Cloud Collaboration, Sales Remuneration!

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Question: What has the cloud computing revolution that’s happening in the marketplace got to do with winning deals and growing your business?

Answer: Everything!

Using cloud computing as part of your sales and growth strategy is a game changer that can position you and your organization to beat the competition in unprecedented ways. The possibilities are intoxicating. You can increase win rates and drive revenue growth, streamline your selling process, create and manage action plans with ease, and use a centralized repository to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

Let’s Cloud the Issues

There are countless issues related to people collaborating on sales opportunities that have plagued sales efforts for eons. Issues such as:

No single point of reference for a sales opportunity’s information

No consistent approach to creating a sales action plan and strategy

No easy and effective way for sales capture teams to collaborate

The advent of cloud computing enables you to tackle these issues head-on and take an exciting new path on your journey to collaborating more effectively on sales opportunities.

Speaking of issues, I think that there’s been a certain mystique about cloud computing that sometimes clouds the issue (pun intended) related to how easy it is to use the cloud to your advantage.

Unlike much of information technology’s unfortunate and sordid trail from the past littered with the debris of failed projects and “shelfware” this time I think the vendors have got it right. Cloud computing in many ways holds the potential of being the collaboration panacea that so many end users have been searching for. In fact, I believe that from an end-user perspective you may find it marvellously pleasurable compared to some of the ventures you may have been previously subjected to.

Using the cloud effectively for sales efforts simply boils down to creating and sharing documents and information on the web, and using a framework that makes it easier to manage and collaborate than you ever dreamed possible. For example, you can address the sales collaboration issues by using many of the robust features offered by numerous leading cloud vendors. The most popular you can check out are Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Google’s Google Drive.

Notice that both these vendors use the word “drive” as a way to position their cloud collaboration offerings. Why? Because if you think of the cloud as simply being another computer drive (external hard drive or memory stick) at your disposal you’ve got this figured out. However, unlike a drive that’s connected to your computer this “drive” is connected to their computer and you can access the information you’ve stored on it via the web… anytime and anyplace. Simple.

Problem: Sales Collaboration Hasn’t Been Easy

If you’re like most companies you use a diversified team from functionally different departments to pursue sales opportunities. Sure you may have some dedicated sales professionals, but they’re probably supported by numerous other key players in your organization. This usually means that the CEO, CIO, CFO etc. and staff from their departments are involved. These folks are asked to collaborate with each other on sales opportunities.

Sales collaboration is ubiquitous. Doing it well is not so easy.

Case in point. I was with a CEO recently and he took a call that interrupted our conversation.

It was from his lead sales person. The conversation I couldn’t help but hear from my end went something like this:

“They’ve missed the mark. The presentation sucks. I’d be embarrassed to present this to the prospect. Tell them to review what they’ve put together and focus on the key benefits for this client and not just put in all our boilerplate stuff like they’ve done. Tell them to get on it and email it to me and I’ll take a look at it tonight.” Pause. “Ok, thanks.” Click

Yikes. Maybe a bit stern but I could sense the panic and pressure he was under since the presentation was first thing in the morning. How could the cloud have helped this situation have a better (and not bitter) outcome? Let’s take a look using the three issues previously mentioned:

One Single Point of Reference For A Sales Opportunity’s Information

The PowerPoint presentation in the example above could have been stored in the cloud in a central repository. This would have provided a single point of reference that this CEO could have looked at before this escalated into a crisis. He could have easily accessed it from any airport lounge in the world (where he spends much of his time). He could have provided his input and coached his team well before this moment of truth.

In addition to PowerPoint, a central repository can store, access, and share a myriad of files, word documents, spreadsheets, action plans, videos etc. related to any sales opportunity. All of this information is stored conveniently in one spot. From now on, whenever this CEO (or any of his sales team members) referenced anything to do with an opportunity they would ALL be working off of the latest and most up-to-date files. All “singing off the same song sheet”.

A central repository in the cloud also eliminates the need for email attachments. Attachments often cause titanic problems for teams collaborating on sales opportunities. For example, how many times on a con call have you had to search through your emails to find the key attachment that everyone’s referencing?

Were you sure it was the latest copy? Were you sure that you hadn’t missed an email and it was buried in your Inbox? If you use a cloud’s central repository to store information everyone can reference the one spot and know they’re all in synch.

A Uniform, Consistent Approach to Selling

The cloud provides an ideal platform to create and use a step-by-step process that everyone can follow to ensure that they’re on the same page.

The methodology I’ve used successfully in the past has three fundamental characteristics. It is completely customer centric and gets everyone focused on answering three key questions about the prospect and opportunity:

Where are they now? (What’s their business problem?)

Where do we want them to be? (What solution do we have that we can offer?)

How can we get them there? (What’s our strategy for winning the business?)

The answers to these key questions can be articulated and stored in the cloud so that everyone can contribute and reference the input. This forms the foundation for differentiating your organization and your offering from the competition. It also forms the basis for an Action Plan that fills in the gaps of missing information when a question has not been adequately answered.

Your key strategy will evolve from exploring the answers to these questions, and then collaborating on what will best resonate with the customer from your company’s offerings. Once you’ve uncovered that gem, you are on your way to crafting a strategy that will give you an unfair advantage over the competition.

An Easy and Effective Way to Collaborate

A recent Harvard Business Review (April, 2013) stated that “Studies show that engaged employees are 50 per cent more productive and 33 per cent more profitable.” This reflects findings from studies I’ve reviewed in the past that indicated that the #1 reason employees felt valued at work, and they were satisfied with their job, was if they had a sense of contribution.

Using the cloud, your team can engage and collaborate online to develop winning sales strategies, presentations, and proposals. And, because all of this is in the cloud, they can do this from anywhere (airport, home, office) and anytime that’s convenient to them. It’s also a fantastic way to facilitate effective communication over the web for sales strategy meetings and action plan updates where folks are geographically dispersed.

The cloud, and in particular the cloud-based technology that supports the efforts of sales teams, is a wonderful opportunity for you and your organization to tap into the collective wisdom of your staff and colleagues and give them a chance to make a contribution. Engaging them in a sales effort and cloud-based collaboration paradigm makes it extremely easy for them to contribute their ideas. It’s a win/win.

Take On Your Competition via the Cloud

I’ve never witnessed a more promising, easy, and exciting way for end users to take control of their own destiny, and leverage information technology to help them win sales, than the cloud. In my opinion, it provides an unprecedented opportunity for you to galvanize people around all your future sales opportunities.
I’d encourage you to check this out. For example, take a look at Microsoft’s SkyDrive. It’s FREE for up to 7 Gig of data which is all you’ll need to jump start your efforts. And, unlike SharePoint … you can do it yourself!

See just how valuable a cloud-based approach can be for engaging people in your next sales effort. Seize this opportunity to outsmart your competition. If you don’t… they will.

By John Spencer

John Spencer is an entrepreneur and management consultant offering a unique, cloud-based approach to strategic selling. His website can be found at www.strategicpursuit.com. His most recent corporate position was as Executive Director with Oracle Canada, responsible for creating sales strategies that would position them to grow their business on a national level.

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