For a sales rep chasing a lead, speed may be key, but functionality is just as—if not even more—essential.
Software developers have had to grapple with the evolution to a mobile work environment, a trend that trickles into sales and marketing efforts, explains Rebecca Sprynczynatyk, director of product marketing for Infusionsoft, a maker of sales and marketing automation software that combines CRM, email marketing, and e-commerce solutions. The fundamentals remain the same, but the manner of doing business has become synced with Web innovation.
"In many ways, selling has become a lot easier because there are more resources online and buyers are more educated," Sprynczynatyk says. "At the same time, the job has become more difficult, from the perspective that [salespeople] have to try harder to develop trust and relationships."
Recognizing that the line between closed business and a closed door can be a fine one, CRM magazine went on a quest to weed out case-specific tools designed to simplify and speed up the sales process, sync with CRM systems, and, ultimately, help reps increase their earnings—and those of their companies. These tools run the gamut from email to e-signatures—and most are compatible with your tablet or smartphone.
The Effortless Email
Chris Williams does not have a love affair with his email inbox. Or any tool, for that matter, that requires too much of a time investment or a change in routine on his part. The dual-role professional spends half of his time as chief marketing officer for HeatSpring, a provider of clean energy training to building professionals, and the remainder as partner in Cammpus, a virtual school of sorts for companies to connect with and educate their customers.
Inherently, email is that "can't live with it, can't live without it" tool that can cut into productivity just as quickly as it can expedite work. But Williams has found a way to reconfigure that equation.
"When I tell people I spend [only] twenty minutes a day on email, they ask, 'How do you get anything done?'" Williams says. "It's an interesting paradigm, [because] going back and forth on email now feels like a lot of work to [some] people."
When Williams downloaded Yesware, he was immediately taken by the usability of the system and the ready, built-in features.
"I do think [Yesware is a] product innovator [that offers] very simple, streamlined tools," Williams says, noting that his email usage has dropped from about one hour to 15 or 20 minutes a day. "The templates are really easy to adjust.…[It's] not trying to be everything to everybody."
Yesware offers customized email templates for each stage of the sales process, complete with all the standard features, like links, images, and rich text. Emails are automatically synced to CRM systems such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics with a click of a button, and integrate with Gmail accounts. Emails can be sorted by sales activity, whether a sales rep is in the prospecting stage or managing a pipeline, and email analytics helps sales reps and their managers track activity.
"The real design challenge for us became, 'How do we design a system that would give [salespeople] immediate benefit without requiring training and data entry and all that stuff?'" Matthew Bellows, Yesware's CEO, explains.
Yesware has grabbed the attention of the sales industry. The company took home a Silver Medal for top sales productivity tool in the 2011 Top Sales & Marketing Awards, presented by a number of sales and marketing organizations including The Bridge Group, and the company is charging ahead with new upgrades this year, such as an Outlook version. "We launched with Gmail first because it's a really great open environment, and there's a lot of early adopters there who are giving us good feedback," Bellows says.
Yesware syncs its sales templates with Android-powered mobile devices. This enables sales reps to see who has opened sent emails and allows managers to track team activity on the road.
Contact management is also top of mind for sales reps, and Bellows says the company has built a prototype for a feature that monitors emails for signature blocks and subsequently extracts the signature information and integrates it into CRM systems.
"We haven't rolled it out yet, but that's the type of feature that shows the direction [where] we'll take the service," Bellows adds. "It's 'Learn from the activity, take the administrative work out of what a salesperson does, and use what computers are really good at, which is reading text and putting it in a database.'"
The Insta–John Hancock
There are countless ways in which the Web and email have accelerated sales cycles. For example, the ability to digitally present the terms of an agreement to clients has helped to facilitate close rates. However, getting the signatures needed to make contracts legally binding has long been one of the biggest bottlenecks in sales cycles, and a major source of frustration for salespeople. Fortunately, not only have digital signatures become a valid and legally binding solution, they are gaining in popularity—Adobe Systems' recent decision to acquire EchoSign validates this.
"The deal makes Adobe technology more useful for handling business transactions, and the cloud-based feature makes it mobile," Trip Chowdry of Global Equities Research told the Wall Street Journal at the time of the acquisition.
Broadly speaking, EchoSign was built to be a sales enablement tool, released to the public in January 2006, connecting any two businesses on the globe with a Web-based contract, says Jason Lemkin, cofounder and former CEO of EchoSign, now vice president of Web services business at Adobe.
The acquisition, which occurred last summer, brought Adobe a rush of solution integrations and new customers.
"Without a brand like Adobe in the space, electronic signatures would remain a 'nichey' thing," Lemkin says.
According to the latest E-Signature Technology Report released by the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, the heaviest usage of e-signatures among companies came from internal documents and approvals, as well as sales, purchasing, and service provider contracts.
"Groupon went from zero to 10,000 [employees], most of whom are sales reps that use EchoSign for every single contract," Lemkin says. "They had to grow so quickly, they never even bothered with paper." At companies including insurers Aetna and Cigna, digital contracts have also gone mainstream. "In three to four years," Lemkin adds, "every contract will be done on the Web."
