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In this series, we ask Sales Tech Executives to describe how their solution can change a sales organization in a significant way. We call it Sales Tech Game Changers.

This week I interview Larry Warnock, CEO and President of Olono.

Nancy: What are the top 3 ways your solution changes the game for a sales organization?

Larry: Today’s sales reps and sales leaders are drowning in data, tools, and processes. And as a result, they are spending more time entering, tracking and updating systems and reports than actually selling. This is where Olono “changes the game.” With Olono sales professionals can:

  1. Eliminate manual data entry and boost CRM data accuracy by automatically capturing sales details from email, calendars, web traffic, and other sales tools (70+ integrations available). Yes, I said it, no more data entry for reps.
  2. Improve pipeline visibility with a complete, real-time view of opportunity/account health from multiple data sources, presented in a single screen.
  3. Guide sales reps, suggested next actions, customized by role, defined by best practices, custom processes and machine learning. These are the steps that are proven to move deals forward—content needed, contacts missing, pain points that have not been identified, steps that worked with similar deals.

Nancy: What are the top 5 things your solution allows salespeople to do better, or faster than they can today?

Larry: Olono is your GPS for sales. It guides reps to their destination: the close, even if they run into a hurdle and get off track, because Olono understands every activity and signal that has occurred and can predict what’s ahead. The solution quickly gets them back on the route to success. Reps still drive the deal, but Olono is their map and assistant.

Olono means:

  1. Real-time, automated logging of sales activities in Salesforce.
  2. Ensure reps are following sales playbooks.
  3. Know what sales activities are working, and what’s not.
  4. Understand activity cadence by deal and rep; know exactly which deals are progressing as well as those that are stalled.
  5. Find hidden information from across your sales stack with a single search.

Nancy: Describe the first 30 days after a company purchases your solution.

Larry: Olono Actions, part of the Olono Sales Activity Automation suite, can be deployed in minutes, with simple one-click integrations to email applications, calendars, browser data, and other tools used by sales teams. While our intuitive UI means no training is required, our customer success team is right there with you, ensuring your team is getting immediate value in the first few days.

Week 1: Off and running.

  • Align on goals and outcomes.
  • Connect to Salesforce.com and ingest core data.
  • Add custom key custom fields that drive the business and configure Olono Reports to visualize sales pipeline and opportunities.
  • Align Olono Actions to automate and streamline key data entry preferences.
  • Configure Olono Actions to encourage sales best practices.
  • Reps and Managers actively using Olono daily.

Week 2: Onboarding

  • Share best practices with sales managers and reps.

Week 3: Fine-tuning

  • Weekly sessions to review feedback and share best practices.

Nancy: How have companies determined the ROI of your solution?

Larry: By the following:

  • Improved quality and completeness of Salesforce data.
  • Reduction or elimination of spreadsheets and other dashboards.
  • Improved ability to properly identify stalled deals and adjust forecasts.
  • Improve rep Average Quota Attainment (within two quarters).

Nancy: What should companies do to ensure success of your solution?

Larry: Olono is one of those tools where the more you engage, the greater the ROI. Because of its deep machine learning capabilities, the solution gets more powerful with each action. So the more Actions reps take and the more data we collect, the more steps, automation, and process recommendations we can deliver.

Additionally, we recommend customers decide where Olono should reside for best rep adoption, allowing reps to work wherever they’d like—a tab in Salesforce, a browser application and/or mobile.

Nancy: What are some good resources if someone wanted to learn what questions to ask, what others are doing, and purchase considerations?

Larry: Check out our blog (www.olono.ai/news), speak to one of our Olono reps, or ask for a reference.

Nancy: Who benefits most from your solution?

Larry: We support B2B organizations of all sizes and industries, but those with complex sales cycles benefit the most. The more data, tools and processes, and the longer the sales cycle—the greater the Olono impact.

Nancy: What do you think is the most interesting dynamic in the CRM market today?

Larry: While the numbers vary from analyst to analyst, it’s crazy that sales reps are spending on average just over 30% of their time actually selling. The rest of their time is spent on manual data entry, reporting, chasing down information and other tasks that distract from closing deals. Add in the sales stack explosion, and there is now too much data and too many silos that are negatively impacting results. Orchestration has delivered significant value to other segments and it’s time to apply it to B2B sales, eliminating the complexity so reps can get back to what they do best—building relationships and closing deals.

