Tag Archives: Salesforce.com

Powering Mass Collaboration with Salesforce Communities


salesforceportalsVcommunities

My firm works with our clients to deliver world-customer service and collaboration solutions on salesforce.com. Many of our clients cite interoperability with front-office systems (sales, marketing, customer support, and others) as a priority outcome of their collaboration initiatives. For those who are contemplating, or have already invested in the Salesforce platform,Salesforce Communities offers a powerful solution.

Driven by CEO Marc Benioff’s relentless vision for social business and mobile innovation on the platform, Salesforce Communities has evolved over the past few years from a simple chat application to a robust collaboration platform, fully mobile responsive. These changes have transformed Salesforce into a recognized leader in enterprise social collaboration with some distinct advantages in certain areas:

100% Data Driven: Salesforce is always in sync and interoperable with production data on accounts, contacts, opportunities, campaigns, and more – right out of the box, with no need for a traditional data integration effort.

“Lead with Mobile” Philosophy: Salesforce has extended the full functionality of the Salesforce platform, enabling you to automatically leverage your knowledge workers in the field to dramatically increase the freshness and accuracy of data. This built-in mobility also allows you to spend more of your implementation effort on functionality and outcomes vs. development of a “mobile version” of your social applications.

Mass Collaboration on “One Version of the Truth”: You can include customers, employees, and partners directly and securely into your front office processes on one, central database. Having this system of record dramatically improves data leveraged in the user experience. The various components of Salesforce Communities – such as Chatter, Chatter Answers, Knowledge, Cases and even Visual Workflow all leverage a consistent data set within your community.

Connect and Extend: When the need arises to integrate to core systems outside the front office, the Salesforce platform is among the most secure, and extensible on the market. The freedom to further enrich the customer/partner/employee experience by syndicating data from other enterprise systems is another way that Salesforce Communities can increase system-use efficiency and enterprise collaboration.

Measure to Manage: The Salesforce platform embeds powerful analytics to make fact-based decisions on the iterative evolution of your social business. You can share reports, and now Salesforce dashboards with Salesforce Communities users to measure and guide behaviors for community activation, adoption, and ongoing optimization.

Link to the Broader Public Conversation: Salesforce allows you to participate in the conversations that happen outside of your four walls as well, with social listening and outreach tools such as Exact Target Marketing Cloud and Radian6 Social listening and strategy are a core offering of 7Summits. We can now integrate these enabling technologies to complement your Salesforce system for real-time open social feedback on your collaboration efforts.

Mass collaboration and social business solutions can be a powerful factor in driving your business outcomes and aligning your front-office operations.

If your enterprise technology playbook includes Salesforce, 7Summits can help you take those outcomes to the next level.  Feel free to contact me to continue the conversation: (Twitter) @tim_kocher

4 Ways to Leapfrog your Competitors Using Salesforce Communities


Community

How do you improve some of the best portal applications on the market today? If you are salesforce.com, you transform them into Salesforce Communities.

Perhaps you are like most of my clients – focused on improving the experience of those most precious constituent groups: customers, employees and partners. If you have not yet seen what Salesforce has done to evolve their Customer Portal and Partner Portal products, it’s really worth a look. You can read more on that topic in this Salesforce Communities Post by my colleague Phil Weinmeister, who was one of the early explorers to pop the hood with salesforce.com and take Communities for a spin.

Once you see the power of Salesforce Communities, your mind will begin to race thinking of the many ways to apply this unique framework (which unlike the competition comes out-of-the-box completely integrated with your CRM system, offering that illusive 360 degree view of the customer). Here are just a few ways that you can leverage Communities to take the lead in your competitive space:

1. Form tighter customer relationships and harvest best practices by Connecting Customers:

Your competitors are wasting precious cycles playing the telephone game by collecting and redistributing ideas from their customers.

Leapfrog them by connecting customers with customers and moderating the discussion. This is a subtle but powerful way to provide differentiation and credibility. You add the “voice of the customer” to your customer service portfolio of activities. You can also feed the best answers (as voted by your customers) back to the community – and even to your call center to improve your basic customer service in the process.

