It’s a 2.0 World – Part One: A recap of the Sales 2.0 conference

It’s a 2.0 world. Everywhere I look, there’s either a 2.0 on the end of a word, or social at the start of it. Hype and hyperbole bombard us with new shiny toys, and snake oil to cure what ails us.

However, beyond the rah-rah and kumbaya, there IS INDEED a shift going on around us. The shift is happening in the way that humans communicate, in the way that business is done, and in the way that technology opens up new opportunities for arbitrage.

Last week, a drive up the beautiful California coast from my home in Orange County, with temporary stops in Redondo Beach, and idyllic San Luis Obispo, ultimately landed me at the first of two immersive destinations, the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown San Francisco for the Sales 2.0 conference.

Given the Four Season’s iconic reputation for customer experience, it made perfect sense for approximately 500 sales and marketing leaders to converge and discuss some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing customer executives today.

Key Takeaways

Illumination is starting to take place
Anneke Seley pointed out during her breakout session how 2 or 3 years ago, the concept of purposely telling your sales people to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn was heresy to many in the sales world. It was unheard of, and an utter waste of time. Today, there is a growing interest, and more and more stories are emerging like that of Dan Harding, who says that he achieved 25% of his quota from leveraging social tools, or as one person from the crowd shared that they make all their sales people check LinkedIn profiles prior to making outbound phone calls.

Sales is lagging other business functions in social media adoption.
Early adopters were blogging in the middle of the web 1.0 era. Hundreds of thousands have rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn over the last half decade. From my vantage point, the majority of sales people still don’t see value in bringing this into their daily routine.

This doesn’t necessarily tell me that sales people are ignorant, technophobic, or just don’t get it. It tells me that the technology isn’t quite valuable enough yet to make a meaningful difference in the day to day lives of sales people. As with the previous adoption curve of core CRM functionality, if any tool, idea, framework will not “help me sell more”, I won’t adopt it. More so than any other role, the “time is money” adage is never more applicable to any other group than the hardworking professional sales person. They are a true litmus test of value as they don’t have the luxury to “play” or “experiment” with new tools. As illustrated above, however, the tide is slowly changing.

Social Media is forcing alignment between sales and marketing (or making it more uncomfortable for those who aren’t aligned)

  • 50% of materials marketers are creating aren’t being used by sales
  • 70% – 90% of leads generated by marketing are never followed up with by sales – Marketing Sherpa

Mark Wilson, VP of Marketing for Sybase, provided dozens of valuable insights during his keynote on Sales and Marketing alignment. The metaphor that sticks out most in my mind is the transition in mindset from the traditional concept of marketing passing a baton to sales to the mental image of a crew rowing together.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

The role of sales will continue to evolve

For those who have been around sales, and especially in a complex, consultative type sales environment, the necessity of establishing the “trusted advisor” role will be nothing new. However, the emergence of the social customer has introduced a dramatic change to something right before our very eyes. According to a study from Sirius decisions, 70% of the buying journey is completed prior to speaking with a sales person. That’s pretty staggering, considering that sales used to be responsible for most of the education. I shared some additional thoughts with Adam Metz, in “The 5 Things most sales people don’t know about the Social Customer”.

According to Forrester Research, only 38% of sales people understand prospects’ needs and how their products/services can address those issues. According to IDC, only half of all sales people reached their quota in 2009. There is a slow and steady shift underway for the role that sales plays in customer acquisition strategy.

Customers no longer need sales people to provide them with product and company information. However, buyers are still looking for people they like and trust to help guide them through the evaluation process. As a guy who’s spent a significant amount of time as a sales person and as a consultant, it’s fascinating to watch the roles blur.

The shift of power to the customer
Gerhard Gschwandtner briefly touched on the growing importance for sales organizations to raise their head from the persistent focus on internal efficiencies and redirect their attention to the customer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him even mention co-creation as a theme growing in importance.

Underscoring my previous thread of sales people morphing into true trusted advisors and consultants, imagine today’s typical sales person actively participating in a co-creation environment that might involve significant engineering and/or business design influence. There is a definable gap between where we are today and where things are heading.

This transition to the customer is illustrated by the rapid shift and evolution in strategy and tactics from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to Social CRM, which is rapidly gaining traction across organizations of all sizes. For more on Social CRM, feel free to visit The Ultimate Social CRM Resource Guide, Part 1.

Other highlights

Jim Dickie of CSO Insights shared an amazing array of deep insights and anecdotes about increasing revenues through well researched and systematic insights and subsequent operational adjustments and improvements.

During a fireside chat with SAP executives, one customer shared her companies’ challenge and painful journey with implementing SAP’s ERP solution. In a somewhat awkward exchange (which by the way, Jonathan Becher, EVP Marketing and Chris Ball, RVP Enterprise West, did a nice job of handling), it provided a fitting metaphor for the current societal transition underway. The customer has a voice. The crowd is listening, and the company is on the hot seat and is forced to present a transparent and unified message.

