Monday, April 13, 2015
Jonathan Farrington interviews Etien D’Hollander, Founder & CEO of Front Row Solutions
During a recent conversation with Etien D’Hollander, that is the question he asked me, and before I had the opportunity to respond he said, “When that question was first asked of me, I answered without hesitation – a great sales force – and thought the answer was obvious. I have continued to ask that question thousands of times over the years and have become enlightened with the answers. I ask that question in every selling meeting, in every interview and in every reseller discussion. In fact, the answer has shaped the direction of my selling approach, my hiring decisions and my reseller contracts. What I have found is that sales oriented individuals, like myself, always select “a great sales team”. Technical, financial and operations people always select “a great product”.
Etien then shared a response he received to that very question during a sales meeting only that week: “Is this a trick question? Because it could work either way. If you have a great product, that’s great! But without a sales force to push it, you are dead! If you have a great sales force, even if the product is mediocre, they may still be able to make a good impact…But overall, if all things are in order, the first option, a great product – would obviously make more sense. “
“If you were selling sales training services/sales management services/sales enablement systems/sales force automation or lead generation systems and you had gotten that answer, what’s your next step? I don’t mean to be a hard ass, but the right answer may be to walk away. You see, the person who gave you that answer has no empathy to a sales rep and, no matter what you say, will not understand the value in putting more money and effort into the sales rep or sales team when that money could be spent on product development and enhancement. Even though I got quite indignant the first time a company executive said to me, “sales reps are shite and they always will be shite!” or a school peer said to me “is sales all you could get?” - I now realize I have no empathy for them either.
Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference – i.e. the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes.
In over 30 years of selling, I always accepted that sales reporting was part of the job – not my favorite part, but a necessary evil at best. With the development of computers came automated sales reporting and, over the years, I have used several CRM systems including Siebel, Goldmine, Salesforce and Act. Not one of these systems was focused on me, the sales rep! They were difficult to learn, harder to use and did not offer anything to me to help me be more productive – in fact, they got in my way!
I now understand the problem with these systems and why sales rep compliance and adoption is so low – empathy. If you search the internet for any of the Legacy CRM systems, including the ones I have used in the past, and look at their executive teams, they are led by engineers, financial people, computer science grads – not a sales rep amongst them… no wonder they find it such a challenge to create a sales rep focused system!
At this point, Etien paused for breath, which is a rare occurrence for a man with so much passion about this particular topic, and I was able to give him my answer.
There is a misconception – commonly held by non-sales oriented C-Lounge residents – that great products sell themselves, which is of course complete nonsense. The only possible exception to that rule is a commodity.
The undeniable fact, which can never be challenged, is that our sales teams are our engine rooms, our offense, and our vanguard. As somebody once famously said, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something”. For all the investment a company may make in lavish offices, state of the art furniture and luxury company cars, they will not remain in business very long if they are not selling – and selling well.
I liked the fact that Etien placed such great emphasis on “empathy” because I know that is a characteristic he possesses in abundance – “when I see myself and my products through my customer’s eyes…”
You owe it to yourself to get across to Front Row and discover for yourself why Etien is enjoying so much sustained success. He doesn’t just sell CRM systems; he provides harassed and time constrained sales leaders with restful nights by giving them back complete control of their sales operations. Go take a free test drive today. Here.
Friday, March 13, 2015
I think that it is easy to say that the mobile device has become the focal point of our lives. It gives us instant access to information and contacts and allows us to stay connected wherever we are – do we ever leave home without one these days?
In business, enterprise mobility has become the general trend; increasing numbers of employees are working away from the office and using a range of mobile device to perform a full range of business tasks.
Nowhere is this is more prevalent than within sales forces: The days of populating and updating our CRM from a desk top computer have been consigned to the annals of history. Virtually every CRM vendor now claims mobility as part of their features and benefits (advantages?) My personal view is that far too many people read the word “mobility”
in an offering and automatically think “usable.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some very effective and usable mobile business apps available many are anything but.
My advice? Before making your final decision about any type of mobile application, is to try it, try it again and even try it one more time after that.
I suggest that you begin by making a list of three critical things that you want your sales reps to accomplish using the app. For example, submit sales report, update opportunity, create a new client, assign or update a task, update a forecast, retrieve historical client information etc. then try that yourself.
Once you have completed this task, ask yourself: “was it easy to learn, was it fast and easy to use, was it intuitive in its function, did I need outside support, was outside support available and effective, did it help me improve my productivity?”
Whatever your personal results were during this try it yourself trial, you must assume that your sales reps experiences will be worse. Why? Because logically, they are less motivated and less tech savvy than you are and as a consequence, will have extra challenges in order to make it work.
During a recent implementation for an organization with more than 200 sales reps in the industrial supplies industry, we had (to say the least) some interesting support challenges. To give you a flavor, below are some of the calls that were logged into our customer support division – the guys that were dealing with these sales reps. While some of these calls may be
deemed amusing, my intention is to assist you in understanding the critical importance of usability. Never before has the “kiss” principal been more important than in dealing with sales reps and technology. Here we go….
· “What is an app?”
· “What is an apple account and can you create one for me?”
· “I’m in my car and ready to get the app, where do I find the app store?”
· “It’s asking me about a data package?”
· “ I loaded your app yesterday and now it’s gone”
· “Ever since I loaded your app my phone doesn’t ring anymore”
· “I use an I-pod Touch and its asking me about a data package”
· “I don’t want any of your techno mumbo jumbo, just fix it”
· “I think your app has a virus, every couple of minutes my screen turns black”
· “My fiancée loaded the app for me and I don’t know what it looks like”
Never before has the “kiss” principal been more important than in dealing with sales reps and technology!
The second step would be to ask the sales rep that is selling you the product to show you how they use it on their mobile device themselves. The results may be surprising.
