Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Sales Rep – in the very near future.

By Jonathan Hopkins

A Day in the Life of a Sales Rep – in the very near future.

I won’t bore you with the pre-breakfast routine, my day starts with a damn fine cup of coffee.
As my brain enters something approaching a state of consciousness, I look at my smartphone.
My day is drawn for me on the screen. I have a couple of sales calls on my own this morning and a meeting with a major customer, together with one of our business partners this afternoon.

I glance through the details of the first call,  this is a new prospect.  Fortunately my phone contains a whole range of useful information about the call, and the important thing is that the information is focused on the opportunity.
The marketing team rates the opportunity as a 21 – which means it’s a visit which will be well worth making. As I scan through the detail on this opportunity, I can see why people were excited, it looks like our products have a close match with what the customer says he needs. So I link the zip code from the account into navigation app on the phone, my route is planned and I am good to go.

This is so much easier than in the old days before we got truly mobile, when  I used to feel the need to re-qualify every new appointment that was generated for me.  Now all I do is give the potential customer, a quick call before the meeting just to make sure that there have not been any last minute changes.
I drive to the appointment and I check my phone, my boss has asked me to solidify a couple of aspects of this opportunity, which had been at the back of my mind anyway (well sorta).

The meeting kicks off with a few pleasantries then it’s into the first meeting drill. When we started using the smart Battle card, I was concerned that following it point by point might not feel natural but the customers seem comfortable with it or even like it.  We come across as more professional and the information we generate makes it more useful experience for us and for our customers.

The first thing I am going to do is to check on a couple of gaps we have in our qualification process. I need to find out a little more about who are the relevant stakeholders in this deal, and most importantly how these stakeholders plan to arrive at a decision.

The battle card takes me through this and lets me capture the relevant data through the phone app. This is really cool because now  I will be able to put a tick in the box for the task my boss gave me.
Having completed the Battle card I now have a much better understanding of the customer's requirements.  I am able to let him know with genuine confidence that we have a great solution to meet his current challenges. The information it generates confirms the next stages in our engagement process, and I am able to share them with him.

Leaving the meeting with my app complete, I am happy a good job has been done, a positive working relationship is being developed and we are able to give him value in that meeting. Having closed the app, I can relax, because my paperwork is also done, new contacts are in the system and the probability of the opportunity has been re-evaluated, which will automatically modify my forecasts.

Next stop is with a prospect who we have already had a number of meetings with, and we are progressing the deal nicely. They have asked us to come in to discuss numbers and a potential timescale which is always the kind of conversations you want to be having.

I arrive a few minutes early which gives me some time to look at the dashboard on my app. We are 2/3rd of the way through the month and my numbers are looking OK. I can also see my sales team forecast, and again this is stacking up nicely although a couple of prospects are drifting to the right, I am sure that people are over this.

It’s a great feeling working with a prospect, when you know something positive is going to happen. Everyone is energized and excited, which is just the spirit of this meeting.  I had the pleasure of being introduced to the CFO of the company, and he gave me some important information. His company is in the process of acquiring one of their smaller competitors and we would need to be able to integrate our stuff with their old technology. Could we do this?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a technology sales rep is pretending you know more than you know. It destroys all the credibility you might have. Fortunately for situations like this our very smart product managers have developed battle cards. I dial in the relevant one and start the Q & A. In this case it’s not a simple query, and the battle card directs me to a number to call. I tap on it and in seconds I am talking to a properly clued up project manager, who is looking at our Q & A session.

He is able to give positive news and sends the relevant supporting documentation to my prospect's technical people to explain our solution. The customer is unsurprisingly delighted, we have been able to ease his pain, credibly and directly. We complete our meeting and I have a request from them for a formal quotation to include the new integration work. On my way out I send off a task request to our Product Manager for a price for the additional work so that I can adjust my forecasts.

The afternoon meeting promises to be a good one as well, in this meeting we are working with a partner and one of their customers. This partner likes to involve vendors in his sales from time to time, and here I am going to support him at a commercial level.

Before the meeting with the customer, I can review on my phone all the relevant data and interactions that have taken place between our partner and his customer. I can see that this opportunity has a really good score, so it’s well worth my time to get involved.

In the old days before going to see the customer,  the partner and I would have needed to have a preparatory meeting.  So that I could understand where the customer was and we could agree on a strategy as a consequence. By using the app and talking the same language, I have a clear understanding of where the customer is.  Because the partner understands our sales processes and workflows, he knows what approach I will be taking to bring the customer to a sale.

The meeting went well, the customer thinks the partner is great, the partner knows he is going to get his deal, and I move that little bit nearer commission accelerators.

And now my day is done, my meetings have been completed, the documentation is all put to bed, and I am now free to prepare myself for tomorrow.
Friday no longer has to be a day at the office, I can use the old CRM data time for other things like selling more - or just other things!

