Last week, I had a great lunch with a friend here in town who owns a marketing firm that has a particular emphasis on social media. One of the things we discussed is the changing face of marketing. What is also changing is the role of sales and salespeople. My company is really starting to focus on changing how we sell and market based on what I am seeing in the industry. The whole topic gave me the idea for today’s post.
I’m going to start it off with this chicken and egg question – which came first – marketing or sales. Talk to a Salesperson and they will tell you it was them knocking on doors and making calls that brought the people to the door. Talk to the marketing department and they say “ well, heck no, if the customer had never heard of our product, the sales person wouldn’t have gotten to first base.” That’s why I call it a chicken and egg question. Which aspect indeed is first?
Often, I run into organizations who think they are one and the same – to which I say, absolutely, unequivocally, NOT. And if that organization thinks this, they are probably in trouble or going to be soon. There are different rules and techniques required for each process. And that’s what is changing. And it’s changing for both sales AND marketing.
Social Media and Social CRM are rapidly changing how we interact with our customers. It’s no longer a push situation – it’s a two way communication model. The customer indeed wants to hear about the product or service and wants to talk pricing. But after they have gotten the product, they want the dialog to continue. They want the ability to complain or compliment or suggest or comment on an ongoing basis.
Recently I read an article that “claimed” the sales person was going to become obsolete. Websites, online marketing, “here kitty kitty” advertising, Facebook, all of the above would drive customers to buy. Sales people would become an unnecessary burden and expense. Humph. I don’t agree. But I do agree how people sell will need to change to accommodate the new emerging online model.
It used to be that the role of salespeople was to advise customers of products and solutions. The savvy customer can now find that on their own. So, why would you need a salesperson? The fact that the customer can find it out on their own is why you need a salesperson. The customer is probably overwhelmed with too much information and needs someone to help them figure out what’s right and wrong for their requirements. The salesperson role is changing to that of a trusted adviser who knows what’s up and can help guide you, hopefully honestly, thru the morass of information to a workable solution.
My advice for salespeople is to become very literate with the internet tools. Know what it means to be on Twitter. Sign up for Linkedin, the world’s largest old boy network. Join groups on Linkedin that are pertinent to your product and services. Become a voice, and not just a lurker. If you don’t, the new young guy following behind you will. This is the world of the future, trust me, and it behooves salespeople to embrace it and become proficient social media pundits. Or wait by the wayside while the other guy does.
Over the past several months, I have written a couple of articles talking about drilling down into your customer data. No matter what tool you are using (and I hope you are using something), keeping track of daily interactions with your customers is crucial to knowing what they need, what they are asking for, and what is trending in your world. It allows you to be nimble and responsive if there is a sudden downturn in the economy. This is an election year – we always see businesses put projects on hold while they wait to see what is going to happen in November. Factor into that an already shaky economy and you start seeing drops in sales.
You can try to stay ahead of this downturn by looking back at data and finding opportunities. We get caught up in the day to day minutia and cannot see the forest for the trees. It is important for you, as a business person, to step back and look at your customer base from 50,000 feet. That is where data analysis can help.
You can either do this yourself, with some tips on what to look for or you can find a CRM Analyst. I have not used that term in any of my blogs, but more and more that is what we are becoming. We do tend to focus on one product, SAGE ACT, but what we do works for any application used to keep track of customer interactions. In fact, I just spent a few days building a really slick Excel “reporting engine” for lack of a better term. It goes out and pulls in data from ACT into Excel where pivot tables allow the end user to slice and dice the data any way they like. Pivot tables can show interesting things very quickly. It’s that 50,000 foot syndrome. Instead of looking at a single contact record, you can now look at it from a higher level. You can do year to year comparisons. You can quickly spot trends or notice areas where you are missing contacts. I call this mining for data gems.
Examples of trends and things to watch for are:
Finding customers likely to buy again – have they bought in the last 2 years?
Which customers generated the most closed sales?
Why were opportunties lost? Is it a trend in price, quality, competition?
Which customers have not been contacted in 6 months?
Do you have customers who have reached a certain dollar level?
Do you sell more in certain months? If so, what can be done for the lower months?
Which customers have not been contacted in 6 months?
Do you have customers who have reached a certain dollar level?
Recently we are helping customers set up drip marketing campaigns. Those are important but equally important is going back and analyzing the results of the campaigns. Were some more effective than others? If so, why? Was it the right subject matter? Did the subject line entice them enough to open the email? That’s why we love using the eMarketing aspect in Sage ACT – it will tell us open rates, and even how often they opened the emails. That’s very telling all by itself. They were interested enough to open the email more than once. But you need to be able to see that quickly so you can react quickly. It’s all about looking for the data
Data analysis is an ongoing effort. You don’t do this once and stop. The economy changes, peoples requirements shift and in the technology space, it’s a rapidly moving target. Constant review is necessary to ensure you are ahead of a downward trend.
