We’re in the middle of a big sales shake up

There’s been a bit of buzz around ‘Inside Sales’. It’s a role that’s potentially supersized the growth of many a SaaS organisation over recent years.

It’s also been a bit of a game changer for careers. The notion is a fairly simple one.

Sales—especially B2B sales—is currently undergoing a transformation. As customers become more spread out and remote, sales models are having to act. We’re seeing a big increase in companies invest in a new sales models that involves high touch transactions. It’s been defined as ‘Inside Sales’ and it’s pretty popular with B2C and B2C companies selling high ticket services.

The nature of services offered by SaaS companies is often a fairly complex sell – it requires a relationship beyond traditional transaction.

Engagement, trust, genuine interest in what a company is trying to achieve is the new norm when making a sale.

Customers now have a cycle, and it’s not just a linear path – multiple touch points at multiple stages has put a strong emphases on Sales and Marketing working as one smooth transaction.

The inside sales model is often more cost-effective as a result of advances in sales technology as there’s capability to interact with a higher volume of leads.

Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics recently explained: “Enterprise sales are changing. People are busier than ever: they don’t want to take time out of their day to meet with a sales rep in their office. Fact is, they’d rather be at home with their family than getting wined and dined by someone they don’t know.

The upshot is that they’re willing to cut large checks without ever having a face-to-face meeting with anyone from your company. I’m paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on Salesforce.com and I’ve never met a sales rep in person.

Let’s face it, the CIO is no longer the only person who matters when making technology buy decisions. Demand tends to be driven from the bottom up by people who need, or already use, your product.

So focus on inside sales. We use a hybrid model that’s 90/10 inside/direct. We do million-dollar deals over the phone and use an in-person meeting to close. It cuts costs and our sales reps are twice as productive when they’re in the office.

We hire people who can have high-level conversations with executives and not embarrass us, but who are hungry and scrappy enough to get on the phone and figure out how to navigate the customer’s organization.”

It’s a big shift for sales teams, practically eliminating the need for a cold call. The conversations themselves are also well informed thanks to smart CRM and marketing automation tools. Hard, cold calling is being replaced with engaging, valuable conversation.

A few things you should know about inside sales:

How it took off – Helming a cash-strapped startup, CEO Marc Benioff pioneered several inside sales techniques out of necessity. Perhaps the most prominent example was the company’s offer of free online trials that required no prior contact with a sales rep.

Common job functions:
Sales prospecting
Inbound Sales
Lead Qualification
CRM data logging.

The bigger picture -The alignment between sales and marketing ensures that marketing focuses on the best performing leads in the funnel. Sales reps can interject with a call and close a deal without even leaving the office.

The key to success: Trust. There’s no use in having a world of information if it’s not used in communication. It’s down to the sales team to earn the trust of a prospect and gain an in-depth understanding of their overall business goals.

The right fit: It’s a pretty unique balance of skills for the role covering a large set. Reps combine phone, email and digital or social skills with the more persuasive and target driven skills of a sales rep. It’s a great opportunity to craft skills along the entire sales process from prospecting to researching to presenting to negotiating.

Future leaders: Inside sales leaders of the future need to be people-focused. They need to understand the required skills and competencies. Common paths from inside sales lead to senior inside sales role dealing with larger value deals or field sales BDM.

Employee engagement: One simple idea… One mighty impact.

Customer Experience is a term that’s become very familiar to me recently. Pretty much all of the events I work across have a customer element to them, so I was interested to see what Customer Experience Management 2014 was going to offer up.

We’re part way through day one, and it’s pretty exciting down here. When I first got down here, I was expecting to hear a whole heap of the usual buzzwords; centricity, digital, journey and so on.

There’s always been one element of CX which stood out as a challenge, and that’s change. With the world we’re in now, it’s inevitable. As one of our speakers said earlier: ‘It’s not about what we did last year anymore, it’s not even last month – change is a daily constant’. For that reason, the spotlight is well and truly on employee engagement. After all, they are the ones driving change within any business.

Without making any sweeping statements, and probably unfair ones, there’s a lot of ‘same-same’ CX talk around the web these days. But today I was stopped in my same-same thinking tracks by a simple idea that lit up the entire room.

And it’s called A Personal Board.

