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Chapter 5.5.3 Beating the Competition – Emotional

This is where you make a judgment on how well you have understood the company and the executives you are selling to. Read the section on The Customer as a Human Being again and the section on the Product – Spaced Benefits. List down the three or four most influential executives in the evaluation and decision making process and compare the way you positioned the Spaced benefits against the emotional profile of the customer. Given what you know about the executives and the meetings you have had with them and ask yourself – “Which way would they vote today?” An extreme example should help make this clearer.

In the final presentation you fly in the Evangelist for your product from San Francisco, he was dressed like Steve Jobs in jeans and a black tee-shirt and a flowing pony tail; he talked about how cool the product was and how the product strategy was cutting edge. The chairman of the customer evaluation committee is a 60 year old guy wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie. Ok let’s look at another example that may be less extreme. A conservative bank is looking at outsourcing a business function. While you have the skills to do the job, this is a new account for your company and your competitor is someone like IBM, both a Market Leader and an incumbent vendor. This is the emotional battlefield. Is the customer looking for a Secure decision, or is he looking for a Performance decision. Is he prepared to take a risk on your proposal when you may be the better solution but your company is an unknown quantity.

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Chapter 5.5.2 Beating the Competition – Economic

This is where you make a judgment on how well you have understood the company and the executives you are selling to. Read the section on The Customer as a Human Being again and the section on the Product – Spaced Benefits. List down the three or four most influential executives in the evaluation and decision making process and compare the way you positioned the Spaced benefits against the emotional profile of the customer. Given what you know about the executives and the meetings you have had with them and ask yourself – “Which way would they vote today?” An extreme example should help make this clearer.

In the final presentation you fly in the Evangelist for your product from San Francisco, he was dressed like Steve Jobs in jeans and a black tee-shirt and a flowing pony tail; he talked about how cool the product was and how the product strategy was cutting edge. The chairman of the customer evaluation committee is a 60 year old guy wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie. Ok let’s look at another example that may be less extreme. A conservative bank is looking at outsourcing a business function. While you have the skills to do the job, this is a new account for your company and your competitor is someone like IBM, both a Market Leader and an incumbent vendor. This is the emotional battlefield. Is the customer looking for a Secure decision, or is he looking for a Performance decision. Is he prepared to take a risk on your proposal when you may be the better solution but your company is an unknown quantity.

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Chapter 5.4.2 Managing Opportunities – Part 3

If we now look at how to structure a proposal or presentation of a solution, what we have discussed so far is the Management Summary. The most important part of a proposal document and the most important slide of a presentation is the Summary. Why, because most people only remember three things from a presentation (and many executives only read the first three pages of a proposal) – you have to be able to make your compelling sales case in a very succinct set of points:-

  • Key Requirements
  • Key Solution Message (we provide a solution for all requirements)
  • Investment Summary (hopefully within budget)
  • Company credentials (good to do business with)

OK I know it is four points and the customer only remembers three, hopefully they will remember the solution – is within budget – and from a good company.

The rest of the proposal should definitely respond to all the points in any RFP; or if it is not a RFP response should have sections describing the project that buying the solution will drive, as well as expanded sections on the Management Summary topics of Requirements / Solution / Investment / Company but I have to tell you the majority of good business I have won has been on the back of Management Summaries, or simple letters confirming previous meeting agreements, or increasingly popular, Powerpoint presentations that are 7-10 slides long.

Final word on the content of compelling proposals; we are going to look at beating the competition a little later, but one point to consider while writing the Management Summary or Summary slide. If you have identified a need to which you have a Unique Selling Point or strongly differentiated solution – it is a strong candidate for being one of the three needs / solutions you highlight. You have to be sensible here, if the customer has a need and you have identified it as one you have a differentiated solution for but it would only rank as a minor need in the eyes of the customer, do not promote it to your top three needs / solutions. Remember it is the customer who decides what the important issues are.

