Sunday, December 6, 2009

Push vs Pull Inside Sales Management Styles

There is a reason why so many companies are talking about push vs. pull approaches to marketing and's what buyers are asking for. If this is what buyers are asking for......and let's face it, buyers "keep the lights on"....... then shouldn't the people who lead our companies have the same approach to management? The same people who we are marketing our products and services to, are interviewing for positions at our companies. Times are changing and so should our management styles.

The push vs. pull groundswell of change stretches far beyond just sales and marketing departments. It's a shift in the overall mindset of the Web 2.0 workforce. All departments within an organization need to rethink their general approach to management. I like to think of myself as a "pull" manager. One who understands that each member of my team may need to be managed differently. I'm not a believer in "pushing" out blanketed one size fits all ideas and tactics. Buyers are asking to be treated as individuals and so are the people we are managing.

Inside Sales folks' personalities are becoming more and more resistant to "pushing" management styles. Give your team control, treat each individual with respect, find out what motivates them as individuals and watch the "pulling" begin. The key is to gain respect from your team. Provide value to them as a leader, not as a manager. By doing this, they will engage with you and embrace all of the ideas, skill sets and tactics that got you hired in the first place.

Just like pull marketing, this approach to management takes time. Results do not happen overnight like your push marketing campaign, but I'm willing to bet that the long term results will blanket the petty short term results of the prior. I'm a big fan of organic lead generation and I want to lead my team of inside sales folks with the same mentality.

p.s. I'm pulling for the Packers on Monday night football

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

SaaS Inside Sales Managers & Directors-Tip For Idea Success

If you're in a SaaS Inside Sales position of leadership and want to get one of your ideas off the ground and eventually used by the entire team, then instead of rolling things out to the entire team in the beginning, try starting off with your most passionate individuals on the team. Look at it as Beta testing your ideas prior to GA (general availability).

If Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it has taught us that a few passionate individuals can spark an enormous following. Try applying this the next time you have a great idea for your inside sales team. If you start with this select few and it fails, then odds are your idea wasn't that great after all. But if it does work, then watch how viral it becomes with the rest of the team.

The days of blindly marketing your company's products and services are gone, so why would marketing ideas be any different? I look at it as a win win. A bad idea will surface much quicker and a great idea will spread even faster. The key to this being successful is to figure out early who on your team would be most passionate about the idea.

Every single team member has a "passion button". It's up to you as a leader to find out whose button maps closest with your idea. Buttons may vary from individual to individual, but at the end of the day they all wear the same shirt.....making money!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Solving The Mystery of ROI With SaaS Solutions

In tough economic times, you better be able to prove hard ROI with your solution. Fuzzy or soft ROI is not an option. Your chances of making it into year 2 and beyond becomes slim to none, especially if budgets are tight. We all know that your cost of sale per seat becomes lower and lower the longer you retain your client, so if you wanna turn their purchase into an investment it is imperative that you baseline in the beginning, establish goals with your clients and constantly be tracking against their goals. Here are some simple steps to ensure your success...

Step #1 Baselining
Baselining is the process of knowing exactly where things stand today. If your a SaaS company selling a solution designed to increase the number of leads for a company, then find out how many leads the company is generating per month today. Also baseline how much this is currently costing the company and how much revenue they are currently generating from the leads. Document the baseline numbers. It amazes me how many companies don't document baselines. This simple step eliminates so much guess work moving forward.

Step #2 Goals
Establishing goals is nothing more than asking the customer, "Where would you like to be 3-12 months from now". If they are coming to you for more leads, then a goal would be something like, "I want to increase my monthly leads from 100 a month to 400 leads a month." Don't forget to document the goals!

Step #3 Offer up best practices advise to ensure success
Every SFA/CRM tool has the ability to track a lead source or campaign source. Make certain your clients are aware of this feature. Using it allows you to track not only leads, but also opportunities and closed revenue associated with the leads. There is no guess work, if done properly. Document the advise you passed along!

Step #4 Track success with your client
You need to check-in frequently with your client to make certain you are tracking against your products claims and the clients goals. 100% transparency is the goal here. As long as you are tracking towards their goal, then the chances of them renewing their contract are much greater. Document your clients success!

By documenting everything you essentially get both sides to put the proverbial "skin in the game". At the end of the 12 month contract you were either a cost or an investment. If you were an investment, congratulations on the renewal. If you were a cost, better hope their business is booming otherwise your about to lose a customer.

By doing these 4 steps you will minimize the following annoying and ever so common scenario. Which by the way rubs my rhubarb as a sales manager!

Kevin thanks for calling. Our CFO is cutting budgets across the company right now and we don't know if we will be renewing our contract with XYZ Corporation. We need to look at the ROI with all of our software purchases. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Buyer 2.0 Funnel

Sales 2.0 is the combination of Web 2.0 technologies coupled with new buying and selling techniques. Traditional sales funnels are a thing of the past, so I have created a new buyer funnel to get the creative and current juices flowing

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

SaaS Inside Sales Compensation Plan

Building the right compensation plan for your SaaS inside sales reps is imperative and complicated. One size does not fit all, but I have gone ahead and constructed one as a guide/example for folks to use with full quota carrying reps.

