How Mobile and Social Drives Sales

Here is a link to a presentation that I made on 22nd March at the Figaro Digital conference on Mobile Marketing. The presentation was entitled “Multi-channel Retail Challenges” and was about the challenges that retailers face when combining sales channels. In particular the role that mobile devices and social channels play in driving both online and offline sales.

Figraro Digital March 2012


Figaro Digital Mobile Commerce Presentation

Figaro Digital Conference on Mobile Marketing.

Here is a link to a presentation that I made on 8th September at the Figaro Digital conference on Mobile Marketing. The presentation was entitled “Tilting the Mobile Playing Field” and was about the opportunities that smartphones represent for retailers.

Figraro Digital Sept 2011

Why risk reduction is important for sales people

Managing risk is an important part of any business purchase, and indeed any large consumer purchase.  Salespeople who can manage risk perception and help customers reduce risk have an advantage over the competition.

Risk reduction is something that takes place right the way through the buying process.  Sales people who learn to help customers reduce risk and mitigate the perception of risk are more successful than their competitors.

Before a buyer decides who to meet with, they will have researched potential vendors.  For this reason it is important that they can easily find references and recommendations in the form of testimonials and case studies.  These need to be available on your website, from your blog, and from your social and business network profiles.

As the sale progresses the customer will want to confirm their initial assessment of your capabilities as a supplier by looking to add more information and detail to the information that they already have. They will want to reduce the risk further by talking with existing clients – those in your case studies or additional references.

Finally, in order for you to close the deal, customers may seek to reduce risks further in the form of guarantees or indemnities.

Not all referrals or recommendations are equal.  Customers typically place more reliance on people that are closer to them. They tend to trust, in descending order :

  1. Personal experience.  If suppliers have performed well in the past they become a known factor which means the risk of working with them is reduced
  2. Recommendations from colleagues. A vendor who has worked with other people in the same organisation represents a lower risk
  3. Approved supplier lists.  Risk is shared if buyers use suppliers that have been approved by other people in their organisation
  4. References provided by existing customers.  Working with suppliers that have previously worked with other people in your field provides evidence of experience and quality
  5. Public opinion. While reputation is very rarely a reason to select a supplier it can be enough to make sure that they are put on to the shortlist
  6. Guarantees and indemnities.  While these help to ensure the risk is shared between the buyer and supplier, they are indications that the perception of risk still exists.

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Windows Live Tags: Sales process, Buying process, mitigation, reduction, Salespeople, Risk, perception,

Entrepreneur–if only it was this easy

If only being entrepreneurial was as easy as this

Really good cartoon from about being an entrepreneur.

Well, it made me smile!

RFP or RFQ–how to deal with last minute requests

Receiving an RFP or RFQ out of the blue can present a dilemma. Should you respond or not?

RFP or RFQ - how to respondThe reality is, if you didn’t know about the RFP (request for proposal) or RFQ (request for quotation) before it was written, you are entering a game that you have little chance of winning. So, should you play or not?

The RFP or RFQ will not have come out of the blue!

Very few customers draft and issue an RFP or RFQ without first talking either to potential suppliers or retaining consultants (who will also have talked to potential suppliers).

This means that the information requested is based on a vision of the solution that has been created by one or more of your competitors.

Unless you were one of the people involved in the pre-issue discussions, you don’t fully understand the customer’s vision. This means that you don’t know where the value lies, you can’t engineer your solution to match their vision and you have no sponsor inside the organisation.

Given that you cannot compete effectively in this game, you must try to change the objective of the game.

The problem is that the customer will have spent a large number of man-hours and invested politically and emotionally in getting to the point at which they believe that they have the right solution vision. There will be a huge resistance to change.

Can the RFP or RFQ be changed by you?

Your first task is to work out if you can change the RFP or RFQ.

This means very carefully evaluating the request and determining a) what unique defining competence (UDC) you could add that the customer has not asked for, b) under what circumstances they might need it and c) whether the value is significant enough for them to feel compelled to change their RFP or RFQ.

If you can see an opportunity then you must approach the customer before you do any more work on your response.

Persuading your customer to change the RFP or RFQ first is vital

Remember that all RFP or RFQ documents are designed to do one of two things:

  • To get the lowest possible overall cost if it is a commodity purchase or
  • To get the preferred bidder(s) through to the next stage if it’s a complex purchase

At this point, the customer has no idea that there is value that they need in your UDC. If there was they’d have it in their RFP or RFQ. So you cannot be a preferred bidder.

