Jim Eberlin to Speak at St. Louis Oracle Summit

On Tuesday May 27th Founder and CEO of TopOPPS, Jim Eberlin (founder of Host Analytics, Gainsight) will be speaking at the Oracle Applications Users Group.  The event will be held at the Hyatt Regency at The Arch in Downtown St. Louis, beginning at 8:00 A.M.  Eberlin will be speaking on the importance of driving deals through the pipeline through intelligent opportunity insights and greater visibility for sales management.  Eberlin’s company TopOPPs has created an operational sales software focused on increasing closed deals through sales team efficiency.  The company is headquartered in Downtown St. Louis.

The event is part of the 2014 Central States OAUG conference schedule.  The day will feature nine tracks ranging from social media to business intelligence and analytics.  The keynote will be delivered by Elke Phelps, Senior Principal Product Manager for Oracle E-Business Suite Applications Technology Group.  The conference will feature speakers from MasterCard, Emerson, Laclede Gas and Sunnen Products.  The event is free of charge to any employee that is an existing or prospective Oracle customer.  For all independent contractors and consulting firm, a fee for entrance will be applied.  A networking reception will be held following the conference at Cardinals Nation Restaurant in Ballpark Village.  For more information, including how to register, visit:http://csoaug.com/2014-spring-st-louis-oracle-summit/

Thoughts On Pipeline – a VP of Sales Perspective

I have spent a fair number of years with the title “VP of Sales” on my business card for companies big, small and in-between as well as consulting and coaching others who make their living in sales.  Throughout the whole time, my close and constant companion has, and always will be, my pipeline report.  I have nurtured, cajoled, played puts and takes, adds and takeaways, backfill and upside with the deals in my pipe while always having a list of my key deals.  In other words, those deals that can get me to or above target.  Late one quarter, in a particularly anxious time, I confess to putting my list under the pillow when I went to sleep.   As I said, we are close, and that is never a bad thing to be with your pipeline.  This is how you become well acquainted with the opportunities that will get you to plan.

As a sales rep, I knew my deals up close and personal.  As a first line regional manager with individual contributors reporting to me, I was still very close to the actual deals.  As a VP managing regional managers though, the number of reps and their deals meant that most deals were now numerical abstractions – numbers in a report with weight and probability rankings, and Y or N in “Commit” columns, but at the most, a sentence or two of context or color.  

What does 75% vs. 60% and “Best Case” vs. “Commit” mean?  Do any of these filters tell me what deals are actually going to close?  Is one rep’s “Best Case” another rep’s “Commit”?  All reps’ opinions are subjective, and inevitably vary from one another’s.  As a VP with many deals to choose to focus on you have to ensure that your version of the opportunity map – your pipeline and forecast reports, give you the best idea of which deals deserve your attention (other than the most obvious).

So how do you map that out?

Well the traditional answer is that you institute a pipeline management process, which could be called many names (pipeline scrub, drill down, pipeline inspection and so forth), but fundamentally they are different versions of the same idea. The reason for this is simple: it isn’t your first rodeo; you understand that you cannot trust a forecast report, and by association, anything in the pipeline.  Even in the most optimistic and least risk scenario, a sales VP knows it is best to remember Ronald Reagan’s advice: “trust but verify”.

This necessary process of verifying and scrubbing is an arduous process. First you must torture the data, and then torture the sales team to verify as well as add color and context to what is summarized in the report   Let’s not forget that in addition to scrubbing, this is the time to try and ask the right questions and gain any missing information and insight.

This process works.  However, it takes a lot of time and arguably takes away from the actual process of selling.  However, it is necessary and no person or tool has figured out how to improve the process of collecting the right information, asking the right questions, vetting  and determining what deals matter most at any given time. 

What if you had a tool though, an augmentation to your existing CRM system that could be easily deployed and integrated on top of your current implementation? What if this tool (using big data and machine learning) could then  automate, or at least vastly improve, and speed up the scrub process?  What if this same technology could also allow you to mine your pipeline and percolate up the deals that you may be able to make the most impact on? Better yet, what if it did so early enough in the forecast cycle so you could maximize your time to act?  Finally (and this is the really new, cool thing that would make this so special!), what if you had a mobile app that intelligently prompted your sales people with the right questions to provide the right information in just a couple clicks?   When the “data in” is current, complete, qualified and constantly updated then you have the right ingredients to feed your analytics engine.  That’s when the magic happens.

Up until now, despite the amazing progress of sales automation and CRM tool

functionaltiy, there has been little to offer that helps with the critical task of pipeline management.  Sales executives are still looking for a more efficient way to monitor desired outcomes – predictability, gap deal identification, pipeline improvement, etc.  It remains a hand rolled, manual process, unique to each individual manager.