Monday, December 08, 2014

IndirectSales.com is an organization which is responsive to market needs and works to make that response in a timely manner.

By Jonathan Hopkins
At Dreamforce in October, we met with a broad range of successful and smart business people shared a range of different ideas.

Here’s the thing, we went to Dreamforce to talk about our passion for building great tools for organizations and their partners to maximise their sales opportunities by bringing in both intelligence and clear vision into the indirect sales process.

The delivery of intelligence and clarity to develop and close business opportunities was a subject which resonated with just about everyone we spoke. However, the burning questions on everyone’s lips was – “Don’t just tell us you can do these things with our indirect sales, we need them in our direct sales teams as well”
We were intrigued and since then have been researching the issue, talking to customers and partners, trying to in understand their real-world experience and see how we can help.

This is our thinking, CRM systems are fantastic at managing customers, and they also deal with the administration of selling, to the extent that the sales manager of old (we all know him, the guy who is first in the office in the morning, last out at night who operated on the principle that if he stares at Excel long enough the numbers are bound to come good) is redundant.

But to the actual business of tools to help you make a sale? The evidence points to a gap in the market. There are some people operating in this space, but they have not yet made the impact they should.  So what impact does this have on indirectsales.com? Should we change direction and put our focus into developing technology for Direct Sales teams? We think that would be short-sighted. 

The world is changing, organisations are coming to terms with new ways of doing things. The hard and fast edges that sit between direct and indirect sales are softening.  A new model of collaboration is developing where an opportunity may go through a number of owners on its journey through the sales process.   What is needed are technologies that offer both clear sight and guidance to all stakeholders in this increasing complex environment.

The sharing of information is beneficial to all parties, but to be of value it must be presented in a format that the user can assimilate and in a time-frame that is useful. This speaks to pervasive computing, the capacity to make both tools and information available when ever and where ever it’s needed.

IndirectSales is addressing this need by making a series of powerful, functional apps available, that contain technology focused on the needs of the business developer, when they are interacting with customers or partners, supporting timely decision making and paradigm shifting interventions.

This works well at the operational and field level, and delivers performance improvements, but what about the strategic decision makers, if we provide insight into what is happening in the narrow end of the sales funnel can we make a difference to them? The answer is yes, typically by the time an opportunity has been qualified, the enterprise has invested heavily, and the further progresses through the sales cycle the greater the investment becomes and the greater the impact that failure to win the bid, or to deliver on the promised margin will have on the forecasts and the potential plans of the enterprise.

Traditionally Senior Management has received information from spreadsheets and this information is often out of date, and of variable credibility, especially if it comes from partners. IndirectSales.com will give insight into what is going on with all the opportunities, and the greatest insight will be for those opportunities which are most critical. As an output of the process there will be a whole host of data, which strategic management can use to evaluate performance of process, people and products, To be able to understand with absolute clarity why deals are lost, to understand why deals are won, and replicate  the successful activities, and shape the business accordingly.
Analysis can be performed on a range of topics, performance of direct and indirect teams, products in certain markets, why certain strong products work in some markets and not in others, are there activities that sales people are missing at some particular stage in the sales process ?

The focus of the strategic meeting can change from the norm, which is trying to understand why things are not going to plan, because mature users of IndirectSales.com know that already, to how do we change the plan to deliver on our operational and strategic goals

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Can technology help you sell? No really - “Sell”?

Selling is an art, and those artists come in every shape and size, age, sex, color and religion. Some are good talkers and others are good listeners, and everything in between. Some have great product knowledge and some haven’t got a clue. Yet they do their numbers.

Selling, though, is also a science. Companies go to a great deal of time and expense to have their sales people trained on how to “sell”, and how to sell their products. They also invest in sales tools, and the emphasis over the past 30 years has been traditional sales accounting systems (CRMs), where the emphasis is on Sales accounting, reporting and forecasting for management. In more recent times we have seen huge growth in analytics and marketing automation (leads). If Dreamforce 2014 was anything to go by, comfortably 90% of exhibitors focused on those two technologies.  Getting good leads is obviously important and management can now get better insights from the data produced from our CRMs – and the marketing Automation processes – but what about actual “Selling”?

The burning question is whether or not technology can make the science of selling more effective for the sales people; put the emphasis on the “selling” as well as the “accounting”; enhance the art of selling? In recent times Gartner has been making much of the concept of digital business, and the effect of the mobile form factor is an obvious one for sales people. For the first time ever you can carry a mobile battle card, or playbook with you into an appointment or call, and no customer would object to a simple request: “ I have a checklist of questions about your requirements, (relative to our product) do you mind if we go through those together now or later?”