The third option is to try it with your sales reps on a free trial bases and obtain their feedback, this is by far the best way to find out if an app is usable and effective.
In addition to usability for the sales force there are several additional factors you need to consider before making that final decision.
· How much band width is needed to power the app effectively and what is the data cost?
· How does the app function when you have no connectivity? Is it still usable and will the app store your activity until connectivity is re-established?
· Does the app use battery power and data when running in the background and how much?
· How much IT effort is required to activate the app?
· How much training and support is required to initiate and to use the app?
· What mobile devices does the app function on and what devices do your sales reps have? Very important in a BYOD (bring your own device) company.
· Does the app have a history of crash or malfunctions?
· Does the company have a history of providing enhancements to their apps?
But whatever you do, don’t let any of these challenges keep you awake at night. Simply email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to provide restful nights for time constrained sales managers seeking to achieve total control of their sales operations.
Friday, February 27, 2015
When Steve Jobs introduced the concept of the iPad, he said that tablets were going to fill a gap between cell phones and laptop computers. There were some tasks that a laptop could do, but it was a bit cumbersome. Other tasks could be completed on a phone, but screen size and a lack of speed might make it less than ideal.
A tablet, however, would be a perfect fit for tasks that required the portability of a cell phone but the speed and visibility of a laptop. Critics were a bit skeptical, but a few years later tablets are everywhere.
While consumers love to read and surf the Internet on tablets, they are becoming indispensable in the business world. Sales organizations are finding that when they use tablets to implement mobile CRM, their sales process is revolutionized, resulting in improved efficiency and increased profits.
Here are a few reasons why mobile CRM and tablets are the right combination to get your sales organization on a growth trajectory:
Mobile CRM Eliminates the Inefficiency of a Laptop for Sales Presentations
In some industries, sales reps are forced to grab a minute of the decision-maker’s time between customers. Waiting for a laptop to boot up is not an option. The ability to look at order history, demonstrate new offerings and answer questions on the spot make mobile CRM on a tablet a game changer for sales reps.
Tablets Eliminate the Need for Paper Brochures
A tablet allows a sales rep to quickly pull up a PowerPoint or video demonstration to profile a new product or service. If the customer is intrigued, the sales rep is able to check real-time inventory immediately and place an order for the customer. Sales organizations can eliminate the need for printing brochures, a significant savings that will quickly replace the cost of the tablets.
Sales Reps are Able to Enter all Data During the Sales Call
Instead of getting back to their office with a list of items to complete for customers, sales reps can enter orders, check inventory and makes notes about possible opportunities while they are standing in front of the customer. Data entered into the mobile CRM is fresh, allowing sales managers to access quality information for sales reports.
Sales Managers Enjoy Full Compliance From Sales Reps
Sales reps tend to avoid activities that they perceive as taking away from time selling. When mobile CRM allows them to enter critical information in a few seconds, they no longer think of sales reporting as a task that robs them of sales time. They will quickly see the connection between using the tool and increased sales and profit.
Front Row Solutions provides a mobile CRM that can be used as a stand-alone tool for your sales organization or it can be implemented to interface with your legacy CRM solution. Call us today to find out how we can develop a customized CRM system for your sales reps that boosts profitability and efficiency.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
A recent study released by Accenture and CSO Insights discussed the cost of mediocre sales performance. Sales managers, according to the research, tend to focus on the top-selling sales reps and their worst-performing reps, looking for behaviors that are most significantly impacting the bottom line.
However, while the top 20 percent of the sales force tend to generate 60 percent of the revenue, there is a widely ignored “frozen middle” that could be ripe for growth. Sales managers tend to ignore this group, because they make very little noise and don’t cause trouble. They bring in average growth, but the gap between average and significant is a big area of opportunity for companies. While these sales reps comprise 65 to 70 percent of the sales force, they bring in only 40 percent of sales.
One of the areas that could be addressed to change the middle performers into great sales reps is sales accountability. By tracking the behaviors that lead to a contract or a closed sale, sales managers can determine a set of best practices and implement a repeatable sales process that can be used to refine activities and drive growth.
Sales accountability requires the right technology to be optimized. Sales managers must have mobile customer relationship management (CRM) tools to track sales behaviors. Consider these factors when you seek to turn average performers into great sales reps:
Keep Your Mobile CRM Simple to Encourage Compliance
You can’t track your sales reps’ behaviors to establish a set sales process unless you have data to work with. You won’t have good data unless your sales reps are using the tool. So avoid the pitfalls of an overly customized system or an entry process that gets your sales reps bogged down in filling out too many fields. Choose a few critical pieces of information you want, and create a CRM entry that requires only a few seconds to complete, and you will have your sales reps on board.
Identify Best Practices
You know who your top-performing reps are. With a good CRM, you can quickly drill down your data to determine which activities are leading to a closed sale. You may find that in your industry there is a particular combination of social media contact, in-person calls and emails that tend to result in a sale, for instance.
Develop a Repeatable Sales Process
In order to have sales accountability, your sales reps must know what is expected of them. If you have a documented sales process and your reps know the steps to work through the process, you will be able to create a setting where all of your reps are using the tools and behaviors that have proven successful for your company.
After You Have Tracked Behaviors, Decide What You Want to Improve
Don’t try to improve everything at once. Keep sales accountability as an ongoing initiative, not as a short-term project. Once you have some data, and you have identified your sales process, you can use the information for sales meetings to highlight or troubleshoot particular areas. New sales reps can be trained to adhere to the sales process and you can quickly identify behaviors that need additional training by accessing CRM sales reports.
Front Row Solutions is a provider of mobile CRM tools that drive growth and increase sales accountability for your sales organization. Call us today to discuss the customized system that we can implement in your company.