6 Social Selling Tips to Implement Today (from Sales 2.0 San Francisco)

LlinkedIn for Salesforce

The hot topic at Sales 2.0 Conference today in San Francisco remains (surprise, surprise) social selling (for B2B companies). Lots of speakers and lots of wisdom but also became abundantly clear to me that for most B2B organizations it is very early days in the adoption of social selling techniques. Therefore, for my wrap-up blog of Sales 2.0 I decided to summarize six things that any organization could do to get started with Social Selling.

I hope you find this blog helpful. Please tweet if you do: your own text or this clickt0tweet link.

1. Use your second degree connections

Mike Derezin (@mikedfresh), Global Head of Sales, Sales Solutions at LinkedIn shared that second degree (LinkedIn) connections are 87% more likely to respond to any e-mail or phone call as compared to a cold call. If there is one place to start it would be to use your second degree connections as part of our (outbound) sales efforts. And not just your own second degree connections: also the second degree connections of the rest of your team. The new LinkedIn TeamLink product looks promising in this regard: it lets you tap into the second degree network of your entire company’s team.

2. Follow and engage strategic accounts on Twitter

Jill Rowley, Director of Strategic Accounts at Eloqua is the queen of using social media to engage with strategic accounts. You cannot do this for all your prospects and customers, but the best place to start is to create a short list of accounts that you are targeting for this quarter and deeply engage with them via social media. Follow them on Twitter and engage with them. Make the conversation personal. Often twitter, and sometimes even a text message, can be a great alternate way to get in touch with target accounts these days when people’s e-mail inboxes are overflowing. Be careful about engaging with prospects on Facebook. Mike Denizen shared research that shows that 80% of people want their social and professional networks separate.

3. Turn all employees into customer coaches

Your goal as a salesperson is to add value. Think of yourself as a customer coach: your job in sales is to make your customer successful and revenues will follow. Jill Rowley, super-star sales queen mentioned above, calls herself a “content concierge” on behalf of her prospects. “Think of prospects as as future advocates for your brand”, says Jill Rowley. “She clearly does a good job”, says Matt Heinz, a marketing consultant on stage at Sales 2.0: “Until today I didn’t know Jill is in sales. I thought she was an evangelist”. Eventually, not just your sales reps should be customer coaches, but every employee in the company is representing the brand and could be building trust with prospects and customers on social media.

4. Focus on lifetime customer value

Eryc Branham said it: “the only sales metric that matters in the end is customer lifetime value”. Customer lifetime value also featured high on Matt Heinz’s Top 10 Sales Metrics list, but I am with Eryc that all that matters in the end is customer lifetime value. Jim Cyb, VP of North American Sales from Zendesk shared: “the key to the success of Zendesk is a land and expand selling strategy”. It is not about the first sale, but about a lifetime of purchases. You can start small, establish any kind of paid relationship with your customer and grow from there. And, as Donal Daly, CEO of the TAS Group pointed out, when calculating Customer Value include “network value”: the revenues generated from referrals made by your customers.

5. Assign leads based on social proximity

I wrote about this before in Top 5 Trends in Sales 2.0 but this is still one of my favorite social selling black belt techniques: assigning leads based on “social proximity” (remember Tip 1 on leveraging second degree connections) makes the most sense. This time, Jim Cyb from Zendesk offered a good alternative if you are not quite ready for “social territories”. Zendesk is assigning leads based on a round robin system which is straightforward, eliminates any territory fights and aligns with today’s low-touch, virtual selling environment.

6. Make your product social

Research says that by 2020, 85% of the buying process will be completed before a salesperson is called.  In a day and age that direct contact with buyers is sparse, you should be listening to other channels.  Deploy social media tracking like Radian6 and Google Analytics to listen to your prospects. If your product is software, you should also be listening to what your product is telling you. Which trial users are active and what are they doing with your application? Did your paying customers stop using your application (and may cancel their subscription soon)? Of course this is the core of what Totango customer engagement is all about.  Even better – make your product a two-way social communication channel.  Communicate with your customers when and where you are top of mind: in your application with free tools like Appbox.js.

Top 6 Quotes on Software-as-a-Service Sales and Marketing

SaaS University

I was at the SaaS University conference in Austin this week organized by Rick Chapman from Softletter. This is really one of the only conferences in the United States that focuses on the business side of running Software-as-a-Service and cloud application companies.

These are my six favorite quotes on the sales and marketing of cloud applications and what I learnt from them:

1. “Software-as-a-Service is about Service (not Product)”

In the cloud you are selling a service, not a product. What does this mean? It’s often the best practices and business process around the code that matter most to clients. Chuck DeVita from the Growth Process Group shared how adding a design review methodology and implementation with conventional software products allowed one vendor to lift pricing from $15,000 to $100,000 per customer. The best practices and business processes were worth more than 5x the code itself.

2. “Products are evaluated, services are experienced”

Moving from a product to a service has implications for your marketing strategy as well. Ken Rutsky, an independent marketing consultant who used to run Marketing at Netscape and Secure Computing, pointed out that: “products are evaluated, services are experienced”. So for your marketing, forget about white papers and instead focus on creating experiences such as self-service demos and a self-service trial which give prospects a taste of your service experience.

