buyers expect us to have done our homework before meetings and it allows us to be more professional, with the questions we ask and the insights that we share. When assessing whether to mount a significant sales activity such as a proposal or bid there is valuable insight to be gained by researching the company, department and key people through Social Media.

Recommended Actions:

For your next prospect meeting and quote/bid, take a few minutes to research the person/company on LinkedIn. You may be very surprised by what you find!

Additional Sales Relationship Tips

To be added

 

 

Personal Branding for Sales

Social Selling Matrix Personal Brand

Quick check to see if you have a Professional LinkedIn Profile:

These tips, along with LinkedIn Tips to get to 100%, will give you a good profile, but it’s just the start:
1. Do you have a Photo that is recognisably you in a suitable professional setting, and do you look friendly and credible?

2. Does your Headline make an impact – is it customer benefits oriented including your key skills?

3. Are your contact details in your LinkedIn Profile complete and accurate?

Three Advanced Profiles for Three company roles:

Business Leader Profile

The Chairman, Chief Executive, Managing Director or Business Owner deserves a profile that speaks to multiple audiences which may well include Customers, Prospects, Staff, Recruits, Suppliers, Channel partners, Investors, Media and more.
We see this as opportunity to put forward the vision of the business, the ‘why’, the noble cause, and to outline a future oriented ambition, presented from the personal perspective of the leader.
There are several techniques we’ve developed to help leaders to define this, if they haven’t done so already.

Sales Leaders Profile

The Sales Director, New Business Sales people and business development and lead generation people benefit from a client oriented profile, not just one that talks to their sales skills and successes, that a traditional CV might.
Identifying with decision-makers, highlighting circumstances that are trigger events to move from the status quo to solution investigation are part of this.
Identifying ideal referrals is another aspect, where referrals might be within their organisation or as an introduction to someone in a different company.

Business Professional Profile

Senior and junior colleagues, such as heads of department, sales account managers, support staff and fee earners have expertise that benefits customers, prospects and the company, and it’s a loss when it’s not effectively displayed.
Even if the profile of the person is passive and not being actively added to through status updates etc. there are benefits to showing technical specialisations backed up by evidence of contribution to clients and to clear understanding of the value of the role in the team.

Explanation:

1. Your Picture makes an emotional connection, and is an anchor across multiple social networks and your website too. My recommendation is a Head & Shoulders portrait picture, business casual or dressed more smartly, and above all, look interested and interesting, which you can easily do with a smile.

2. Your Headline is the description about you that shows up in search listings, LinkedIn Group Member lists, Company Employee lists, when you visit peoples profiles, when you comment in discussions. The words in it also contribute to the keyword rankings that help you to get found in LinkedIn. There are 120 characters, so make the most of them!

3. Would you hand out a business card with key information missing or inaccurate? I’m shocked by the number of LinkedIn Profiles that are neither complete nor accurate. 10 minutes work will sort this out. There are 5 fields to focus on: Profile URL, Email address, Phone, Postal Address and Website Addresses.

The short video here explains and shows you how you update each of these fields.

Additional Personal Branding and Personal Profile Tips:

To be added

 

Further Resources

 

Social Selling – evolution or revolution?

Social Selling ImageSocial Selling has become one of those phrases that generates some pretty strong reactions:

  • It’s a new band-wagon for people in the sales training and sales solutions market to latch on to – (guilty)
  • It’s an evolution in the sales approach, based on strategies and techniques to incorporate social media information and channels into selling activity.
  • It’s dismissed with some vigour by people who think it’s just a fad and it will some disappear without trace and business will continue as usual.

Social Selling evolution

Over the last 4 years I’ve seen a rapid evolution that i trace through to Social Selling

  1. First there was Social Media – pure form teenage craze to share social news – the origins of Facebook.
  2. The development of Social Media for Business
  3. The departmentalisation of Social Media for Business into various forms:
  • Social Media for Sales – effectively Social Selling
  • Social Media for Marketing
  • Social Media for PR
  • Social Media for Research
  • and so on.

Social Selling maturity

As the social media march matures so I anticipate social selling will settle down too.

I anticipate that social selling will become a recognised discipline in the spectrum that is marketing and sales.

Social Selling will be a subset of sales and marketing.

It will become part of direct sales, field sales, channel sales, and particularly inside sales.

It will be more applicable in some markets such as technology, than others.

