“When you are building systems to scale your business, you have to build systems that you can put into the hands of ordinary mere mortals that will produce above-average results. You can’t count on having superstars.” Lawrence Janesky, CEO of Basement Systems, Inc. (Real Time Sales & Service, Scott, 59).
As Mr. Janesky suggests, excellence is a habit formed by an excellent system to help sales consult with potential clients. When I was in Sales, I performed consultative selling, yet my tools – the system I had – was not designed for this sale. I built my own proposal system, forecast sheets, and deep product analyses. Most firms today could not hire a salesperson without these available from day one.
Notwithstanding the continuing work on Sales-Marketing Alignment and “they don’t use the tools they’re given” gripes, how could you build a workflow that propels any salesperson ahead of their peers at other firms?
In the last post, I wrote about the Real Time Tech Stack, and here is how I would view it in terms of the revenue generating workflow.
Marketing Real Time Workflow
Real-time information is most developed on the Marketing side of the system, or at least that’s what I see in my work.
The workflow in Marketing and with any agencies should lend itself toward agile sprints as well as on-call designers to quickly tweak existing ad images and copy. Your ad managers should be able to plug in new content to existing ad tools along with keywords and triggers very easily.
Real time ads and websites can be tested rapidly and in real-time. Website tools, especially ones integrated with your MAP are making sites come alive for your buyer personas instead of asking the lead to click on their “solution area.” Adtech Demand-side platforms (DSPs) can make instant adjustments based on your guidelines and market conditions. Even if your volumes are not high enough to justify a DSP, a skilled operator can adjust ads very quickly. When ads are pointed to your MAP’s landing page and data collection system, top-of-the-funnel name acquisition becomes real-time.
Of course, such ads must be relevant to the audiences and be based on rapid content generation or repurposing. If your storytelling and values are prepared, your team will find it easy to insert the right piece of content into the right medium at the right time. With Marketing Automation, it is easy to clone a data collection system, modify the content, and deploy it, usually within 20 minutes or less. If you are running a complex nurturing system, adding fresh content is often very simple.
Sales Real Time Workflow
Earlier we saw how real time behavioral information and instant contact information is pushed into the CRM workflow. Social media connections are also part of the standard CRM setup now. A common complaint, however, is the data feed for what key prospects or accounts are up to are not always customizable. Work with your Sales Enablement/Ops team to customize this feed or alerting system. Each salesperson works a bit differently – some are always on their phones, some want emails, and others want a special app.
Each sales team – Lead Development Representatives (LDRs), Business Development Reps (BDRs), and Account Executives/Field Sales (AEs) – need different views because they are at different stages in the funnel (and buyer’s journey).
An LDR may be happy with contact information and the latest behavior, while the AE closer may want the complete dossier on need-solution ideas and call history. Prospectors need potential contact information while closers just want the direct dial. One of the critical steps is the initial sales contact by the LDR. It is easy to call too early, before the lead really wants to chat, and it is easy to be creepy about it. Please make sure your playbooks explain that this line is a bad move:
“Hi Josh, I saw you downloaded our recent whitepaper on social media compliance in finance, is there something I can help you with?”
I used to get this line (and hear it said by Sales) at a few jobs. This is one of the creepiest lines you can use and it really does not make me want to share my needs with you. Marketers know that certain content pieces are early, mid, and late stage. Your real-time workflow must be setup to not push early stage content behaviors to LDRs as MQLs. In other words, just because I downloaded some content, does not mean I am ready to speak with Sales. If my behaviors indicate I am likely to buy, then find better introductions.
Sales and social media is another area where both training and tools can help be effective real time processes. I personally recommend Hootsuite for smaller organizations. Make sure that you provide training on the tool and proper engagement on each platform. If you have a social media manager, this is his job to train everyone as well as find out the best way to begin. Find the most engaged salesperson and work with them to feed pre-built lines, approved tweets, and content to share. Perhaps it makes sense to have the social media manager push data to the CRM and alert the right sales steam when a lead comes in via Facebook. All of this depends on your business, the people you have today, and your industry’s regulations.