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Discover missing contact data for your prospect list with DiscoverOrg - YouTube
DiscoverOrg can augment your existing records by pairing and enriching your lists with its powerful d/b, you can get comprehensive information on each account or contact, and append your list with missing information, so you can contact new prospects and keep your database clean and up to date.

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In this series, we ask Sales Tech Executives to describe how their solution can change a sales organization in a significant way. We call it Sales Tech Game Changers.

This week I interview Brendan Cournoyer, VP of Marketing for Brainshark. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Nancy: What are the top 3 ways your solution changes the game for a sales organization?

Brendan: Brainshark provides a comprehensive platform for sales enablement and readiness. We help sales organizations in a number of ways, but three I would highlight are:

  1. Answering the question, ‘Are your sales reps ready?’: This might sound simple, but it’s amazing how many organizations struggle to answer this question. Every company provides some form of sales training. But confirming that a seller has reviewed a training course and knowing whether they can actually demonstrate mastery of that material when it counts are two different things. Brainshark elevates sales training by providing tools, assessments, and dashboards that help our customers answer this question with confidence.
  2. Providing a system for perpetual readiness: The knowledge and skills salespeople need – and the level at which they need them – is always changing. Brainshark provides a more effective way to get that information out to your salespeople when, where, and how they work, to help ensure they’re continuously prepared to make the most of every buyer interaction, even as your business and products evolve.
  3. Streamlining coaching and assessments to keep sellers on-message: More recently, we’ve taken video coaching to the next level, with AI-based auto-scoring and feedback that simplifies the process. This machine analysis can be used by reps as a practice tool to improve their performance, while enabling managers and coaches to save time and more quickly identity areas that require their attention.

Nancy: What are the top 5 things your solution allows salespeople to do better, or faster than they can today?

Brendan: Brainshark improves sales enablement and readiness for sales organizations in a number of key ways:

  1. Create memorable, more engaging content: Brainshark doesn’t just help you manage your content and training, it also makes it easy to create video-based learning assets yourself – and do it quickly. You can add narration to PowerPoints and other files, produce webcam or screen recording videos, add interactive elements like quizzes, polls and attachments, and a lot more – it provides a lot of flexibility for sales enablement leaders.
  2. Provide fast, easy access to training material and other sales resources: Again, we believe in the importance of enabling sellers when, where, and how they work. With Brainshark you can provide formal learning paths or make content available anytime as needed, and reps can access it all quickly via Brainshark, our Mobile App, or integrated within the same systems they use every day, including CRMs like Salesforce or Dynamics 365.
  3. Keep sellers on-point and on-message with video coaching: Brainshark enables video-based coaching, practice, and assessments to validate that sellers can demonstrate mastery of key messages before they get in front of a buyer. Coaching activities can be assigned to teams and individuals, as formal courses and one-off assessments, and the top submissions can be saved as examples of what great looks like for others to learn from.
  4. Elevate video coaching with machine analysis and scoring: Before a manager reviews a coaching video, Brainshark will provide auto-scores and feedback on the rep’s ability to cover key topics, speaking rate, emotions exhibited, and more.
  5. Track the readiness progress for all teams and individuals: Visual dashboards make it easy to view the learning status for multiples teams at once (from account executives to business development reps), and drill down to see how individuals are progressing through all their assigned courses and activities – creating a deeper understanding of who is truly ready to sell.

Nancy: Describe the first 30 days after a company purchases your solution.

Brendan: Brainshark is recognized for providing award-winning customer service and support (something we’re very proud of!), and we’re deeply committed to the long-term success of our clients. This includes teams dedicated to customer success, implementation, training, and support.

When new customers purchase Brainshark, they kick things off with their own implementation consultant who will assist their Brainshark configuration and rollout. Our team works hard to understand the goals and priorities of each customer and develop a project plan based on those specific needs. Customers also receive access to relevant Brainshark help and training materials and are introduced to the Brainshark Customer Success team that supports them through their entire lifecycle as a Brainshark user.

Nancy: How have companies determined the ROI of your solution?

Brendan: Companies can determine ROI through a couple lenses: 1) field readiness and 2) productivity.

With field readiness, you can track specific activities like course completion, knowledge/retention assessments, and certification levels across the field force (example: percentage of reps certified to sell a new product).

With productivity, you’re looking at the results of those activities. For example, companies can look at their onboarding programs to evaluate things like time to competency (how quickly can they now get reps ready to engage buyers) and performance (accelerating revenue yield) for new hires. Other key areas include accelerated sales cycles, increased win rates and ASP, reduction in time spent finding content and learning material (increase selling time), and overall improvements in yield per rep.