Social Selling works alongside other sales techniques

Social selling will not exist in isolation. In the same way we use face to face meetings, online meetings. the telephone, email and more, so we will use Social Selling alongside email marketing, the website and more.

Social selling will become part of lead generation, customer acquisition and customer retention programs.

It will work alongside and support events and activities such as trade events, lead generation, product launches and more.

I had an opportunity to speak to a Marketing Group in Bristol and presented on ‘Social Media – is it a game-changer for B2B sales’.

You can find a copy of the presentation, along with slides and audio (slideshare) here. 

It’s an exciting journey.

 

Social Media for B2B Sales – is it a game-changer?

LinkedWin Logo - LinkedIn Tips from WurlwindThis presentation was developed in October 2013 and delivered to the Bristol Marketing Network on October 8th 2013. Feedback at the event and subsequently has been very positive, so take a look through and see for yourself.

The presentation has three sections to it, which are presented below the full slide set, and cover:

  • Changes taking place in B2B Buying, and the response that pro-active sellers can take.
  • Examples and short case studies about pioneers in the B2B Social Media and Social Selling area, plus insights.
  • A 5 step approach to using LinkedIn effectively to improve lead generation and support sales efforts.

Understanding and using social media as a tool to support lead generation and the sales process can give individual sales people, business owners and sale teams an advantage over their competitors. The flip side is that competitors might be developing initiatives behind the scenes that will give them a massive advantage in your chosen markets.

Social Media for B2B Sales – Slide presentation

Why and how B2B Selling needs to change

This presentation is the first third of the presentation above, with the addition of the audio recording. It summarises the trends that have lead to the increasing potential for Social Media for B2B Sales, and provides headline guidance for effective social selling.

NB. The audio tracks may take several seconds to load up before you can start playing them.

LinkedIn and Social Selling Case Studies

The middle section here highlights what some of the pioneers are doing in the area of Social Media, Social Business, internal collaboration projects and public social media presence. I’ve highlighted 5 insights I felt were important, and share these at the end of this segment.

NB. Unfortunately Slideshare didn’t allow me to synchronise the audio with the slides.

5 steps to put the ‘Y’ (and the why) in your LinkedIn activity

Many people are at the entry level of LinkedIn usage, with a basic profile and a random set of connections and little, if any follow-up or ongoing contact with their network of contacts.

There is a huge opportunity for Sales People and Business Owners to get far more from LinkedIn and potentially find and generate some huge sales opportunities by taking some focused activity in the following 5 areas.

There is scope for individual initiative to pay huge dividends, by positioning yourself as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and problem solver in areas that your prospects will value your knowledge.

Categorising your contacts and nurturing groups of them in appropriate ways will keep you front of mind.

Finding and Being Found will create new opportunities, by extending your network and being more active in specific ways in LinkedIn. The potential benefits are not just for prospects, leads and opportunities, but also for introducers, referrals and more.

NB. Unfortunately Slideshare didn’t allow me to synchronise the audio with the slides.

If these ideas, techniques and strategies have prompted questions or ideas for how you can make more of LinkedIn and use Social Media for B2B sales, please get in touch.

Next Steps to harness Social Media for B2B Sales

We offer a number of services that we can discuss and match against your needs, such as:

Do get in touch via email to mark@wurlwind.co.uk or through the Contact Wurlwind details in the footer.

LinkedIn for Sales and Marketing and Business

LinkedIn logo - business people use LinkedIn for many purposesIt’s amazing what people can use LinkedIn for. Some use LinkedIn as a contacts directory to look people up. Some use LinkedIn for market research and for news. Others use LinkedIn for recruitment, either to find a job, or to find candidates. But increasingly people are using LinkedIn for Sales, and to improve their sales result. And as more people join LinkedIn and use it more so the potential is increasing, for those who know how to work LinkedIn effectively to help them to work smarter and get greater results in less time.

People use LinkedIn for Business, and business related contact and activities, in many ways. For sure, business is about relationships, and there is a social element as people get to know, like and trust one another, as the foundation for a commercial arrangement. Where people live, where they went to college and university, which subjects they majored in, any sporting or artistic achievements they have. which community groups they may support. All these aspects help to build up a profile and enable areas on common interest to be found quickly.

The breadth of functionality of LinkedIn is creating new opportunities, and smart people and companies will capitalise on them.

LinkedIn for Sales, and supporting the sales process

In the business to business markets it is the customer facing sales people who stand to gain the most from LinkedIn. Being able to identify and target potential customers and clients with greater accuracy, researching people and businesses prior to a phone call or meeting, and seeing who is connected to who are just some of the tasks sales people use LinkedIn for.