There are two metrics you need in order to build the most accurate compensation plans: First you need to know how much you are planning to sell your software for per seat/user per month. The second is your total Sales & Marketing cost of sale. S&M COS includes all marketing cost and sales overhead.

Once you have your S&M COS for the month, divide that number by the number of seats/users sold in the month. Let's say your total S&M COS calculation came out to $500 for the month of September. If your billing at $50 per seat with a S&M cost of $500, it would take about 10 months to recoup the S&M cost per seat. If your recouping your cost in less than 1 year's time (<12 months) your doing things properly and on your way to becoming a successful and profitable SaaS company.

Now let's get a little more granular. Say your a start-up and not certain of your total S&M cost of sale and all you want to do now is argue that your incremental cost and pay of an inside salesperson is reasonable. Here is an example:

Step 1: Pay Structure
-You want to pay your inside sales reps 40% base and 60% commission
-You want to pay them $48K base and $72K commission OTE of $120K (good salary)

Step 2: Cost of the individual (just using an industry average)
-Take industry average of 1.2x to 1.4X base salary for the individuals cost to the company (I will use 1.2X since your a start-up and your costs are probably still fairly low)
-Cost to the company for base salary is 1.2X of $48K=$57,600
-Cost to the company for commission is 7.65% (FICA and Medicare) or in this case $77,508
-Total cost to the company for the individual is $135,108

Step 3: Determine the price per seat for your software per month

Step 4: Do the math
-If a rep sells a 225 user deal in September it covers the incremental cost of that employee. 225 x $50 per user x 12 months = $135,000

Step 5: Understanding the power of SaaS
-This is recurring revenue, so the goal is to keep the customer for years to come. In years 2, 3, and beyond is where you really start to make money and your total cost of sales starts to drop substantially.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

When Inside Sales Tenure Becomes an Anchor

How many times have you heard this from one of your top performing inside sales reps, "I have been doing this for several years and I am 100% at plan for the year. I just want to be left alone, so that I can do my job." Welcome the two biggest anchors of personal growth for most sales people.....tenure and quota attainment. Be careful, two of your biggest assets could be a latent liability if you are not careful.

Tenure and quota achievement are two great things to have on your sales team. I wish all my reps possessed both. But the potential problem for you as a seasoned, quota achieving sales person is becoming status quo. Everyone can always improve. Take Tiger Woods for example. He is by far the world's best golfer, so why does he need a 60 year old swing coach? Because he knows how important the fundamentals of golf are and even his swing gets off track. He constantly is pushing himself to get better and he insists on having multiple coaches who push him to be the best at all times.

This is the type of team I want to lead. Folks who never are happy with quota attainment, folks who understand change and the importance of changing with it. I push my teams to be creative and Web 2.0, but I never forget about the basics of selling and how to create value for our clients. It's easy to get off track when you have mastered your product and processes. It's my job as a leader to keep the team up to date with the times and constantly fine tuning the basics.

Here are some of the basics in which I preach and teach:
1. Ask...Why is that important to you?
2. Establish baselines. If they want to increase revenues by 20% using your product...find out what their revenues are today.
3. The ability to listen.
4. Never answer for the customer...let them tell you themselves even if you know the answer.
5. Never sell futures.
6. Be consultative.
7. No when to walk away from the deal.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

SaaS Inside Sales Teams Are a Great Collaborative Filtering Engine

Making sense of the information on the internet is a huge task. This is why a lot of companies like LinkedIn, Amazon and Google are putting an enormous amount of effort into collaborative filtering. Collaborative filtering (CF) is the process of filtering for information or patterns using techniques involving collaboration among multiple agents, viewpoints, data sources, etc. Your inside sales team is a great collaborative filtering engine....use it!

If I was a prospect and I had an inside sales person filtering information for me based on my needs and then proactively serving it up to me, I would be extremely impressed. They are providing me a form of filtering. If they are good, they are doing it with "my" interest in mind and remaining as agnostic as possible. Here is my example....

I want to buy Live Chat software for my company. I have done a little research on the internet and reached out to my first vendor for a little clarity. If the inside sales person was worth their salt, they would take this opportunity to differentiate themselves from all the competition and provide me with some killer filtering. I would have my inside team provide papers on why companies use Live Chat software, best-practices on how to use it, the major vendors in the space, the business value of the software, links to some forums/blogs talking about the different vendors and some industry expert videos or presentations on the subject.

The idea behind collaborative filtering is simple....based on my actions, preferences, behaviors and needs serve me up what I'm looking look for.'s all about me. As Seth Godin likes to say, "Nobody cares about you, they only care about me."

Don't overwhelm "me" with all of this information at once. Do it in increments that "me" can digest. Go at "me" speed. Always provide value to "me" and you will be rewarded.