Nancy: What should companies do to ensure success of your solution?

Brendan: I’d certainly encourage clients to take advantage of our customer success and training resources. Brainshark is an easy and intuitive platform to use, but it’s also very powerful, with a lot of deep functionality for content authoring, personalization, formal training, reporting, and more. We’ve been developing our platform for 18 years, so there’s a lot it can do. The customer resources we provide are all about ensuring our clients get the absolute most value out of the product they can.

Nancy: What are some good resources if someone wanted to learn what questions to ask, what others are doing, and purchase considerations?

Brendan: Anyone interested in a closer look at Brainshark can visit our website to view a short platform demo video or contact us directly with additional questions. There you can also find several customer testimonials, not to mention a host of resources and ideas for improving sales enablement and readiness.

Nancy: Who benefits most from your solution?

Brendan: Brainshark is used by mid-market and enterprise companies across a variety of industries, including tech, manufacturing, medical device, financial services, and more.

We’ve developed the platform to support enablement and readiness for any type of sales organization (inside sales, channel, field sales, etc.), as well as any other customer-facing team that needs to be prepared to engage with customers and has an impact of deals (customer success, sales engineering, etc.).

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Membrain Sales Process and Collaboration Solution: Smart Selling Tools Review - YouTube
Membrain is a sales effectiveness platform that institutionalizes the actions needed to improve sales performance in complex b2b sales. Membrain helps to eliminate costly mistakes, like not qualifying deals properly, overlooking key influencers on the buying team, or neglecting to map your value to the prospects business challenges.

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The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Connectivity, data, and processing power have come together to make disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence possible. While we are just scratching the surface on what we can do with AI, we’re seeing more and more companies – from fledgling startups to large corporations – begin to offer specialized AI applications.

Conversational AI is one type of specialized AI that has gained quite a bit of traction in recent years. But what exactly is conversational AI? Some people may know it in the form of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and website chatbots that provide customer support help. While these are more commonly known use cases, conversational AI is also being leveraged by companies to optimize business processes.

Read on to learn more about what conversational AI is and how businesses can leverage this technology to operate more efficiently and increase revenues.

What is Conversational AI?

Conversational AI is the technology that enables people and computers to communicate with each other in a way that mimics a natural, back-and-forth conversation (via text or audio). The ability to communicate in this manner is a huge advancement from how we’ve been able to interact with computers thus far, which up until recently has been one-way and via text only.

An integral part of conversational AI is Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG). According to Conversica Chief Scientist, Dr. Sid Reddy, this entails having a system that can precisely classify intents and entities. By intent we mean the intention of the end user – what is the customer trying to do? Entity provides context for that intent. In other words, an entity refers to the information that is helpful in answering the user’s request.

Another critical component of conversational AI is machine learning, which refers to a computer’s ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, and get “smarter” with more information it receives. Human language is incredibly complex – whether you speak English, Spanish, Mandarin, or any of the 6,000-plus known languages in the world, human language is incredibly nuanced and constantly evolving.

Just think about the different ways you can ask for information. For example, if I need to get to a specific restaurant, I could ask, “Where are you located?” or “What’s your address?” or even “Where can I find you?” The variations of this question all have the same intent, even if the entities differ. If you’re considering adopting a conversational AI solution, it’s a good idea to look for applications that incorporate machine learning, NLU, and NLG capabilities.

In addition, you may want to ask potential conversational AI providers if they:

  1. Have vast amounts of data (information shared by people in conversations). The conversational AI solution will use this data to improve language understanding and language generation, in addition to providing valuable analytics.
  2. Allow you some degree of control to customize conversations.
  3. Integrate with your existing technology stack. If you use a CRM system or marketing automation tool, make sure the conversational AI solution will work together with those systems, so you have a single source of information.
Conversational AI in Business

Businesses ranging in sizes and industries are looking toward AI and specifically conversational AI to optimize key functions. One traditional aspect of business that’s getting a technological boost is sales – rather than leaving it up to a human workforce to reach out and follow up with interested prospects, conversational AI is automating this crucial, yet repetitive task.

It’s important to note that using conversational AI to handle initial contact and lead engagement does not replace human workers, but rather allows them to manage their time better. According to InsideSales.com, sales reps only spend 37% of their time selling. This means that most of a salesperson’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities such as administrative tasks (dealing with internal policies and approvals) and researching target accounts and contacts.