The key is if you have the right message, make sure you deliver it to the right people. Even when the formal RFP process makes you write a 300 page proposal, always prepare a three page Management Summary and (unless it will get you thrown out of the evaluation, sometimes a risk in government bids) circulate it to all executives that you know have a vote. This is not a risk if you met them during the requirements phase, think about it a bit more if you have not met them, but on balance I would do it.

There are many resources including good websites that will teach you how to structure Presentations and Proposals. Just Google “Presentation Skills” or “Proposal Writing” and there will be templates that you can select from. Who knows, your company standard proposal template may be a good one.

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Chapter 5.1 Activity to Find Customers – Part 1

Here practice varies greatly from company to company. In some companies the salesman receives pre-qualified leads from marketing campaigns that have been contacted by telesales and “qualified”. In other companies the salesperson gets given a couple of brochures and a telephone and is told to go find customers.

In general it is better to understand the skills involved in starting from nothing, even if you have “all leads supplied”. Much of what I talk about here is really the domain of marketing, but I look at it from a salespersons perspective.

As usual I suggest starting by thinking about your situation. Unless you are working for a complete start up the company you work for already has existing customers using the product you are selling. Unless you would severely upset someone I strongly recommend that you approach a customer that is friendly towards your company (maybe one of your reference customers who recommend your product to new customers) and take him out to lunch. Most people are responsive to requests for help and over lunch you can ask some key questions like “Why did you buy this product from us?”. Usually between this customer conversation and talking to your more experienced colleagues (not always as friendly and helpful as customers); talking to your manager and reading the training and marketing materials you will begin to understand the basic value propositions of your product.

What I am always looking for is a conceptual requirement / solution map that defines the target market. What do I mean by conceptual requirement / solution map? Well sometimes it is very easy, if you are selling X ray machines then your target market is probably hospitals. However the salesperson who realized that at some point when they became smaller and cheaper that dentists and doctors clinics could now afford them probably made a lot of money. The salesperson who realized that certain engineering processes might be improved by X Ray examination probably made even more. Always try to understand the conceptual requirement / solution map.

So ideally you can narrow down your target from the Yellow Pages to a specific set of companies that share a specific set of requirements that you might have a solution to. Now you can begin to gather data on those accounts.

This can be the most difficult phase, it is immensely time consuming to phone up switchboards and ask for names and contacts, and switchboard operators do not usually cooperate in this process. However there are a number of ways of overcoming this problem.

The first issue (that Marketing nearly always forgets) is that there is a 80:20 rule in this problem. I am fairly sure that in all corporate markets 80% of the spend on any product / solution is derived from 20% of the corporate target market, usually the 20% who are the largest in revenue terms. In Asia there is a publication “MIS Magazine” that annually publishes a list of the top 100 accounts in terms of IT investment in the previous year. They estimate that approximately 50% of all IT investment in Asia is spent by those 100 accounts.

So focus on the major accounts. Next decide on your approach plan. Again assuming you have no help, no existing contacts, one tactic I use is to write to the Chairman of the Board and ask for a referral “to the appropriate executive”. You had better be able to write a good letter with a good value proposition but it has several advantages as a tactic.

  • the chairman’s name and address is always known, he is in the annual accounts, and probably on the website and he is based at the Head Office
  • he will have a very organized personal administration executive who will probably intercept your letter and either bin it or forward it to the appropriate executive. So when you follow up on the phone, he or she will be able to help you, again if you sound professional (and friendly – do not try to bully this person on the phone, you will lose).
  • If you do get referred to the appropriate executive you will get an appointment as you have been referred by the Chairman.

Sound far fetched? I know a salesman who worked for me in the UK who wrote to the Chairman of National Westminster Bank and the Chairman of the Prudential Insurance Company, the largest bank, and the largest insurance company in the UK at the time and within 12 months he had sold several millions of dollars of software to both accounts. He was a legend to his colleagues. Nobody ever suggested giving his accounts to telesales.