2. Make it easier for your partners to select you with a Communities Knowledge Base:

If you have ever tried to navigate an FAQ section of a website you know what your competitors may be putting their trade partners through.

Leapfrog them by providing your partners with a self-improving knowledge base powered by Communities. Participants rank answers to their questions, making it easier for members to find relevant content and absorb the information you have to share. This body of knowledge grows in quantity and quality allowing you to provide superior value more quickly than your competitors.through.

3. Harness the “power of the hive” to attack your priorities with a Communities Intranet Solution:

Let’s face it. Intranets can be boring and hard to use. Your competitors have the same old corporate departmental folders and they force their employees to dive into directories and send emails to find the right information.

Leapfrog them by providing your employee base with curated content, and a Chatter-powered collaboration space that allows real-time collaboration and problem-solving, quickly aligning experts in your firm with the people who need them in a timely fashion.

4. Provide 24×7 project communications with a Communities Project Collaboration Space:

We’ve all been there. It’s 6pm and you need the latest version of the project plan, but everyone has left for the day. Your competitors wait until tomorrow to start to solve their problem.

Leapfrog them by quickly finding the right document in a central project repository and then instantly sending a one-to-many communication to your entire project team via Chatter so that everyone starts their day tomorrow running with the answer, not waking up to a question.

These are just a few of the many solutions that Salesforce Communities can bring to your organization. The limits are your imagination and your business case. And again, the value of having this information contained in the same database as all other customer interactions cannot be overstated from the perspective of user-experience, business benefit, and ongoing cost-of-ownership.

If you would like to learn more about how your organization can make gains in your industry by leveraging Salesforce Communities, I would love the opportunity to brainstorm further with you and your Team. Feel free to reach out.

#SFCommunities

“Engagement-To-Cash”


A Holistic Solution for Meaningful and Profitable Customer Relationships

Falling short of customer expectations can be fatal.  Once iconic businesses like Polaroid, Yellow Pages, Border’s, Circuit City, Pontiac, and Blockbuster have ceased to exist.  There are no doubt widely varying factors that contributed to their ultimate disappearance.  But some may have fallen prey to what digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist Brian Solis calls “Digital Darwinism” in his book The End Of Business As Usual.  How well did these companies keep pace with customer relationship expectations?

At my firm, EDL Consulting, we take a unique point-of-view on customer relationships that we call “Engagement-to-Cash.” It’s a process that allows businesses to turn the liability of disjointed customer relationships into integrated, holistic customer interactions.

E2C

Engagement-to-Cash is deliberately represented as a cyclical process as opposed to a linear one.   Each phase is interdependent, and if managed properly, the cycle will renew based on your customers’ willingness to repeat it.  Your customers will grow your business over time if they continue to derive value from their relationship with you.

EDL Consulting was founded in 2001 with a perspective that businesses operate more efficiently and effectively when marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service functions (the “front office” or “customer facing” functions) work together holistically.

The Internet, the acceptance of cloud computing, as well as mobile, social, and real-time communications have radically accelerated the transformation of what is possible and what is necessary for Engagement-to-Cash. The rules of the customer relationship have changed profoundly.  If you are still managing these core business functions as you did even 3-4 years ago, you are behind the curve.

Taking this holistic point of view enables our clients to maximize performance by increasing engagement and customer satisfaction, increasing revenues and customer lifetime value, and trimming customer acquisition and retention costs across multiple disciplines.

There are several key enablers of these results:

  • Cloud Computing – Businesses can now pivot with more agility than ever before with flexible and scalable IT infrastructures and applications, no longer tied to the “digital concrete” of heavy, on-premise systems.
  • Social Media – There is more meaningful customer information and interaction for businesses to leverage than ever before. By joining social conversations, companies can engage customers with meaningful, value-add content.
  • A Unified Customer Database – The holistic Engagement-to-Cash cycle represents technology as well as process. A world-class, integrated Force.com framework is delivering on the CRM promise of “one version of the truth.”