The mission for TopOPPS is to change all that.  For me, TopOPPS has been a game changer- mission accomplished. 

Sales Ops: The Invisible Hero

Congratulations! Your sales quotas were hit and sales are higher than projected!

Way to go sales team.

Nice job sales executives.

Great work sales ops…Wait, who?

            Everyone knows the sales reps and sales executives live the pressure of meeting their numbers every quarter, but we commonly forget about the behind the scenes hero coming from operations to glue it all together and make it work.

The evolution of sales ops management comes with robust responsibility behind the scenes of many integral parts of business functions. A good sales ops person is responsible for putting data behind theory and recognizing trends to drive deals through the funnel faster.

Why does Rep A have a short sales cycle than Rep B? Can that be taught to Rep B?  Why are all deals getting stuck at a particular state in the funnel? Which verticals have the fastest sales cycles and why? Can we get marketing to drive more inbound leads from those verticals? These are great examples of information sales ops needs to collect from the sales process to help reps and executives hit their numbers.

Frequently it’s the recommendations a sales ops makes to executives that become vital procedures within the organization. Talk about pressure – and with the rise of technology promising everything under the sun from efficiency to higher close rates to better performance, sales ops is now tasked to analyze different products and evaluate the pain and time associated with implementation process to be worthwhile.

When sales ops is reviewing products to help their organization, it is important to consider all aspects of their role. If a product complicates sales ops too much, it is not likely it will be accepted and approved, especially in established businesses. Products need to be easily implemented with little or no involvement or interference with current operations. This is music to their ears.

In most cases, sales operations come into play where strategy meets execution. Operations strategy focuses on analytics, pricing models and sales processes, which build the process for execution. Execution consists of reporting, sales support, and CRM tools implementation commonly with customization and constant management. These responsibilities literally bridge sales with the rest of the organization. Products and tools have to make sense for operations, or they will never succeed or have total adoption throughout the company.

Rumored to have more than 3,000 selling tools to choose from, selecting the right product is a daunting task. There are two kinds of tools, those for reps and those for ops.  In many cases, sales ops spears the search for both and rarely finds tools that truly fulfill needs of both roles. Rep tools need to streamline their data input efforts while keeping them efficient and on target within their pipeline. Operations needs tools to improve data accuracy to eliminate thousands of hours of manual work to gather information to project sales and improve the sales process.  If sales reps can be precise with their input and efficient in the process, sales ops will have the data they need to create accurate reports and support the process, ultimately resulting better sales metrics, which makes the executives happy. Everybody wins. But, the root of this success is reps’ compliance and operations’ adoption.

Although ops will likely remain an invisible hero, tools are evolving to have impact on operations roles. With easy implementation and rep compliance, technology focused on sales operations will become the knight in shining armor.

Buyer Personas Infographic by Richard Harris

On-Demand Webinar: How Grading Opportunities Leads to Predictable Sales Download

On-Demand Webinar: How Grading Opportunities Leads to Predictable Sales
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The Value of Target Verticals and Buyer Personas by Richard Harris

The Value of Target Verticals and Buyer Personas

Lead generation and demand generation circles centers around the concept of buyer personas. We define buyer persona as traits such as titles, roles, and levels of influence with respect to making purchasing decisions for products/services.

Having built many sales teams and trained hundreds of sales reps, I can assure you that this information is mission critical for any sales and marketing organization. Without understanding the needs, desires, and pain points of the people you will engage in, your sale cycles will be longer and may be unsuccessful.

The first step is learning about target verticals.

Target Verticals

Many organizations think that their product can be everything for everyone. However, in most start-up cases, this is not reality. While you may have customers in a variety of verticals and industries, every company should do a deep analysis of their current customers to understand target verticals. A target vertical is a slightly broader definition of industries which are typically defined by SIC or NAICS codes.

Is your product or service is truly only viable for one vertical?

Hotels are classified as being a part of the hospitality industry. And while the industry may be hospitality, the vertical would be travel. When thinking about travel you will start thinking about airlines, hotels, rental cars, which will help expand your market. It’s what companies like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, and Priceline have done moving from hospitality to travel and all that travel encompasses.

I encourage everyone to create more opportunities for yourself and not be limited by the straightforward definition of a vertical, but use the broader definition.

The Value of Target Verticals and Buyer Personas

Lead generation and demand generation circles centers around the concept of buyer personas. We define buyer persona as traits such as titles, roles, and levels of influence with respect to making purchasing decisions for products/services.

Having built many sales teams and trained hundreds of sales reps, I can assure you that this information is mission critical for any sales and marketing organization. Without understanding the needs, desires, and pain points of the people you will engage in, your sale cycles will be longer and may be unsuccessful.