This means that in the box-ticking, point scoring exercise that follows the responses to the RFQ or RFP your significantly valuable UDC actually has:

  • No box to sit in – other than the “additional information or benefits” section where it will only be evaluated in the unlikely event that all other elements are equal
  • No points value – as the customer has not recognised the value or significance

If you simply build your UDC into your response without first selling it to your customer, it will probably have no impact at all.

Beginning to change the RFP or RFQ

Once the RFP or RFQ has been issued, some organisations – especially government bodies, have a policy of not talking to responders.

Unless you can arrange a meeting with all the key players; you cannot begin to make the changes you need. So don’t be put off by the policies.

This is one of those situations when you have to call high in the organisation; that is the only place where there will be enough power to force those meetings to happen.

When you make these phone calls you need to use the significant value that you have potentially uncovered in order to secure the meeting. That is all you are aiming for at this point – a meeting to discuss additional significant value to your customer.

The chances are that the initial meeting, and certainly any subsequent meetings, will be attended by the people who drafted the RFP or RFQ. So, it is crucial that the meeting is 100% positive; that you position yourself clearly as an honest broker who has discovered a way to create additional value for the customer.

Your strategy for changing the RFP or RFQ

If you can persuade the RFP or RFQ team to begin to explore the additional value you need to decide what your overall strategy is:

  • Re-engineer the RFP or RFQ so that you have significant advantage and can take the whole deal
  • Divide the purchase so that your offering is separated from the main purchase and budget

Declining to respond to an RFP or RFQ

It may be that:

  • Your evaluation of the RFP or RFQ shows no significant advantage or
  • The customer doesn’t agree with your assessment or
  • You cannot arrange the meetings that you need

In all of these cases, there is simply no point in investing time, money and resources in creating a response. You need to decline gracefully with a reply that keeps the door open and positions some additional benefits (even if you can’t see that they need them at the moment). Something along the lines of:

‘Thank you for your request to propose a solution (or quote). Having evaluated your document, we have concluded that you are not currently looking for a solution that includes:

  • UDC benefit statement 1
  • UDC benefit statement 2
  • UDC benefit statement 3 …

Therefore we have decide not to propose a solution (or quote) this time, but would like to remain in contact with you as your requirements change.”

The bluebird RFP or RFQ – last thoughts

The next time an unexpected RFP or RFQ presents itself, give this process a try. While I can’t guarantee that following this process will work every time, I know, from experience, that it does work more times than simply responding with no attempt to talk to the customer.

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Windows Live Tags: quotation, quote, pricing, product management, sales, RFP, RFQ, request, response

Facebook Group or Facebook Page

In most cases a business or organisation will setup a Facebook page. However there are occasions when setting up a group instead, or as well, makes sense.

  • Groups are intended to be used by people who share a common interest; for example, the members of a Sunday League football club, a group of rock climbers or people who work at a particular branch of a bank
  • Pages are intended to be used by organisations or entities which people may follow; for example, a Premier League football club or an indoor climbing wall or a bank

The key differences are as follows:

  • Messages sent from page show up on the users’ homepage and in their Facebook Inbox
  • A page has a higher visibility on the user’s profile
  • Every tab in your page is searchable and visible. Since you can have more tabs in a page than in a group you can create more searchable information
  • Page administrators are anonymous. Updates they make or messages they send come from the page not the person.
  • There is no limit to the applications you can have on a page – this gives you much more flexibility
  • You can integrate social media applications and blog posts with pages
  • Pages can have reviews
  • You can setup discussion forums rather than just walls

Groups make sense for organisations if you want to create a community amongst some or all of your users. Good examples are user delivered advice or support, customer meet-ups, or specific products that you want to focus on.

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Windows Live Tags: Social media, Communications, Marketing, marcomms, business, profile, personal, Facebook, Network
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The danger of using auto-responders

A large (though not the only) aspect of Sales 2.0 is using technology to reduce the time salespeople spend on admin.

Yesterday, I clicked on an interesting link in an email from a company that develops sales and marketing 2.0 software and spent some time browsing their site.

Today I received an email from them.

I’m very impressed that they tracked me from the email through my activity and click-path and worked out that I have done enough to warrant an email.

But read the email:


When I registered on their site I put “Self-employed” in the ‘Company:’ field on their form.

Do I believe that the salesperson has researched me and can “see several vital process in which [they] can help qualify more leads for [my] sales team”?

The problem with using auto-response email as part of any web 2.0 process is that you can’t predict every combination of variables that will need to be responded to.

By all means automate the drafting of the email; but make sure an attentive person sanity-checks it before it is sent.

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