Viewing the front office in this way frustrates traditional point solution technology vendors, whose products typically apply to a distinct piece of the total solution such as marketing automation, social media, eCommerce, or customer service, and whose products therefore fail to address the inherent interdependencies of a holistic business cycle.

There are two flaws with a point-solution approach.

The Silo Effect
: For example, an eCommerce solution may include a powerful new system, but because the vendor focuses only on the eCommerce component, the new system will most likely involve a disparate customer database than exists within the enterprise CRM system, bringing the implied added costs of maintaining, developing, and integrating two source systems.

The Hammer Looking for a Nail
: This is a fundamental distinction between Engagement-to-Cash and traditional point solution philosophies. The holistic approach is not limited to a one-size-fits-all answer.  It ensures that you bring forward what you need, not what they have.

In sharp contrast, through our strategic alignment with salesforce.com and BigMachines, EDL Consulting has found technology partners that complement our Engagement-to-Cash philosophy.  Salesforce and BigMachines provide a state of the art, cloud-based platform and flexible, software-as-a-service continuum along which our customers can begin where they prefer and then evolve as they prefer, moving in a modular fashion to optimize their Engagement-to-Cash cycle, regardless of where they start the journey and where they are headed.  Each of the phases of the Engagement-to-Cash cycle can be addressed by these technologies.

EDL organizes the Engagement to Cash process into eight distinct phases which are explained in greater detail below:

Engagement – Foster Customer Intimacy

Customers are talking about your company. The only question is, are you participating in the conversation?  EDL helps to ensure that you have the systems and processes in place to join in. EDL can enable your organization with best practices for planning and internalizing best practices in engagement through social media, as well as best-in-breed tools like Radian6 from salesforce.com to help you enhance customer engagement.  This engagement continues throughout the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle as a thread of each phase.

Demand Generation – Turn Targets Into Leads

There are a variety of channels you can use to communicate with your customers  – your website, social media, marketing, field sales, campaigns, events, etc.  How do you fill your funnel and turn targets into prospects and leads? EDL leverages the best in breed marketing functionality and campaign management of salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to ensure you have a more focused and effective demand generation effort.

Lead Management – Creation to Qualification

It’s a question that keeps marketing and sales executives up at night – “Have we followed up on your leads?” EDL helps our customers put processes in place to close the loop from lead creation to qualification. How does your organization contact, qualify and promote leads to opportunities? This process helps create certainty that you’ve followed through on your important investment in leads by leveraging best practices in salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud lead management functionality.

Opportunity Management – Prioritize and Qualify

Now that you’ve created the opportunities, you’re trying to allocate your company’s finite resources to the most appropriate opportunities to maximize customer satisfaction and revenue. We help you to ensure you have the process and systems in place to effectively track and prioritize sales activity and qualification through the sales pipeline. EDL leverages salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to enable measurement and proper management your pursuits.

Configuration – Fast and Accurate Pricing, and Quoting

The importance of getting quick, accurate estimates and proposals to your customers can be the difference between winning and losing business. EDL excels at implementation of both the basic product pricing in saleforce.com, and the more robust configuration, pricing, and quoting (CPQ) solutions of BigMachines, the best-in-breed software CPQ solution in the salesforce.com ecosystem.

eCommerce – Enterprise-class Cross-Channel eCommerce

EDL brings deep experience in resolving and simplifying the complexities of developing and maintaining effective eCommerce systems.

With over ten years of experience improving online tractions, we bring the domain expertise to address your eCommerce needs.

We have packaged all that knowledge in a best in breed product called CloudCraze developed natively on saleforce.com’s Force.com platform.

Order Management – Improve Operational Efficiencies

The order management process results in a faster path to improved operational efficiencies and higher customer satisfaction. Depending on your business model, there is/are? a myriad of ways to fulfill an order – download, shipping, integrate with your existing systems.  EDL can provide the integration experience to connect your eCommerce system with your back office systems.

