I’ve been working in a business software channel management role for a number of years and margins have always been one of the hottest topics. I think I have lost count of how many times I have been asked for higher margins, but let’s be honest: if I were a partner, I would probably do the same. I truly think that we offer a very generous partner margin model, with margins up to 45%. We also provide margins on the renewal of the annual software assurance contracts (apparently, not all providers do) and a perpetual margin on the rental contract of the hosted offering.
50% of my role as Head of Sales requires that I pick up the phone and attempt to contact new sales prospects, and I have to admit even after 20 plus years in the role, I still get a little nervous at the prospect of reaching… The Gatekeeper!
We’ve all experienced them and some of us may even have our own, but from a sales point of view, they are the red traffic light when you are already late.
You had a prospect on the phone, you’ve done your pitching and you’re feeling like everything is going in the right direction and when it comes to the close, the prospect replies “it’s not something that we’ve prioritised right now”.
How do you contend with this age old sales rejection? Where do you even begin to ask questions to determine what the problem is?
I’m sure you may have already heard the well-publicised prediction from Laura McLellan, the Gartner analyst who expects Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will spend more on IT than Chief Information Officers (CIOs).
The shock impact of such a statement is beginning to diminish, as the prediction becomes reality for companies across the globe, but why is this shift in spending taking place?
I’ve tried to sum up what I think the 5 main fuelling factors behind this trend are:
- Reduced hardware spend
With an increasing number of companies moving their IT needs into the cloud, the need for hardware investment and maintenance is reducing. Technical staff tinkering in server rooms are rapidly becoming a rarity, with the cost cutting and low maintenance approach of hosting your IT needs in the cloud or with a provider.
Add to this the increasing trend of mobile device usage and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) utilisation in corporations and you can begin to see why the days of investing in PCs and on-site hardware are in decline.
- Marketing Automation
The latest marketing automation solutions, such as HubSpot, can provide results which a company can’t refuse to invest in. By increasing the amount of leads a company receives, marketing automation software investments, which yield a healthy Return on Investment (ROI), will be received very well by Financial and Managing Directors.
As a sweetener, such software also allows marketing to take on much of the pre-sales tasks in a simple and automated way and canhelp resolve service cases before they occur, increasing the productivity of major customer facing departments.
- Information for all
In the age of the internet, marketing software will usually utilise the online medium heavily, allowing its users to track, monitor and measure their online presence. This not only empowers salespeople with the ability to view a lead’s entire history with your website and social media accounts, but allows marketing to justify their investments.
Marketing online spend can often get lost in terms of measurable sales outcome, especially if you operate heavily via stores or other offline presences. However, by using marketing software, which tracks online activity and pulls it into a company accessible database like a CRM system, marketing departments can bring far greater transparency to their spending, which may have been absent in the past.
- Social Media
We're all aware of the popularity of social media and the benefits it can have for your company, but it can be hard to recognise that it’s still very young. It wasn’t that long ago when social networks first began to draw attention for business useand the responsibility of harnessing this valuable new channel was placed on marketing.
To manage such a vast range of outbound communication and dialogue, in recent years, marketing have to invest in software which can manage their interactions. Such spending continues, as more companies begin to take social media seriously and expand their utilisation of social media data by integrating it with their CRM system.
- The Internet is King!
This point sums up the root reason behind marketing’s increased spending: the internet is becoming ever more important to the promotion of companies and marketing are usually charged with taking advantage of new online mediums and channels, investing heavily in promising areas.
Online marketing is also something which you cannot simply ‘dip your toes in’: once the website is up, you have to look at social media presence, then SEO, affiliate strategy, Paid online ads – and the list becomes endless.
With these factors in mind, it certainly becomes understandable how marketing spend could overtake that of IT departments and it is certainly tipped by many sources as a future trend. If you would like to learn more about this trend or other tips for success in 2014, please download our free whitepaper 5 Top CRM Trends in 2014.
With more and more of our lives moving online, it’s easy to become blasé about online security, what we are sharing online & keeping our data and identity safe. I don’t know about you, but it feels like everyone live their life online these days. The internet, social media & cloud technology have opened up our world and created limitless possibilities. But they have also exposed us to some very real threats, and made it easier for people to have access to our sensitive data and exploit that information for their own needs. Don’t worry, it’s not doomsday and I’m certainly not implying we should move backwards or hide under the bed! But there are a few things that we should be doing in order to keep ourselves, our employees and our businesses safe online.
Every company can benefit from linking its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) into social media, but it does mean investing time and resource, which can mean stretching budgets for some companies – particularly smaller SMEs. However, it can be manageable if you identify what you want to achieve, set goals, track and measure results.
It's true: I’m a gadget enthusiast. Lately, I’ve been trying to choose between buying a new laptop or purchasing a lightweight tablet. Like so many things in life, half the battle with buying a product is knowing the spec, how to best research the options and when to bag the best deal. I’m the sort of person who takes plenty of time to research every facet of my purchase. I spent three months researching and testing various laptops until I was satisfied, and then waited until the mid-season sale to snap up my last one.
It’s no mystery that the manufacturing sales cycle is often long and drawn out, potential customers want to take their time reaching a purchase decision. Your sales reps know that many quote requests are dead-ends, and probably recognise that significant time is spent communicating with under-qualified ‘suspects’. Inbound marketing can help shorten and streamline the sales process, building greater efficiency.
I recently attended a business event in London and while networking, I ended up in a conversation with an experienced Channel Manager about building profitable Business Partner Relationships.
The topic we discussed at length was how to best motivate your channel partners to sell your products and I have to say, after touching on several ways to achieve this, whether based on experience or on theories in the books, we reached the simple conclusion that it is mainly based on common sense!
As Head of Sales, I spend the majority of my life monitoring each stage of my sales pipeline: how many new leads the team received, how many have been qualified, how many have submitted a Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Proposal (RFP) and of course, how many have closed.
In our last blog, we were talking about the range of choices of how you could implement your CRM software, all of which might be described as some form of ‘cloud’ implementation (that widely used term, that no-one really knows what it means!). You really need to think about the options, because it could make all the difference to your return on investment, your ability to move quickly with your markets and the ability to integrate with your other systems.