Increasing the quality of client contact time, through better preparation, and reducing the elapsed time from initial thought to first contact and ways LinkedIn can help. For others in sales there are more advanced strategies available, particularly around being alerted to Trigger Event happening in the lives of companies and decision-makers, and responding to them quicker that competitors.

LinkedIn is a powerful way for a sales person to build their own market position, based on their expertise and knowledge. A strong LinkedIn profile, and contributions into key groups are just the start of ways a sales person can create a strong sales platform, to open doors of senior executives and set-up significant meetings and opportunities.

LinkedIn for Marketing, and for lead generation

Raising awareness for your company and it’s products and services, researching suitable companies and people to target with marketing campaigns, advertising through LinkedIn, and generating traffic to the company website are just some of the areas that marketing can use LinkedIn for.

Creating a customer community within LinkedIn is an advanced strategy that develops from testimonials and endorsements. Just imagine how powerful it would be if your best customers were sharing good news and tips about your products and services and the service they received from you. The LinkedIn network facilitates this, for businesses who want to develop down this route, and build a long-term advantage.

LinkedIn for Business, and gaining a commercial benefit

Although the cost of using LinkedIn is free or relatively cheap, it is the time aspect that most people are concerned about. For sure there is a learning curve. There is also set-up time. And then the big one which is ongoing activity, and responding, and being ‘conversational’ and building relationships.

Trial and error, and using only basic techniques, are the ingredients for a low level of results for the time involved. A better return on effort will be achieved through an injection of skills and guidance on effective tactics, techniques and strategies.

LinkedIn for Businesses, of many different types

There are very few businesses who cannot benefit from LinkedIn in one way or another. For some businesses there may be social media alternatives that are more attractive, as part of their digital marketing mix. But where there is a business to business market plan then LinkedIn has much to offer, especially for companies and firms in the following sectors.

  • LinkedIn for Technology Businesses – finding, engaging and building relationships with customers, distributors, suppliers etc, often outside the immediate geography, is where  LinkedIn is really strong.
  • LinkedIn for Professional Services – business support, office services, HR, and a wealth of other service providers can benefit from LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn for Lawyers – commercial law is a rich seam for LinkedIn, especially for company changes and larger projects
  • LinkedIn for Accountants – being able to provide advice on many topics and a network of good connection give accountant and edge.
  • LinkedIn for Financial Services – to market to high-net-worth individuals, business owners, employees,
  • LinkedIn for Marketing Agencies – branding, communications, web design, PR are just a few of the agencies who benefit from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn for Not-for-Profit and other Organisations

There are many functions and things that not-for-profit, charities, associations and others in the ‘third’ sector can use LinkedIn for.

  • LinkedIn for Charities – finding donors and sponsors, volunteers and patrons
  • LinkedIn for Education – finding funding, governors and tutors, and helping students to find placements and jobs

LinkedIn for Relationships

The core service from LinkedIn can be likened to the telephone service. There is a directory of users. And users can communicate one with another. Different people use the phone system in different ways, to achieve what they want to. Likewise with LinkedIn there ae many different ways it can be used.

Take a look around the Wurlwind website, enter your details below, or call us to find out more ideas about what you can use LinkedIn for.

 

 

 

Inside Sales – the new Sales Performance Heroes

Every business that sells to other businesses has some form of Inside Sales going on.

Whether it’s taking an order over the phone, qualifying leads, nurturing opportunities, servicing existing clients, running webinars or a range of other activities where actual contact with a prospect or customer takes place, there will be an element of office based selling going on.

  • People running and working in smaller businesses are unlikely to even call it Inside Sales, it may be sales administration.
  • Medium sized sales focused businesses may have an informal set-up, perhaps under the title of client services or account management.
  • Larger businesses may have a dedicated team of office based people performing sales tasks, such as a tele-sales unit.

There may be a significant opportunity to improve the performance of your business, by reviewing and updating your approach to Inside Sales.

Inside Sales – the forgotten heroes

Let me ask you, ‘Who are the heroes in your business?

If that’s difficult to answer, consider previous companies you’ve worked in or other companies you work with.

  • Are the heroes the people and departments with the biggest budgets?
  • It is the field sales people, (or the business owner) who bring in the mega deals?
  • Is it the marketing people who come up with award-winning campaigns?
  • Or is it the engineers who create the wonderful products and services?

