Monday, April 29, 2013

Why the VP of Sales Should Care About Customer Service

Building a first-rate customer service organization often falls on the shoulders of the VP of Customer Service; noticeably absent in the process are figures like the VP of Sales. Before the onset of social media and the era where a single consumer could broadcast his feelings to the entire world, the VP of Customer Service could bear all the responsibility. But today’s world calls for a collaborative effort across Sales and Service VPs because their personal success is directly impacted by the quality of customer service the organization can deliver.
Here are a few reasons why every Sales VP should take customer service to heart:
  • Service inquiries can generate sales opportunities: whether your agent is presented with Next Best Offer suggestions or in a position to mention additional support packages, the result is new leads for the Sales team and an increased bottom line. Provide your agents with detailed information about each customer’s profile and they’re empowered to upsell and cross-sell products.
  • Consumers pay more for better service: Consumers will pay more for better service, which means the Sales team doesn’t have to compete solely on price. Customers are also more loyal (spend more after initial purchase) to companies with good service. Your customer is up for a valuable renewal? Better hope he isn’t in the middle of a customer service nightmare.
  • Service history provides important intelligence: when a sales person can see the customer’s service inquiries and open issues, he can factor this into his sales strategy and execution. Rather than walking blind into a sales meeting pitching a new product, he can walk in with empathy and understanding to the customer’s recent experience with the company.
  • Accelerated response to cross-departmental situations: Even after a prospect has signed the dotted line to become a customer, he often faces a deluge of steps to complete the process that involve customer support: invoicing, onboarding, training, etc. A first impression is key, and this requires a collaborative effort among Sales and Service.
  • Happy customers sell for you: Happy customers share their experiences with their friends. But perhaps more important is the fact that unhappy customers tell MORE of their friends. By providing superior customer service, your sales team can ensure all the tweets, facebook posts, and word-of-mouth exchanges about your company are positive in nature.
The most successful companies don’t see Sales and Service as separate departments; every employee is a sales rep and a customer service agent. The happiest customers are born from a collaborative effort between the two departments.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Think Big: Drive Startup Growth with the Right Business Tools

As part of our jobs in Sales, we get to work with really incredible startups and witness their development at every stage. Some of those starts are trying to scale as they grow and others are just trying to find the shortest path to being successful.  That said, almost every startup struggles with growth on some level, and it can be a painful journey without the right business tools.

We’ve identified three areas - and created an infographic - that most successful startups should master: operational visibility, scalability, and an effective sales and service process.

Click on the image to see the full infographic
Operational Visibility 
Whether it’s forecasting or reporting, startup growth is a numbers game and every leader will be challenged to provide data-driven insights. Prospective investors need forward-looking reports, and sometimes startups need enough information to make a decision, quickly.

Unlike enterprises, startups and small businesses do not have an army of dedicated staff that can target every attractive market. With a heavier reliance on short-term cash flow, agile startups must identify and focus on activities that drive results.

A good reporting tool will point to which products and regions to focus on, which selling activities are producing, and when to start hiring. When you don’t have many resources, you need to use what you have effectively.

It comes down to being organized and having the ability to operate effectively. To do that you need data and you usually need it quickly. When it comes to fundraising the game isn’t much different - Startups are 2.5 times more likely to raise money when they’re using a CRM.

70% of startups struggle with scalability, so equipping your business with a scalable platform is crucial to the growth of a startup. Whether you’re investing in a web platform or front-office application suite, the risk associated with system breakage is huge and the costs of switching can be very high.

Factors to consider in the decision-making include: a history of stability, mobile support, and ease of management.

We’ve witnessed small business startups that have had to accommodate millions of new users on Heroku and Sales teams that need to accommodate an expansion from one founder to hundreds of sales reps.

Moreover, as functional teams are added, individual applications suited for those functions need to be added as well. Getting these apps to talk becomes a necessity, but few startups have the time or money to build custom integrations.

A central hub for sales, service, marketing, and operations allows you to build a single customer profile. Salesforce customers like Spotify and Groupon started small with this in mind.
Startups with amazing products can find themselves exasperated with the pressures of developing processes from scratch. Resources are limited and early-stage companies need to focus on what they do best – developing a world-class product.