The Vendors
While I was familiar with most vendors at the event (see a full list here), a new name for me was iMeet, created by PGI, one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of (according to them powering more than 75% of the worlds conference calls).

iMeet provides a platform that takes web conferencing, social networking, and video technology, merges them all as one, and in my opinion provides the intermediary step between today’s web conferencing technology and ambient presence technologies of tomorrow.

Peter Stewart of PGi showed a number of witty spots and video segments that highlighted the challenges of today’s remote meeting environments.

Some interesting trends shaping the future of remote meetings are:

  • Ave. phone meeting is 4.5 people for 45 minutes, Add a visual and ave. is 5.5 people and 55 minutes
  • Over 1/3 of virtual attendees join from their mobile phones
  • Web conferencing has been around for 15 years. Only 10% of meetings include more than voice.
  • Having access to profile data in the midst of a meeting actually may provide advantages over meeting face to face by providing a deeper context of the person you are meeting with outside of the nature of your transaction.

It was a great time of seeing some familiar faces, and meeting several new ones. Kudos to Gerhard Gschwandtner, Selling Power magazine, and the entire Sales 2.0 conference team.

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The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 3)

This is the third and final of a three part post.

We’ve been talking about the AIPEE Pyramid over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t embedded the full image of the AIPEE Pyramid on this post, but if you’d like to take another look, you can click here to have it open in a new window, or review Post 1 and Post 2 in their entirety by clicking on the links.

In Post 1 we introduced you to the AIPEE Pyramid, and pointed your gaze toward the enchanting Blue Circled R – the icon representative of desired destination our prospect’s journey: the R Value Exchange.

The Mysterious and enchanting Blue Circled R

In Post 2, we took a detailed look at the 5 stages of the journey up the pyramid:

AIPEE Pyramid Simple

In today’s third and final post, we are going to focus on the following:

  • The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid
  • The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

(1) The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid

Humans have always been social. We’ve always told our friends, family, acquaintances and business associates about our day, our experiences, our hopes and dreams, who we like and don’t like, etc. Mitch Lieberman expands on this thought in a very worthwhile post titled Social Just Is…

Word of mouth has been around since, well, before words were written. Once upon a time, all communication was word of mouth.

What has changed is how many people we can tell things to in such a short amount of time. Social Technologies are an amplifier. The spreading of ideas, good and bad, and the repercussions of the spread of that information are now exponential.

Good experiences get amplified – an exponential boost to your brand.

Bad experiences, well, can spread like wildfire, and can do significant damage to your brand and reputation in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top negative PR events of 2009.

But really, this isn’t new either. Bad PR stories have been picked up and spread via the press for decades.

What is new is that EVERYBODY is the media. There is no longer a filter. ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have the control over what is worth hearing about. Our peers do. You do. I do. Ashton Kutcher certainly he believes that he does.

Information and Stories that are worth spreading will be spread.

You: “Great Brian. But, what does all of this have to do with the pyramid?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s try and tie these pieces back together.”

Up to this point in the series, we’ve talked about how each prospect, one by one, makes their journey up the pyramid. There is a specialized craft in designing our sales and marketing efforts so that we can add the most value possible at each stage in the initial journey with our prospect.

But what if there was such value in what we shared that our prospects began to amplify and spread our content across their networks, at each and every stage of their journey with us?

Seth Godin expands upon this point in his blog post titled The Big Drop Off:

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it’s remarkable enough to talk about, they’ll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we’re really good, the second circle, the people we don’t even know–they’ll tell the third circle. And it’s the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don’t spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don’t drop off.

GOAL #1: Create and provide maximum value in your content and interactions
GOAL #2: Keep the amplifier in mind. Try and create so much value that people are compelled, almost mandated to share it with their network of friends and associates. Think of it this way: What could you provide to you prospects that would enable them to add value to their network by sharing it?

Hey, I know that most of you are smart savvy innovators – sales, marketing and demand generation geniuses. So let’s fast forward a bit, and assume we’ve done that. We’ve knocked it out of the park. What happens after we get to the R Exchange, and exchange value with our prospect for the first time?

(2) The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

Hopefully the relationship we’ve worked so hard to nurture doesn’t stop there. I’ve highlighted 3 areas where and how further exchange might take place. Let’s briefly touch on each of them.

A. Repeat Transactions

Depending on our business and our previous exchange, we may regularly exchange value in a similar fashion. We may keep getting referrals. We may keep selling the same consumable over and over. The monthly subscription might just keep auto-renewing. It might just take a series of brief, regular “touches” to keep the Value Exchange wheel turning . But remember, in order to keep our customers with us, we need to continue to add value. It’s a post for another day, but access to competitive alternatives has never been broader or easier.