As a rep you are expected to know everything there is to know about every product and every specialist use of those products. The company has just done a marketing campaign aimed at Finance (or Healthcare, etc, etc), for one of your 20 products. In the course of a day you might do 5 calls for 5 different products in 5 different sectors. This might seem an exaggeration, but in my last company, the account managers had to contend with 125 products and every vertical marketing sector.

Do you think technology can help? Of course, it can. While those are “product” or “needs analysis” questions, you have the device in your hands, it is perfectly natural to just check about Business questions – the budget, the timescales, decision makers, any specific drivers for this deal? Compliance, for example, or ROI targets? What is the best process for this product? Arrange a trial, or a demo? Right through the sales cycle we follow a workflow and every product in every market has its own playbook. As a rep you cannot possibly know all of that but those product managers and marketing people can. They need to get that encapsulated into a simple process you can check through across all 5 of those calls you have today. Every deal has its playbook. Every deal for every sector has its own playbook – but for you they are all the same – a series of checklists, and maybe the opportunity to fire up a Powerpoint or video demo at an appropriate time?

This is tool to get your win rate average up, but even better it also detects that you have made changes that should be reflected into your sales accounting system and into your companies brand new Business Intelligence and Predictive analytics system. More to the point, you are a few steps closer to another good quarter and that Club trip to Hawaii, and your Fridays can be spent on the golf course (with your customers), rather than trying to remember what to put into your CRM!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

IndirectSales Released.

This week sees the official launch of IndirectSales.com.

While this is our official launch, we already have a number of users world-wide who have been helping us ensure that we have a stable and feature rich product that is business ready to solve channel sales collaboration needs.

We have also completed the mobile app to enable in the field sales users to interact, anywhere, anytime using their mobile phones or tablets.

It is not a coincidence that our launch is happening at the same time as Dreamforce, the Salesforce.com annual conference here in San Francisco which we are attending.
You'll find us in the Cloud Expo North, booth N2338, and with us are 2 of our pre-release users, Access Governance from Australia and Porter Consulting from here in the USA.

Access Governance are a master distributor in Melbourne working throughout Australia and Asia. The represent a number of companies in that area. They use IndirectSales in 3 ways To track sales though  their own and their reseller sales organizations, to track recruitment of new resellers and to also track the recruitment of new suppliers. They make extensive use of the notes facility to hold copies of all agreements from a simple NDA to a full reseller agreement.
Maureen O'Hare will be with us all week at Dreamforce.

Porter Consulting use IndirectSales on behalf of a major Silicon Valley technology supplier. They work with them to deliver targeted marketing campaigns for specific products through a set of master distributor and reseller networks.  They chose to use IndirectSales because we implement a customizable qualification and sales tracking process easily deployed and administered in the field for all distributors and sales partners.
Al Morgan from Porter Consulting will be with us on Wednesday.

But why Dreamforce For many customers, IndirectSales starts where Salesforce leaves off - in handling and collaborating with the channel on major sales. We are the ideal compliment to any company that deploys Salesforce, has an indirect channel and wishes to integrate channel sales data securely into the corporate CRM.

If you are here in San Francisco for Dreamforce, come see us and discuss how we can help you collaborate better with your channel sales network.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A User View

We're pleased to welcome Maureen O'Hare to California and to this blog. She's here for Dreamforce next week. Here's Maureen's article.

How did this Australian woman come to be here in Santa Cruz, California? Why would I fly through the sunny Australian skies to get to those of California?
I am the Sales and Channel Director of the Australian company, Access Governance. We started up earlier this year. We are a Master Distributor for the Asia Pacific region, for some fantastic software from Europe and the USA.
We have multiple suppliers, currently 6 but the list is growing. We have multiple resellers as well as our own sales people. With each of the suppliers, we have different agreements, different territories and several currencies to manage for our price lists. Ditto for our resellers. And we have to make sure that we and then each of our resellers are trained in the different products, but not all resellers sell all of the products.
So, we also have the track the ‘recruitment’ of suppliers and resellers.
Then, we have to assign leads from suppliers and our own sources, to the relevant sales person or reseller making sure that we have the materials and training, and subsequently have enabled our reseller with these too. It follows naturally that we then need to manage those leads and deals through to the close, and report the result back to the relevant supplier.
Sound familiar?
We could do some of it in Excel, some of it in Word, but the real action would usually be in email. And we’d spend hours every week keeping each other up to date on who was doing what and who needed to what next.
We could have bought some different systems; a CRM, a document management system, a lead tracking system, and a sales process workflow system. Oh! and a task manager. But that would have just divided up the information differently and still we would not have an overview of our suppliers and channels, and it would leave us scrabbling about in the different systems for the current status of a supplier or a reseller or a sale.
Then we came across IndirectSales! And it does it all!
I can track the progress of adding a supplier or reseller and, with the customisable workflow, I can ensure that all of the steps in the process have been completed. I can store the agreements online in the system, so I can easily check the terms for a supplier or reseller. I can assign a lead to a reseller or even to a particular person for that reseller.
I can customise the workflow for a particular product and track the salesperson’s progress though that workflow. We can also store the price lists so that everyone can be sure they have the current list. With notes I can keep a specific log of the interactions. We can even provide a specific ‘battlecard’ for each product, accessible on the mobile app.
So I came to California to boast about how IndirectSales makes my role possible instead of impossible to other Channel Managers battling to cope with the myriad of forms, spreadsheets, and emails, all the while wondering what is really happening out there in the channel.
If you would like to know more about my experience with IndirectSales, come and visit me at the Dreamforce Conference on October 13th-16th in San Francisco Cloud Expo North Booth N2338.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's Time to Stop and Smell the Channel