Consider helping certain salespeople get accounts like @company_bob if they do not want to confuse personal and professional accounts. This can be effective just to help the team monitor pre-built streams themselves so they can see how real time engagement works and why it matters.
Training People to Work in Real Time
Training people to work in Real Time is challenging from a management perspective because the desire to control is often stronger than the desire to let people go out and work the crowd. David Meerman Scott discusses this at length in his books, but here’s my take on how to train teams, having done this a few times.
First, make sure you hire people who have good principles and people skills. Training can start with Marketing with the social media manager tasked with organizing the “real time team” across functions.
Second, train people to tell your story and live it as much as an employee can. If your firm has a poor story, it won’t resonate internally or externally. If your staff cannot “live it” during the day, perhaps your entire culture is not living it. The point is if you have people who buy in to the “why” and can internalize this story well, they will be much more likely to do the right thing.
Third, train people to consider the implications of what they say out loud externally as an employee or in their personal lives. This can be done with
- IBM style rules
- Role play scenarios
- Case studies
- Guidelines on who can engage and when. My personal guidelines include never engaging trolls, never engage haters, and if I am unsure about the implications, I do not respond.
Each firm, team, and role will need different training and may even use different tools – think Social Media Managers vs. Salespeople and which screens each uses.
- Marketing Team Training
- Communications is the most important team to train well because they are monitoring and engaging daily as well as sharing content. The social media manager, who owns your accounts and overall tone, is likely located here. David Meerman Scott wrote an entire book on this. Use it.
- Demand Gen/Field Marketing should work with the Communications or social media manager to integrate real time with the long-term aspects of demand generation such as adding real time content to nurturing flows, updating events, and running new content fast. In my view, this team should operationalize delivering the real time news to LDRs along with MQLs alerts. Some teams might have Sales Ops or Marketing Ops handle that part.
- Customer Marketing should monitor and be attuned to customer changes and actual customer people. If a customer record is showing activity related to the product or in other areas you can help, make sure that news is given to their Customer Rep as well. Customer service should be able to communicate with the Customer and internal reps quickly and with the real-time information from the customer such as behaviors, posts to forums, and public complaints or comments.
- Sales Development Rep (SDR) or “Lead Development Rep” (LDR) as Hootsuite more accurately calls them.
Apart from the basic training, LDRs should be in the habit of monitoring their assigned leads or accounts for activity and real time news. If a lead is asking their network on Twitter and LinkedIn for help on which firm to investigate, make sure they call them up or ask an Evangelist to engage directly. It may be difficult for a LDR to engage this conversation without looking like a salivating lion, or overly self-serving. The training should help the LDR decide when to engage directly to help and when to have an Evangelist or Customer help.
- Account Executive/Field Sales
Continually monitor profiles and streams for news about their accounts as well as specific leads. As with LDRs, be aware of real time requests for information and engage in the same medium or by direct contact. For example, if a lead at an Opportunity requests references for your product, the AE must first engage in the same medium:
“Hey @hotlead I’d be happy to connect you or visit http://product.com/testimonials”.
It might make sense to follow up with a call with them as well as the Evangelists.
- Account Manager/Customer Manager
Continually monitor client information to ensure the new Customer is getting the right support from Customer Support and Onboarding. If they are hitting your forums or ecosystem blogs, then directly help in those mediums and try to bring the conversation back to you. If they are asking bout third party integrations, help them get to the right page as well as ask the third party to engage, if appropriate.
The Three Ds of Real Time
Real time methods do need some level of discipline, decency, and delicacy – the three Ds of Real Time.
- Discipline not to react without careful thought. Discipline to monitor the conversation always.
- Decency to engage appropriately, in the same medium, at the right time.
- Delicacy to engage or say something at the right time, or to say nothing at all.
There are hundreds of examples of brands and people engaging well (Oreos) or engaging badly. Be careful with scheduled tweets, auto follows, and rogue staff. And while Twitter is an infamous venue for these wins and fails, plenty goes on with Facebook and LinkedIn too.
Now that you are operating in real time, how can you report on the results?
Disclosures: I received an advance copy of the New Rules of Sales & Service before it was released in 2014.