Adobe recently released the EchoSign iPhone/iPad App, with a range of features that allow reps to check the status of a deal with the click of a button and enable them to push signed contracts into Salesforce.com.
One of Adobe's latest upgrades to its EchoSign solution was the product's integration with Adobe Reader, allowing free direct document signage in Reader with the capability to send the document out for a signature through EchoSign. The company will soon unveil an integration with Adobe Mobile Reader.
"That's what's really driving [EchoSign's] more than quadrupling its number of small business [users]," Lemkin notes of the Adobe Reader integration. "We'll do a further update in Q2 to make the integration into Reader even slicker."
With the skyrocketing adoption of mobile devices—Harris Interactive reports some 20 percent of U.S. consumers will own a mobile tablet by 2014—the very way in which products and services are sold will shift accordingly.
"At Time Warner Cable, all field sales are done on a tablet, where the customer contract is dynamically created in the cloud," Lemkin says, noting that some 20 percent of EchoSign customers take advantage of the iPad app. "It's far more than we ever predicted. Some of it is the mobile warrior 'checking stuff.' But more so, it's about face-to-face commerce."
The Seamless Screen Share
At Georgia-based Reed Construction Data, the ability to present demos on-screen through an on-the-fly screen share has resulted in a marked improvement in sales.
Before utilizing Glance for Salesforce.com's instant screen-share technology, "there was no streamlined, comprehensive way of doing a demonstration," says Lisa Fiondella, chief customer officer for the North American provider of data, analytics, and services to the construction industry. "We did have a demo environment, but it didn't facilitate sharing a screen with an end user. We would have salespeople on the phone talking a prospect through [the process for download] themselves."
Since the implementation of Glance, Reed Construction Data has noticed a 60 percent reduction in its sales cycle, a 66 percent increase in customer demos, and a 40 percent improvement in lead conversion.
The classic example of a product acting behind the scenes, the average Glance session time is 30 minutes and the average chat time is eight minutes for support teams, Tom Scontras, vice president of sales and marketing at Glance Networks, says. Glance lets users pull up screen-share sessions in whichever application they're currently in, be it a sales rep in Salesforce.com or a chat agent using LivePerson. There is no additional download required for the person joining a session.
Web conferencing solutions company Lucid Meetings recently integrated Glance's screen-sharing technology to power its desktop and mobile meeting sessions, which Scontras says will "promote a much more productive conversation." Users can kickstart a Glance session via a button in the Lucid Meetings interface, which does not require a software download.
No matter what a client or salesperson's technical ability is, "there's…no intimidation factor," Scontras says. "It's really quite binary and simplistic by design. We're not trying to be 'the show.' You're not going to find a dramatic list of features, ever."
"Simplicity matters," Fiondella agrees. "Technical competency can…be varied, so you can't put somebody through a gross technical endeavor to actually get to your demonstration."
The Call Connector
ConnectAndSell, a provider of on-demand Live Conversation Automation (LCA) technology, is confident in its approach to connect sales reps with key decision-makers. After all, connections close business.
Banking $7.5 million in funding from Institutional Venture Partners last year, the company has been lauded by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals as a Service Provider of the Year for outsourcing, lead generation, and marketing.
Through on-demand software, telephony-switching, and live agents, the service initiates calls, connects sales reps with prospects, and eliminates high-volume voicemail and callbacks. By integrating with CRM systems, the system lets a sales rep easily pull up customer account information when receiving a call.
According to ConnectAndSell, the average software company sales rep makes 250 outbound calls per week, resulting in 11 live conversations per week. With LCA technology, however, a user averages seven conversations an hour.
"The most obvious use is lead generation," says Simon Blackburn, vice president and chief sales officer at ConnectAndSell. "Many [customers] use it for field sales and strategic accounts."
At ScienceLogic, a provider of IT infrastructure management products, eight inside sales reps use ConnectAndSell for about two hours a week. Each averages eight to 10 live connections per hour, totaling approximately 80 live conversations a week with identified prospects. Previously, the company averaged two live connections each hour.
"The ROI we keep going back to is that one hour of ConnectAndSell is equivalent to a week's worth of effort, especially with inside sales and use cases," Blackburn says. "It's compressing the time for individuals to have conversations. The [goal] is to make people who perform well much more productive."
Other Cool Sales-Oriented Tools
The Profiler Eloqua Prospect Profiler promises to facilitate better communication between sales and marketing by drafting a graphical summary report of prospects' online activities and behaviors right in CRM systems like Salesforce.com. The Website Visitor Alert reports to the rep if someone from a key account engages in a particular Web property, such as a company's blog, or community discussions.
iMeet Meeting tool iMeet promises reps a user-friendly experience straight from their PC, tablet, or smartphone. Users can upload profile photos or turn on their Webcam to share live video.
CamCard What paper trail? The CamCard Lite app provides a forward-thinking way to stash all those business cards you collect. The business card scanner saves pertinent information directly in your iPhone or Android-powered address book when you take a picture of the card.
Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa can be reached at email@example.com.