If you're like me, and you've spent the majority of your career selling directly to customers, you have an innate mistrust of the Channel. Sure, they're just like you and me, they sell stuff too, but they do it in strange and unknown ways, in a dark and mysterious realm beyond the reach of human vision, entirely out of your control.

It's really not as bad as all that, but if you're serious about your craft and have embraced Sales Process as the key to greater success, it can definitely feel that way. As you deign to entrust your precious leads and life's blood revenue goals to organizations and individuals that you no idea whatsoever which sales process they embrace, if any at all.  The instinct is to keep all the "important" deals firmly in house where you can have full control and total visibility of their progress through your sales process and not have to risk "throwing your pearls before swine" into the black hole of the Channel.

Well, sorry to say it, but this approach in a competitive market will virtually guarantee slower growth, lower margins and continually being outflanked by your enemies.  To stay at the front it is absolutely essential to embrace meaningful partners, and to do so around a commonly shared sales process and true collaborative selling. To be honest, we all need to get that place of trust where we eagerly hand off the best leads with the biggest upside to the right partners.  It's often the partners who have the better relationships within the customers and hence a much better chance to actually close the business.  You just have to know that your partner knows how to best sell your product.  It's easier said than done, but with today's convergence of major technologies like mobility, digital business process, the API economy and the Cloud, the previously unimaginable has become not just possible, but essential.  The key is SaaS-based Chanel Sales Automation with a mobile app at the front end which will accommodate a customized sales processes, real deal progress scoring, and a digital Sales Battle-card, with API integration to all of the major CRM and Sales Automation tools currently in use.  Every member of your Channel organization may be using their own CRM or Sales Automation tool, but as the vendor at the top of the food chain you can mandate your own common sales process to  be used to sell your products, and at the same time provide your own "Digital Sales Battle-card" within the mobile app that greatly aids in onboarding new partners with minimal training and ensures they are following your own best sales practices to close more deals.  All of this can easily integrate into their own CRM using available API's to reduce double entry.

The Channel has been around for a long time, but today's greater level of competition and demand for efficiency requires that we all take another look at how we can optimize our Channel investment for far better results, and the good news is that once again, technology has provides the means to do just that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sales Best Practices in Channel Sales

One of the best salesmen I have ever worked with called me last week. He works for a large company that does a lot of its business through partners. He had just lost a deal, and it looks like the partner was not talking to a key decision maker. It sounds like they were outflanked. Everything looked good on this deal, yet it was lost over one of THE most basic of sales best practices – make sure you are talking to the MAN (Money, Authority Need). His reaction was that he needs get out his sales training materials to remind himself of the fundamental rules of selling – he was beating himself up.

Of course, if my friend were selling direct, without that partner, then he would have figured this out for himself before it was too late. It is the fact that he took for granted that his partner would be following best practices for Sales, that was bugging him. This can be a mistake, as in this case. This is a great partner, who is technically strong, and very loyal. Besides he needs the partner. It is just the way the business works now.

How many times have you heard such stories, or experienced them personally? It happens all the time. It could be that a deal is forecast, but it turns out the budget is for next year (or none at all). It could even be that the customer is in pure “Research” mode; there is not even a defined need/project.

There are not one, but two big lessons here. The problem is not just that basic sales principles have not been followed, and that is problem. The more difficult issue is that the partner is a different company and you are not working through a formal collaboration system. If you WERE using a common system, like IndirectSales.com, then it would have been obvious. There is a simple checkbox for Authority that you would both be using, on a simple app on your smartphone, and you rate your exposure to the decision maker between 1 and 5; if it’s a 1, then you need to find Mr, Miss or Mrs 5. It’s a simple as that.

As new technology makes collaboration and keeping sales best practices easier and easier, and the changes in the product landscape (especially in the technology sector – cloud, SaaS, commodity hardware, apps, etc) make collaborative selling more and more essential, then the more we will need to use such tools. We must work better together.