Building a sales and support operation is one of the most difficult problems any business startup has to deal with in their growth stage.  We often see teams that are small businesses relying on a combination of spreadsheets, sticky notes, and simple databases to track their customer engagements. “Duct tape and Bubble Gum” is what we call it. This piecemeal approach results in leads falling through the cracks, poor customer on-boarding and sales deals being mismanaged. It’s money out the window.

Platforms like Salesforce were engineered to help you sell more and service better. Sales reps have a proven process to follow, leading to shorter sales cycles, losing fewer deals, and increasing the amount of larger opportunities, while Customer Service Agents have a complete view of the customer, ensuring nothing gets lost in translation.

Moreover, closing the feedback loop keeps product development engaged with your market. You can customize the application to suit your unique processes, building on the best practices that millions of Salesforce users love.

Is your startup "ready" to grow?
Once a startup itself, Salesforce recognizes the importance of supporting the startup community. We are founder-led with we are still managing over 30% yearly growth, so while the scale has changed we still deal with much the same things day to day as many of you.

We have partnered with programs like Y-Combinator and events like NY Tech Day because of this and have developed an emerging business segment to identify with the unique challenges that growing startups face.

You've invested heavily into building a world class product and getting it in to customer’s hands. We hope these insights help to prepare you for your startup growth; to make smart, longer-term decisions so that you have right tools for growth as you are become more successful.

If we can help in any way, or are interested in digging in on what this means for your startup - please comment below or reach out to us – your feedback is always appreciated. Want to learn more how startups, like Viocorp, use Salesforce?  Feel free to watch this video

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Transform Your Company Culture From “I” to “We”

This post was originally published on the blog.
Most leaders today believe in a “we” culture. They have read the books on building teams and work to implement the advice. Then they are stymied when the teamwork doesn’t happen or falls apart.

Take these additional steps to turn your company culture from “I” to “We.”

#1 Address the high performing loners.
Do you have individual team members that work well with the customers yet not with teammates? They see the work only as one-to-one between them and the customer.

Do you protect and retain these team members because they are good with customers? This reinforces an “I” culture. Lone rangers don’t share knowledge nor help other teammates. Admit to yourself that they are not the shining stars of company culture.

Tip: Speak with them. Ask them what if anything is getting in the way yet let them know that teamwork is essential.

• Do you have metrics in place that actually discourage collaboration and teamwork? Are you grading team members on their own metrics instead of the overall success of the organization?

A heavy focus on individual metrics undoes a “we” culture. Instead, inspire the team to own the customers requests. Above all, remember that metrics don’t create great service. They measure great service that the team creates!

• Are there squabbles between team members that you’ve overlooked? The “loner” may be isolating because team interactions have gone bad. When you tell team members to work things out for themselves, you are feeding an “I” culture.

Tip: Know what’s going on. Before resentments builds, engage team members in discussions to resolve issues. If you overlook team problems, success overlooks your team.

#2: Assert that great attitude is essential and non-negotiable.
Employees with bad customer service attitudes are toxic to a “we” culture. The one question I am repeatedly asked is: “How long do we coach an employee with a bad attitude?” The answer is: Never.

A positive service attitude is the foundation of outstanding customer service. A great customer service attitude is essential — not negotiable.

Can you imagine saying to a customer: “I’m having trouble in my life right now and that’s why I’m giving you bad service.” Well if you retain an employee with a bad attitude, then that’s what you’re saying. It also sends an “I” culture message to the teams as you shower extra attention on this team member.
“We” culture message: We buoy each other with great attitudes and skills to deliver outstanding service.

Tip: If someone is having difficulty in their personal life, ask them what resources do they have or need to work through it. Meanwhile make it clear that they must bring a great work attitude to work every day.

#3: Inspire individual talents to team success.
Forget the old adage there is no “I” in team. It was an attempt to handle arrogant non-team players with one broad brush. Replace it with: There are many I’s that create a team – individual talents, initiative, integrity, interdependence, and inspiration.

Give recognition of individual talents in team meetings WITH a call to use those talents for team success. This inspires individuals to contribute their talents to each other.