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Oracle Sales Cloud CRM – In The Beginning

A few months ago CRMNow signed a new agreement with Oracle to launch our own internal instance of Oracle’s new Oracle Sales Cloud (FUSION CRM). Oracle Sales Cloud brings a new level of functionality to the CRM space.

Siebel eSales eMarketing eSales
A blast from the past…

Oracle has capitalised on Siebel CRM, long seen as the benchmark of CRM systems. Oracle CRM On Demand (CRMOD) was originally Siebel On Demand, but the name changed when Oracle acquired Siebel. Further developments in CRMOD over the years have seen a greatly enhanced product from the Siebel On Demand days.

Those advances have now been taken a step further with Oracle Sales Cloud. From our observations and initial exposure to the product, we’re confident in saying that Oracle Sales Cloud is a hybrid between CRMOD and Siebel.

We often used the analogy that CRMOD was like a pre-fabricated home. You could change the colour of the walls and perhaps replace the Fisher & Paykel kitchen appliances with Miele appliances and perhaps replace the laminate benchtops with granite.

But, if you want to move walls around and add bedrooms and perhaps a second level, you need to start from scratch. That would mean you need to look to Siebel and the hefty price tag that comes with it.

Oracle Sales Cloud really is a hybrid, you get much of the functionality you’d find in Siebel, but with the flexibility of a SaaS or cloud based application, like CRMOD.

Contact UsOracle Sales Cloud Blog Updates For You

Over the coming weeks and months we’re going to post some Oracle Sales Cloud updates to this blog post. There are still some questions people are asking and we’ll do our best to get them answered.

Click on the envelope icon above to send in your questions.

We will continue to operate our instance of CRMOD until we have Oracle Sales Cloud up and running. We will continue to provide services for CRMOD, we have many clients using the application.

Chapter 4.3 The “C” Level

If he is a senior executive, or “C” level, he is responsible for the direction, strategy, planning and financial results (profitability) of the company. Fortunately you have done your basic research (making money, growing, or losing money, cutting budgets) and if you are really smart you will have been to the company website and had a look at the Press Release on their latest annual or quarterly results. This takes 3 or 4 minutes, it is the minimum level of preparation you should do before meeting with any executive in any new company.

Start by congratulating him on the latest results (if they are good), if you have an engagement with his company, summarize what you do for them. Try to take guidance from his behaviour what his tolerance for a social discussion is, you should not assume he wants to talk about the weekend sports game for more than two minutes. A word of warning, if you are a new sales professional you are going to struggle to maintain a relationship with a CEO, or other “C” level executive by talking to him about business. You almost certainly will come across as talking above your pay grade. I would recommend that you have a High Level Value Proposition ready (sometimes called an Elevator Pitch) and ask for a referral to the appropriate line executive to follow up with.

The key is to keep the interaction short, do not challenge his attention span, and remain focused on his interests, and your objective from the conversation is to be referred to a middle ranking executive.

So what is an Elevator Pitch? An Elevator pitch is an analogy which suggests you are in an elevator in the head office building of the company of the company you are trying to do business with and the CEO gets into the elevator and you have one minute to communicate with him before the doors open and he is gone. What do you say to him?

The Elevator Pitch is the highest level of a Value Proposition that addresses the interests, and responsibility of a CEO and how he thinks about major procurements. We know already that a CEO is responsible for issues like Strategy & Direction which very few products affect (services like Business Consulting can directly target CEO’s responsibilities) but he is also responsible for delivering profitability. So we are definitely going to mention the Value of cost reduction that arises from the feature that our servers use less electricity. Is this enough? Probably not, research has shown that senior executives apply two tests to any major procurement:

  • Does this do the job?
  • Is this a company we should be doing business with?

The Elevator Pitch should address both issues. So the structure is:-

“ Hi, my name is …….. ……..”