The first step is learning about target verticals.

Target Verticals

Many organizations think that their product can be everything for everyone. However, in most start-up cases, this is not reality. While you may have customers in a variety of verticals and industries, every company should do a deep analysis of their current customers to understand target verticals. A target vertical is a slightly broader definition of industries which are typically defined by SIC or NAICS codes.

Is your product or service is truly only viable for one vertical?

Hotels are classified as being a part of the hospitality industry. And while the industry may be hospitality, the vertical would be travel. When thinking about travel you will start thinking about airlines, hotels, rental cars, which will help expand your market. It’s what companies like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, and Priceline have done moving from hospitality to travel and all that travel encompasses.

I encourage everyone to create more opportunities for yourself and not be limited by the straightforward definition of a vertical, but use the broader definition.

Buyer Personas

This is where the rubber meets the road. If you do not understand your buyers’ journey for each person you engage in your sales cycle, you will struggle for a very long time. Furthermore, the buyers’ journey has little to anything to do with you, your company, or your services, you are sadly mistaken.

In fact, the buyers’ journey has nothing to do with you, your product, or even your service. Let me repeat, the buyers’ journey has zero to do with you.

The buyer journey is focused around one thing: their pain. Your goal whether you are the VP of Sales or the VP of Marketing is to fully understand your buyers’ pains. You need to understand them deeply and intimately. Know it well and your competition won’t be able to take business away from you.

Your buyer personas should break down by target vertical and look to capture high level information across the following parties: decision makers and decision influencers.

Example:

Let’s say you want to focus on the travel vertical. Let’s use the example of online hotel booking companies. For the purpose of this post we will focus on a few roles: CEO, VP of Sales and VP of Marketing. Fill in the following:Untitled 22

TOPIC:                                 CEO                                           VP SALES              VP MARKETING  
Reports To:                           Board                                          CEO                       CEO
Keeps them up at night:        Bookings/Mobile Growth             Closing Revenue    More/Better Leads
Compensated on:                 Bookings/Mobile acquisition        Closed Revenue     MQL’s

You can see the buyer personas are taking shape. While both people are ultimately interested in success of the company because of their role, they have different motivations and drivers.

The CEO, VP of Sales, and the VP of Marketing, while on the same team about solving pain points, have very differing needs when it comes to selecting a solution to that pain.Recognizing this early on, allows you to speak directly to customers with specific regards to your product or service while speaking to their intimate needs and desires. Caution! We are still focusing on their pain, not your product/ service.

Buyer persona are analogous to x-rays. They both provide information to help you construct messaging specific to an individual’s pains. However what if you could go deeper than these surface elements?

What if you could dig deeper and get a full scan, like an MRI, and really get into someone’s psyche?

What if in addition to having the titles and pains known about your customers, you could also see what they have in common across other areas of interest like education level, tenure, etc.?

What if you could send out an email to 100 people, 30 people open, 5 respond and then learn the following?

1. Of the 5, what other similarities do they have and can you find more like them?
a) Education level and institutions, personal interests like hobbies or books they have read?
b) Then you can look for others with similar backgrounds.

2. Of the 25 who opened but did not respond, what if you would find their similarities and retarget a drip campaign to them?
a) Education level and institutions, personal interests like hobbies or books they have read?
b) Then you can retarget those 25 with a more meaningful message.

3. Of the 70 people who did not respond, what if you could find their similarities and retarget a drip campaign to them?
a) Education level and institutions, personal interests like hobbies or books they have read?
b) Then you can retarget those 70 with a more meaningful message.

Wouldn’t this be outstanding? It would be the difference between an X-Ray and an MRI. Knowing your buyer personas is your X-ray. Knowing the similarities of people would be an MRI. As the world of marketing automation, lead generation and demand generation matures we are going to see greater pressure on sales and marketing to increase the quality of leads going into the top of the funnel as well as the revenue that comes out the bottom of the funnel. If you are not improving on your buyer personas and messaging, you are giving up leads and giving your competitors an edge. You may as well give up now and close the doors.

 

Domain Tech Report hosts Jim Eberlin of TopOPPS

The St. Louis Business Journal is showing its readers snippets of the weekly Domain Tech Report, produced by Techli, a St. Louis-based startup that came to town after it received a $50,000 Arch Grant in 2012.

Read more…

Sales Process Best Practices Part: 2

Stage Naming  Convention

This is often the part of a sales process that seems simple but often confuses people.  For example is the stage called “Qualified” or “Qualifying”?

Qualified – Means something has already happened.

Qualifying – Means you are still going through the process.

Following the above concept take a look at the two different sales process naming conventions: