By Geoff Webb, VP of Product Marketing at PROS
Did you know that in many financial services organisations, the Chief Marketing Officer will often have the biggest IT budget? It might surprise you, but the reason is relatively straight-forward: in recent years there has been an immense investment in MarTech, and it’s made the discipline of marketing very tech-heavy. So much so in fact, that marketing departments now spend more time staring at dashboards, spreadsheets, and AI-fueled analytics than virtually any other part of the business.
It might also surprise you to hear that this trend is actually accelerating. Gartner research into CMO budget spend in 2018 revealed that as many as 57 percent of CEOs are prepared to invest more in marketing.
Yet, while this huge investment in technology has armed CMOs with an incredible level of insight (including what kinds of content you read online, where your mouse goes on their site, and so on), it has resulted in a rather one-sided technology investment, especially for B2B financial services firms who are eager to demonstrate to their customers that they both understand and care about them as individuals. It’s clear that the perception surrounding ownership of the technology budget needs to change.
Today, CRO’s (Chief Revenue Officers) face extraordinary pressure to transform their departments – especially in the face of a growing shift towards digital commerce models. A sales executive used to be able to rely on experience, insight, and interpersonal skills to close a deal and keep the customer buying. Today, that task is much more difficult. So, while marketing departments may be happily sailing on an ocean of usable data, their colleagues in the sales department may be struggling to respond to an explosive change in buyer behavior and expectations.
As your sales team evolves, so must your organisation
An increasing number of buyers are now moving away from the traditional model of calling up their sales rep and asking for a quote. Instead, many want the convenience of being able to buy online, without needing to pick up the phone, send an email, or, heaven forbid, meet in person. Simply put, for the day-to-day business of buying, purchasers want the speed and convenience of eCommerce. Yet, contrarily, studies also show that buyers want to know that there will be a helpful and well-informed sales executive available at the end of the phone, should the need arise.
Managing this shift from ‘all in-person’ to ‘mostly offline/sometimes in- person isn’t easy, and it requires sales professionals to be fully informed about their customers, have visibility into transactions as they are occurring (should the customer need help) and also be ready to provide insight and guidance.
The solution to supporting this change for the sales team lies – just as it did for the marketing team – in the deployment of technology. In the same way that MarTech has transformed marketing teams, sales departments need to adopt highly specialised technology that can help them to be more personalised, faster, more efficient, and ultimately capitalise on the increased number of leads.
When we look at where much of the investment in sales automation technology is currently, we see it occurring at the operational level. As is stands, sales professionals can spend as little as 36 percent of their time actually selling, meaning that they are dwindling away precious time and productivity on administrative tasks. However, there is a deeper need to be met for sales leadership, a more fundamental question as we shift towards more complex, multi-channel digital selling – how do I make my sales people not only more productive, but also more informed?
Time to get personal
We are now seeing the emergence of next-generation sales technologies that can go beyond operational efficiency, and start to provide the same degree of analytic-based insight to CROs that marketing technology provides to CMOs.
Top of the list are technologies that enable more intelligent quoting for complex products (where configuration can be highly time-consuming and prone to expensive errors). Good examples of this are products like heavy equipment or high-tech medical devices.
Arming sales executives with the tools they need in order to support these kinds of purchases, replete with information not only about the product, but about the specific needs of that customer, can slash the time needed to respond correctly to a request. Studies show that delivering highly personalised responses to buyers not only increases win rates, it increases the value of the sale. Think about it, you would be much more likely to pay more for something if you knew that the product being offered was personalised to you, designed with your specific needs in mind. While such personalisation includes the product itself, it also encompasses how it’s packaged, how it’s delivered, and how it’s priced.
Marketing and sales – driving the bottom line together
Yet, all these changes are indicative of something more profound on the horizon for financial services firms.
Aligning marketing and sales has long been a challenge that has vexed the c-suite. At their heart, misalignments between the two often arise from a lack of common understanding regarding the nature of their customers and the market needs. Not least at the expense of time, money, effort, disruption and the opening of cracks in customer satisfaction that agile competitors can exploit to steal market share.
But what if sales and marketing had a common, clear, and consistent understanding of their customers, and their needs? What if, instead of arguing about messaging and focus, sales and marketing teams were completely aligned?
An ability to share the same big data lake and same analytic/AI engine gives rise to a unified and common sense of the who, where, what, and how of customer engagement. And that changes everything – because now the entire business becomes a single, focused unified force to deliver precisely what the customer needs, every day, with every interaction.
It seems ironic that technologies such as big data, cloud platforms, and AI will serve to transform the most ‘human’ aspects of financial services sales and marketing, yet that is exactly what is starting to happen. And freed of disruptive disagreements about what customers want, businesses can align all their energy into delivering the customer experience that sets them apart.
So, while the CMO might be getting the lion’s share of the tech budget today, we expect to see a little more sharing with other teams to happen in future. Of course, there are cultural, organisational, and even revenue implications for this more hybrid sales model, but the rewards on offer couldn’t be clearer.
Exclusive: China’s Huawei, reeling from U.S. sanctions, plans foray into EVs – sources
By Julie Zhu and Yilei Sun
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Huawei plans to make electric vehicles under its own brand and could launch some models this year, four sources said, as the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, battered by U.S. sanctions, explores a strategic shift.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in talks with state-owned Changan Automobile and other automakers to use their car plants to make its electric vehicles (EVs), according to two of the people familiar with the matter.
Huawei is also in discussions with Beijing-backed BAIC Group’s BluePark New Energy Technology to manufacture its EVs, said one of the two and a separate person with direct knowledge of the matter.
The plan heralds a potentially major shift in direction for Huawei after nearly two-years of U.S. sanctions that have cut its access to key supply chains, forcing it to sell a part of its smartphone business to keep the brand alive.
Huawei was placed on a trade blacklist by the Trump administration over national security concerns. Many industry executives see little chance that blocks on the sale of billions of dollars of U.S. technology and chips to the Chinese company, which has denied wrongdoing, will be reversed by his successor.
A Huawei spokesman denied the company plans to design EVs or produce Huawei branded vehicles.
“Huawei is not a car manufacturer. However through ICT (information and communications technology), we aim to be a digital car-oriented and new-added components provider, enabling car OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to build better vehicles.”
Huawei has started internally designing the EVs and approaching suppliers at home, with the aim of officially launching the project as early as this year, three of the sources said.
Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business group who led the company to become one of the world’s largest smartphone makers, will shift his focus to EVs, said one source. The EVs will target a mass-market segment, another source said.
All the sources declined to be named as the discussions are private.
Chongqing-based Changan, which is making cars with Ford Motor Co, declined to comment. BAIC BluePark did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Shares of Changan’s main listed company Chongqing Changan Automobile rose 8% after Reuters reported the discussions. BluePark’s shares jumped by their maximum 10% daily limit.
GROWING EV MARKET
Chinese technology firms have been stepping up their focus on EVs in the world’s biggest market for such vehicles, as Beijing heavily promotes greener vehicles as a means of reducing chronic air pollution.
Sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), including pure battery electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, are expected to make up 20% of China’s overall annual auto sales by 2025.
Industry forecasts put China’s NEV sales at 1.8 million units this year, up from about 1.3 million in 2020.
Huawei’s ambitious plans to make its own cars will see it join a raft of Asian tech companies that have made similar announcements in recent months, including Baidu Inc and Foxconn.
“The novel and complicated U.S. restrictions on semiconductors to Huawei have slowly been strangling the company,” said Dan Wang, a technology analyst with research firm Gavekal Dragonomics.
“So it makes sense that the company is pivoting to less chip-intensive industries in order to maintain operations.”
In the United States, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc are also developing auto-related technology or investing in smart-car startups.
Huawei has been developing a swathe of technologies for EVs for years including in-car software systems, sensors for automobiles and 5G communications hardware.
The company has also formed partnerships with automakers such as Daimler AG, General Motors Co and SAIC Motor to jointly develop smart auto technologies.
It has accelerated hiring of engineers for auto-related technologies since 2018.
Huawei was awarded at least four patents related to EVs this week, including methods for charging between electric vehicles and for checking battery health, according to official Chinese patent records.
Huawei’s push into the EV market is currently separate from a joint smart vehicle company it co-founded along with Changan and EV battery maker CATL in November, two of the sources said.
(Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Yilei Sun in Beijing; additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Richard Pullin)
Facebook switches news back on in Australia, signs content deals
By Renju Jose and Jonathan Barrett
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Facebook Inc ended a one-week blackout of Australian news on its popular social media site on Friday and announced preliminary commercial agreements with three small local publishers.
The moves reflected easing tensions between the U.S. company and the Australian government, a day after the country’s parliament passed a law forcing it and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay local media companies for using content on their platforms.
The new law makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail. Canada and other countries have shown interest in replicating Australia’s reforms.
“Global tech giants, they are changing the world but we can’t let them run the world,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, adding that Big Tech must be accountable to sovereign governments.
Facebook, whose 8-day ban on Australian media captured global attention, said it had signed partnership agreements with Schwartz Media, Solstice Media and Private Media. The trio own a mix of publications, including weekly newspapers, online magazines and specialist periodicals.
Facebook did not disclose the financial details of the agreements, which will become effective within 60 days if a full deal is signed.
“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the social media company said in a statement.
The non-binding agreements allay some fears that small Australian publishers would be left out of revenue-sharing deals with Facebook and Google.
“It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” said Schwartz Media Chief Executive Rebecca Costello.
Facebook on Tuesday struck a similar agreement with Seven West Media, which owns a free-to-air television network and the main metropolitian newspaper in the city of Perth.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp has said it was also in talks with Facebook.
Google Australia managing director Mel Silva said in a statement published on Friday the company had found a “constructive path to support journalism”.
She thanked Australian users of the search engine for “bearing with us while we’ve sent you messages about this issue”.
Facebook and Google threatened for months to pull core services from Australia if the media laws, which some industry players claim are more about propping up ailing local media, took effect.
While Google struck deals with several publishers including News Corp as the legislation made its way through parliament, Facebook took the more drastic step of blocking all news content in Australia.
That stance led to amendments to the laws, including giving the government the power to exempt Facebook or Google from mandatory arbitration, and Facebook on Friday began restoring the Australian news sites.
(Reporting by Renju Jose and Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Richard Pullin and Jane Wardell)
China’s factory activity growth likely moderated during February holiday lull – Reuters poll
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s factory activity likely grew at a slightly slower rate in February as factories closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, a Reuters poll showed, although growth is expected to remain firm, buoyed by an early resumption of production.
The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is expected to dip marginally to 51.1 in February from 51.3 in January, according to the median forecast of 20 economists polled by Reuters. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity on a monthly basis.
Chinese factories typically scale back operations or close for lengthy periods around the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in the middle of February this year.
However, the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the winter had prompted local governments and companies to dissuade workers from travelling back to their hometowns, giving a boost to the earlier-than-usual resumption of production at many factories, analysts say.
“Although government COVID-19 prevention measures may constrain some manufacturing activities in the near-term, the fact that a majority of migrant workers stayed in their workplace cities for the holiday should facilitate an earlier resumption of business activity following the holiday this year,” said analysts at Nomura in a note to client on Thursday.
Wang Zhishen, a migrant worker from Gansu, told Reuters that his factory, a manufacturer of logistics boxes in the manufacturing hub of Dongguan, only closed for three days during the holiday, thanks to overwhelming businesses. Lured by the 1,500-yuan cash subsidy his factory offered, he chose to work through the holiday.
The Chinese economy has largely shaken off the gloom from the COVID-19 health crisis, with consumers opening up their wallets after months of hesitation. Growth is now set to rebound sharply this quarter, also helped by the low base effect of a year ago.
The country has successfully curbed the domestic transmission of the COVID-19 virus in northern China, with the national health authority reporting zero new local cases for the 11th straight day. Cities that were on lockdown have since vowed to push for a work resumption at full speed.
The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, and its sister survey on the services sector, will both be released on Sunday.
The private Caixin manufacturing PMI will be published on Monday. Analysts expect the headline reading will dip slightly to 51.4 from 51.5 in January.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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