Editor's note: In this interview, Jeannine Ryan, Global Vice President of Sales for Enterprise Social Software at SAP, talks about how sales people need to adapt as organizations continue to transition to the cloud.
How is the transition to the cloud affecting sales people and their jobs?
If you’re a sales person, the transition to the cloud is fantastic because it empowers you. It gives you access to real-time updates, trends, and information – in a way that hasn’t been possible before.
For instance, many of the executives that you’re selling to may now have blogs, websites, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts, so you can get a sense of what their passions are and what they’re involved in. That helps you have a much more informed and value-added conversation. It requires more research, but there’s no excuse not to prepare. For sales people early in their career, it’s especially important, because even if you haven’t spent years in an industry, you can still have a well-informed point of view and ask insightful questions.
The cloud makes it a lot easier to figure out who else is doing business with your prospects and customers
It’s also easier to get networked into a new account by using connections that you already have with their existing employees – or by making new connections with other sales professionals or vendors in the prospect’s ecosystem. The cloud makes it a lot easier to figure out who else is doing business with your prospects and customers.
Because they give you access to cloud technology, tablets and smartphones help you give much more tailored presentations. Customers don’t want collateral or brochures – they expect you to be able to sit side by side with them and go through a presentation on your iPad that’s customized for them.
From the standpoint of motivation and incentive, the cloud gives you much faster access to your sales scorecard. In the past, to see how you were doing compared to your target or your teammates, you had to wait for a monthly update in an email or wait for it to be posted on the office white board. Now, both you and everyone else can see what you’ve accomplished every day, so you’re more accountable. If you’re someone that likes keeping your goals constantly in front of you, that can be hugely motivating.
As a sales person, what do you need to do to educate yourself on the cloud?
One approach to educate yourself on the cloud is to figure out how it’s going to give you an advantage. If your customer is moving to the cloud, start by asking yourself how it will influence the dialogue you have with them.
What impact will it have on their IT department? Does it mean they can take on more projects? Will they have to redeploy resources? Will they need to reskill their employees or look for different talent?
Start by asking yourself how it will influence the dialogue you have with customers
Does the cloud give you the potential to get in and scale? Are they starting with a pilot project instead of a big once-and-done initiative? Will you have the opportunity to develop your relationship with the customer over time?
How does it affect their strategic initiatives? If their focus is on innovation or growing revenues, the cloud can help them get ideas into the hands of people who can act on them faster.
Are they using cloud technology to decrease their time to market for new products? Will it reduce timeframes of months or years down to days or weeks? If it’s making their cycle times shorter, that’s a good thing for you to know, because it’s going to drive how responsive they expect you to be – and maybe even the size of your deal. If it drives more revenue for them, they can spend more money with you.
How does the cloud change what customers expect of you?
From a customer’s perspective, expectations have shifted because of the cloud. They expect their vendors and partners to be better informed and more prepared – and to work together.
If they’re an existing customer, they assume you know what’s going on with their account across all of your departments and divisions. If they have a question about an existing invoice or if they’re dissatisfied with the progress on an implementation, they expect you to know that. If they’re waiting for a delivery that’s been held up, they want you to be able to tell them why. For example, was it because of a weather issue on the other side of the world?
Customers expect their vendors and partners to be better informed and more prepared
The cloud changes how customers expect to interact with you – for instance, to check the status of their order or status of resolution for a customer service issue. They also expect a user interface that’s as easy as the ones they use as consumers: very intuitive, point and click. They might even expect you to give them an app to download.
Customers expect you to be accessible whenever they need to reach you. Sometimes, that will create challenges for your work-life balance, but because of access to cloud technology, they’ll expect you to provide status updates in real time and be available to answer questions and join calls when it’s important to them, not when it’s convenient for you.
If they’re a new customer and you’re selling cloud technology, they may also expect a lower barrier to entry. The ease and speed of implementing something in the cloud means they’re more inclined to try something new – they no longer have to first provision server space in their data center and be responsible for backups and a stable supply of power.
In addition, because of the access to data that cloud technology gives you, they also expect you to provide deeper insights into your relationship with them. If you sell consumer products – office supplies, let’s say – your customers might want you to tell them that they order more supplies at the end of the month than at the beginning, and that if they order earlier in the month, you can provide a discount.
How does understanding social collaboration help you stay relevant?
As a sales person, you’re only relevant as long as you continue to add value. To move a sales conversation forward, you need to customize your message to your customer and provide insights or thought leadership that’s relevant to their business. Social technology allows you to interact with people inside your organization and do your homework – so that you can either create a new relationship with a prospect or learn more about a customer – and then share key insights or information that adds value and sets you apart from your competition.
As a sales person, you’re only relevant as long as you continue to add value
Social technology also helps you stay relevant by keeping your internal stakeholders informed more easily. Instead of waiting for you to fill out sales reports, they can monitor a feed to see how a deal is progressing.
If you work for a global organization, social technology allows you to work on your customer’s behalf seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If you’re trying to resolve a customer service issue quickly, it means teams around the world can basically follow the sun.
The sheer fact that cloud and collaboration technology makes you more productive is huge. Even if you’re in an airport or in your car – or walking between meetings – it’s easy to get on your smart phone to get the latest updates at the last second, just before you walk into a meeting with your customer. In the past, you had to VPN in, log onto your email and search for an email that might have an update. Now, you’ve got a system that pushes that information to you – and that’s awesome.
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