As consumer expectations continue to rise, companies must meet or exceed those needs in order to earn the customer’s business. It makes sense then, to invest in a solution that will provide prompt, personalized attention at scale. The good news is that we’ve reached a point where we can use conversational AI to help customers feel that they are being listened to and their needs are being addressed. And that’s a competitive advantage your business can’t afford to miss.

This week’s post is by guest author, Helena Chen, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Conversica, the only provider of AI-driven lead engagement software for marketing and sales organizations.

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A year ago today, we published the industry’s first comprehensive SalesTech landscape infographic featuring over 400+ SalesTech solutions. Fast forward to today and that number has increased by 25% to over 500 discreet sales solutions, crazy right?

Download a PDF version of the 2018 SalesTech Landscape

Right off the bat, the landscape should help you know where to focus. If you want to get better at targeting the right people and accounts, at the right time, you’ll want to look at technologies to the far left of the chart. The segment titles in red follow our sales hierarchy model which ranks the over-all abilities required for sales success. Knowing “Who to Sell to and Why” is most important because it impacts the success of the entire sales process. Start there.

If your funnel is filled with the right kinds of prospects but you need a higher close rate, then you’ll want to look at the technologies to the right of the chart (under What to do to close and How to Up/Cross-Sell and Renew).

The SalesTech space is certainly a crowded market. It’s complex and confusing and it will become more, not less, confusing for the foreseeable future. I don’t see a major consolidation happening any time soon despite recent acquisitions like Seismic’s acquisition of SAVO (and before that, SAVO’s acquisition of KnowledgeTree) or SAP’s acquisition of CallidusCloud, and the acquisitions of ClearSlide, LearnCore, and more.

At this point, there is unquestionable pressure due to sales tool fatigue, for solution providers to broaden their offerings either by acquisition or added functionality. Fewer companies are willing to manage the implementation and adoption of 10 or more individual sales tools – many of which have over-lapping capabilities.

That being said, this market is still young. New ideas are being developed into innovative product offerings like StrikeDeck, Olono, and Kiite. The landscape will continue to expand into the foreseeable future.

Making the right sales technology purchase decisions is now less about selecting specific solutions, and more about finding the right mix of solutions based on your organizations capability gaps. That’s why I’ve launched a sister company with my business partner Dan Cilley called Vendor Neutral. Vendor Neutral gives organizations a way to identify and prioritize the gaps in their capabilities and the right mix or technology types and vendors to close the gaps.

Software review sites can help you identify individual solutions to solve specific problems. They don’t however, do much to answer the question “What is the right mix of technologies.” With more than 500 sales tools on the market, that is the 64K question.

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Find Prospects that are in market for your technology: Tech Target Priority Engine - YouTube
Priority Engine by TechTarget helps you find the accounts that matter and the contacts that convert. Hence the word Priority. How can you find the prospects searching for your technology products? With Priority Engine.

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If your prospects are so smart, why don’t they always make optimal choices?

There are many books on the subject of “choice.” One of my favorites is The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz. Having too many options is one cause of sub-optimal choices, and there are others. Confirmation bias and the reliance on heuristics (the use of mental short-cuts to reduce the complexity of decision making) are two decision-making influences well defined in psychology.

I wanted to illustrate the reasons prospects don’t always make the right decision based on first-hand experience – what I’ve seen personally over the past two decades of Sales.

#10 They don’t view it as an optimal choice. We all have different perspectives. Of course we as vendors have to believe our product would represent the optimal choice for them. If we didn’t, then we should move onto other prospects for whom we DO believe it is the optimal choice. But even for those prospects where the logic fits, there are other reasons why it may not be viewed as optimal from the prospect’s perspective.

#9 Adversity to risk. Doing nothing is almost always less risky than doing something. Most of us are rewarded for short-term results. If something requires us to move backward for any amount of time, with positive results delayed until some point in the future, then we are likely to see that as too risky. We are judged first and foremost by what we’ve done lately and that keeps us from making choices that are optimal only in the long-term.

#8 Risk vs Reward. This is a different beast than #9. If a prospect isn’t convinced they’ll experience the rewards as promised, then no amount of risk will be accepted. That applies to something as basic as downloading a software trial. There is a clear risk/reward factor at play. If the odds of downloading, and experimenting with the software only to find its taking too much time and not turning out well, are higher than the odds of the opposite occurring – well, guess how many people are likely to trial your software.