So what is it? Quite simply, the notion that every single employee, upon recruitment, builds their own personal board of directors across the business. It’s an idea that comes from eBay, where every member of staff is tasked with the challenge of looking across the business – all levels and in all countries – to find a role they’d be interested in knowing about. They then pick up the phone and ask the person to be involved in their informal board. This helps with a few things:

  • Keeps employees engaged
  • Breaks down silos within the organisation
  • Drives innovation
  • Builds a network
  • Encourages communication
  • Helps drive change

So what does it take?

The smart thing that eBay has done is demonstrate the importance of the project to every single employee. People have a job to teach, but there’s no reason why you can’t start to do the same. It’s an informal process and only takes one person to drive it. Begin with your new starters and watch it spread.

I don’t know about you, but I love the thought of checking in with a few people across the business worldwide to get their thoughts or hear about their priorities.

P.S – if you haven’t been down to CEM 2014…. you should. They have mini-golf and everything.

Content Marketing World Sydney: What I took from day 1

I’ll be honest, when I rocked up to Content Marketing World Sydney (or #CMWorld), I was a little sceptical. Primarily because i work in the conference industry so I understand how hard it is to get a decent coffee at these things. Secondly, because I had a feeling the day may be centred around ‘the art of story telling’.

Don’t get me wrong, and you can probably tell by the name of this blog – I love story telling. Ultimately though i feel like that’s where Australia has got a bit stuck when it comes to content. Articles, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, infographics – in my current job we’ve been doing these pretty well for over a year now.

Yes, i know i should be doing more videos, but i was looking for a little more from CMWorld – APAC’s largest gathering of content experts.

It’s the end of day one now and i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The event is really well run and the speakers are very energetic and passionate about what they do. The lunch was pretty tasty too. Coffee, yeah it’s a bit rubbish but you can’t win them all.

Anyway, i wanted to share a few key points i picked up today:

  • Content Strategy – Network Strategy

This was the big takeaway for me. We’ve been fine tuning the content strategy for a while now. The term network strategy came up during the morning session and it’s exactly where i want to focus our own efforts. The thing about digital (and no i don’t think print is dead) is that it’s built on a series of platforms, it’s spread by a series of influencers. Those influencers used to be sports stars, actors, musicians, models… Not anymore. Absolutely anyone with a twitter account and blog can become an influencer – let’s try to become them and let’s try to engage with them.

Social proof is becoming paramount. If you look for a picture of a cat in a box – are you more likely to share the cat that only 3 people have looked at, or the cat that has had 300 views? (Personally i’d go for this one.)

There’s a few key things for network strategy: a) find the influencers in your business  – websites like Klout can help you find out who has the potential to spread content widely across the network by scoring the people you work with on their social influence. b) appinions – I think toilet roll is a boring subject matter. But if i’m developing a toilet roll product, is my influence matched with the rest of the market? For example, i say no one wants to read content around Claims Leakage in insurance – but what am i comparing that with? Are there conversations happening without my content? Appinion can provide the tools to check you’re not missing a gap. c) People – they are everywhere talking about everything under the sun, let’s find them, let’s engage with them and let’s work together to spread the word beyond our internal campaign cycle.

  • Customer Centricity

Without waffling on too much about this, as someone who works in b2b content – it’s something i’ve written about a lot. Today served as a strong reminder to check that i’m talking the talk in my own content marketing practices. 1000 photo’s are added every minute with the #me on instagram. No joke. The new marketing mix isn’t about the ‘4Ps’ anymore – it’s about principles, people, ideas then launch – it’s all about the customer. Marketing is giving people something to talk about. The challenge from today was set: It isn’t the best idea that wins, it’s the greatest understanding of the customer.

  • Be honest and fail

The other key area worth a mention today all centred around trial and error. Be honest in your content – if you’re speaking to someone because they are sponsoring your product – tell the reader. If you’re interviewing someone that bought you an ice cream – tell the reader. Also, it’s ok to fail. Push the boundaries. Those ideas that give us a bit of fear… give them a go. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

Few key people to follow from today: @MarkSchaefer, @BernadetteJiwa and @TimWasher.

To sum up in one line we need: relevant audience, meaningful content and consistent engagement.