Me going to keep this article short...from me to you..have a wonderful day!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Perfect SaaS Inside Sales Team

Since I have been asked several times over the last 3 weeks on how to go about creating the perfect inside sales team for a software company, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with all of you my thoughts. On the highest of levels it's really quite simple.....

The "right" inside sales team depends on where your company/product is in its life-cycle, whether your product can be sold remote and the expectations of your targeted market. These 3 factors should determine the business objectives of the inside sales team. When your inside sales team is delivering on clearly defined objectives, you have set-up the "right" inside sales program. Notice I didn't say "perfect" because odds are you can always improve upon how you are doing things. "Perfect" is an absolute and I don't believe in absolutes.

Example #1 If your a software company that delivers an install product or even a SaaS product that has a sales cycle of 6-12 months and the product can not be sold remote, then you probably have a team of outside sales executives doing the selling. This means that the biggest bang for your buck is an inside sales team that generates highly qualified opportunities and assists in the nurturing process of all leads and opportunities. In this scenario I feel it's most beneficial to create an inside team that is a true extension to the sales executives. This gives your prospects two very credible contacts for any questions, concerns and assistance needed during the entire sales cycle. Their compensation plans should be directly aligned with the sales folks they are supporting. I like to break up the comp plan into 3 components: 60% on opportunities, 20% on a 60-day rolling pipeline and 20% on closed revenue.

Example #2 SaaS vendors that offer a product that can be sold remote, should have totally different business objectives. This team should be focused exclusively on closing revenue. For this type of team I like a 40% base and 60% commission structure. For every dollar of monthly recurring revenue sold, they should get $1 of commission. Since it's most likely a 12-month contract this equates to about 8.3% (1/12) of commission.

Stay tuned for one of my future articles on how to go about creating a solid comp plan for your inside sales team. I will include cost of sale and base salary calculations.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Inside Sales Teams Must Communicate Emotion

Companies are trying everything under the sun in order to get pre-sold these days. I'll explain pre-sold or pre-qualified as I like to call it later, but one way to get the word-of-mouth engine humming is for all inside sales teams to learn the art of communication through emotion. By communicating emotion and trust you get people to listen. It doesn't matter if you're a SaaS company or an install software company, you still need to deliver on this basic human principal. The Web 2.0 world is clamoring for an emotional connection. If they don't get it from you, then they will look to your competitors.

Inside sales team objectives vary from company to company. Some companies have teams of cold callers, some have folks who work on getting appointments set for sales directors and some sell from A to Z by themselves. All teams, regardless of their business objectives must share this quality of communication. If you tap in to people's emotions they in turn will turn to the biggest channel of communication....known as the world wide wide and share with their friends about the connection and trust they have for you as an individual, your product and your company. The inside sales group is usually the first person from your company that the prospect talks with. I want my team prepared. How about you?

I understand that this may come across as strange to a lot of "highly experienced" sales folks, but it is exactly what buyers are asking for today. This necessity to communicate on an emotional level is only compounded in the social-media world because of the power of word of mouth. You can make a 1000 calls a day, send out 1000 emails, have 3 hour phone conversations and do mass-marketing campaigns until your blue in the face, but it will all amount to a hill of beans if you're not connecting on an emotional level with your market. These attempts will get you heard, but it will not get people to listen. The only way people will listen is if you're hitting their emotion button. Once you press this "emotion button" with one, watch the good word spread. This person will spread the word on how much you helped them to all of their network. Word of mouth referral is the best pre-selling you can do. By pre-selling I mean that your company and its product is coming pre-qualified or pre-sold by way of a personal recommendation.

This may sound a little funny to some of you, so let me give you one example of connecting on an emotional level with a prospect. You're a company that sells IT Governance software and you're an inside sales rep who is talking to the Dir of IT. You have had multiple conversations with him and from a technical standpoint your company is going to be able to deliver on all of his business objectives. The golden gem on a personal level that you uncovered during your conversations, is that his inability to monitor his entire network efficiently means he has to work a lot of weekends. You also know he has two kids and both are into sports. Because he has to work on the weekends he is missing his daughter's softball games and his son's soccer matches. This is the emotional connection and the biggest value-add to your prospect. He wants to see his kid's games. Now let's jump forward in time. Your software is installed and he has gained tremendous real-time visibility across his network, has spear-headed problems before they impact the performance of the network and his boss couldn't be happier. He also no longer needs to work weekends! You follow up with him and ask him how his daughter's hitting is going and his son's corner kicks....the best answer would be an answer!!!! He has an answer now because he is at all of their games. Your software, has delivered for him on a professional level and more importantly on a personal level.

Hey...maybe I'm on to something here. Picture know how on all company websites they have a ROI tab....well maybe we should have two levels of ROI: one level for the typical hard ROI numbers for the business and the other dedicated to emotional ROI. My example earlier might read like this..."By selecting ABC Company's product I was able to decrease my compliance costs by 50%. I also no longer have to work from home on the weekends fixing network problems. This allowed me to watch my daughter hit the game winning run in her softball tournament last Saturday afternoon."

