Category Archives: Sales Operations Strategies

Healthcare Sales and Marketing Teams: Stopping the Sibling Rivalry

I hear it all too often from clients. When I think about it, I’ve probably said some of these myself: “I’ve been in marketing here for two years. I’ve never even talked to a customer.” “I had no idea sales was targeting the chief medical officer. I thought we were still selling to the CIO.” Marketing has no clue what it takes to get a client to commit. They just make stuff pretty.” In the complex healthcare buying cycle, the lack of a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing can make executive leaders feel like they are mediating the worst sibling rivalry in history.

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Eliminate, Offload, Expedite or Automate?

On the surface, the secret to time management is simple: Be sure to spend most of your time on activities that are both urgent and important. The trick is to accurately determine what activities fall into what category and then ruthlessly avoid those that don’t meet that litmus test. Easy to say, but not always so easy to do in our distraction-filled, always-on, always-available world of chat, email, mobile phones, multi-tasking and interrupt-driven workdays. The SiriusDecisions Sales Activity Matrix assigns sales activities to the four quadrants of core selling activities/direct engagement, core selling activities/internal, non-core-selling activities/direct engagement and non-core-selling activities/internal. One of the goals for sales operations is to reduce the amount of time sales reps spend on activities that fall into the lower left quadrant (e.g. non-core activities/internal).

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Reflections From Sonoma: Sales Leadership Exchange 2014 (The Days of Wine and Closers)

On February 26 and 27, more than 85 senior sales leaders gathered at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa for SiriusDecisions’ inaugural Sales Leadership Exchange (SLE). While the weather was a little wet on the first night (we’ve been asked to run the event throughout the Southwest to help with the drought), it didn’t dampen the energy and enthusiasm of our attendees. We designed the SLE to foster networking and conversation by limiting the number of guests and holding it in a venue that allowed folks to unplug for a few hours. Mission accomplished – according to feedback from attendees and sponsors. Our theme was productivity – which was fitting for our locale. Sonoma is famous for vineyards that produce some of the best wines in the world – and one thing we learned during the wine tasting is that to grow great wine grapes, you have to “stress” the plants. The idea is not to provide the best soil or plenty of water, but to provide just enough nutrients, and just enough water, so that the plants create fruit with concentrated flavor. So instead of yielding lots of mediocre grapes, you end up with fewer grapes of higher quality, which yields better wine. This is analogous to the challenges our sales leaders face – how to improve yield in markets that are “stressed” by improving their sales organizations’ productivity to ensure growth.

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Sustaining Change: Think Dolphins, Not Whales

In my last post, I discussed the use of agile development techniques to implement new sales tools, training strategies, methodologies or processes for the sales organization. But a successful deployment only makes the tool or process available. The real effort is in ensuring long-term adoption and lasting behavioral change that achieve the desired return on investment. A great deal of research and more than a few models, books and blogs addressing organizational change are available. One of my favorite analogies comes from David Feeny – a prominent British academic and authority on business transformation – who compares dolphins to whales to demonstrate the right away to sustain change.

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What Sales Operations Can Learn From Agile Development

Incremental software development concepts have been around since at least 1974, when E.A. Edmonds introduced an adaptive software development process. But it wasn’t until 2001 when the process was formalized with the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which defined the approach now known as agile software development. Sales operations and enablement professionals can apply some of the same principles used in agile development when deploying new tools, training, methodologies or processes to the sales organization. An agile approach emphasizes speed of deployment, flexibility in design, transfer of knowledge and adaptation to changes in buyer or user requirements. Here’s how to adopt the key concepts of agile development to your sales productivity initiatives:

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Four Keys to Increasing Renewal Rates

In their book Loyalty Myths: Hyped Strategies That Will Put You Out of Business – and Proven Tactics That Really Work, authors Timothy Keiningham, Terry Vavra, Lerzan Aksoy, and Henri Wallard attempt to disprove the conventional wisdom that it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer. I'd argue that even if it doesn’t cost less to keep an existing customer, but customer retention and contract renewal are vitally important, especially for companies that operate in recurring revenue, subscription, or software as a service (SaaS) models. (Investors and executives love these models, because they provide a steadily growing, cumulative and predictable revenue stream.) The Achilles’ heel of a recurring revenue-business is customer churn; even a small change in the renewal rate makes a big difference in the performance of the business. For example, a company with a $1 million revenue stream and a 90 percent annual renewal rate will lose $344,ooo in recurring revenue over the course of four years. If the renewal rate drops to 85 percent, the loss increases to $478,000. At an 80 percent renewal rate, the loss jumps to more than $600,000. Here are four keys to improving customer renewal rates:

