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Sales agility – the key to succeeding in the new disruptive landscape

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Sales agility – the key to succeeding in the new disruptive landscape

Agility in business has become something of a buzz word in recent years. Increased disruption, spurred on by technology, stronger competition and cost cutting, is driving the need for organisations to become agile in all areas to succeed in this changing landscape. Against this backdrop agility in sales may seem like a new and trendy concept. It’s not the case.

In reality, effective sales professionals have always been more agile than their less successful peers, especially when it comes to winning complex sales. The correlation between sales success and sales agility has been around for decades.

Why? Fundamentally because no two customers are alike. Customers’ needs are wide and varied, influenced by their own goals and those of their department, as well as their contemporaries within the decision-making unit (DMU) and the organisation at large. And the product or service requirements a customer started out with can morph and change as they journey through the Buying Cycle.

To be persuasive and engaging from customer to customer, to be able to create and articulate value – not just for the person in front of you but for everyone involved in the DMU – while all the time keeping tabs on shifting ground, needs skill. And that skill is agility.

Tony Hughes, CEO at sales and negotiation specialists Huthwaite International, sheds light on the crucial attributes of agile selling.

1)  Active listening
Every customer’s perception of what agile looks like can be different.
Finding out what this means in each case is essential if the salesperson is to respond effectively. It’s not something that can be asked. And it’s not something most customers would think about in depth either, so may find hard to explain. The sales person has to work it out. The first essential skill in sales agility is therefore listening. That means really digesting the words the customer uses and how they choose to communicate their thoughts.

Years ago a not-for-profit organisation had problems with their fund-raising team. When asked by a specialist at Huthwaite to describe their organisation they talked about having poor performers, average performers and prima-donnas. They used a pejorative term to describe the high performers but not the other two groups. When this was pointed out it started to become clear that the charity had no culture of working with commercially successful people, so had difficulty communicating with their own high performers. That one piece of active listening and the insight it gave was all it took to find the right solution.

2)  Flexible verbal behaviour
As well as deeply understanding how the customer is using language, skilled salespeople are equally careful when choosing the words they use.
It’s often unconscious. Many effective salespeople can’t tell you what it is that makes them successful or they ascribe their success to something that, on closer inspection, isn’t actually what they do. It’s what we call the perception gap or unconscious competence and it’s the reason why Huthwaite’s models are based on observational research – not just the consultative approach taken by many of our contemporaries. Research shows us that perception gaps are much narrower for skilled sales people as they are fully aware of the language they use.

The good news is you can train people to become more aware of their language and narrow that gap themselves. Even better, as people become more self-aware, they can make choices and adapt their verbal behaviours to become more effective. We call that flexible verbal behaviour and it’s the key to success in every verbal business interaction.

3) Questioning skills
Salespeople cannot be agile in meeting their customer’s precise needs, priorities, concerns and desired outcomes without an in-depth and complete understanding of what they are. Gaining that understanding needs rigour. When it comes to questioning a seller must develop a systematic, consistent, structured approach. Huthwaite’s SPIN® Selling model is one of the best examples of a questioning methodology; and that’s why it’s used by sales teams around the world including many of the Fortune 100.

Value and risk are important considerations in the decision to buy but they are perceptions first and foremost. The customer’s perception is what counts. They have to work it out and know it for themselves but the seller can help them reach a conclusion by asking insightful questions about the problems they face, the consequences of not solving them, and the benefits of using your solution. That enables the customer to communicate the value of the product or service to the rest of the DMU in a much more compelling way. There’s a huge difference between “the sales person told me we’ll save…” and “I’ve worked out we’ll save…”

4) Knowledge
Before a sales professional starts asking more questions it’s crucial to know what questions to ask. No matter how well developed their listening and questioning skills are, if they bombard the customer with questions that are irrelevant nothing will move forward.
Knowing the right background information on the customer will help. Information such as the problems the customer may be experiencing that your product can solve, and particularly where you know you can solve it better than the competition, is useful. As are any industry developments or general trends that may be driving the purchase decision.

5) Confidence
One of the most powerful tools in the sales person’s repertoire is their confidence. There is little that impresses potential customers more than the calm, assured demeanour of a genuinely confident sales person.

A confident seller develops trust, provides reassurance and enhances their and their company’s reputation as well as the customer’s experience. Confidence enables the sales person to explore the customer’s needs and offer ideas in the most persuasive manner possible. Confidence cannot be learned, it has to be gained, and there is no better way of gaining it than by being fluent in a sales methodology that works. Investing in high quality sales training can be a wise move for any organisation.

6) Understanding the customer’s business strategy
Customer organisations can be complicated things, with any number of challenges that need addressing and almost certainly not enough resources to do it all. Prioritisation is crucial. Doing the important before the urgent is sometimes hard, but it’s an ability all great leaders have.

Whatever is closest to the customer’s strategic direction is what matters most. If the client company has a defined and universally accepted business strategy that lies at the heart of every decision they make – and all good companies do – it’s vital sellers understand it too. They must have the skills and knowledge to uncover and understand their customer’s business strategy. By aligning solutions to strategy, sellers will maximise the chances of their project being prioritised and being allocated the resources to close the deal.

7) Consider the whole customer DMU
It’s a fact of life that corporate buying decisions are rarely made by one single individual. It always involves a team. It may be through a formal buying committee or simply asking for a second opinion over the coffee machine. But be aware that somewhere there is someone influencing the buying decision who you will probably never meet and may never hear of.

Current research suggests, on average, there are 6.8 individuals involved in a B2B buying decision. That’s at least six people, all with different needs, alternate, and possibly conflicting decision criteria and varying degrees of enthusiasm (or apathy) about the project, as well as each of the potential suppliers. How does the sales person manage that? In theory, they just get all the key players to the decision point at the same time and with all of them favouring their solution. In practice it requires a deep understanding of the role each person has in making the decision (which incidentally may have nothing to do with their job title) and a clear strategy to address each one.

8) Negotiation
So, you invest in sales training, develop your team’s skills, strategies and confidence and give them the knowledge they need to do an outstanding job. And they do; they accurately assess the customer’s view of agility, build both value and clear competitive differentiation, present a persuasive case for your solution and effectively manage the complexities of the buying organisation. You’ve ticked all the boxes – the users love your proposal and your company has signed it off. So that’s it, the deal’s yours, right?

Wrong. Now you have to go and see Procurement – the professional buyer. It’s time to negotiate. It’s Procurement’s job to tell you they like your proposal but they can get the same thing 20% cheaper elsewhere, and what can you do. Of course, what they’ve told you isn’t always true. If they can really get it 20% cheaper, and it really is the same thing, they’d have bought it from someone else. They want to do a deal with you but they want better terms. They claim it’s a buyer’s market and they have all the power but that’s not true either. Unless it’s an entirely frivolous purchase they have to buy from someone. (The clue is in their job title.) But that won’t stop them doing everything they can even to the point of undermining your confidence and devaluing your proposition.

There’s one thing you can be sure of. They are experienced negotiators. Are your sellers equally familiar with the process? If not, they should be. Negotiation skills are the last piece of the jigsaw, the final weapon in the ultimate sales person’s armoury. And don’t think you can cut corners by just training the sales managers to negotiate and sending in the ‘big guns’ at the close. Buyers love it – because the only thing a manager can do that a sales person can’t, is give more concessions.

When used in combination, these attributes unlock a deeper customer intelligence and a clearer understanding of what’s needed to win the business without compromising margin, or undermining the integrity of the product or business behind it.

Business

Are bots eating your Facebook budget?

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Are bots eating your Facebook budget? 1

By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd

In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.

With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.

Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.

Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.

But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?

How do bots work?

A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.

In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.

Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.

Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.

Why is this a problem?

The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.

There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.

In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.

Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.

How might bots affect data and analytics?

Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.

Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.

Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.

Taking the fight to the bots

There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.

Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.

Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.

Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.

Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.

After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.

Conclusion

Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.

Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.

Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.

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Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider?

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Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider? 2

By Marc Docherty, Head of UK Acquiring / Large – Strategic Business, Ingenico, a Worldline brand

Today’s consumers are constantly moving, buying across multiple touchpoints, devices and channels, thus driving significantly greater transactional volume. Against this backdrop, in order to capture and harness the market potential, omnichannel remains an essential strategy for merchants while conducting business operations.

Driven by consumer demands regarding a richer, more personalised and seamless buying journey, ease of use and frictionless transactions have always defined the terms for omnichannel success. However unsurprisingly, payments processing is not always at the forefront of merchants’ minds, hence, more often than not, businesses find it difficult to capture the fundamental importance of a seamless experience.

As a result, they risk not only alienating and losing customers and leaving revenue on the table, but also inefficient management of their costs by missing important savings on acquiring fees. It is therefore prudent for businesses to consider how best they can provide a frictionless experience if they want to remain competitive and ensure conversions in this increasingly fast-paced world.

Understanding how payments processing works

Innovation and efficiency in payment processing is often focused on the transaction itself, helping merchants conduct sales and process payments faster and through more convenient platforms, such as online and mobile. All these transactions, irrespective of the channel used or their value, might take only seconds to complete, however behind the scenes there are many different industry players (including an acquirer, an issuer, the payment gateway, the card network and the merchant), working together towards the same goal: making sure the payment process is flawless, secure and fast.

In theory, the payment should pass from each party without the customer ever noticing, however with a multitude of different providers at each stage, this process can be prone to errors or extra time added to the transaction, leaving shoppers with a disappointing payments experience hence less likely to return for another sale.

Much the same as their consumer counterparts, merchants also appreciate seamless experiences, frictionless integration and having everything in one placeThey want to focus on their core business without any restrictions or having to worry about declines, chargebacks or interchange feesAs such, consolidating all this information in a single, comprehensive view will be a key asset for merchants, providing them with full visibility over their processes.

Offering the most relevant payment methods at the checkout is key

Local and alternative payment methods have enormous potential to drive greater value to merchants not only by expanding reach but also by strengthening the merchant – customer relationship. According to findings from a recent Capgemini report, online retail growth, coupled with the rapid adoption of transparent payment experiences and alternative payment methods will continue to drive non-cash transaction momentum, which is expected to reach 1.1 trillion by 2023.

Yet, while accepting a wide but relevant range of payment options at checkout will drive shopping enthusiasm and maintain consumer loyalty, this can add different complexity levels to the checkout process, depending on several factors, including performance, security, design, the merchant’s business size and geographical reach. Add targeted marketing programmes, product development and delivery strategies, return policies, risk and fraud management to the priorities list for merchants and surviving the long road ahead might easily become daunting.

That’s why, instead of trying to do it all by themselves, merchants should make it a top priority to partner with a competitive acquiring provider who can do this for them, ensuring the balancing act between security, flexibility, frictionless payments and speed.

By working with a partner that is acquirer agnostic and understands both business requirements and the importance of providing operational excellence, merchants can benefit from cost savings for each transaction with the different payment methods they offer. Furthermore, by working with a single acquirer better reconciliation for merchants will be achieved, thus ensuring faster payouts.

A full-service solution to rule them all

With coverage and expertise in over 120 countries, we are perfectly placed to assist businesses in delivering their expansion strategy in their home market or across borders. Our Advanced Acquiring full-service solution is a modular offering that addresses merchants’ needs for a more unified experience, including acceptance, payment gateway and acquiring.

What better way to expand geographical reach and boost revenues than by offering the most relevant payment methods for your target markets, while at the same time improving cash management with some of the fastest payouts on the market and keeping track of transactions and settlements into one unified omnichannel reporting solution which covers all your payments needs?

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Motivate Your Management Team

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Motivate Your Management Team 3

A management team, typically a group of people at the top level of management in an organization, is a team of people in the top level of managerial leadership of a business or an organization. It may consist of one person at the top level or more than one person at the top level. In this article, we are going to talk about what it takes to become a successful manager of a company and the different types of managers that can be found.

Team members will usually work in teams of two or three people. They will work together to accomplish a specific goal that the organization has set for them. These goals and the ways to reach them vary. Sometimes a management team will work in teams to achieve the same goal but in different ways. Sometimes they will work in teams to solve a particular problem.

When a team begins working, they will usually meet for the first time at their office building or another place where they will gather. They will be given a specific mission statement that they will be working towards. There will usually be meetings on a regular basis so that the team can discuss what they have done so far. If there is anything that needs to be worked out, this meeting will occur to ensure that all questions have been answered.

When it comes to meeting deadlines, there are often things that the team members will need to do in order to meet their deadline. They will have to come up with the proper solutions. Once they have done this, the next thing that needs to be done is to ensure that the other members of the team are aware of what the solution is.

Sometimes, the team members will meet at different times. This is very common for people who will have different duties and who are not always available at the same time. They can meet at random times but it is very rare for there to be meetings that occur during the night. Sometimes these meetings are held after lunch and sometimes they happen after dinner.

When the team members meet, they will need to be organized. They will need to take all of the necessary items and papers to the meeting and not leave any behind. The meeting will begin with a presentation that will be made by the team leaders that will describe what they have done so far.

After this presentation, the team members will then have to sit down with the other team members to discuss what they have discussed. This is often a very productive way to get everyone talking about what they have accomplished so far.

To be a good manager, you must be able to organize yourself and your team. This is also necessary in order for you to be able to motivate your team.

One of the ways that you can motivate your team members is by encouraging them to get things done that they want to do. By doing this, they will be able to get excited about what they are working on. The excitement that they will feel will motivate them to work even harder and to complete the task as soon as possible.

Another way that you can motivate your team members is to give them rewards. In this case, they will know that there is something for doing a great job. They will know that if they have good performance, there will be a reward for their hard work.

It is also important for you to provide support to your team members. by helping them find jobs and making sure that they are able to find employment. This will encourage them to be self-motivated and to perform better on their jobs.

When you provide support to your team members, they will feel valued and respected. This will allow them to feel as though they have an employer who is willing to put in a lot of effort in order to help them get what they want out of their jobs.

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