"It's not personal, it's just business" going......going......gone!

Seth Godin does a great job of talking about this in this short video clip "The Mindset of a Winner"

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twitter Usage for Inside Sales Teams

I am a huge fan of elevating the game when it comes to an inside sales team. In this article I'm going to propose some ways in which your inside sales team can utilize Twitter. Before implementing any of these methods it is crucial that your company first establishes a public web participation policy. Here we go....

When it comes to the usage of Twitter for business, there are essentially 4 main buckets: Direct, Indirect, Internal and Inbound Signaling. I will focus on Indirect usage by inside sales teams. Indirect is basically empowering the inside sales team to tweet as individuals so as to improve their personal brand. Look at it as a channel of establishing credibility as individuals.

One of the jobs of inside sales teams is also to establish relationships and trust, which leads to credibility. Once the employee establishes credibility, by default so will your company. Here is an example: Say one of your inside sales reps tweets about a best-practice in your industry or tweets a video of an industry expert. Someone sees the tweet and applies it to their business. Or maybe they just thought it was great content. This prospect now views your inside rep as a valuable resource. The prospect then decides to click on the inside rep's profile to see where they work. The prospect does a little more digging into the company and realizes that your company provides a product or service that they could use at their own company. Who knows...they may even re-tweet your best-practice to their entire network of followers.

The usage in this case should be focused on providing peer-to-peer value, not the direct promotion of your company's products/services. This is called "Direct" tweeting and these kinds of tweets come from the company, not the individual. So that's it. Get out there inside sales teams and start tweeting as individuals.... and for the love of the Queen.... make certain your following the company's public web participation policies!

Here are a few more carrots:
1. Great way for them to keep tabs on the competition
2. Great way to share trends in the industry
3. Great way for them to learn more about your space in general and what is being said on the social-media wires

p.s. Here is a link to the Gartner report highlighting the buckets

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adopting a "Socially Organic" Company Policy

Definition of Socially Organic: The levels of effort your entire company and all of it's employees puts into becoming more social, resulting in more organic searches, leads, and social-media awareness as a whole. I did a Google search and found no such terms or policies, so readers please be aware that I created my own term and definition. Here we go....

Marketing should not carry all of the burden of creating organic leads, search results and awareness for the company. This is every employee's job. Everybody should do their part, at least one hour a day, contributing to the company's awareness on the social-media wires. Brand awareness happens when you contribute value to other communities, blogs, forums, and discussion groups. All employees, regardless of department, have something to say that can deliver value to our targeted audiences and relate to them on a personal level. Managing and tracking what your employees are saying is the tricky part, but I'm sure there is a company out there than can help in this area. Anyways.... try adopting a socially organic company policy.

The best long-term strategy in most companies from a marketing perspective is to create more organic searches. Organic searches have a long shelf-life and can linger on the web indefinitely. Not to mention they are a fraction of the cost of other avenues like pay-per-click and banner ads. So here is my idea: Each manager in the company asks each employee of his/her group to join at least 5 blogs related to their field, area of expertise, or market. Ask all employees to contribute regularly, comment on other postings and recommend other blogs to read.

The reality is, most employees spend a good amount of time on the internet at work. Encourage this, but ask them to spend their time creating your company's brand awareness. My guess is, if we incorporate this policy into our companies...our organic search results will skyrocket over time. Food for thought and bon appetit bloggers!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Level-Setting Expectations Between Marketing & Inside Sales Departments

Historically Marketing and Inside Sales departments tended to be on different pages. Even worse, they were on the same page, but reading different books. Marketing and Inside Sales should be joined at the hip and have one of the best cross-departmental relationships within any organization. The desire to achieve Web 2.0 status has elevated the importance of this relationship. A great first step, is the process of agreeing on what is considered a contact and what is considered a lead.

My best friend these days is my Marketing department. Marketing used to focus on pumping out as many “leads” as possible to my Inside Sales team. The more “leads” generated from a campaign; the more successful it was viewed. The problem was Marketing’s definition of a lead was drastically different than Inside Sales. The $10,000 question was, “What constitutes as a lead? We collectively sat down and agreed on our own criteria and it has made a world of difference for both teams. It also sets the proper expectations with C-Level folks. Together we are now actively differentiating between a contact and a lead. Contacts are just as important as leads because contacts are the pipeline for leads. If your company is going to put a lead-nurturing process in place you must place equal emphasis on both. Do this and you are one step closer to being a Web 2.0 company.

Take things a step further and start ranking/scoring all contacts. Contacts grow up to be leads. The key is to nurture to the individual contact and where that individual contact is in “their own” buying cycle, not to the masses. When and only when they reach a certain level, do they constitute as a lead. Because there is such a focus on nurturing contacts very early on in the buying process, inside sales and marketing teams have to work closer than ever before. If you make this shift in the way you treat each contact in your database, you are properly adjusting the way you market to Web 2.0 standards. You have also changed the dynamics of the relationship between the two departments. They key is to get both departments on the same page of the same book.