B. Upsell Opportunities (Deeper Commitment)

We’ve had an initial exchange. But, there’s more there. We know it. They know it. There is more dialogue to be had. There are more problems to be solved. You’ll see that the retention circle extends back down into the engagement stage. Deeper dialogue covering Value Discovery, Co-Creation, Deepening of trust are now back in play, and layers of the onion are peeled back as new needs are discovered and new solutions are presented.

C. CrossSell Opportunities (Different Product and Service Offerings)

You’ll notice that this retention circle ventures all the way back down to the permission stage. Perhaps we’ve solved a set of problems for our customer. We’ve added value in a specific area. But perhaps, there are new opportunities for value exchange in areas we haven’t even touched on yet. Areas of our customer’s business that may have different rules, needs, players, politics, budgets, goals, etc. While we’ve exchanged value for one business purpose, we may need to display competency in another area in order to earn permission to engage in dialogue for that need as well.

And that, my friends, brings us to our close.

We’ve taken a look at how to get our prospect’s attention, and facilitate a journey towards a mutual value exchange. We’ve looked at how social technologies amplify everything good and bad, and we’ve taken a brief look at how our relationship with our customers (partners, influencers, etc.) can be retained and nurtured for continuous value exchange.

Now it’s your turn. I’m anxious to hear your feedback:

1. Am I on the mark? How can we adjust this image to more accurately represent how businesses today and in the future can leverage social technologies for exponential revenue growth?

2. What did I forget?

3. Where am I flat wrong?

4. How does this compare with your personal Customer Acquisition efforts today, and your plans for the future?

5. Does the image accurately reflect the concepts and ideas presented in the text?

6. And most of all, I am interested in hearing your unique, unfiltered personal insights, questions, and observations.

Thanks again for your feedback.

– Brian @CRMStrategies

Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Last month, I wrote  “Unleashing the Value of Social CRM: Where to Find the Biggest Return”.

Towards the end of the article, I posed this question: “Which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?”

The comments section and some referring posts provide some great discussion from some of the greatest minds in the world of CRM including Graham Hill, Natalie Petouhoff, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, and a host of other minds much smarter than mine.

In the end, I walked away with the following conclusion: We collectively don’t know yet. Social Media and Social CRM are still in their relative infancy in delivering solid, proven value. However, there seems to be the strongest argument (and early data from companies like Helpstream, and Lithium) from those in customer service and support functions, and I can’t really argue with them.

In my closing blog comment, the last question I ended with was: “How do you justify the investment – time and money- in Social Media? Where do we have the greatest chance of success (profitability) starting out?”

Yesterday, Bill Band of Forrester Research asked a similar (and very important) question on Twitter: “CRM Evolution Conf. all about social phenom. But, my data shows less than 10% of companies have customer communities now. Too much hype?”

This, undoubtedly sprung from his recent research shared in his recent blog post: “The Extended CRM Application Ecosystem: Value, Risk and the Future of Social CRM”.

Band draws the following conclusions in his article:

“While “Social CRM” solutions have captured the imagination of decision-makers at many organizations, it is the tried-and-true technologies that offer the most certain return on investment.”

“The business value of social solutions is yet to be proven. Interest in “Social CRM” solutions is growing rapidly. But, mainstream companies are watching for evidence of success by the early adopters. Although enterprise feedback solutions, customer community platforms, and customer forums are viewed positively by the respondents in our survey, none of these three are considered “critical” to success. Therefore at this time, business value discounted for uncertainty is low.”

Many, at this point, recognize the potential for using Social Media to transform customer relationships, but the uncertainty factor still weighs heavily.

A study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law titled “Embracing the Opportunities: Averting the Risks” found that Social media  can be critical to company growth and sustainability.

  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients
  • 81% agree it can build brand reputation
  • 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment
  • 64% see it as a customer service tool
  • 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale

However, 51% percent of these executives fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49% assert that using social media could damage company reputation.

Much of senior management’s direct experience with social media appears to be reactive versus proactive, concludes the report. 72% of executives say that they, personally, visit social media sites at least weekly:

  • 52% to read what customers may be saying about their company
  • 47% to routinely monitor a competitors’ use of social networking
  • 36% to see what their employees are sharing
  • 25% check the background of a prospective employee

There clearly needs to be much more education. That’s where those of us who regularly interact on Twitter following the #scrm hashtag come in.

Society is making a giant transitional shift because of Social Media. This “change” transcends the conversation of Social CRM and even business as a whole. The world is changing, and rapidly. For some staggering statistics that will make your brain spin, watch the video below:

For the enterprise and business community, things  are still really just beginning. Early adopters will (and some already have) capture the first mover advantage. However, they will also face the obvious risks of venturing into this new frontier first. InfusionSoft has literally saved millions by adopting a Social CRM strategy.

