6 items tagged "sales"

  • 3 Reasons to implement a data strategy in your sales processes

    3 Reasons to implement a data strategy in your sales processes

    Sales managers are resilient folk. For many, adapting to leaps in technology, economic volatility, and radical shifts in buying behavior is the norm. Often they emerge stronger and better equipped to succeed. Not surprisingly then, this Covid era, with any number of unforeseen business challenges has prompted many sales managers to examine themselves and their teams and to commit to up their game. One given in this tumultuous time is a data strategy.

    1. Must have a data strategy for sales 

    The veil of comfort of a pre-Covid world, where growth is infinite, resources are boundless, and the only perceived limit to success is one’s level of ambition…. for many, that veil has been lifted. And for some it has revealed some blemishes that in more comforting times would be easier to ignore. One such organizational blemish, for many, is the lag in their business to adopt and employ a data strategy that can empower its sales people and improve results.

    Let’s face it. Doing what you did yesterday is a good approach if you believe that tomorrow will look similar to today. Not many sales managers share this view of the world anymore. Things are changing, they are changing fast, and many sales organizations that haven’t adopted a data strategy find themselves slow to react and at a disadvantage to their competitors.

    2. Data helps sales team understand subtle changes in customer behavior

    The contrast in talking to sales organizations with a data solution and those without is striking. Sales organizations committed to data, use buying trends and behaviors of their best customers to educate and inform the rest of their customers as well as increase add on sales and wallet share across their customer base. In a few mouse clicks, a rep can see what upsell and add on opportunities exist and prioritize their calling efforts.

    Data driven sales organizations can react to the pulse of their customers, often times pro-actively to head off issues before a customer is fully at-risk. Subtle changes in purchasing behavior can reveal at risk accounts and trends that the salesperson can address pro-actively to retain a customer rather than trying to win them back after they leave.

    3. A data strategy is necessary to compete in a shrinking marketplace

    Further, as competition for a lesser number of customers in the marketplace heats up, data driven sales organizations have 360 degree view of their customer that allows them to share insights, improve customer experience and add value to every interaction. Customers have come to expect a higher level of communication and experience from their vendors that mirrors what they have experienced online. 

    Companies that have not embraced a data strategy for sales find themselves at a tremendous disadvantage. In these rapidly changing times, sales managers of those organizations may be asking themselves how long they can afford to wait before they level the playing field for their team. 

    Author: Mark Giddens

    Source: Phocas Software

  • 5 Arguments that will convince sales people of the value of analytics

    5 Arguments that will convince sales people of the value of analytics

    Many sales reps have a certain way of doing things. Implementing new processes or adding new tools or technologies that attempt to change their habits can often be met with resistance.

    Sales reps rely on their “tried-and-true” methods learned from predecessors, or they lean on their personal knowledge and experience to manage their customers and plan their approach with individual customers. Gut-feel has been the leading driver for sales strategies for many years, but in today’s fast paced and competitive environment, sales reps need every advantage they can get.  

    A recent McKinsey article suggested, “driving sales growth today requires fundamentally different ways of working, as well as outstanding execution across large, decentralized sales teams and channel partners. While many sales leaders accept this reality in principle, they don’t put sufficient energy or focus into driving that level of change. Advances in digital and analytics, however, mean that sales leaders can now drive and scale meaningful changes that pay off today and tomorrow.”

    So, if you’re a sales rep that doesn’t think you need data analytics, here are five reasons why you do:

    1. There are always more sales opportunities than you think 

    This alone should steer your team toward data analytics. Data can uncover trends in your customers’ buying behavior that can help you identify gaps in their ordering. In addition, your customers’ data can also reveal upsell or cross-sell opportunities that can help you increase your sales volume across a much wider swath of products, without impacting any of your existing sales. While your gut feel may tell you to spend more time with a customer, data can help you understand why, pointing you to new complementary products that can quickly grow your sales.

    2. It is critical to uncover challenges before they impact your bottom line

    There is a good chance one or more of your customers purchase products from other suppliers. What if that same customer started to buy less from you and more from that other supplier that recently entered the market? What if that decline occurred over several months? Would you even know? These are difficult questions to ask and answer, but if you’re like many sales people, you have dozens of customers that you are working with and a slow decline in sales with a single customer may go unnoticed. With data at your fingertips, from your laptop to your mobile device, you can constantly monitor your customers' purchasing habits, and ask questions about negative trends before they start to impact your company’s bottom line and your paycheck.