There is very little to stop you from creating a “we” culture if your actions and the organization’s policies support true teamwork. Inspire and model how to be a buoy in a “we” culture of service excellence. Ask the team for suggestions on how to strengthen the company culture. Involve them and they will build a “we” culture of teamwork!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Great Customer Service Helps Retain Great Employees


John Tschohl, called the “guru of customer service,” by USA Today, Time and Entrepreneur magazines, is a best-selling author, service strategist and president of Service Quality Institute. John is a regular contributor to the Blog Expert Corner series.  
As you know, attracting, hiring and training employees are time- and labor-intensive endeavors. So the last thing you want to do is squander that effort and your resources by failing to develop and maintain your employees’ loyalty.

One path to happy, loyal employees is a strong customer service training program. What is the correlation, you ask? Happy employees mean great customer service, and happy customers make employees’ jobs more pleasant and rewarding. If you fail to ensure your employees’ happiness, you’re not going to have a stable and reliable customer service team.

Great customer service equals happy employees
According to a Forum Corporation report, the highest employee turnover rates are associated with companies with the lowest employee ratings of service quality. Interestingly, factors such as length of service with the company, job function, and frequency of contact with customers show little influence on turnover rate.

This finding was confirmed when Sears surveyed customers in 771 stores. Employee turnover directly correlated with customer satisfaction. In stores that received relatively high customer-service ratings, 54 percent of the sales force turned over in a year compared with 83 percent at stores with low customer service scores.

Treat your customer service employees with respect
I am repeatedly amazed at the minimal respect managers show their junior staff (except in the glowing words of the annual report). Do they not realize that it can cost as much as $1,000 to replace an employee who leaves because he or she is unhappy?

Let low-wage employees know how much you appreciate them and how important they are to the organization. Appreciation and recognition are important, considering the fact that service employees often quit because they feel unappreciated and unwanted, not to mention underpaid. High turnover sabotages your efforts to deliver great customer service.

When finding people willing to work for $7 to $10 an hour ($200 a month in many developing countries), we should remind ourselves that we are lucky to find these individuals and we will do everything we can to let them know how much we appreciate them and how important they are to this organization.

Build a strong team with a customer service training program
One way toward a happier, more productive workforce and great customer service is a strong customer service training program.

If your customer service training is effective, you can expect an immediate impact on employee retention. Once you reach a point where the customer satisfaction index is high, then employees are far more likely to stay than if customers viewed them as adversaries and sought revenge by being “difficult.” Employees become enthusiastic about their jobs, thereby earning even more praise from customers. They begin working even harder. And better. Self-image improves. Morale runs high. Pride and team spirit take over and raise retention rate.

Great customer service also improves the reputation of an organization in its community. Employees enjoy working for compa­nies with good reputations, as it enhances their own personal reputations.

One person who recognizes the influence of great customer service on turnover is Peter Gregerson Sr., retired chairman and president of Warehouse Groceries Management. One purpose of the company’s service program, he says, is “to increase the employee’s value and worth to the company and to himself.
“We wanted to develop skills our competitors didn’t have in customer relations,” said Gregerson. “We hoped, with those things in mind, to increase our sales and our profit with repeat business and fewer customer complaints. We felt that it would reduce our employee turnover as well.”

People-oriented employees who derive personal satisfaction from dealing with customers are more likely to enjoy their work. So, your turnover will be low, and that’s no small benefit at a time when good employees are hard to find and hard to keep, and very expensive to replace.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Power of Key Performance Indicators for Sales Teams