Office-based sales people, or people in sales support roles, can be overlooked, and under-valued.

  • They don’t control big budgets, and mostly it’s their time and expertise that’s contributed
  • They don’t bring in the mega deals, because these opportunities are handed over to field sales people
  • They don’t do much (or aren’t allowed to) that is particularly creative, in an award-winning sense
  • They’re probably not the creators of great products or services.

The inside sales role and responsibility tends to be to perform a fairly prescribed process with great efficiency.

  • Inside sales people may be managing a large number of installed customers
  • There may be a sales support element, for example helping to write bids
  • Marketing support may be part of the role, such as helping  to run lead generation campaigns
  • In a small business the marketing executive may be doing some inside sales tasks.

The people in Inside Sales may not be the high-fliers, or the people flying high – see above re heroes.

  • Inside sales may be a training ground for people before they become field or outside sales
  • Inside sales may be a career move chosen by experienced salespeople who are tired of endless traveling
  • Pay and remuneration and responsibility of the inside sales role may not be very high, and therefore not attracting ambitious people.

Unfortunately, in business, the role of inside sales may be a bit of a no-mans land. Which may create a revolving door situation.

It may be hard to recruit good people, and then to hold on to them in that role for a reasonable length of time, before they want ‘promotion’ to a different sales role, or they leave the company.

Inside Sales – the Meat in the Sales Sandwich

However, for all the reasons that Inside Sales may be a no-mans-land, it could also be the pivotal area of the company for future success and sales performance improvement.

Consider for example:

  • How many leads generated by marketing campaigns are not followed up promptly or thoroughly be field sales people?
  • How many leads passed to field sales people are genuinely not well qualified, and actually don’t meet the profile of your ‘ideal customer‘?
  • How many leads are passed to field sales people where the prospect is not ready to buy just yet and there is no genuine opportunity for a sale?
  • How much time does it take for field sales people to follow-up leads on a one-by-one basis, when it could be done in a batch process?
  • How much value can a field sales person add to a lead at the early stages, compared to adding value to sales ready opportunities?
  • Who is monitoring Social Media and in a position to engage in a dialogue with a customer or prospect?
  • Who is best placed to run regular webinars and online demonstrations, as a resource for marketing and field sales to leverage?
  • Who is in regular direct contact with many customers and prospects, and able to provide market feedback to others in the organisation?
  • Who has a schedule that has a high ratio of productive time, without the downside of travel and waiting around for meetings?
  • Who has a low cost base, without the expense of travel, at peak or off-peak rates, or motoring costs?

Add these together and there’s a pretty big impact that a good Inside Sales person or team could make on your marketing and sales operational performance, and bottom-line sales and revenue results.

Upgrade Inside Sales and re-balance workload

Every business is having to think creatively to increase results and reduce costs, in order to remain competitive and profitable.

When you next consider your Marketing and Sales organisation structure, how about starting with a ‘What if…‘ approach?

  • What if Marketing focused on demand generation?
  • What if Lead Nurture was beefed up as a specific and dedicated operation?
  • What if Field Sales focused on sales ready opportunities only?

How would that effect your overall Marketing and Sales Operational Performance?

How would it change, and improve, measurement & tracking, resource allocation and utilisation, conversion ratios, revenue and profits?

Would it have a positive effect on customer service, and on staff morale?

To get a different result something needs to change

To paraphrase Einstein, ‘If you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’re probably going to get the same result’.

Maybe upgrading Inside Sales is something that will create a positive change for your business.

If you’d like to comment on, share or discuss the points raised above, please get in touch.

Mark

Business Innovation – ideas for business models to gain competitive advantage

Do you have a plan for business innovation, to make sure your business model is fit for the future, in light of market changes and innovations elsewhere?

What is having an impact your market? What is creating new opportunities? Legislation, technology and demographics are just three drivers of change.

I invite you to take a look at the thoughts and ideas below, and some carefully selected resources from respected thought-leaders, as a stimulus for your own creative thinking and innovation for your business.

Business Innovation can open a Global Opportunity

Global changes are creating business opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes and in all markets.

To pick just three from a wide range of changes, opportunities, and challenges:

  • Mobile phones – and the ability to access information while on the move, and the personal, location specific marketing opportunities being created
  • Cloud computing – and the ability to create and deploy applications quickly, globally and to create trading portals and online communities that can be monetized
  • Social Media – and the ability to find, be found, connect and communicate with people globally much more swiftly, but also to share views and ideas, and collaborate globally as well.