    3. Retaining customers is easier than finding new ones

    This is related to number two, but it deserves its own bullet point. Retention is a simple business reality that makes your business data even more important. Underserved customers are underserved for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are new and got lost in the shuffle, or turnover at the sales rep position has left them without support for a period of time. Perhaps they have made several large purchases over the last year and deserve better pricing, or they were once a loyal customer, but their sales have slowly declined, and are at risk of leaving to a competitor. Engaging these at-risk customers requires that you recognize the signs before they take their business elsewhere.

    4. It will make your life easier 

    Access to data analytics has oftentimes only been given to the IT team or specially trained individuals. Data analytics turns raw data into actionable intelligence. No more reading outdated spreadsheets, guessing where your next sale will come from or what information to share with your customer during your next sales meeting. Business intelligence software is designed to help you quickly mine value from data so you can make the right decision for you and your customers. Rows and columns of data are now presented in charts, graphs and tables that you can click to uncover transactional level details that brings to the surface the accounts that need your attention the most. Data analytics helps you eliminate the guess work about your job and focus on what customer you can help the most while also helping you achieve your sales goals.

    5. It helps you prepare to perform

    Imagine going into a customer meeting with their entire order history at your fingertips, or an understanding of their recent commitment to certain brand, style or size of product. How will that information shape your next product presentation or sales proposal? You can turn your customers into data advocates by reviewing with them weekly reports about their engagement with you. Could that information help them improve efficiencies, capitalize on sales promotions or recognize holes in their own ordering? As you share and use your data to help them, you show them that you are committed to their success, as well as your own.

    Data analytics is a powerful tool for sales people that are looking to maximize their performance, grow sales and retain customers. The results of implementing analytics are better revenue growth at the same or improved margins, quickly, while customer satisfaction improves. If you’re not using data to drive your business, there’s no better time than the present to start.

    Source: Phocas Software

  • Five challenges to overcome in order to improve sales productivity

    Five challenges to overcome in order to improve sales productivity

    Many of the sales leaders we work with say they need to find ways to make their sales team more productive. It’s no wonder, given the constant pressure to deliver results. Sales leaders also recognize that meeting sales goals consistently requires a broad-based contribution from everyone on the team — not just a few star players.

    How do you foster that contribution and help sales teams be truly productive? A starting point is to understand some of the key productivity challenges that today’s sales teams face:

    The complexity of today’s buyer 

    Today’s B2B buyers are more self-directed than ever before, and they’re likely to base much of their decision-making on information they find online. When buyers do interact with sales reps, they expect a continuous experience — which means that to prospect productively, reps need to know where buyers are in the journey and provide the information they need to progress.

    Lack of comfort with virtual selling

    54% of sales reps in Forrester’s latest sales activity study said that losing the ability to meet with clients face-to-face has hurt their ability to meet quota. Though sales teams continue to hone their virtual selling skills, achieving the same level of proficiency as in an in-person environment takes practice. Virtual selling will be the norm in many selling scenarios even after the pandemic, so reps need to build these capabilities to be productive and effective.

    Not using technology to its full potential

    The proliferation of sales technology in recent years can leave sales leaders feeling unsure of where to begin. It’s imperative to work with sales operations to choose the tools that will yield the greatest productivity gains for your organization. Whether it’s automating capture of buyer interactions or leveraging revenue operations platforms that centralize data and analytics, truly understanding what’s available and zeroing in on what will best serve your team can be a game changer.

    Time-draining administrative tasks

    Our latest sales activity study data shows that sales reps spend, on average, more than one-quarter of their working hours on administrative tasks such as internal meetings, order booking, and expense reporting. That’s slightly more than the time they spend in the most productive manner: directly selling to prospects. Finding opportunities to minimize unproductive work is a key to improving team performance.

    Not having the right content

    Our sales activity studies have consistently shown that finding content and information is a significant productivity obstacle for sales teams. Without easy access, reps will miss opportunities to provide information that could help move prospects closer to a sale. Steps such as consolidating content into a centralized repository and categorizing it by buyer journey phase can contribute to greater sales success.

    Working through these sales productivity challenges is essential to enabling reps to perform as effectively as possible!

    Author: Phil Harrell

    Source: Forrester

  • Growth Stories: Change Everything

    mobile-uiInterview by Alastair Dryburgh

    What do you do with a small technology company which has an interesting product but is stuck in a crowded, noisy market where larger competitors have locked up many of the distribution channels? You could keep struggling on, or you could make a bold move; re-engineer the product to meet a different purpose for a different market. That's what Pentaho did, leading to 6-times growth over 5 years and a successful sale to a large organisation.

    In this interview their CEO Quentin Gallivan describes how they did it.