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Dreamforce ‘13: Salesforce’s True Cloud Vision

Another Dreamforce (Salesforce.com’s annual user and developer conference) has concluded, and remarkably, attendance was even higher than last year, when 90,000 registered. This year, organizers claimed that more than 100,000 people attended. As I listened to the keynote addresses and Salesforce.com’s lead breakout sessions, one theme was clear: Salesforce has permanently positioned itself as an enterprise cloud platform. With the company’s acquisition of ExactTarget, its Marketing Cloud is ready to compete in the enterprise marketing automation platform category. Its Service Cloud can drive mobile capabilities, and the number of apps available and being created for Sales Cloud is difficult to even comprehend. During his keynote address, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff emphasized the Internet-driven enterprise and how Salesforce’s cloud platform can support the needs of any and all organizations.

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Dynamically Guided Selling: Is It Here Yet?

Last month, on the heels of launching Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Fall ’13, Microsoft announced a strategic alliance with InsideView, a business intelligence provider. What caught my attention was the quote from Bob Stutz, corporate VP of Microsoft Dynamics CRM: “CRM today should be an enabler that detects trends, facilitates decisions and suggests actions that lead to successful outcomes and relationships." I have yet to review the new release of Microsoft Dynamics, but I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Stutz’s statement – especially when applied to the sales force automation (SFA) component of CRM. The original SFA vision centered on a platform that would automate sales and dramatically increase sales productivity. Instead, most SFA implementations do little to enhance sales productivity and become data capture and reporting systems. Microsoft seems to be heading in a direction we’re calling dynamically guided selling (DGS). DGS is the next evolution of SFA, which will collect data from multiple internal and external sources (e.g. industry information, prior transactions, customer buying history, customer environment, business goals, buyer personas, social media content, market data). The DGS platform will leverage big data analysis to create a unique guide for each sales transaction. It will go beyond static sales processes to be adaptive and intelligent. It will configure solutions, forecast close dates, calculate probabilities, identify potential roadblocks, update opportunity plans and provide real-time selling advice as new knowledge becomes available or situations evolve.

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CRM or SFA? Let’s Set the Record Straight

Enter the search term “sales force automation” or its acronym “SFA” and what do you get? Inevitably, a response that contains the term “customer relationship management” or “CRM.” So what, really, is the difference between CRM and SFA? Obviously, this is not a new topic; however, with Dreamforce 2013 just around the corner, I thought it deserved a revisit. Although the terms CRM and SFA have been around for nearly 15 years, many people still seem to be struggling with the question of how to utilize them properly. We often hear vendors use the two terms interchangeably. Is CRM a platform, a strategy or a technology, and where does SFA fit in? In the late 1990s, Thomas Siebel coined the phrase "customer relationship management," defined as a strategy designed to understand and predict the needs of not only existing customers but also potential customers. Using data warehouses, companies could capture customer-related data and feedback, enabling them to optimize their customers’ experience. It was recognized that customer-related data could be used to improve individual customer satisfaction, but could also be valuable in new product development. CRM strategies incorporate a customer-centric philosophy that ultimately focuses on organizations’ most important relationships. That said, many SFA platforms claim the same capabilities. Some even call themselves CRM systems, causing confusion. Here are the defining characteristics of an SFA system, as SiriusDecisions sees it:

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Sales Operations: Applying the “Necessary and Sufficient” Test

Economists often use the terms “necessary and sufficient” when considering a proposed course of action. For example, is it necessary for the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low? If so, is that step sufficient to stimulate economic growth, or are additional actions required? Sales operations leaders can use a variation of the “necessary and sufficient” concept to evaluate proposed activities, projects or investments. The test consists of two fundamental questions: Is it necessary to take corrective action (i.e. what will happen if nothing is done)? And, if the proposed action is deemed necessary, is it sufficient to correct or address the root cause of the problem? Sales operations leaders should ask the following questions:

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