Here are a few Inside Sales trends:

1. Corporate hiring of outside sales reps has leveled off at a .5% annual growth, while hiring of inside sales reps is growing at lively 7.5% annual clip (James Oldroyd)
2. By 2012 nearly 800,000 more companies will host inside sales teams (James Oldroyd)
3. Buyers are finding sellers today, which is a fundamental shift in the sales process.
4. Companies once marketed to the masses, industry verticals or by job title. Now sellers have to personalize content and marketing initiatives based on an individual’s online behavior.
5. Don’t chase everything. Have faith in your marketing drip campaigns and focus on objective criteria (lead ranking) to determine who is ready to buy and who is not. This also dictates when to proactively call prospects.
6. Lead nurturing has placed more of an emphasis on getting contacts in the marketing drip.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hey SaaS Vendors…..Want to be Part of the Next Bubble of Irrational Exuberance?

Then revamp your messaging, website, and SaaS Inside Sales team to meet Web 2.0 specifications, but deliver a Web 1.0 product. Every aspect of your company’s existence has to be Web 2.0 and it all starts with your product. Your product has to support all of your claims and meet the expectations of your prospects. If it does not, then your prospects will get mixed messaging and this will lead to a loss of credibility which will lead to bad word of mouth which will lead to (fill in the blank). Spending thousands of dollars on new marketing campaigns can be wiped away with one free negative post about your product in the social-media world.

Most companies are overwhelmed by the level of effort involved in becoming a true Web 2.0 company. Yes it is a lot of work…no it doesn’t happen overnight….but it is very obtainable. Your upper management needs to be passionate about making their Web 2.0 dream a reality. We all know that when things are pushed from the top down, the likely hood of success is greater. Remember…"One small step toward your passion is a giant leap toward making it a reality.” (Jason Dorsey)

The good news is that there are a bevy of websites and blogs out there to help you achieve Web 2.0 reality. The bad news is a lot of these sources are the cliff notes to the novel. Since the attention span of bloggers is 90 seconds, blogs by nature are designed to do a lot of dangling. My blog “Inside Sales in a SaaS World” is a hopeful exception. My intent is to deliver and learn from the delivery of others.

I want to deliver on the SaaS inside sales side of Web 2.0 achievement. So let’s start off things with what to look for in hiring a great Inside Sales Manager, Director or VP.

1. At least 4 years experience in SaaS Inside Sales Management
2. Someone who places an emphasis on mentoring.
3. Someone who understands that the word “community” applies to within your organization, not just outside your company walls.
4. Someone who knows how to deliver a service. Marketing, Sales, Services and Account Management teams need to all be on the same page. You are a SaaS company, which means you are providing a service. Never forget about the acronym (Software as a Service). The service life cycle starts with marketing, then moves to inside sales, then moves to services, then moves to account management.
5. Someone who is open and transparent. These are two of the main themes of Web 2.0, so make certain your candidate possesses them as well.
6. Someone who has a record of growing a SaaS company from X amount of revenue to Y amount of revenue. You determine the compelling percentages.
7. Someone who understands Web 2.0 and can help build a Web 2.0 strategy or add to an existing one.
8. Someone who knows how to sell remotely with a focus on building credibility with your prospects.
9. Someone who has a passion for inside sales
10. Hire someone who appears to have no guard and got you to lower yours immediately. This quality will influence who they hire, how they train and how effective the team will be in a remote world.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who is King…..Content or Collaboration?

I’m going with collaboration. In their simplest form social media/networks/communities are nothing more than organized collaboration, or un-organized collaboration depending how empty your glass is. Every company is scrambling to figure out how they can tap into this world wide web of social collaboration. Who needs content when you have 1 million followers on Twitter?

Twitter is a King because it's a collaboration hub. I’m sorry, but 140 characters are not content. It is a quick shuttle service ride via a tiny URL to the hottest new SaaS inside sales blog or the coolest new movie or the worst restaurant or just a simple narcissistic update on exactly what you are doing right now. By the way…I’m writing an article right now on the new King in town…..Tweet!

Think about it…you could have the hottest new SaaS product going, backed by the most content rich website, but if people are not collaborating and talking about you, recommending you to others, then how successful do you expect to be? Social-networking sites or collaboration hubs as I like to call them are the hottest real-estate in town. In real-estate it’s all about location. Location….Location….Location. A rundown hole in the wall in a great location is worth more than a mansion on the wrong side of the tracks. Why is it good to be King? Because King’s are platforms and social networking platforms happen to be the alpha’s of location.

Twitter is 5th Avenue, Facebook is Park Avenue and Google is the entire city of Manhattan. Both Twitter and Facebook are the places where people go to collaborate both good and bad. What they have figured out, is that it’s all about building a following in the beginning. They want to be that platform in which people gather, communicate, recommend, rant, and be creative. Ever notice how few of applications Twitter actually provides themselves? It’s tiny compared to the 1000’s of Twitter apps built by others. Empowering the masses to be creative and collaborative on their platform…how ingenious is that? They built a great platform from the get-go and now they are a King. Being a King allows you to be a platform in the software world and let’s face it…platforms always seem to get the biggest multipliers. Look closely and you’ll see that most Kings are indeed platforms.

Not every company starts off as a platform. The typical evolution is from tool to application to platform. I understand that you just built the world’s most amazing social-media application, but you need to pump the brakes a little and think both short and long-term about your goals. In today’s world you have to start off as a platform or plug into the world’s best platform as a tool or application. The easier route is to start off as a tool and plug into a cloud. Tools can grow into platforms, which is the ideal evolution of a software company. Platforms don’t become tools. If you find your platform going down the tool rabbit-hole, then odds are your going out of business. Start small, but think enormous! is the King of success when it comes to this approach. They essentially started off as a fairly simple sales automation tool, with a focus on sales teams. They soon grew their tool out to be an enterprise application, with multiple departments using their functionality. They realized that even the best enterprise apps become commoditized, so they built a platform. Welcome In their world it’s all about controlling the most desired location…..your desktop.

So yes, it is great to be King, but Kings always get replaced. What does not get replaced easily...are castles. Castles carry over to the next King. The castle in this horrible metaphor is the platform and that’s where I would focus my efforts and dreams. Tweet dreams!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

SaaS Inside Sales-Is Your Team Worthy of the Adjective Web 2.0?

Google has become a verb and Web 2.0 has become an adjective. Web 2.0 is just as much about an evolving buying process, employee mindset and way of utilizing your employees to their fullest, as it is about technology evolution. Web 2.0 has become an adjective you want associated with all of your products, services, processes, employees, trainings, compensations and culture. Are you Web 2.0?

15 Warning Signs That Your SaaS Inside Sales Group is Web 1.0-
1. It’s an entry-level job
2. The job is positioned as a great stepping stone
3. Decent pay
4. Primary goals of the team are not aligned with the business goals
5. The group is not considered strategic
6. The hiring process is easy and there are plenty of candidates
7. Phone conversations are based on requirements gathering only
8. The group never has the opportunity of going on an implementation of your software
9. The group never visits clients with sales directors or account managers
10. No or very little formal training/ramp up period
11. Little growth opportunities
12. The group is not part of sales strategy meetings or product development meetings
13. The group reports to the VP of Marketing
14. The group rarely works trade shows
15. The group does not know how to demo your product

15 Great Signs That Your SaaS Inside Sales Team is Web 2.0-
1. It’s a very sought after job
2. Turnover is very little
3. Excellent pay
4. You nurture prospects based on where they are in their buying process
5. Compensation is directly aligned with the company’s business & revenue goals
6. You set-up highly qualified calls/appointments for the sales directors
7. It takes time to find highly qualified candidates
8. Training program is very extensive and continuous
9. Phone conversations are focused on business goals and delivering value coupled with requirements
10. The team reports to the VP of Sales
11. The team accompanies services team on implementations
12. The team accompanies account managers on initial on-site
13. The team is part of product roadmap discussions and sales strategy meetings
14. The team works the booth at various tradeshows
15. The team can demo your product at a high-level or walk someone through an automated demo

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

SaaS Ease of Use is an Intangible Wrapped Around a Tangible

I used to believe that a major reason why people chose one SaaS solution over another was based on intangibles like ease of use and UI. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that settling for a response like “We just want a SaaS solution that is easy to use” or “I chose your solution because it was easier to use” does me and my prospect no good. This may have been the reason they preferred you in the sales cycle or even why they ended up selecting you over the other vendors, but it isn’t what keeps them as a long term customer. Ease of use is an intangible wrapped around a tangible. Dig deeper into what your prospect/customer is saying and you will uncover the hidden tangible.

What keeps customers happy is the fact that you are constantly helping them achieve their business goals. Everything needs to tie back into a business goal. Uncover the business goals and you have got your baseline for success and improvement. I decided to share a phone conversation I had earlier this week, to demonstrate what I am talking about. In fact the deeper I dug into ease of use, the more I realized that the real reason my prospect was looking for a SaaS software solution was to increase their project margins by 20%. Here are some of the juicy details of the call…… about 5 minutes into it.

Kevin: What are your business goals?
Prospect: We are doing everything via Excel spreadsheets and this does not scale…we would like one central place to manage all our projects and to log time and expenses….it must be easy to use…. ease of use is the most important thing for us…this will determine who we go with.

Kevin: Why is ease of use the most important thing for you?
Prospect: Because my consultants need to use the solution for time and expense capture.

Kevin: Why is an easy to use time and expense solution important?
Prospect: Because my consultants won’t log all their time and expenses associated with projects if it isn’t easy to do. You know how consultants are.