    Alastair Dryburgh: Quentin, welcome. This series is about that period of a company's evolution when it has to go through the rather dangerous territory that lies between being and exciting new start up and being an established profitable business. I'm told that you've got a very, very interesting story to tell about that with Pentaho. I'm looking forward to hearing that.

    Quentin Gallivan: Okay, great.

    Dryburgh: What would be useful would be if you could give us a very quick background sketch of Pentaho. What it does and how it's evolved in the last few years.

    Gallivan: So Pentaho, the company is approximately 12 years old. There were five founders, and they all came from a business intelligence technology background. What they were looking for was a different way to innovate around the business intelligence market place.

    One of the things I saw going on with that company was that the biggest challenge in companies doing data mining or predictive analytics on unstructured data or big data, was how do you get all this unstructured data, and unstructured data being clickstream data from websites, or weather data, or now what's very popular is machine data from Internet of Things devices.

    I wondered, is there a company out there that can actually make it easier to get all this different data into these big data analytical platforms? Because that was the biggest problem we had.

    When I looked at Pentaho, at the time it was not that company. It was not the new, sexy, next generation company, but I knew the venture capitalist behind Pentaho. We spent about a month just talking about what could the company be. Version one of the company was really a business analytics software product sold to the mid-market. They got some initial traction there, but that was a very cluttered market - very busy, a lot of noise, lots of large incumbents with channel dominance and then lots of small companies. It was hard to get above the din. I was not interested in Pentaho as the company was, right? I didn't see that as very interesting, very compelling.

    What interested me though, was when you dug deeper on the technology I thought it could be repurposed to address the big data problem. That was a big leap of faith, right? Because at the time, Pentaho wasn't doing any big data, didn't have any big data capabilities. The customers were all mid-market, small companies and it was known as a business intelligence company.

    Dryburgh: Pretty substantial change of vision really, isn't it?

    Gallivan: Massive, massive change, and I looked at it and I spoke to the VC's and said, "I would be interested in taking the CEO role, but not for the company that you've invested in, but for a very, very different company and I think we can do it. I don't know if we're going to do it. It's a long shot, but if you're willing to bankroll me, and allow me to build a team and support the vision, I'll give it a go."

    Dryburgh: Could I stop you there a moment to see if I could put a little bit of a frame around this? You've got a pretty fundamental change here.There's probably, very crudely, three different elements you've got to look after. First is obviously the technology and I guess that must have needed to evolve and develop. Then you've got what you might call the harder side of the organisational change, the strategy, definition of who the customer is, the organisation, the roles, the people you need, that's the second one. Then the third element which I think is particularly interesting is the softer side which is the culture. I'd be really interested to hear which of those was the biggest issue for you?

    Gallivan: That's a great question. I like the way you framed it, I would add a fourth dimension, which is the market perception of you. How do you get people to stop thinking about you as Open Source BI company for small and medium size businesses and think about you as leading, big data analytics platform for a large companies, for the large enterprise. Those are the four vectors that we needed to cross that chasm.

    The hardest one was not the culture because at the time, the company was very small. It had 75 employees and we are going to be over 500 employees this year, right? At the time it was really an open book from a culture... The founders were very open to a change in the business. For most startups, less than 100 employees, the culture is generally driven by the founder or founders and so there was no resistance.

    Dryburgh: Okay, good. So what were the biggest things you had to do to make the transformation work?

    Gallivan: If you look at those, just think about the transformation in those four key areas, you look at the metrics. Five years ago we were known as a commercial open source BI company selling to midsize companies. What we wanted to do was to be known as a big data analytics company selling to large enterprises because for big data that's where the dollars are being spent right now.. What we did was we set down the mission, we set down the strategy and then the other piece, and this is sort of from my GE days when it comes to strategic execution, that we employed was you've got to have metrics that drive milestones in the journey.

    What we started to do was we tracked what percentage of our business came from mid-sized small companies versus large. Five years ago 0% came from large. Last quarter it was 75%. Then over this journey we would track that percentage of our business that came from these larger enterprises. The other thing we would track was in that fourth vector, the brand. How do you change the brand from being known as an open source BI company to being known as a big data analytics company? There we had again, at the best marketing organisation I've ever worked with that had a share of a voice metric. Not a feel-good, hey we had so many press releases, but a quantifiable metric about our brand that we tracked four years ago and it was what position do we play and what share of voice do we have when people talk about big data versus non big data.

    That was where our marketing team was very aggressive and had these metrics. When we first started out, since we launched ourselves as a big data analytics company we had a pretty good penetration in terms of the brand, but over the last couple years we've been tracking, we've been number one or two versus our competitors as the most identifiable brand in big data. That's a metric we track every month. Very, very quantifiable, but it's part of the journey. It took us a while to get there.