3. “The CRM system of the future is your website (CRM is dead)”

Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite CEO said in his keynote: “the CRM system of the future is your website”. I would like the quote even better if it wasn’t so self-serving but there is still a lot of truth in his statement. The SaaS service itself is becoming the primary platform for communications with the customer. Rick Chapman added that a SaaS service should also embed community elements and become the primary channel for communications for customers amongst themselves.

4. “Product management is dead”

A surprisingly large percentage (about half according to an upcoming study by Softletter) of SaaS companies have integrated requirements management into their service: this means that customers can submit feature requests from within the application. Patrick Fetterman shared that Plex Systems has taken this one step further: they give customers a “budget” which can be used to “buy features”. Beyond the assigned budget, customers can also pay extra to get even more features. There are no product managers at Plex, just developers and community managers.

5. “Your customers know more about your solution than your sales guys”

This is another quote from Ken Rutsky. With so much information available on the web, propsects now have more knowledge and expertise about your product (and your competitor’s) than your sales guys. So why not get out of the way and create a friction less sales model? Most SaaS companies are moving towards a self-service discovery and self-service delivery model. In Softletter’s 2012 SaaS Report 51% of SaaS companies report to use a direct sales force. It is still high but down from 60% last year. Indirect (zero touch) selling on the other hand jumped to 25%.

6. “Don’t get people to buy, get them to use your app”

It is much easier to sell if prospects already love your service. The imperative to drive usage and adoption doesn’t stop after the initial sale. Most SaaS companies now use a “land and expand” sales strategy. In Softletter’s survey, the dollar-based renewal rate for SaaS companies ranges from 70% to 140%. Larry Cates from KeyStone On Demand, an online training application, analyzed the main reasons why customers cancel: low organization adoption, not enough customer stakeholders or the app is not utilized properly to gain full potential. These all relate to “lack of usage”. App reliability, competition or budget were reported much less frequently.

Joel York: Why to Measure Customer Engagement in SaaS?

Why and How to Measure Customer Engagemetn in SaaS?

Joel YorkJoel York has written extensively about the new breed of B2B buyer and the changes to the B2B sales process, especially for SaaS products.

A quick recap …

The good old sales process according to Joel

“The process went something like this: ask the analysts about the next big thing, collect requirements into and RFP, get a list of vendors from a roundup in an industry magazine, go to a trade show and collect collateral, solicit and evaluate RFP responses by mail or fax, call in a short list of vendors to do a dog and pony show, follow up with a technical drill down meeting, maybe do a bake-off or a pilot, select a vendor, call a reference account, negotiate final pricing and contract terms, and wrap it all up by planning out phase 2 of the project: a complex and expensive implementation.”

The new breed B2B buyer: it’s self-service stupid!

“With such a treasure trove of information available online, the Internet is the 21st century B2B buyer’s first stop for researching products and services. Your strongest strategy is to give the prospect efficient self-service access to your content.”

“In the case of most SaaS and cloud applications, the entire B2B buying process is cheap: trial is free and purchase amounts to a monthly subscription that can be canceled at any time. So in addition to reading about the product, the barriers for a customer to go ahead and just try your product itself (even without a lot of upfront research) are low.”

Long story short, the key to the wallet of the new B2B buyer:

Instant online gratification through efficient self-service

So it’s no surprise that many SaaS companies spend their marketing dollars on content creation and inbound marketing, and invest in marketing automation to track campaign ROI.

Good. But not enough. According to Joel.

Inbound marketing or simply getting found by a prospect is not enough. Once you are found, you must engage with that prospect frequently and consistently throughout the entire customer lifecycle, because if you don’t, your competitors will, and what is easily found can be just as easily lost.”

What’s worse, simply accessing your content may no longer be a reliable indicator of purchase intend. Joel uses the term “fuzzy funnel” to describe the undeterministic process that customers follow these days: the new B2B buying process is anything but linear, deterministic and under the B2B salesperson’s control.

So what comes after inbound marketing? If accessing your content is no longer a reliable indicator of purchase intent, then how to best measure customer interest?

I asked Joel some questions on it via e-mail and got his permission to publish his answers on this blog:

  1. Do you see more B2B buyers demanding instant and self-service access to the product or service (rather than just to information and education about the product)?

Joel: I think in general, B2B buyers want a trial whenever it is possible. A brochure or a video is great, but they are no substitute for test driving the actual product you plan to buy. It’s more educational, more convincing, and more comforting to see the real thing. And, given the choice of getting it immediately without a salesperson looking over their shoulder vs. scheduling a demo or a pilot that will be designed to hide any flaws, most B2B buyers will choose the former. However, I prefaced all this with “whenever it is possible.” Some products are so complex that it is simply too much work for the buyer to go it alone, especially those that need extensive configuration, imported data and integration and before they are useful, and in these cases the buyer will actually prefer to lean on the advice and assistance of a salesperson.

2. Do you see a strong correlation between trial sign-up and product usage and the conversion to a paid customer (as compared to say, downloading a white paper)?

