The India Journal of Mercuri International Apr - Jun 2019
Selling in a connected world
Real Time Marketing – Circa 1995
A Secret Customer Acquisition Weapon in 3 Words
Selling in a continuously connected world
Real Time Marketing – Circa 1995
Let’s rewind to 1995. It was 5 years after Barners Lee wrote the first HTML code bringing the World Wide Web to life. You had to dial up to access the net. Data was stored in tapes and floppy drives. Pagers were popular for staying connected while on the move. Clunky cellular phones were slowly making inroads. Looking back, those days seem primitive!
Yet, writing in the same year, for the July/August 1995 issue of Harvard Business Review, Regis McKenna advanced the idea of Real Time Marketing predicting the dramatic effect technology will have on how to win and keep Customers. Here’s a listing of the insights which are valid even today:
- Engage early on real time with Customers - Companies should use technology to start real-time dialogues with their Customers and provide interactive services, to cut through market chaos and bond with Customers. Customers should be involved as early as possible in the product development cycle, and continuously beyond. Focus must be on time to acceptance and not only on time to market.
- Transition from Broadcast to Dialogue – If companies treat new communications media as mere channels for broadcasting messages, distributing products, and processing transactions, they will fail to gain the real benefits of technology. You must use technology, on the other hand, to draw the individual Customer into conversations, like how Levi Strauss used simple phone calls and Customer data to market custom-made jeans at a mere $10 extra, delivering a much superior Customer experience. McKenna writes memorably “Today companies and Customers …. Can know more about one another and work more closely together than they ever could before. Virtual intimacy, electronic collegiality, instant familiarity, call it what you will: There’s a new and evolving relationship that defines brand in the information age”
- Offer access and gain acceptance – Says McKenna: “Companies initiate dialogue by opening themselves to consumer access; they sustain it by involving consumers as partners in development and production” The author cites the toll-free numbers on Kellogg’s cereal cartons for nutritional queries. Intel discussed new microprocessors with engineers who design computers for Intel’s Customers. “Dialogue is the brand” he asserts
- Acquire technology literacy – “Marketers do not need to know technical details about information systems …But they must develop a business understanding of technology and how to use it strategically” says McKenna. Predicting how things will change he writes “On the Internet, consumers can trade product information with other consumers, experiment with new software programs before they buy them, or join forums”.
McKenna sums up the ‘90s challenge like this: “One thing is certain: Marketing will change, and managers must be prepared to change with it” Read Regis McKenna’s prescient ideas here.
Selling in a continuously connected world
In today’s connected world, any buyer with a minimum of computer literacy gets online to check options, reaches out to friends, colleagues and acquaintances over social media to validate choices. What does this mean to the Seller?
Wharton Professors Nicolaj Siggelekow and Christian Terwiesch, recommend a shining, new approach to address Customer needs, in their HBR 2019 article titled The Continuous Connection,.
They say episodically interacting with Customers only when they come to the company, in a ‘Buy What We Have’ approach is passe. Today, companies needn’t wait for Customers to come to them. With ‘connected strategies’, firms can build deeper ties with Customers and create wow! moments. This powerful insight can be used as a value creator by Sales Teams as well.
Which Connected Strategies Should You Use?
WORKS BEST WHEN
WORKS BEST FOR
Respond to desire
Customer expresses what she wants and when
Fast and efficient response to orders
Customers are knowledgeable
Customers who don’t want to share too much data and who like to be in control
Firm offers tailored menu of options to customer
Making good personalized recommendations
The uncurated set of options is large and potentially overwhelming
Customers who don’t mind sharing some data but want a final say
Firm nudges customer to act to obtain a goal
Understanding customer needs, and ability to gather and interpret rich data
Inertia and biases keep customers from achieving what’s best for them
Customers who don’t mind sharing personal data and getting suggestions
Firm fills customer’s need without being asked
Monitoring customers and translating incoming data into action
Customer behavior is very predictable, and costs of mistakes are small
Customers who don’t mind sharing personal data and having firms make decisions for them
To illustrate, let’s consider a Consulting Company, with Consultants travelling abroad frequently, approaching its bank for forex:
- Respond to Desire – The bank arranges for forex as required. The Relationship Manager (RM) is responding to a need and desire already identified by the Customer
- Curated Offering – The RM suggests a multi -currency travel card instead of forex in a single currency. Doing this will require capabilities in ‘making good personalized recommendations.