Customer Service – Create Long-Term Customer Relationships

Your customer interaction will either lead to a “once and done” transaction, or a long-term relationship.  EDL can help enable your organization with the processes and tools to move to long-term relationships with repeat transactions. Each of your interactions is a precious opportunity to further customer engagement. Your customers are demanding more and better service. EDL can help you provide a more holistic experience across all channels‹from the contact center to customer social networks ­ by implementing saleforce.com’s Service Cloud. Continued follow up and nurturing of relationship helps guide the conversation from problem resolution to new sales opportunities.

Let’s Get Started…

Engagement-to-Cash is a fresh perspective, one that leverages decades of technology and business experience into a holistic solution approach, helping companies forge deeper and more successful customer relationships with systems that integrate cleanly among your customer relationship processes.

I would be delighted to discuss your business objectives for the coming year, the ways in which your organization currently handles the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle, the many benefits that our customers are realizing by changing the game – and you can too.

Contact Me:

Tim Kocher

tim.kocher@edlconsulting.com

Time Travel…A Tale of Sales Tool Evolution!


The tools of the [sales] trade have changed remarkably since I began my career 20 years ago.  That fact struck me on a recent business trip to San Diego even harder than the strange weather (It was 30 degrees warmer in Chicago than Southern California – in March!).  On this trip, I got more work done during my flight than I could have done over the course of an entire week 20 years ago.  It was truly like time travel.

Yes, sales tools have changed…Actually, sales tools have been radically transformed over the past 20 years.  Only after the day had ended, when I was eating dinner and reflecting, did I piece together just how amazing the transformation has been.

Here is a summary of the tools that I leveraged.

First, the travel itself.  I booked my trip through Travelocity, managed my trip through Tripit on my iPhone, and boarded the plane (using my mobile boarding pass of course).  In the “old days” this would have called for me collaborating with a travel agent via phone while the agent looked up options on their private terminal.  Then, I would have received physical tickets in the mail, and checked in at the airport to receive physical boarding passes.

On to the research.  I began by  the exploring the backgrounds of the clients with whom I was to meet, literally gathering more information than a team of people could have done over several days in the 1990s.  I accessed bios on each attendee of my meetings via LinkedIn, then accessed breakdowns on their company via Data.com and Google Finance.  Finally, I Checked Radian6 and HootSuite for any social media postings by or about them or their company.

Then there was the preparation of meeting materials.  While in the air for the 4 hour flight (which used to be 4 dead hours) I worked on my PowerPoint presentation, connected to the in-flight wi-fi on American Airlines, collaborated with my co-workers via Skype to complete the presentation, then emailed it to my team at the destination.

Suddenly, Radian6, my social media listening tool flagged a newly published article about another key client of mine.  Before I landed in California, I had clipped that article, emailed it with a congratulatory note the my key contacts at this important client, and landed a meeting with their CEO, all of which was neatly and automatically tracked and summarized in my cloud-based CRM system, salesforce.com.

On the way to my meeting, I called up the mobile version of salesforce.com on my iphone, downloaded a map to the meeting place, called my contact, and logged a note to remind myself of our conversation.

Amazing.  Nothing short of stunning, really.

In one day, I had leveraged “sales 2.0” tools including:

  1. Wireless internet during a flight: Go-Go in-flight internet on American Airlines (converting 4 dormant hours to productive time)
  2. Cloud-based CRM: salesforce.com and integrated Outlook email
  3. Online intelligence:  Data.com, Google Finance
  4. Social media: Radian6, HootSuite, and LinkedIn
  5. Mobile solutions: salesforce.com mobile, Google Maps,

This is such a fundamental paradigm shift for someone who began in sales at a time when the fax machine was breaking its own paradigm of physical document delivery (Remember?…”It sends the contracts over the phone lines as data and then re-assembles them on the receiving machine!”).

So, before jumping into your next big day, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the progress we’ve made.