Joel: Absolutely. Test driving the real thing demonstrates more interest and requires more commitment on the part of the buyer than reading a piece of content.

3. Do you see marketing automation systems, which you mention in your article, integrating trial usage related metrics into their lead scoring algorithms?

Joel: If they are smart marketers they will. As I mentioned, trial and usage demonstrate interest and commitment. If the statistics are segmented, e.g, what is tried and used, they also show interest at the feature/function level, which can be used in both marketing campaigns and sales calls. For all these reasons, trial and usage statistics are probably some of the strongest indicators you could integrate into a lead score.

Of course, I very much agree with Joel. Participating in a trial is the best possible indicator of potential customer commitment. Of course, I also believe that not all trial customers are created equal. As we discussed in a previous post: a prospect with many users and many hours of trial usage is a hotter prospect than a trial user who only logged in once. And yes, of course Totango can help you figure out who these hot prospects are!

Tools to Manage a Successful SaaS Business

Managing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business isn’t trivial. Successful SaaS companies are able to deal with a high volume of leads and turn those into a high volume of loyal customers with fast response and turnaround time.

This is often referred to as the ‘sales and marketing machine’ – a highly optimized, massively scalable and controlled business operation that is capable of:

  • Generating, managing and nurturing leads;
  • Converting leads into paying customers at high conversion rates;
  • Ensuring customer success and preventing churn;
  • Continuously increasing the service value, differentiation and offerings.

In order to build a ‘sales and marketing machine,’ companies need to invest in the tools that will get them the business scalability that is required and reduce the learning curve.

Many startups begin with homegrown solutions using spreadsheets and databases (with a bit of integration glue in between). This is sufficient for small scale, but quickly becomes unwieldy as the organization grows. Luckily, there are excellent tools available for SaaS companies to leverage.

Many vendors have a “starter” package, so there is really no excuse not to start building your tool-chest sooner rather than later.

The Customer Life-Cycle

To best understand where the different categories of tools fit, it’s best to look at the various stages of the customer life-cycle, as they evolve from early prospects to mature customers.

At Totango, we use the following customer life-cycle terms:

  • Visitor – Anonymous user on the website
  • Lead – Person who has expressed some interest in the service. This can be anything from downloading a white paper to signing-up to a trial
  • Evaluating – A user (or company) who’s actively evaluating the service usually during a trial period or fermium
  • Onboarding – A paying customer in the initial usage period
  • Mature – A paying customer who has been loyal to the service beyond the initial usage period

With those definitions in mind, it’s easier to associate solutions and tools to help carry customers through every phase of their life-cycle.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

CRM is a common way to keep a reference of all customers’ life-cycle stages. CRM organizes all contacts’ information and account details in a single database, so it’s vital you select a tool that fits your needs and can grow with you.

Primary users
Specifically, your CRM software will be the main working software of your inside sales teams as they organize account work mainly during the sales life-cycle phases.

Select list of CRM solutions
Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Highrise, or the ever promising Pipedrive

Web Analytics

Web analytics tools keep track of visitor activity on your website and various other marketing properties; this is where you keep track of your top-tier leads funnel, measure the initial success of marketing and advertising programs, and work to improve visitors’ experience with your products’ properties.

Primary users
Mainly the marketing team, though other users in the organization (product team, IT) will need to use it as well.

Select list of Web Analytics solutions
Google Analytics is the most commonly used tool. It’s immensely powerful, feature-rich and free. But there are other good tools your marketing team should look at, such as Clicky, WebTrends that provide additional useful views into vistiors’ actions.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation takes you beyond basic web-properties and aims to help you interact, build, and cultivate a relationship with leads, so they can ultimately be passed on to your sales team and “convert” to happy customers.

Primary users
This is your marketing team’s main toy!

Select list of Marketing Automation tools
Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua

Post Marketing

A post marketing (sales & customer success) solution stack for SaaS companies does not exist yet. Enabling the buying process (converting leads), ensuring customer success, and increasing service value, is something that I feel is needed and missing in the market, and this is what we’re building in Totango.

SaaS Dashboard

Having all the above tools in place enables marketing, sales and customer success teams to effectively do their jobs and be an integral part of the ‘sales and marketing machine’.

Having said that, it’s crucial to have a single business dashboard available to the executive teams that allows them monitor the business end-to-end.
The SaaS dashboard should include operational metrics, trends and key business performance indicators (KPI’s), which allow the business owners, get ‘the full picture’ of the business, identify bottlenecks and allow to teams to take appropriate actions.

Summary

The SaaS model presents an opportunity to run a predictable and high-volume business. The first step is to put the required business infrastructure in place in order to monitor, analyze and optimize the sales and marketing machine operation continuously.

In coming posts, I’ll discuss in further detail the actual attributes of the SaaS dashboard.

Get your FREE copy of our latest RESEARCH:

The 2012 SaaS Free Trial, Freemium and Pricing Benchmark

get-your-free-copy


About Totango:

Totango analyzes in real time customer engagement and intention within SaaS applications to help you grow your business

 

Want to have a successful SaaS business?
Try Totango free for 30 days