Kevin: So what does that mean to the business if your consultants don't log all of their time and expenses associated with projects?
Prospect: Well, there have been cases we're we've lost money on projects because we aren't capturing every billable hour and that can directly affect the profitability of our projects.

Kevin: So you feel like your not making as much money as you should on your projects today?
Prospect: For sure

Kevin: Do you know what your margins are today on projects?
Prospect: They vary…but around 30%.

Kevin: Is 30% a good number for you…is this what you want?
Prospect: No I want to increase that number to 50%

Kevin: Perfect…so the real business goal is to increase project margins to 50% and you feel that an easy to use solution will help you achieve that?
Prospect: Yes exactly

Now that I know his real business goal (business goals always start with increase, decrease, or improve upon) I can focus the demo on how our solution can help. After they sign up as a customer my implementation team can circle back to those goals. This is a way to re-enforce what they told us was most important. After they have been live for a few months, the account management team can see how well we are tracking against those goals. If we are hitting their goals, then we have a very happy customer. If we are not, then we need to figure out why. Maybe they are not using the solution properly or to its fullest. Either way, we are still proving that we are constantly listening and making certain that we deliver on all of their goals.

PS. As a side note, if you can get the prospect to equate what the 20% increase in profitability means in real $$$, then the chances are the cost of your solution is minimal to the value of them reaching this business goal. Your solution then becomes an investment with great return.....rather than a cost!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

30 Tips for SaaS Companies Looking to Become More Social

Every SaaS company wants to become part of the giant social network, so I have put together a tip list.

**Some of these tips may be obvious to some and not so obvious to others. They are also in no particular order of importance**

1. Build a community/website
2. This community needs to be findable
3. Spend money up front on paid ads on all the major search engines
4. The goal is to get more organic searches
5. Get your company on Facebook and Twitter
6. Provide Live Chat BoldChat
7. Provide customer tutorials, ratings and reviews like Bazaarvoice
8. Provide industry white papers
9. Utilize landing pages as much as possible
10. Provide automated flash demos
11. Provide free trials
12. Provide case studies with hard ROI
13. Have third-party industry experts do webinars on best-practices, record them and put them on your site
14. Your website needs to talk about business challenges, not products and services
15. Build trust and credibility as an expert in the industry
16. Invest in a SFA solution like
17. Invest in a Marketing Automation solution like Eloqua
18. Have very targeted email campaigns
19. Do lead scoring (High Value Contacts vs. Low Value Contacts)
20. Track # of website visits
21. Track the popularity of all web content
22. Track form submittals
23. Track certain keyword searches
24. Build an Inside Sales Team (IST)
25. IST handles all the high-value contacts: hand holding them throughout the entire sales cycle, all low-value contacts remain in the marketing drip
26. IST should be able to offer up best practices advice and demo. It is imperative that they remain consultative
27. Nurture call all high-value contacts
28. Talk about business goals with your prospects not requirements
29. Be comfortable with the fact that buyers "will find you" in the Web 2.0 World
30. It’s all about social-networking….provide the social community and you will build a network of followers, prospects, customers and yes even a few enemies

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

How Generation “Y” Killed Cold Calling and Gave Birth to Credibility

Every generation brings with it change. If you and the way your company sells doesn’t accept and go with the trends of each new generation, you will become extinct. Welcome Generation “Y”. I’m not going to spend any time describing this generation, but if you want to understand them fully visit or read his book “My Reality Check Bounced”. It’s on my must read list for anyone who wants to understand how this new generation thinks, how they operate and what they expect. Once you understand them you will be much more effective at selling to them.

It is because of Generation “Y” that we are now talking so much about Web 2.0 today. Web 2.0 can be characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing and social communication over the internet. This is not only how they communicate, it is also how they buy. People are looking to social-networking sites to do the majority of their homework. Take Bazaarvoice for example. Bazaarvoice is a local company here in Austin that is making headlines daily by providing UGC (user generated content) for major brands across the globe. They understand completely that people/prospects want agnostic, third-party advice and recommendations prior to engaging with any sales folks. The good news for all of us in sales is when they do come calling; they are highly qualified leads and more than happy to talk with a representative from your organization.

Nurture calling, not cold calling is the most effective way to sell these days, especially for small to mid-sized SaaS companies. It’s the old “build it and they will come” mentality. Build the community, establish credibility and watch the really qualified leads come in. These are the types of leads that you want to call in to. Picking up the phone and calling prospects is an absolute must, but you have to realize that people today don’t want the cold call, they want the nurture call. A call that offers additional information pertaining to their initial interest or information specific to their industry or role - you know, something that actually means something to them.