Looking forward to the breakout sessions tomorrow…

 

Getting true value from outsourcing: the recipe for success

I first bumped into Jane Stafford, Executive Manager for Banking Process & Optimisation at Suncorp Banking during our Process Excellence event last year,  then again during Shared Services and Outsourcing Week. Jane certainly knows a thing or two about outsourcing – she’s been in the banking and finance industry for more than 20 years, spending years managing the optimal blend of insourcing and outsourcing strategies and implementation for business processes.

Jane’s current role is to manage Process Ownership for Suncorp Bank, monitoring, measuring and delivering business improvement strategies with a focus on process simplification, cost reduction and improved customer experience.  I recently caught up with Jane ahead of here workshop at SSOW 2014 to delve into the key ingredients for achieving an optimal blend – helping other organisations to maximise the true value of outsourcing.  Jane shared her insights on how the landscape has shifted, paving a new way for vendor relationships. Take a read below:

I’m absolutely seeing a need for outsourced providers to continue to be relevant by looking at providing services that sit outside of data entry. Automation is really kicking off in in our industry. We’re seeing far more centralisation of corporate functions (generally the higher value activities like analytics). That’s going have a flow-on effect into knowledge process outsourcing.

We’re seeing the impact of increased regulation occurring. That puts a squeeze on our margins and puts the spotlight on process innovation. The knock on effect to providers is they need to be able to innovate with end to end outsourcing and continue to drive down the cost that sits within that process through lean methodology or something similar.

A few years ago there was a lot of low hanging fruit for outsource providers, if they could do the data entry, they had business. However, client needs are changing as a consequence of a number of different factors that puts pressure on them to go up the value curve in terms of what they can offer from the service point of view.

There are a few fundamentals when looking to cement outsourcing and drive relationships that open up new levels of value:

Keep the ingredients fresh

The secret is building capability in-house to manage optimal blends. Optimal blends means that you are constantly looking at your landscape, making decisions around what is appropriate to outsource, automate and keep in-house.

It’s not as simple as locking in on those three things; it’s constantly evolving depending on what’s happening within your business, what’s happening within the environment and what’s happening in your innovation stakes. We have found most success in just having that management capability pool.

We’ve set up that infrastructure to manage an optimal blend for both onshore and offshore. My team are constantly monitoring dashboards to work out what’s on the horizon in terms of automation onshore or offshore. That involves rolling things back from time to time, and having a framework based on strategy rather than just reacting to what we had done previously.

Set the right temperature

Look at all the decisions that will need to happen to support the way you’ve decided to go. It starts by establishing your core competencies – all the decisions are based around that and people will be challenged if there’s no understanding of what they are.

Executive sponsorship is crucial. There needs to be an appetite to manage the people and cultural components, because every decision you make around in-house, automation or outsourcing has knock on effects that need to be managed throughout that change period. You won’t get your benefit if that isn’t addressed very early on.

One of the key things we learnt five or six years ago is that it’s okay to have a strategy that’s learnt during outsourcing, but if the business is not ready in its own maturity and its own journey, where you haven’t intervened enough to support a new culture, that culture will eat your strategy anyway.

Clean up as you go

Be clear on what your drivers are if you’re choosing to outsource. For us, it was about cost efficiency, labour arbitrage and accessing scale from the outset. But the more and more I get into it, the less important those factors are to me personally, the more I’m actually looking to have providers perform innovation, lean  and refine our processes to remove waste from them. If you don’t have that, your processes end up being old and full of waste.

There’s never a truer analogy of garbage in, garbage out, than when you’re doing an outsource transition…

Set the timer, watch it rise

There are some key areas where you can unlock huge value in the vendor–client relationship: 

  • Move away from master-servant relationships: We’ve tried to co-locate and second people from the outsourced organisation into our organisation, coming to an arrangement with our provider where we actually have contracted in someone from India to be in my team for 12 months. They are actively working in Australia, onshore, understanding the business end-to-end. It takes trust to open your books completely, but the sharing of information and depth of understanding about what we can achieve for our customers is far deeper.
  • At an operational level: Position your outsource provider as an extension of your current team, just sat in another location. Include them in your reward and recognition programme – our outsourcers tend to really enjoy that. It’s still a work in progress for us, but I think it’s the next big thing, to challenge both organisations to position themselves around the commercial structure. That’s where you’re really putting everything on the line.
  • Think beyond the service levels: Our commercials are still structured around SLAs, turnaround times and individual processes. That inhibits everybody from being free of worrying about whether or not a penalty is going to apply. The future is about contracting to end outcomes and saying, “You know what? We don’t care if it’s 24 hours or if it’s 48 hours, this is the outcome we are looking for”. The onus is on both sides, it takes trust and the other party to be willing to not take advantage of that trust too.

In a crowded marketplace, is it eBay’s time to shine?

If there’s one organisation that knows about rapid online growth, it’s eBay.

Founded in 1995, eBay Inc. connects hundreds of millions of people around the world every day, empowering them to explore new opportunities and innovate together. eBay’s entire business model is about helping Australian businesses succeed – enabling commerce wherever that may be. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, eBay Inc works in partnership with retailers to help them stay relevant to their customers in the new retail environment.

Unlike Zappos, whose core business was built on customer service, and Amazon, where shoppers can log on and find virtually anything at a clear, set price. At eBay, customer service was at the mercy of sellers.

The giant online marketplace has quickly stepped up to the mark, re-shaping its core business to evolve the customer experience by aligning it directly to the overall business goals.

eBay.com.au offers brands, retailers and sellers of all sizes a complementary channel to reach more customers and drive sales. “We are focussed on providing retailers with a high traffic sales channel to complement existing stores, websites, social and mobile channels. eBay is a marketplace – and we do not compete with sellers on our platform – rather we are committed to developing innovative solutions that help merchants turbo charge their online and mobile presence.” Explained Cathal Murphy, Director of Customer Experience at eBay Australia and New Zealand.

According to Roy Morgan research, 7.3 million unique visitors come to eBay.com.au in an average one month period. Reaching this vast audience has become an important part of many Australian retailers’ multichannel sales strategy.

“The business grew and expanded rapidly. As a result, customer experience wasn’t our biggest strength in the beginning. Over the last couple of years, the company is more aligned throughout the organisation to the customer experience. It’s part of our whole evolution cycle,”

I recently caught up with Cathal to find out exactly how this is working in practice.

Overall strategy

As a company matures, there’s more focus on the customer experience and retaining existing customers. The key thing is to put the customer in all decisions made within the business.

We’re ensuring that everybody, across the whole organisation, has some shared goals and objectives. Everything we do needs to be on brand, ensuring that the customer has a voice at the table when the decisions are being made. Product, marketing, PR – all decisions made will be based around that customer voice.

Finding the silent sufferers

The ownership is on the people that look after the customer experience side, to bring the customer to life in the business.

We’ll do that through the stories that we tell, bringing customers in, using our online network, and organising customer events. It’s the on-going communication around customer experience and the customer journey.

We get a lot of input from the customers that contact us, but that’s a very low percentage of our overall user base. One of the things we’ve been working on is expanding our listening posts, so that we’re not just making decisions on the customers that do contact us. It’s starting to look at how we can understand and interact with those customers that never contact us – could they be silent sufferers?

It’s those customers who might encounter a problem, give up and never use eBay again. We want to hear about those experiences. Customer visits, going to where our customers are, running focus groups, monitoring our social coverage and really putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer by using the product ourselves – it all helps.

We’re trying to really look at our organisation to find those pain points and challenges, and leverage that information to see if there’s anything we can learn. Overlay that intelligence with the data we have and we can start to identify weak spots and areas requiring our focus.

Acting in the middle ground

The nature of our business is quite unique. Our buyers and sellers communicate with each other and we’re often not privy to that. Our role, particularly with our sellers, is to ensure they’re communicating effectively and delivering a standard of customer service that matches our values.

If we see that a seller has low communication ratings on their feedback, we’ll work with them to really analyse and identify what they’re doing wrong. At the end of the day, even though that communication isn’t directly with us, it’s a reflection on our brand so we want to improve that where possible.

Engage early for business growth

Another focus for us is early engagement to truly understand who our customers are – how can we support them and how can we enable them to be successful?

With our sellers, we’re trying to move away from just being reactive and responding to an issue when they get in contact. Instead we’re going to put triggers in place to help identify potential issues or opportunities earlier.