- Coach behavior – The RM probes and understands that in the current year, the company has a big pipeline of overseas assignments. Demonstrating coach behavior, he anticipates requirements, comes up with a cost-effective plan at company level to avail forex.
- Automatic execution – RM calendarizes Customer’s forex needs and arranges for automatic issue on specified dates saving the Customer the effort and trouble of asking for it transaction by transaction
Used repeatedly, these strategies can help sales teams to realize 2 important benefits – (1) Get better at matching individual Customer needs with product and service options. (2) Promote learning at ‘population level’ enabling smart adjustments to the product and service portfolios.
The overarching requirement for these strategies to succeed is mutual trust between the Salesperson and Customer.
A final important point: Given that Customers are likely to have different preferences, most sales teams will have to create a portfolio of connected strategies, which will require them to build a whole new set of capabilities.
How can continuous connections work for you? A fresh look at your Customer’s purchase journey might throw up exciting answers.
A Secret Customer Acquisition Weapon in 3 Words
How do you pick a new restaurant to try? Go online, of course. Once online, don’t you look at comments? Specially the 5-star and 1-star reviews? Or you decide to experiment because your favourite columnist gave the place a good rating. Or because a close friend raved about the lingering aroma of the pulav there, stirring an appetite a week after the meal
Consider another example. Suppose a colleague shares with you her pleasant admission-to-discharge-to-bill settlement experience, in a hospital where she underwent a surgery. Later, if a friend asks you about good hospital options, aren’t you more likely to suggest this one?
What’s common in these choices? Clue: It’s 3 words.. and is the secret Customer acquisition weapon of many thriving businesses
Word of Mouth (WOM). All Business Leaders acknowledge WOM as an amazingly effective way to acquire new Customers. It is no secret that Customer facing staff, especially sales teams, by delivering aha experiences at important touchpoints, have countless opportunities to spark positive conversations about your brand. The mystery however is in HOW this can be done.
Talk Triggers solves this puzzle. And what is a Talk Trigger? Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin define it as a “built-in differentiator that creates Customer conversations”. Hold on, isn’t that the same as a USP? The authors disagree with a humour and flair that runs through their book: “A USP is a feature, articulated with a bullet point, discussed in a conference room. A talk trigger is a benefit, articulated with a story, discussed at a cocktail party”
Does this work for B2B? Yes, say the authors, citing a study done by Blanc & Otus and G2Crowd that found the impact of recommendations and referrals in B2B to be actually far greater. The authors suggest a 4 – 5 – 6 framework to make Talk Triggers work in business. It’s important to keep the following insights in mind before getting into implementation:
- WOM works best when it’s specific (“Good experience” isn’t specific. “A pleasant admission to discharge bill settlement experience” is)
- Social Media doesn’t always equal WOM. It’s just one of the ways WOM gets conveyed. Offline, table or informal conversations are considered more trust worthy as Customers don’t curate their experiences the way they do it online
- ‘Same is lame’. In the context of word of mouth, being ‘good’ isn’t enough
Here is the 3 part 4-5-6 framework in summary:
P1: 4 Requirements of a Talk Trigger: A Talk Trigger must be (a) Remarkable (b) Relevant (c) Reasonable (d) Repeatable
P2: 5 Types of Talk Triggers: A Talk Trigger must have talkable: (a) Empathy (b) Usefulness (c) Generosity (d) Speed (e) Attitude
P3: 6 Steps to Create Talk Triggers: (a) Gather Internal Insights (b) Get Close To Your Customers (c) Create candidate Talk Triggers (d) Test & Measure (e) Expand and turn on (f) Amplify your Talk Triggers.. Create your own Next Talk Trigger.
The book illustrates the framework drawing on 30 real life cases, where businesses have successfully used Talk Triggers to get extraordinary results and leave their competition way behind. One of the 30, is Americollect.
The Americollect story and Talk Trigger lessons for Sales
Americollect is in the business of collecting receivables from Consumers who have unpaid health care bills, in the United States. What do you think is their Talk Trigger? Would you believe, it is ‘Ridiculously Nice Collections’? Collections? Ridiculously nice? You must be joking. But the truth is, in a business known for strong arm methods, collecting money by being nice cannot help becoming a talk trigger. The company leveraging empathy, has a shockingly pleasant sales script that encourages its staff to let the Customer know “we recognize your struggle now, but if you had the money, you’d pay the bill”. The “Ridiculously Nice Collections” tagline is even trademarked.