#7 Instant-Gratification. I received an e-mail solicitation today from a very large company. They were pitching a discounted price of $99 on a list of companies you could use for prospecting purposes. The normal price is $295. Now that’s a great savings and may be worth it. I would’ve made an instant decision whether I wanted to take advantage. The problem? No where to click to learn more. Only a phone number to call to “purchase while supplies last”. Where’s my instant gratification? I wanted to instantly know what kind of information was included. Surely it’s not just a company name. So what else is there? I have to call to find out? No way! Sorry, I’m no longer interested. Purchasing a powerful list at 1/3 the cost may have been the optimal choice. But it’s not the choice I made because I wanted instant gratification and didn’t get it.

#6 Prospects don’t know what they want. Often, our prospects are simply exploring options and ideas when we first talk with them. They don’t know what they want until they understand what’s out there, what the risks/rewards are, how long things will take to implement, how much it costs, etc. What comes across as wishy-washy to us, is really just our prospect weighing all the information in their minds, trying to make sense of it.

#5 Trust. A big one. It’s why cold-calling rarely works (that, and the fact that it’s annoying). That’s why awards, referrals, testimonials all help. It’s also why an established company might get the business even if an upstart has a better offering.

#4 Logic vs emotion. Yes, B2B sales involves lots of logic. Complex sales require detailed information and a strong business case. However, emotion does play a role. The emotion or “feeling” part of the decision for a buyer is all the reasons outlined in this blog; risk aversion, the need for instant gratification (and conversely the need to avoid painful evaluations, and drawn-out decision), and the next 3 on the list.

#3 Lack of impetus. If I’m not in trouble or in enough trouble with the way things are, I am not apt to look for a way out.

#2 No desire to stand-out. Conversely, a desire NOT to stand-out

And the number one reason prospects don’t always make the optimal choice …

#1 Things are “good-enough” the way they are.

I could argue that none of these top 10 reasons have anything to do with your product or the solution. Instead, they have to do with change. Are your salespeople trained to help prospects embrace change or at the very least, to overcome reluctance to change? What questions should the salesperson ask to uncover which of these apply to his or her prospect? Might be a good discussion for the next team meeting.

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The Daily Conundrum

If you’re like most sales professionals working in today’s hyper-connected, always-on environment, you struggle on a daily basis to meet your goals. The concept of work-life balance is a dated one as we continue to raise the bar on performance and financial expectations.

This struggle is real, because essentially your salespeople are tasked with 4 jobs, each of which could be a full-time job including;

  1. Outbound prospecting to ensure they have enough pipeline to meet coverage targets.
  2. Working and developing existing opportunities to meet quarterly and annual sales targets.
  3. Seeing to the needs of existing customers as they use your solution.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most tedious of all, managing internal expectations. It’s the last one where many folks desperately seek ways to simplify the process, trying to avoid duplicating updates to the various systems of record and to the many layers of sales management.

How many times have you asked your salespeople to update CRM and then ask them to “consolidate it” into a spreadsheet at the 11th hour for a big internal leadership meeting or a last-minute opportunity review? The answer is likely, “far too many to count”!

No More Admin – Weekly Forecast Calls and QBRs

In addition to managing multiple outward-facing day to day responsibilities, salespeople also need to prepare for weekly forecast calls by ensuring CRM is completely up-to-date and that all details required by your management team have been entered into the system.

But wait! Now it’s closing time near the end of the quarter and just around the corner is our favorite event of all time – the QBR! Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of salespeople like having to spend 3 days assembling content from various systems into the “approved template” for your next business inspection.

Finally, Some GOOD News!

Alright, enough complaining…after all, we’re uber-optimistic sales professionals who chose this career for a good reason – the opportunity to build a rich life for ourselves and our families. This is where a solution like Aviso’s AI platform helps CROs, Sales Ops leaders, Sales Managers, and Sales Reps drive the most accurate forecasting for their business, along with leveraging pipeline and deal-level insights to focus more on selling and less on admin tasks, as well as the wrong deals. Hallelujah!

Now you can update your forecast on the go, integrate directly with your CRM, and leverage the reports and templates designed to drive more efficiency. This means QBR prep in a fraction of the time, more productive forecast calls focused on the deals that need attention, and less time spent away from your bread and butter!

Today’s post is by guest author, Tom Victory, CMO of Aviso, an AI sales platform that helps you drive efficiency in three of your most critical sales processes: forecasting, pipeline management, and deal reviews.

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Super Fast CPQ Solution by CallidusCloud - YouTube
CallidusCloud CPQ offers AI powered guided selling that enhances cross-sell and up-sell recommendations, can create a quote with ten’s of thousands of lines in just a few minutes, gives you quick access to margin health and can help reps generate beautiful proposals in minutes.

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