The key for your company is to create a community destination for all of your prospects. Engagement coupled with best-practices content, testimonials and reviews is how you stay connected with all prospects very early in the sales process. Just because you’re not calling them doesn’t mean that you’re not communicating with them. In fact, this is how they prefer to communicate. Prospects need a place to share success and failure. A community that is available for everyone, you can't be scared of open and honest feedback, in fact some times negative feedback can be looked at as valuable information when enhancing your product or services. The feedback is, after all, what YOUR market is telling you they want and need. They want to talk with peers prior to talking with you. This is where a great marketing team comes into play. Building a website that acts as a community establishes credibility, which produces results. Results for all of us inside sales teams are qualified leads, which turn into qualified opportunities, which turn into revenue.

It is imperative that you establish creditability. Your company needs to be perceived as an expert in your field either from a functional standpoint or an information standpoint. Not all products can be as viral as a Google, but Google’s success can be attributed to the fact that people bought from friends or from a network of recommendations. The success of Google is really what Web 2.0 is all about today. It’s this idea of letting users do your marketing for you. Word of mouth is king.

So focus on the community or building a website that acts as a community; provide white papers and host webinars all geared towards your industry, not your solutions. In fact, it’s better if all content comes from industry experts outside of your company. Be the epicenter of valuable information for everyone in your field. Build this credibility and the customers will come. Google didn’t worry about how they were going to make revenue at first; they wanted to be the de-facto search engine. They were the best functional search engine out there. Once they got a huge following, they then said ok time to start selling add space, applications and o yeah a platform to all their devoted fans. Don’t focus on how you are going to make money, focus on building a following.

I would love to hear from others on how they built out their communities to foster this new approach to sales…..please share.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thanks to SaaS, Inside Sales Teams Are Now Vital to the Organization

SaaS has not only transformed the way we do business, it has also elevated the importance of a great inside sales team. Inside sales has grown from an extension of marketing to a true extension of the sales team. Inside sales once had a negative connotation both internal to the company and to the external world. Don't believe me? Ever been cold called? Yeah if you ask CEO’s and VP’s if they think their inside sales team is important they will say yes, but ask them what they do and they will inevitably say, “they bang the phones and get leads for our sales guys.”

If your inside sales team is just blindly banging the phones, then I'm here to tell you that you're wasting company money. No inside sales department should be cold calling. The true value of an inside sales team is to sell. By selling I mean one of two things: either they are nurturing potential buyers throughout the entire sales cycle in conjunction with a sales director and selling your brand/credibility or they are managing their own pipelines and closing business themselves. Selling has essentially become a nurturing process. The inside sales model you select is dependent on the goals of the company. Do you need a focus on building a pipeline or do you need a focus on closed revenue? You can look to your inside team to do one or the other or even both. All models work. It just depends on objectives and where your company's product is in its life cycle. Calling prospects is a must, so I don't want anyone to think that they don't need to pick up the phones. There is a time and a place and I will go into this in much more detail in another article, but I want to stress the importance of nuturing in this article. It's the Web 2.0 way.

Prospects are having to be nurtured for longer periods of time given the state of the economy and a fundamental change in buying behavior. Prospects need and want to be nurtured. This being said, there should be no difference between the skill sets of your inside sales team and your outside sales team. Recruit, interview, hire, train and pay folks as if they were the best outside sales director money can buy. In fact, the majority of your sales team should be inside sales.

Companies looking for SaaS solutions want to buy online and they are becoming very comfortable with an online/remote sales process as well. Gone are the days where face-to-face meetings are critical, especially for small to mid-sized SaaS companies. Yes...there will always be a need for the classic "outside" sales role in any organization, but 80% of business is now being conducted over the web. is the poster child for success when it comes to creating a great inside sales team. The overwhelming majority of their sales folks are inside and never travel. They are living proof that SaaS vendors can and must be able to sell their products via an inside sales team.

What are your experiences with inside sales, now that SaaS has become so main stream? Are you noticing a shift to more of an inside sales model?

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We Just Built the Next Google, Now How the Hell Do We Sell It?

I have read a bevy of white papers, sales books, and marketing slicks over the past 15 years and not once have I read one that speaks in common every day language. That being said, I’m going to venture off the proverbial path most traveled and talk to you all as if we were two friends sitting at a local Starbucks discussing how we are going to set-up a marketing and sales team to support the newly developed $10 billion dollar app.

SaaS has revolutionized the way we deliver software. Unfortunately, software delivery is just that, software delivery. There is an entire integrated process that needs to be in place in order for the company to succeed. Most small SaaS companies have focused exclusively on building an offering and have not spent much time thinking about the internal processes required to market, sell and support their SaaS offerings. I’m here to tell you that’s ok. You’re no different from most companies out there. But this is where the complacency ends. If it does not, you will be like every other failing SAAS vendor out there.

We have entered the world of social marketing, a refreshing evolution from the Selling to Vito days if you ask me. If buyers and their processes for buying have changed, then your internal processes for marketing, selling and supporting this change have to as well.

My goal with this blog is to create a community of folks who share ideas and thoughts on everything inside sales related. What works and what doesn't work. I will create a series of posts in the days ahead sharing what has worked well for me and I am excited to learn from everyone.