“ I work for …………… The leading vendor of ………. In the world / US / Europe /”

“I am talking to your company about reducing your costs by $250,000 per annum”

No mention here of new generation of chips or motherboards, just who you are; how what you are trying to sell to his company will reduce his costs and increase his profitability; and that you work for a company that is reputable. Even when I was working for a start up company that had only grown to 15 employees, I always introduced the company with the statement “We are xxxx’s Partner of the Year”.

There is a hierarchy of statements regarding company market position starting with “The Leading” followed by “A Leading”, followed by “the Fastest Growing” or “Technology Leading”. You should follow the positioning in your company’s collateral or website.

The Elevator Pitch can be longer, but not more than twice as long as the example. A warning, asking for something in an elevator may annoy the CEO. So make the statement an introduction, extend your hand for a handshake, and decide based on his response what your second statement should be. If it is coolly received follow the age old adage “the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging” in other words stop talking and respect his desire not to communicate. If he does respond then the option I would usually go for is to offer to write to him and update him on what your activities with his company have been and to more fully introduce yourself. The letter, or email not the handshake in the elevator will generate the referral if you are not already talking to the right executive. The CEO will, if you execute the Elevator Pitch and the follow up letter or email well, refer you to the responsible Middle Manager, he will not take your meeting or sign your PO or become your golf buddy unless you really are a natural or your Elevator Pitch is about one of the top one or two operational issues that he is worried about (called getting lucky).

So I think enough on this topic, in 31 years of selling I can count on the fingers of one hand when I have met a “C” level contact unexpectedly, so have an Elevator Pitch ready but do not expect miracles. The main value of this exercise is to get you to think about how your value proposition needs to be tailored to the recipient and his role & responsibility. So if the “C’ level deals with Strategy & Direction and results, who actually runs the business?

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Using Social Media to Improve Customer Experience

I can’t stress enough the importance of social media when working towards improving customer experience. We’re far more connected now than ever with product/service positives and negatives which are open for public discussion on our popular social media platforms.

I came across an interview with David Mingle, Director of Customer Management and Erich Marx, Director of Marketing at Nissan where they share how “Nissan Embraces Social Media to Improve Customer Experience”.

Listening & Responding

Just by listening to customers and engaging with Nissan’s audience as to what they wanted to see on Nissan’s social media websites, Nissan quickly understood there was a strong passion for sports and performance motor sport vehicles. In response to these findings, Nissan created a Facebook page dedicated to sports motor vehicles which received 3,500 likes in its first week.

It must be noted that sports motor vehicles were not a passion or something of great interest to Mingle or Marx yet they committed to this page purely for the customer. The marketing department used grass root organisations that they had contact with to spread the word about the page which went virally very quickly.

Opportunity

As well as this, the marketing department saw an opportunity to build an experience for a niche market of customers surrounding the electric car, the Nissan Leaf. They also mentioned that customers of this particular brand do not profile anything like the typical Nissan buyer – a niche market.

The experience was based on leveraging social media and the website by building a platform and a sales process that no other company in the automotive industry has been able to do. This approach saw the first 2 years of vehicles sold out through demand before the first car was delivered. Nissan was able to attribute the success of the sales people, who outperformed their peers, to the online presence and specifically conversations on Facebook.

Resources

One way the team bridged gaps between social and service was through the opportunity for deflection, or the ability to allow people to help themselves. There was engagement between the customer and company without having to contact a call centre. Both Marx and Mingle agreed that resources dedicated to social media marketing was the biggest challenge that needed to be overcome.

Customer Centric

Another great YouTube video I came across when researching this topic was called “Social Media Customer Engagement Best Practices” with Senior Vice President of Citibank, Frank Eliason, discussing online engagement. Eliason believes the application of best practice online engagement is best represented by Nike’s social media page. He believes that Nike post solely what the customer wants to read about.

Nike have completely taken themselves away from the messaging and have focused on delivering content in response to customer request. This is one of the most valuable tips I have come into contact with having read countless whitepapers on social media and customer experience. As soon as both B2C and B2B companies can incorporate this into their social media strategy, they will gain traction through their marketing campaigns.