Which changes will have the most profound impact on your market?

Agility – the fourth competitive advantage

Competitive advantage was defined by Michael Porter in 1980 in three dimensions: ‘Best Product’, or ‘Lowest Cost’, or ‘Closest to Customer’. Now, a generation later, all three are important, and the benchmark in each area is much higher.

More recently a fourth dimension has emerged, ‘Most Agile’. The ability to implement changes rapidly, and successfully, is becoming a significant competitive advantage.

  • This might mean launching new products more quickly, as is evident in the motor industry for example.
  • It might mean changing processes more quickly, as is happening in software development and release, with Agile and SCRUM methodologies.
  • It might mean re-purposing value quickly, for example turning a service into a product (Banking and Financial Services for example), or a product into a service (Software as a s Service) .

These need to be grounded on a sense of what the market and customers are looking for, based on innovators instinct (Steve Jobs, James Dyson) or methodical research, of a bit of both.

Where do you get your inspiration for business innovation from?

There are many fantastic sources of ideas and insight, from thought-leaders with many backgrounds.

Your sector

Looking within your industry and seeing what the innovators and role models are doing elsewhere, through trade magazines and conferences is one source. There is a danger of being a ‘me-too’ player though.

Other sectors

Looking at other industries and examples is another. There are now even more publications and information sources available, via the Internet. LinkedIn for example now features thought-leaders who you can follow and read, if you have time and inclination. Tapping into quality sources of great ideas and thinking will probably pay dividends, over listening to gloom and doom of mainstream news media, or pulp fiction of too many television dramas and soaps.

Thought leaders

Through social media it’s now much easier to find thought leaders. There are thousands in LinkedIn for example. It is possible now to Follow them without needed to make a connection. There are also millions of blogs and twitter accounts where you can identify people with interesting views. However, it can take a huge amount of time to read articles only to find they are of dubious quality. I’ve identified some of te thought leaders who have provided ideas that have helped me and my business innovation.

Sources of Business Innovation I respect

Some thought-leaders and inspiration sources that have had a profound effect on my thinking are highlighted below. I hope you find them interesting and useful too.

Roger James Hamilton – Fast Forward Your Business

Roger has an amazing view of the seismic and game-changing drivers in the global economy, and a very engaging way of sharing them. He has refined the changes to ten, which he updates annually, which fuels his speaking tours. I was introduced to Roger and his thinking by Topher Morrison via John Cato and I attended one of his events in London in 2011. He records many of his events and they are available via YouTube. To give you an example, one of the ten trends is A.I. Artificial Intelligence. This is reaching the surface not just in decision-support, such as self-service database searches but also in business operations. Customer support call-centres are starting to implement A.I. to handle inquiries. If it enables me to achieve what I want in less time and lower cost then I for one don’t mind.

Roger has also developed a diagnostic tool to provide guidance into people’s entrepreneurial strengths. Although he refers to it as a Wealth Profile, at it’s core is an extremely well developed and presented personality profile model specifically for entrepreneurs and people in business. I’ve found it provide great insight and clarity into my own strengths, and roles that fit with those strengths, and also to identify complementary strengths to partner up with. I hope you are able to find similar clarity from it.

Take your Wealth Profile test Now!

Tom Peters – Re-imagine!

What impressed me about the thinking that went into this book was not just the range of ideas and the visual treatment but also that Tom actually wrote it. He was a successful corporate consultant and speaker who could have gone into comfortable retirement. But instead he chose to share some really profound observations and insight into the way the world and business was changing.

As well as demographic changes, particularly the implications of the the aging population and the increasing importance of women, he also puts forward some radical and innovative ideas about redefining the relationship with customers, and the nature of work itself.

Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Customer Value Propositions come in many forms, and business structures and models define and reflect these, with greater or lesser success. Simple models, to grow, to make, to sell are evolving as the eco-system and extended supply chain  creates opportunities that are new, or under-served by others. Their proposition covers 9 elements that are in the business model mix. These can prompt entrepreneurs and business owners to evaluate the relative importance of these in their market, and their relative performance as a business.

There are many case studies presented, for example looking at Amazon and their assessment of their strengths in fulfillment and Web IT, and the rationale for their development of the web services business – leveraging their strengths to meet a growing and under-served market need.

If you have found inspiration here or elsewhere, and you’d like to share it, please join the discussion.