Of course, as a famous time traveler once said,”It’s always a big day tomorrow – I’ve got a time machine; I skip the little ones!” ~The Doctor

Green Bananas


One day earlier this month, I got up for my morning routine and went to pack my breakfast – which, since my wife became a nutrition coach and got me on a solid path, usually consists of some whole grains and fresh fruit. I’d been craving a banana and had not had one in a while. I rounded the corner to my kitchen, filled up my coffee, reached into the fruit basket and without even looking broke off a banana from the bunch. The ensuing “snap” let me know what my eyes now confirmed – it was a [very] green banana and was not going to do me any good that day. “Maybe by the end of the week,” I said. The more familiar scenario in my house is that we find there are several brown spotted bananas which we quickly convert to banana bread and all is well. But as I completed my commute to work that day it got me thinking. Do we have any “green bananas” in our pipeline?

Looking at my firm’s business after the big push to the finish in 2011 had my team wondering about the top of our sales funnel, which we had not done in a while.

After spending so much time nurturing the mature opportunities through the more time-consuming stages of qualification, proposals, contracts, and closure, we turned our eyes to the top of the funnel, and were not happy with what we saw. We had just baked a big loaf of banana bread but the basket was lower than we liked, except for a some [very] green bananas.

How many times have you found yourself dealing with the mature deals in your pipeline like those ripe bananas and wondering, “Now what?” Or, looking at a bunch of green bananas and wondering how long it would be until you could eat?

Well, it’s all about managing your produce.

  1. Block out time and buy some green bananas. Treat your demand generation and lead follow-up time as sacred. Book time during your week for this “appointment” of new sales activities and keep that meeting no matter what. Bring in the fresh stock!
  2. Spend time balancing ripeness. Get face-to-face with your clients.  Never Eat Alone. Use coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon as ways to strike up conversations in your network to keep the produce moving through the process. It may not pay off today, but your deals will mature when you need them down the line. Personally, I’m finding more people willing to grab a quick coffee or be treated to an eat-in lunch at their office these days than taking time for dinners or playing rounds of golf like the heyday.  The point is, you need to spend one-on-one time to ripen your deals.
  3. Rotate your stock. My firm uses salesforce.com for CRM (full disclosure, we also do consulting on the product and it is my personal favorite after using many over the years – contact me if you’s like to learn more) but whatever CRM system you use, be sure that it serves its core purpose – to allocate your precious resources across the portfolio of opportunities to maximize your business by helping your customers. To do this, you need to be sure about where you are in the buying/selling process. You need to know that you are taking the right action and applying the right resources. Use your CRM system to ensure you are not ignoring new opportunities while you’re focused exclusively on the “closing” end of the funnel. You need to spend time in each stage to get the most out of your produce.

Stick with this more balanced approach to your selling activities and you’ll create a more balanced sales funnel. You’ll have some nice green bananas, some delicious yellow ripe ones – and yes, hopefully, you’ll also be making lots of bread!

Please Read CRM and Leave Me Alone!


Begin rant here…

If you look at it from the perspective of the sales representative, one of the principal benefits of CRM (and I’ve selected, implemented, and used them all – Microsoft CRM, Salesforce.com, Oracle CRM, Sugar, you name it)  is creating a “book of record” for opportunities and client touch points. 

I know where my opportunity stands.  I know the sales stage we’re in.  I know the people making the decision.  I know our allies and our detractors.  I have all my correspondence to and from our buyers.  I have the latest feedback from the  influencers.  I’ve documented our partners on the deal. Ditto the competition. I know our relative strengths and weaknesses.  And, here is the coolest part – SO DO YOU!  In fact, everyone in the organization has this information in one, centralized spot.

This is why my pet peeve is doing perpetual deal reviews for various members of a pursuit team – catching them up.  As the Sales Rep, this consumes  untold cycles of my time.

If you want to know about a deal, please go review the notes on it in CRM! 

Otherwise, why am I doing this typing?  (I’m the one who already knows this information, remember?)

…Rant ended