    Then the other piece, the other key metric for us is really the R and D investment and that was, we basically had to transform or re-engineer the project to really meet the needs of the large enterprise from a security standpoint, a scalability standpoint. Making sure that we integrate with all the key technologies that the large enterprise have and so that was again, when we did prioritization around out R and D we would prioritize and we'd have metrics around large enterprise and then we would sacrifice the needs of the small/medium in the product road map. That again was an evolution.

    Five years ago 10% of our R and D investment went into large enterprise features. Now that's the majority, it's something didn't happen overnight but we tracked and we shared with the company and sort of made it work.

  • The use of competitive intelligence for five different business units explained

    The use of competitive intelligence for five different business units explained

    Getting the most out of your competitive intelligence system means investing the time and effort necessary to set-up and maintain your CI process. It also means effectively distributing the information you gain to decision makers throughout your company, some of whom may not even realize its potential value. Here are five key areas where your hard-earned competitive intelligence data can be put to good use:


    Getting executives invested in competitive intelligence can be daunting for a number of reasons, but when it comes to making high-level, strategic planning, having good information to work with is key. Competitive intelligence is one several tools successful executives use to stay informed. Yet, some business leaders still rely on ad-hoc briefings and reports to keep them up to date.

    Reviewing industry trends and news may not be a high priority on a day-to-day basis, but you can still create an ongoing process that will keep them up to date and ensure that they’re ready to make the big decisions when they arise. This means created targeted briefings that include only the most vital information your CI team digs up. Competitor mergers and acquisitions, for example, can signal a potential shift in the competitive landscape, even if they don’t make front page news. Making sure your leadership team knows about possible industry-changing moves is a critical function of your CI process.

    Competitor documents can also offer insight into a business’s overarching goals and strategy. Investor presentations, sales decks, and financial reports provide different perspectives on how your competition presents itself to investors and potential customers. Compiling and distributing these resources in an organized, easy to digest format will go a long way towards ensuring executives are invested in your CI output.


    Sales teams play a critical role in translating product development and marketing efforts into actual paying customers. Your sales people are on the front lines when it comes to presenting and defending your products. Perhaps more than any other department, they need up-to-date info about what other companies are offering. Sales meetings move quickly, and there’s rarely time for sales people to pause and research a competitor before reacting when another company comes up during a conversation with a potential customer. A good competitive intelligence process can compile that information in advance, allowing your sales team to build thoughtful, tactically advantageous responses that place you company in the best possible position.

    CI for sales can be translated into daily or weekly briefings, background research, or more interactive tools like sales battlecards. Competitive intelligence data can also bring to light potential customers by flagging failing competitors, unrenewed competitor contracts, and Requests For Proposal documents.


    Marketing is responsible for promoting and positioning your brand so that it stands out, no matter how saturated your industry space happens to be. Marketing teams benefit from competitive intelligence in a few ways. Knowing how and when your competitors advertise their products or services can give you insight into their strategy. To that end, tracking competitors on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will give your marketing team an edge. Blog posts, product announcements, and other press releases can also be good sources of marketing information. Gathering this type of CI on a regular basis will give your team a complete, current picture of the competitive landscape, and allow them to spot trends and potential changes in the market before they affect business.

    Understanding how other companies market their products can also help you to refine your own brand and identify ways to distinguish it from the pack. One way to do so is by identifying content gaps, areas where your competitors aren’t providing the type or volume of content customers want. Identifying these gaps offers your business with an opportunity to generate content that is both distinct and in-demand, further differentiating your brand. Overall, your marketing team crafts your brand image, and their work can have an impact on potential customers long before they make contact with a sales person. It’s critical that your marketing efforts are backed by the best, most up-to-date information available on your competitors.

    Hiring and Training

    When most people think of competitive intelligence, they think about applying it to external challenges—generating sales, developing products, planning a marketing campaign, etc. While these are some of the most classic uses of CI, many companies have discovered the value of applying their hard-earned CI data in as many areas as possible. That means looking at processes that are normally handled “in-house” through a competitive lens.

    HR departments are using competitive intelligence data to track hiring and benefit trends across your industry. This ensures that your company stays competitive in terms of salary, benefits, and other “perks” that are increasingly in-demand among high-value employees. CI can also illuminate how your company is viewed by former, and potentially future, employees, by tracking sites like Glassdoor and TeamBlind. These forums offer anonymous employee feedback, so it is important to take individual posts with a grain of salt. However, if you notice a particular complaint or issue popping up across several posts, take it as an opportunity to address a potential source of talent-drain. Beyond hiring, onboarding teams often use competitive intelligence to acclimate new hires to the industry space and company culture. Background research on primary competitors, recent news, and product trends are all helpful, especially for employees who are new to your industry.