Vastly improved collections, happier hospitals, growing referrals have put Americollect in the league of the largest and fastest-growing collection agencies in US. One hospital even admitted to using the Americollect approach to training its own employees
So, as a Sales Person, what are your Talk Triggers? If you don’t have any, it’s time to discover and hone some. In a connected world, a talk trigger can be your biggest growth asset outside the balance sheet.
- A luscious strawberry
- Pearly White Translucent Radish with a hint of earth’s fragrance
- Crisp lettuce
- A crunchy apple
- Red and Pink Onions-firm and juicy
- All oozing with freshness
- A visual feast
- Taste that bursts forth in the tongue
- A warm comfort fills the body and mind
- Sheer Bliss
- The passionate farmer? is that all
- Not really true anymore
- The Digital World brings forth
- A slew of gifts
- Urban mini farm-boxes
- Gourmet ingredients never out of season
- Living walls of herbs
- Customised nutrition
- Bar code testing… no need to pinch or sniff?
- LED lights, climate control
- Less wastage and more and better food for the Hungry World
- Loving human hands and razor sharp technology
- Let’s celebrate a Happy Coexistence!!
- "Social media creates kinship between companies and Customers, and kinship equals purchase intent” – Jay Baer
- “Return on Investment (ROI) is about dollars and cents; Return on Relationships (ROR) is about sharing, building relationships, and the value accrued (both perceived and real) by building and sharing relationships with the people you do business with. We have forgotten how to relate to people; this is now sharply in focus through digital, social, and the new wave of human-centred marketing.”- Ted Rubin
- “Social is not a place for hard sell – It’s a place to build trust and credibility” – Julio Viskovich
- “Before LinkedIn and other social networks, in the sales world, ABC stood for Always Be Closing. Now, it means Always Be Connecting.” – Jill Rowley
- “It’s time to go where your buyers live: online. If you pride yourself on being where your buyers are, why aren’t you online yet?” – Jamie Shanks
- “As a sales person, we must be visible. We must put ourselves out there so that the buyers, when they’re looking around for answers, can find us.” – Koka Sexton
- “A brand is no longer what we tell the Customer it is – It is what the Customers tell each other it is” – Scott Cook
- “When everything is connected to everything else, for better or for worse, everything matters” - Bruce Mau
- “Increasingly, brand sentiment and demand are driven by word of mouth recommendations from trusted peers, both online and in person. When 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral, your next customer isn’t going to find you without a lot of help from your advocates” – Influitive.com
"Markita sold 3,526 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that year and won her trip around the world. Since then, she has sold more than 42,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, spoken at sales conventions across the country, starred in a Disney movie about her adventure and has coauthored the bestseller, How to Sell More Cookies, Condos, Cadillacs, Computers... And Everything Else.
Was Markita endowed with special gifts? No! She had one courageous quality though..
Markita is no smarter and no more extroverted than thousands of other people, young and old, with dreams of their own. The difference is Markita has discovered the secret of selling: Ask, Ask, Ask! Many people fail before they even begin because they fail to ask for what they want. Fear of rejection leads many of us to reject ourselves and our dreams long before anyone else ever has the chance — no matter what we’re selling.
And everyone is selling something. “You’re selling yourself every day — in school, to your boss, to new people you meet,” said Markita at 14. “My mother is a waitress: she sells the daily special. Mayors and presidents trying to get votes are selling. One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Chapin. She made geography interesting, and that’s really selling. I see selling everywhere I look. Selling is part of the whole world.”
It takes courage to ask for what you want. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing what it takes despite one’s fear. And, as Markita has discovered, the more you ask, the easier (and more fun) it gets”
Recharge your inspiration to ask for the sale. Every single time. Irrespective of whether you are online or offline. Read Margarita’s full story here
Excerpted from "The Original Chicken Soup For The Soul, Twentieth Anniversary Edition"
Mercuri Mail is a thoughtful compilation of meaningful articles drawn from Mercuri India archives, and from timeless management literature. Edited by Jaishankar Balasubramaniam & Sridhar Srinivasan of Mercuri Goldmann (India) Pvt. Ltd. This publication is for private circulation only.
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