Selling is a numbers game, and all sales organizations keep track of certain sets of numbers. It is easy to obsess over the obvious numbers like monthly or quarterly revenue or close rates. Unfortunately, those numbers simply give you the “final score,” without telling you anything about how your team played the game.
If you want to improve the way your team plays the game and boost the score in the future, you need to be paying much closer attention to another set of numbers, namely, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that give you insights into how well each member of your team is actually playing.
What are KPIs?
While the term KPI is commonly used, it doesn’t mean it is always well understood. Something can be defined as a Key Performance Indicator when:
  • It is KEY to the success of your organization. For example, is the number of sales contacts per week important to the success of your organization?
  • It is related to PERFORMANCE when it can be clearly measured, quantified and easily influenced by the members of your team. For example, do you have a benchmark that tells you that when a sales maker makes at least 5 contacts with Executive level decision makers during a sales cycle the value of the final deal will go up by 40%?
  • It is used as an INDICATOR; in other words, it is something that provides leading information about future results. For example, one version of the 80/20 rule says that 80% of a sales maker’s production is generated by activity in 20% of their accounts. Given that information, it might be a good idea to track the number of calls and the amount of time each sales maker spends with high value contacts in those accounts, and set some specific expectations there that can be measured. 
Essentially, KPI’s should provide visibility into current activity that will impact future sales team productivity. Tracking these indicators in the present will allow you to identify gaps and coach your team members, which will help you influence the outcome of those monthly, quarterly and annual productivity numbers that are so important.
The Difference Between Lagging Indicators and Leading Indicators
It is important to keep in mind when discussing KPIs that there is a difference between Lagging Indicators and Leading Indicators.  Lagging Indicators are outputs and results that are measured “after the fact,” and in most sales organizations these indicators get most of the attention, because they tend to be the metrics that go into reports to executives and even shareholders. Lagging Indicators include metrics like:
  • Sales
  • Gross margin dollars growth
  • Gross margin % growth
  • Product mix
  • Share of wallet
  • New customers
On the other hand, Leading Indicators are activities and actions that can be tracked or measured during the sales process as opportunities are being developed and the pipeline is being built. Leading Indicators include activities like:
  • How many calls is a sales maker making per week?
  • Who is the sales maker calling on?
  • How many of these calls turn into opportunities?
  • How many of these opportunities turn into wins?
  • How is the sales maker performing in these categories compared to your peer group?
For the purpose of impacting sales transformation, the most important KPIs are going to be found among the Leading Indicators. If you are looking for a way to boost your Lagging Indicators, focus intensely on whatever you consider to be your most important Leading Indicators. As your sales team becomes more effective at executing these Leading Indicator Activities, the Lagging Indicators will improve.
KPIs are powerful because:
  • They will help you make better decisions. You must have timely and accurate information about all aspects of the performance of your team members in order to plan and coach effectively. As a sales manager, you can’t rely on hope and assumptions; you must be assessing real data in real time that will reveal what is going on so you can take action now, before it is too late. 
  • This leads to better execution. Identifying, measuring and – most of all - coaching to the right KPIs leads directly to behavior change and skill improvement across the entire team.
  • KPIs set expectations and improve communication. Defining KPIs clarifies for sales makers the activities upon which they should be spending their time, and provides a context for sales managers to interact with sales makers regarding their performance. 
  • A clear focus on KPIs will change sales maker behavior. Once sales makers understand the activities they are supposed to be concentrating on, they will devote more time and energy to these areas, especially if they know their compensation will be tied to their performance in these areas. 
  • Focusing on a core set of KPIs will keep sales maker activities consistent. There is an old saying; “People don’t do what is expected, the only do what is inspected.” When sales makers understand what you are going to inspect every week, they are much more likely to do them every week.
  • Tracking KPIs is the best way to identify and qualify sales maker performance. Sales makers might be staying busy and giving a 100% effort every day, which can be confused with real productivity. However, if they aren’t giving that effort to the right activities, all that effort is wasted. Tracking KPIs helps sales managers make sure sales makers are spending the right amount of time on the right activities. 
  • Tracking KPIs takes the guess work out of evaluation and coaching. This is related to the previous point. Sales managers who don’t regularly track sales maker performance against a set of standard KPI metrics don’t really have any objective basis for evaluating performance. The sales maker may be a great person and hard worker, or they may be a disagreeable know-it-all, but those aren’t the most important behaviors for a sales manager to evaluate. The only thing that really matters is how they are performing in relation to the KPIs.
  • Effective coaching begins with KPIs. Most sales managers understand that coaching is important, but coaching is useless if it is not based on quantifiable, actionable skills and behaviors.  The greatest value of tracking KPIs is the information they reveal about where each sales maker is doing well, and where they might need help to do better. Sales managers can quickly access KPI’s from their CRM for every sales maker and use this data to customize coaching conversations that will address gaps and boost performance.
Once your team knows and understands the role of KPIs in helping them measure and achieve success, their ability to meet and even exceed your expectations will rise dramatically.