We can then reach out, educate, coach and mentor our sellers, helping them to grow and scale their business.  In turn, that’s going to create better experiences for our consumers. It’s one of the areas where we’ve invested a lot.

Consumer expectations are constantly changing. Many sellers need somebody to mentor them and coach them about how they need to adapt to remain competitive.

Sometimes, the service they were offering two or three years ago might just not be competitive any more and they’ll need to change their business model. That’s where we have a large role to play, being a mentor and coach for them.

If at first you don’t succeed…

The root of excellent customer experience is in your employees. I’m always pushing my team to look at how we can be bolder and more creative around the customer experience. Let’s do the experiments, let’s do tests, let’s measure the ROI. But ultimately, let’s not be afraid to push the boundaries and try new things.

Several organisations just don’t take enough risks. It’s something I really encourage in my team – it’s ok to fail.

I think the question that we need to ask ourselves is: Are we failing enough? If we’re not, it probably means we’re not being bold enough or being creative enough.

It’s absolutely fine to fail.

Next level customer experience

We’re going to keep evolving and working to better understand our customer’s needs. Segmentation is going to be key in offering a differentiated customer experience.

It’s really understanding who our customers are and what their needs are, and then providing them with an experience that matches those needs

It’s also about how we move faster and how we move quicker, because competition is heating up. We need to be very agile around decision making, and be able to debate, decide, and deliver.  And we need to be able to really create an environment where it’s okay to fail.

Interested in more case studies around customer experience? Check out our 7th annual event

4 key steps to transform from claims process to claims experience

As the phrase ‘Customer-centricity’ shows no signs of slowing down, I recently caught up with Richard Poole, Head of AustralianSuper account at TAL Life to see what this means for the Claims industry. He explained:

“We’ve taken on a very customer-centric view across our entire business. The customer is at the forefront of everything we do; our processes, our policies and our products and most importantly in all of the personal interactions with our customers, or our service.”

The 4 key streams to focus on:

  1. Build relationships with your customers

Knowing our clients well means we can understand what products they actually want and need. We then also have a better understanding of how can we satisfy that need while still being efficient and cost effective. It’s about looking for the win-win.

  • Building a relationship is relatively straightforward when dealing with our direct customers, because we have a connection with them from day one. From the first contact we establish that relationship directly, and it stays all the way through the life of that customer. Hopefully, for their sake it won’t result in a claim, but if it does, they’ve got a consistent experience with us all the way through.
  • With Retail customers (adviser-driven), the relationship is generally owned by a financial adviser. So we may not get involved with these customers until the time when a claim needs to be made. Our role here is to manage the process as quickly and simply as possible, supporting the client’s relationship with the advisor.
  • It can be harder to build a relationship with our Group customers, because their insurance comes packaged with their superannuation. Similarly to Retail customers, our role generally comes into play when they need to make a claim on their policy. This is when we have the opportunity to build a relationship, by providing support through a difficult time.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been working on those relationships to identify how we streamline that process and establish strong direct links to the customer.

Ideally, the customer will be able to make one phone call, or submit a claim through one channel, preferably with us, while we can keep all other interested parties informed in real-time.

  1. Clearer communications

The key issue around product is always going to come from the terms and conditions, and the wording of those products.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years to have more plain English in our products, with the days of fine print and ambiguous wording well gone. The key is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to understand exactly what they’re buying, and to help them understand under what circumstances they can make a claim on that policy. It’s also our responsibility to make sure the policy has very clear entry and eligibility rules, to ensure the validity of a claim is unambiguous for claims assessors.

Plain language cuts down on confusion and miscommunication between the customer and ourselves. Everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them, and there shouldn’t be any surprises.

  1. Provide a seamless experience

Wherever possible, our processes are agnostic to the channel. We try to build in as much automation into those processes as we can while retaining the flexibility to ensure we’re managing exceptions and preserving the customer experience.

Standardise as much as you can, keep your claims process system updated and keep refining it. We’re currently on Year One of a three-year project to build our new claims system into the business. It’s bringing in another level of automation, including being able to segment claims into the appropriate areas of complexity.

  1. Add value

The next step in modern claims processing is to begin to add value to the customer to assist their return to wellness. The way we’re doing that now is by really focusing on the customer and their needs very early on. It’s that move from reactive to proactive, and being there right from the start of the journey.