David Alston, Radian6’s VP of marketing and community said in a recent PR week interview:

“We are just scratching the surface in terms of how social media will transform the (PR) agency and the enterprise. The nature of social media – its accessibility, transparency, and its ability to build relationships – is challenging the processes and structures within companies, many that have become too rigid and siloed to react to the new Web 2.0-empowered consumer. I believe we are where CRM was 10 years ago.”

Change is upon us. The question is not whether Social Media and Social CRM will become an important strategy/tool/channel for your organization, but rather, when?

So what should you do now?

1. Learn as much as possible related to Social Media and Social CRM

2. Talk with your best customers, and most importantly, LISTEN

  • What are they doing with Social Media?
  • What do they wish you did better as an organization?
  • What can you do to improve your value offering to them?

3. Begin to experiment with  Social Media for your business

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Twitter
  • Community Platforms and Forums
  • Social Networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Social Media Monitoring

Perhaps best-selling author and Founder of the The Altimeter Group Charlene Li said it best:

“Mistakes in social media are inevitable – after all, you’re building relationships and what relationship is perfect?”

Why Bother with Customer Centricity?

CRM Magazine asked their subscribers “What is the number one concern that keeps you up at night?”.

I found it interesting that none of the responses resembled anything like: “My kid is failing out of school”, or “My spouse works too much”, or “I can’t make the mortgage payment”. Oddly enough, all of the responses were CRM related. Go figure.

Nonetheless, the results were as follows:

—————————————————————–
Creating and Maintaining Customer Satisfaction: 27%
Providing a Return on Investment: 27%
Maintaining User buy-in and enthusiasm 16%
Cementing Customer Loyalty 15%
Finding the right CRM Tool 6%
Keeping up with CRM Innovation 4%
Respondants who sleep soundly 5%
——————————————————————

Today, I’d like to focus on the number one reason that people are not sleeping at night, “Creating and Maintaining Customer Satisfaction”. We’ll talk about the other number one, ROI, in a few weeks. But, first, I’d like to take a step back and observe some findings from another study.

In a survey conducted by CRMGuru.com, it was discovered that having a Customer-Centric Strategy was the most important driver of success of any CRM implementation. In a future post, I’ll take the time to illustrate that Customer Loyalty has significant impacts on both the top and bottom lines.

So how do each of these pieces of the puzzle fit together? What is the relationship between Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty, and implementing a Customer Centric Strategy?

Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty are two golden keys to giving your company competitive advantage. Building and implementing a Customer-Centric Business Strategy is created with the intention of increasing both your customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty.

The first step in implementing a customer centric business strategy, (or any other initiative) is to take a snapshot of where you currently are. This makes it possible to measure your progress along the way. The two main benchmarks that can help measure the success of your initiative are:

1. WHAT ARE YOUR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION LEVELS?
How many of your customers are satisfied with the products and services you are providing to them?

2. WHAT IS YOUR CUSTOMER ATTRITION RATE?
In other words, how many of your customers are defecting and choosing your competitor’s products and services.

The second step is looking at 5 key areas in developing your customer centric strategy. I have listed a few things to consider in each area:

1. Overall Business Strategy

– What are your customer’s needs? Spend more time understanding this, as opposed to trying to get your customer to interact the way you want them to
– Focus new product development around customer feedback

Graham Hill just made a great post related to this How Harnessing Your Customers Doubles Your Innovation Success>/a>

2. Organizational Issues

– Senior management committed to leading company through organizational changes
– Sales, Customer Service, and Technical Support given incentives to work together to provide outstanding customer service
– Move majority of CRM technology selection authority from IT to “business” decision makers

3. Work Processes

– Build and modify work processes around servicing the customer better
– Work hard at increasing efficiencies, streamlining processes
– Seek to be the Low-Cost producer in your industry

4. Technology

– Consolidate all customer related data into one repository
– Integrate key front-office, back office, and web office systems to interact with each other
– Choose leading technology with capable vendors to assist in the process

5. Training and Support

– Provide your staff with excellent training
– Budget time and resources to make sure they are confident with the new system
– Adjust compensation incentives to encourage use of new systems, and transition sales focus from new customer acquisition to retention

“Being customer centric focuses your business decision-making processes on the impact that those decisions will have on your customers. The real trick is making the “right” decisions that result in a positive impact. In order to do that, the organization needs to understand who its customers are, where they are going and how can the customer’s needs be met. That type of understanding requires information, and information comes from data.” says Kevin Murtha of Greenbrier & Russel’s, in an article in the September, 2002 edition of DM Review. http://www.dmreview.com/

It is essential for your company to be able to have the systems in place to be able to capture, analyze, and share the information about your customers so that you can be more responsive to their needs, provide them with unparalleled service, and keep them as customers for life. But it all starts with strategy.