    Product Development

    Product development is all about staying ahead of the competition to provide the best, most advanced solutions on the market. When product developers achieve this goal, they make things easy for marketing and sales team. When they fail, they create an opportunity for competitors to siphon away current and potential customers with their superior offerings. All product teams need competitive intelligence in order to stay ahead of the latest trends and technological developments. Along with product announcements and advertisements, product teams can benefit from competitor documents like product brochures, solution overviews, manuals, user guides, and technical notes.

    Hiring trends are another potential indicator of competitors’ product roadmap. Tracking job postings over time can help you spot spikes in hiring that might correspond with new product developments—like a sudden hiring spree in a competitor’s engineering department. Beyond developing new products, competitive intelligence can give your product team a better understanding of how customers use and feel about your solutions. Reviews, industry sites, and social media discussions can all be tapped for insight. This gives your product team an opportunity to offer support and updates when a product or feature is struggling, and build on successful features in future releases.

    Source: CI Radar

  • Why investing in MI is key to your sales performance

    Why investing in MI is key to your sales performance

    In the age of data, choosing not to invest in a quality market intelligence (MI) solution can mean your sales team is losing market share to your competitors. More companies are investing in MI than ever before. These companies are achieving a significant advantage over those who are not using market intelligence solutions.  In today’s blog, we will discuss a few key ways in which the choice not to use MI can kill your sales.

    Without MI you do not know which customers you are losing

    Sales managers typically have at least one rep who reports to them. These reps often sell a wide variety of products and can work long hours. It can be difficult for a rep to detect when a customer has partially decreased their order volume over time, or gradually stops buying one product but not another.

    Oftentimes, this insight is discovered by chance. For instance, a colleague in another team or department may remark that a customer hasn’t ordered a particular product lately. In this case, proactive management to retain this customer gives way to chance. This can have a substantial impact on your overall sales figures.

    Because MI provides you with a clear picture of your customers’ buying patterns, your team can quickly detect any decrease in order volumes. With this knowledge, your team is empowered to respond proactively to the situation by sending in a rep before any major damage is done. 

    For instance, the customer may have negotiated with another vendor for a lower price or shorter lead time. By catching this problem at the front end, you can quickly intervene to re-negotiate better terms. This, in turn, may enhance your relationship with this customer as they now know they can come to you first before negotiating with another vendor in the future. Interestingly, 95% of customers don’t raise concerns before they stop buying. Having an open dialogue with your customers may minimize this issue.

    Without MI it is more difficult to discover new sales opportunities

    Increasing the number of products you sell to existing customers can be an easy way to boost revenue. That is, as long as you have MI. Without MI,cross- and up-selling are reliant on your sales reps and their personal assessment of your customers’ needs. For instance, a customer may be buying a product but not a complimentary product such as pasta but no sauce. In this case, the customer is purchasing that product elsewhere. An experienced rep may have fine-tuned their gut-instincts to recognize the bigger picture, but hunches and instincts are based on human interpretation, not fact.

    With MI you can easily see which customer is buying product A, but not product B, and respond by sending in a sales rep to make the sale. With MI, you are also able to identify the purchasing trends of similar customers.  With this information, you can quickly detect new sales opportunities. For example, a customer may benefit from being offered a line of more luxurious products. Another may be interested to in learning about a new product their competitors are buying. With the power of MI, you can become an advocate for your customers’ experience and business success.

    Without MI, preparing for a meeting with a customer is time-consuming

    Without the benefit of timely and accurate reports generated by MI, it is difficult to gain true insights into a customer’s buying patterns or to uncover sales opportunities. In this case, sales reps and leaders are reliant on traditional reporting through the IT team. Because these reports can take several days to reach your desk, the data is often outdated. And due to their static nature, these reports provide no opportunity to query the data to discover the underlying reasons for the trends you’re seeing.

    While some sales meetings do allow for this amount of pre-planning, chances are many do not. In reality, spending time to have reports generated and then examined before meeting with a customer is something not all sales professionals can afford. From a business point of view, even if your sales team is capable of getting the reports, consider all the time and effort involved. Time is an expense. 

    With access to a quality MI tool, your sales reps have a clear profile of each customer and their buying trends. 

    Not only does MI help to improve overall sales performance, it may also reduce the long hours and stress of your individual sales reps. Happier reps may create a happier work environment.

    If you're looking for a reliable MI partner, be sure to check out Hammer Market Intelligence.

    Source: Phocas Software

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