I have had two interesting conversations with friends who are frustrated with some of the internal deficiencies within their companies. Both of my friends are accountants, but work for different firms and in different departments. However, they are both part of itinerant work forces and have the same problem. While out of the office, they both do not have access to their local area network. The specific pains within the overall problem were that my friends could not access their email while in the field or obtain information about a customer who was not directly their client. Where there is pain, there is opportunity. Although this problem that has been solved 20 years ago, it was interesting that these 100 million dollar firms were still operating under these business conditions.
Thinking back to last months Sales 2.0 Conference, I thought about one of the breakout sessions that I attended, “Using Web 2.0 Technology to Enable Strategic Selling: A Sales Executive Forum.”
Below are the questions and answers from the panel discussion that I found relevant to addressing the opportunity to solve my friends’ critical business issues.
Question: Please define Sales 2.0.
Umberto: Sales 2.0 means having a more relevant conversation with your customers. It has always been an information problem. I believe that sales people are ultimately information workers that try to match a customer and their needs to a solution. It used to be very difficult to learn about customers. You would get leads without even knowing who is this company and who is this person. With Sales 2.0 it’s drawing lots of information about companies, their people, and making it relevant to your sales force.
Clarence: As a company grows, it not only becomes challenging to manage the business operationally, but also manage the selling process. Sales 2.0 allows companies to automate operational process, sales processes, offer richer customer support, and an overall better customer experience.
Question: How many technology tools do you use today?
Lisa: Technology gives us different ways to collaborate. Sales models have shifted from pushing or pulling to co-creation. Technology allows us to co-create the sale with the customer. Internally, we use several technology tools, but only two for our sales team: Salesforce.com and InsideView. With these tools, we can track the customer relationships, account relationships, and history. Historically, getting everyone on the same page has been a problem. Now, we have common dashboards, reports, and a place to access data to align everybody objectively. This helps us get rid of the anecdotes and use data to drive decisions.
Question: Is a sales more an art or a science?
Lisa: I think the ratio is 85% science and 15% art. If you track the number of phone calls to the leads, to the close rates, and measure what you learn, you take more of a systematic approach than feeling your way through it.
Clarence: I think the ration is 70% science, 30% art. I believe sales is more science because you need metrics to measure your effectiveness. For example, measuring our web presence. We live and die by our website traffic. We drive everyone to the website and measure how many people are bouncing, who is downloading the white papers, how much time people are spending on our site.
In our business model, everybody comes to the website at some point. I know down to the decimal point how many percentage of leads I get inbound through the website. We model how everybody comes in and then try to automate as many as possible. It’s a very substantial operational modeling process that we run. Once you get in through the website we use Salesforce.com and assign the leads.
Gschwandtner: With all the technology that’s out there, we should not forget that the purpose of business is what, to create a customer. How do we create a customer, by helping the customer win. How do we help a customer win? We need to understand. A lot of companies are still arrogant and say I know what our customers need and want. This is height of arrogance and ignorance. We need to know what is on the customer’s dashboard, what metrics they are looking for. If we don’t know what is important to the customer, we have no leverage point for having a conversation.
My thoughts: If everything above is true, then why do my friends have this problem? With all the tools, customer information and resources available, how come someone has not closed a deal with these accounting firms and upgraded their IT infrastructure? How come these firms do not have any team collaboration technologies? Is it because most financial firms have IT departments that assume employees should have access to company applications and data stores only while they are on company premises and connected to an internal local area network? Maybe the partners have not re-thought their business processes in light of what’s now available? Perhaps when the partners were paying their dues on detailed project work many of these technologies were not widely available, and their concept of the work has been shaped by that. These all seem like opportunities for selling. It seems obvious that if you have people in the field, they need access to the firms resources.
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