As the year comes to an end, those of us in the technology sector are bombarded with predictions. In many cases, they serve primarily to demonstrate how poorly people are able to guess what the future holds. Where’s my flying car, already?
But, for those immersed in a specific market or a technology, prognostications are somewhat more precise. In many cases, the technological or strategic breakthrough has already been made. That means the prediction is not about the invention of something, but rather about the readiness of users to adopt and benefit from that invention.
So, informed by our immersion in the Lead-to-Money space and the rumblings we’re getting from customers, here are the five technologies we think your company will come to rely on during 2015. The ideas won’t be new to you – in fact, most of them are established ideas already – but if you aren’t employing them now, you probably will be by this time in 2015:
As businesses’ product mixes and service offerings become more and more complex, CPQ is finding its way into a broader and broader variety of businesses: telecom, healthcare, high-tech, even building design. At the same time, demand from customers for quick quotes and proposals is growing. They don’t care that your product mix is complex and that sales people have to work hard through manual means to create quotes – they want them, they want them to be accurate, and they want them now. You can’t satisfy customers’ simultaneous demands for customized product sets and rapid proposal generation through a manual process – you have to use technology, and CPQ is already there, waiting for you. If the Aberdeen numbers are to be believed, embracing CPQ will pay off handsomely. The only question should be: is 2015 the year we make the jump to a CPQ solution?
2. Customer Experience Monitoring
For many companies, customer experience is like the weather: we all talk about it, but no one ever does anything about it, to mangle a quote from Mark Twain. And, as Peter Drucker eloquently said, you can only manage what you can measure. So, while every business likes to think it creates a good buying experience for its customers, most of them lack anything but anecdotal evidence from customers to verify that they do, or to point the way toward improvements that should be made to the customer experience.
Customer feedback is the key to knowing what’s working and what’s not working. That doesn’t mean a haphazard, erratic attempt at gathering feedback here and there – it means building opportunities to collect feedback into the process of acquiring and retaining customers. I’ve heard naysayers argue that this form of listening interrupts the flow of the deal, but great salespeople are always looking for feedback, so that fear is completely off-base. The issue has been that the feedback individual salespeople collect is for their own use in their own deals and never aggregated to expose areas for systemic improvement across the whole sales force. This is the technological jump we’ll see more companies make in 2015.
3. Content Marketing Tracking
The importance of content marketing has finally sunk in – few business leaders would argue against it. But, like advertising in decades past, its return on investment can remain a mystery to marketing pros. Few pieces of content result immediately in leads; usually, the buyer looks at multiple pieces of content that lead to a decision. Understanding the entire journey is critical to understanding what works, how to replicate it and how to evolve that journey over time. Most businesses, however, still attribute leads to the last content item viewed before a reader performed an action that dropped him or her into the lead bin. This is the same as attributing an 80-yard touchdown drive entirely to the fullback who punched it in from the 1-yard line. Using that logic, you’d build a football team entirely comprised of 5-10, 280-pound fireplugs – and you would lose a lot. The same goes in the content marketing game.
The technology has existed for many years to track specific users’ journeys across content. There are several ways to do it: provide a single sign-on with a password to content consumers that they use every time they visit your content, or track them via IP information as they read content on your site, or simply use short forms that confirm their identity and then use that information to create reports. Whatever approach you take, the technology is there waiting for you. Embrace it – and discover how great the impact the entirety of your content is making to lead generation.
4. Website Visitor Tracking
If you owned a store, you’d want to make sure you were at least aware of every customer who came in and looked around. Why has this concept not translated into your company website? In the vast majority of businesses, visitors to the website come and go with little attention paid to their presence or identity. That means your ability to generate leads from the website is extremely limited – and it doesn’t allow them to signal that they’re getting closer to a buying decision. Website visitor tracking has been around for several years; it can alert sales reps in real time when a customer is visiting a website, who that customer is and what pages that customer’s looking at. This creates some tactical issues that need to be addressed – calling a customer as they’re browsing your site can creep people out, so some tact and care needs to be used – but since the data shows that contacting visitors quickly leads more often to conversions, there’s no reason to operate your website blind.
5. Mobile Sales Training
Research in the works from Sirius Decisions is exposing the sad fact that sales reps become really productive and profitable in their second and third years – which is the time they most often jump to other companies. Keeping these veterans around is good business. But what are most companies doing to invest in them? Nothing. Most sales training takes place in the early months of a sales rep’s tenure, and after that they’re left largely on their own. No wonder they jump ship – they start to feel like their companies are simply using them as cash cows and aren’t concerned with their continued professional growth. But, at the same time, no one likes to see sales reps pulled away from selling (the reps included). So how do you balance out the need for on-going training with the need to limit its impact on sales reps’ time?
Take it mobile. By making it available in a convenient format, and allowing sales reps to consume training content in small bites when they have time in their busy schedules to do so, you can respect both the need to keep sales selling and sales’ need to continue to learn ways of selling better. Doing that will reduce churn and give your sales team greater skills.