Stories by James Warren

Do you want software with that?

So the revolution is almost complete. Much like the rapid globalisation of the fast food industry, in the span of just five years since apps first appeared you can now find them on every virtual street corner. For reasons that include client engagement, connectivity and mindshare — or other marketing buzz words —apps are the new black.

Managing customer relationships with CRM

If you majored in commerce at university, as I did, you may have encountered the dictum that 50 percent of marketing is useless, you just don’t know which 50 percent. Many tools will allow you to track who opened an e-mail and who clicked on what link. But in my experience, that only covers the low-hanging fruit. Sales and marketing should be a one-two punch, with a leverage point that moves you from cold calling to real prospects. This general concept was tested back when I worked for a software development company that wanted to do the next big thing, and I was a procurement manager, or "personal shopper for geeks" as I liked to call it. It was probably my first break In my quest to become an influencer of the industry. My task was to turn a one-off project with a utility company into a re-sellable solution, armed with CIO magazine's MIS Top 100 list, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and all of what I learned so far in what was my first enterprise-level B2B sales role. So I loaded 100 USB drives with product information and an introductory document, put them in black boxes, and sent them off to the 100 relevant contacts. The CRM came into with a follow up phone call. The lesson here was one phone-call ain't gonna do the trick. I'd expected my USB sticks to make their way to the right people, but there was more than one problem with that approach. I wasn't always sure who the right person was, frankly, and the right person often already had enough on their plate, they wouldn't give my pitch the time of day. So, I added third prong to my attack. If there was a central reception, I would clarify who was the right person to send the information to, followed by finding out if they had a gate keeper, some personal assistant who ran interference, determining what material landed on a desk and what landed in the rubbish bin. My boss at the time recommended flirting. But I had a more practical idea. I managed the campaign with the CRM package, which allowed me to organise my call backs, track conversation details and new opportunities, and otherwise allowed me to concentrate on each potential client as I made the calls. This also let me collate research I'd done on the company, and refer to others that I'd spoken in an organisation, which made me sound very informed when I spoke with a contact, both about the company, and the contact's place in the hierarchy. A typical phone call went like this: "Hi. James Warren here. I am calling about a black box that should be sitting on your desk. Did it arrive? If it is there I will assume that you haven’t had an opportunity to open it, but to let you know. there is a free USB stick in there for you. Of course it has some of our marketing about a software product to manage your unstructured data across your network. But we can talk about that now and you can either copy the files if you are interested or delete them and I can give you the details in person when we meet.” Not to tread the same well-worn ground of every sales training book out there, but if you are doing relationship selling. it is never about the first call or the second. It’s about understanding why there are standard sales practices and then applying them over and over again. I have used Dynamics CRM every day of my working life since that project. I never wake up in a cold sweat knowing I should have called a prospect two weeks ago but forgot. Editor's Note: James Warren is currently a salesman for the hosted version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

We all float down here

For those of you who have read (or, let’s be honest, seen the movie) It by Stephen King, the phrase “we all float down here” is one that can pull deep in the buried recesses of your childhood and make you shiver with a special kind of dread. For those of you that are resellers who have carved out your business profitability or your personal sales goals based on the thirty year model of hardware, licences and project/on-going support services, the idea of your customers moving to the cloud might fill you with that same feeling. The truth is, it’s not the same kind of business when it all floats up there, but we have time right? It’s not like whole industries can evolve that quickly, that would be like the music industry going digital almost overnight or GPS units being superseded by a simple cell phone.

It's not you, it's me

Relationships can be hard, the longer you are in them the more they shape you as a person. If you get the right fit and manage to fulfil Maslow's hierarchy of needs, this will allow you to grow positively as a person. For those of you that haven’t done a first year course in economics those needs are Physiological, Safety, Belongingness, Esteem, and Self-Actualisation. Of course if a relationship starts to fall apart on you there are couple of choices. You can conform to try and fit to the environment or, depending on your personal appetite for risk, you can chose to start again and go in a new direction (burning bridges behind you is always optional).

Statistics are dead

I had a daughter last year. Suddenly my market share of my nuclear family went down from 50 percent to one third. By the way, yes, I know I’ve mixed percentages and fractions. Does this dramatic and sudden drop in my market share reflect performance, how much effort I am putting in or that I am quickly being abandoned by my family and sure to be completely replaced? That’s for my wife to decide and any such moves would have nothing to do these statistics. I have noticed that, due to stories being aggregated together into places like Google News or smartphone apps, when looking for news, more and more often I am faced with an open paragraph about a financial report, sales number or some third-party statistic. What tends to follow is an article that extrapolates from this starting point to make a definitive call about what the market will do next, what is means for the profitability of a company or what the next big thing will be. It is true that these kinds of numbers convey a message to the world; interestingly I have found that while the numbers are the same, the message received can be very different one. As all salespeople know, you can perfect your pitch and answer all the objections but you can’t guarantee that all prospects will hear the good news - that you have a great deal to offer and they are one of the selected few that you are offering it to. Clients can make technology decisions that lead them to dead ends just because purchasing can be influenced by emotion. I have seen clients justify decisions that caused them workflow pain by pointing to the popularity of the technology. The concept is that making the safe same bet that everybody else is making will give you the most stable outcome. Nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM. As I have referred to in my earlier columns this is not the industry it once was for multi-million dollar paycheques. Learning from history is good, repeating history not so good. If you only ride the wave of popularity you will spend your life paddling to the next wave. But picking your tools and evolving your delivery as the market evolves will give you the ability to plan how to continue to make a profit in the down times. If you look at IBM today, the company that invented the PC, giving them at one time (very briefly before the 'clone' makers moved in) a 100 percent market share, they no longer make any. To find a ThinkPad nowadays you look to China and Lenovo. These days IBM provides servers, software and services and is more profitable today than they were before the economic crisis. This has been achieved by taking time to know their customers’ requirements in all market conditions. While the hardware market contracts, services and support are required to "keep the lights on” and as a company that has taken the time, effort and experience to plan for this IBM is a great example of how to think logically to profit financially. Avis learned how to use the concept of having smaller market share (only 11 percent) behind Hertz as an advantage to engage the market emotionally and grow its client base and profitability significantly. The message we’re number two so “we try harder” has become the battle cry of those who want to service the market. While the market share measure may show how many customers they are not servicing, it is not a reason to give up. If your vendors are passionate about servicing end users and you can implement their tools to do the job, lack of market share is an objection that is easily managed. If your clients mention it, just remind them of their vinyl, 8-track, tape and CD collections.

Big Tools

We have all heard the expression “it’s not the size of the tool, it’s how you use it.” If you are

Take two and call me in the morning

I will be honest: I am a comic book geek. Sure I am mostly socially adjusted, can communicate with women etc but I can understand all of the references in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. Sometimes I find it hard to watch when the things I have built my obsessions around become popular, changed and adopted by… well, everyone.

Where are our multi-million dollars?

My first day working with resellers was as a customer services representative in distribution. I arrived and eagerly waited to meet my new boss, who had been hired between my interview and my start date. Like many people, the allure of electronics like computers and cellphones filled me with unbridled excitement. There I was, ready to begin, and my new boss opened the dialogue with the statement: “Welcome to the industry that no longer makes millionaires.”