Top 5 Tips:

 

  1. Don’t provide content that you want your audience to read about without asking them exactly what they would like to interact with first. For example, if the majority of Jetstar followers would prefer to read about deals and low cost flight specials, revolve your content around this.
  2. Have multiple product pages – Create unique pages for your products or services targeting your niche markets or profitable customers.
  3. If you decide to commit to a profitable Social Media Campaign, assign adequate resources to the job. Many companies are hiring specialist social media marketing individuals to own these projects and generate advertising into dollars. Is this investment worth it for your organisation?
  4. Measure customer experience and measure your social media campaign. This can be done by providing incentives for customers to walk into your store and receive a 10% discount for ‘liking’ a post or ‘following’ you on Twitter. Ask you customers as they walk into the store “how did you hear about this deal?”or “are you following us on facebook?”. One great example of a competition for online followers is Melbourne’s Whoopie Pie Bakery. They Post: “Ok bakers – the competition is still on. Get baking at home, whip up your own version of the famous Whoopie Pie! Take a photo of you and your creation and get as many likes as possible”.
  5. Target affiliated partners to assist you in getting your social media ball rolling. Use all the help you can get!

Chapter 3.3 Benefits

I have presented this Value Proposition chain from the top down. Value Propositions depend upon Differentiation, which arise from feature being different. I did this mainly as most salespeople get stuck at thinking about product features and present their products from bottom up. Some salespeople never get beyond talking about features. This is actually very effective if you are an enthusiast selling to another enthusiast as the benefits / differentiation / and value can be implicit and mutually understood. Whether it is two computer gamers, or two home improvement enthusiasts, or two car customisers, talking in a shorthand language that only the initiated understand; this is a very efficient communication method and an effective way of selling. Most of us however, whether we are selling capital goods to corporate customers or financial products to a consumer, need to understand that it is our role to explain and communicate why the customer should buy. Our benefits statements should be simple, short, clear and jargon free.

So the chain of value from the bottom up is the product or service has a feature, which is different from the alternative or existing product or service. The difference can be expressed as “better, faster, and cheaper” than the alternative. From difference the salesperson can derive a benefit. So what is a benefit?

In the example so far we have looked at generic benefits (saving % cost) or you can call them value opportunities; or specific benefits ($XYZ,000 per annum) where the value opportunity has been applied to the customers specific data. There is however a set of benefits that are more related to human emotions or motivations, than cost benefits.

Most human beings need to feel comfortable with the decisions they make at an emotional level. The received truth is that 70% of the input to decisions is emotional and 30% related to “objective facts”. Think about this for a while, the implications are enormous. It implies that you can have a better product or solution and still consistently lose to a salesperson who understands the emotional domain better, who is a better communicator. Scary, right? So let me share the toolkit I use; remember this is only half the story as communication requires you to understand The Customer – the Human Being as well as how to analyse the product in terms of its emotional benefit, but you have to understand both.

Product Emotional benefits can be analysed into the SPACED benefits (another acronym):-

  • Security
  • Performance
  • Appearance
  • Comfort
  • Economy
  • Durability

Look at the car market and the various brands and how they represent certain benefits.

 

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Larry Ellison – Oracle Open World 2011 Keynote

IM13Some details coming in live from Rob at Oracle Open World 2011 in California.

  • Big focus on hardware – fast, efficient data storage, exploit parallelism, high performance servers, better price performance than IBM’s biggest box – exploit Oracle’s unique networking stuff. Lower floorspace.
  • Plenty of ‘geewhiz’ claims from production customers.
  • So just swap hardware suppliers and get 5-20 times disk space and performance.
  • e.g. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia saw 50% reduction in costs when they migrated their database to the Exadat Private Cloud.

Click Here to read some additional news coverage from the International Business Times as they cover the world’s largest information technology event, Oracle Open World 2011.