CRM Analysis doesn’t have to be rocket science. For example, using Excel is a very good and inexpensive way to find data gems. You will either need to spend a little money with a CRM analyst to set this up for you or take a stab at it yourself. Everybody has that “Excel” or numbers guru in their organization. You know who they are. And YOU know your business, so you will work with the Analyst to advise them of what you sell, and where you want to be. The Analyst will know how to go look for the data based on your requirements. If they are really good, they will have ideas of their own and recommendations and approaches on looking for data trends that you may not have even thought of.
As we do more and more of this type of work, I am realizing it’s not just ACT that is the driver. It’s the data. It’s the interactions with the customer and how to turn that into increased revenue. I want Patricia Egen Consulting to become known as people to trust for doing data analysis. We really like watching companies succeed by doing simple things like watching their data and reacting correctly. Stay tuned for more articles on how to find data gems.
Ok, I’ve calmed down a bit. I was grumpy this morning and my prior post today was not a positive one. It’s not good to have a bad energy day. It’s reflected in your work, in your interactions with customer and staff, and any pet who happens to walk by. Just kidding. The pet gets petted – the staff gets growled at – big difference. All kidding aside, it really isn’t good to have negativity in the day.
So, I decided to perk up a bit and post something more fun. There is a wonderful document on my wall. I originally read the sayings on a T-Shirt in Hawaii and furiously scribbled it down on a napkin and when I got back in town, put it in Photoshop and framed it. All of the sayings are true and I just love the thoughts. They are called Maui Rules. Here’s they are:
1. Never judge a day by the weather
2. The best things in life aren’t things
3. Tell the truth – there’s less to remember
4. Speak softly and wear a loud shirt
5. Goals are deceptive – the unaimed arrow never misses
6. He who dies with the most toys – still dies
7. Age is relative – when you’re over the hill you pick up speed
8. There are 2 ways to be rich – make more or desire less
9. Beauty is internal – looks mean nothing
10. No Rain – no rainbows.
There, I feel better. It’s not my style to be negative and grumpy – even when there are trying things going on in my business or life. Positive attitudes help in everything we do – business, life, whatever. Ok, that’s it for the mushy stuff. Back to work again.
Starting with Sage ACT version 2012, you can now create some nifty Excel pivot tables using what is called a Star schema. The data goes after histories and opportunities. It’s a bit complicated to set up, but once done you can start to do some sophisticated drill downs in Excel to show history records. Here’s a screen shot of one pivot table I just created.
The setup took longer than creating the table. Here’s what you need to do to get access to this data in ACT. Note – this is really geeky so you may want to find your local IT person to help out – or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can quickly set this up for you for a small fee.
Setting Up or Refreshing ACT! Business Intelligence (BI) Data
You need to do this on the machine that is hosting the database with your data. Using the free SQL Management studio, you logon to SQL Server and point to the ACT! 2012 database you want to refresh. Here’s a series of screen shots of what I did to connect to our own database.
The shot above is where I point SQL Management studio at my ACT SQL . Next I located my database.
I right clicked on the database name and chose NEW QUERY. That brought up the following empty query box.
Into this box I pasted the following commands.
After they were pasted in, I right clicked in the box and chose EXECUTE. This went rattling thru my database and created two new views called:
It’s these two views that have the magic. After the views have been created, you can close SQL Management studio (see below on how to download SQL management studio for free). You are now ready to look for this information using Excel. The instructions coming up next are for Excel 2007 or 2010. Email me and I can send you instructions on how to do this on older versions.
Open Excel and click on the data tab. Next, choose the FROM OTHER SOURCES button and then choose SQL Server. You will get the following box into which you type in the name of your server. If you are running this on your own computer and have a database there it would be the name of your machine followed by a \act7. If it’s on the server, then you put in the server name followed by \act7. Here’s what it looks like going after a database on a server:
In the case above, since I am going after the data on a machine other than my own, I need to provide a username and password to access the internal data. You cannot use your normal ACT username and password. If this was on my own computer, and I was going after a database running on my own computer, I could use the windows authentication. In the case above though, I want to go after the main database on the server so I am using the ACTREADER login.
The ACTREADER logon is a great way to get to data without having to know the System Admin password. It comes free with Sage ACT. All you have to do, one time only, is run a little program called ACTREADER which lives in the Program Files\ACT\ACT for windows folder. When you run the program it will ask you for a password. Enter one of your choosing and write it down so you can remember it later. You can run ACTREADER on your own computer and it will work for databases, like remotes, that live on your computer. If you want to run it against a server-based database, you need to run the ACTREADER program once on the server, set the password and then the password is set FOR ALL databases on that server.
After entering the server name and username and password, you click NEXT and choose your database from the dropdown.
In the box shown below I am going to choose PEC_Master.
Make sure you check the Connect to a specific table box. It will display a set of tables. Scroll down until you see the VWX_BI… tables as per the example below.
Click on one of the BI.. tables and then NEXT and FINISH and then choose PIVOT TABLE REPORT and a location for the table. Let it default to $A$1.
You now have a blank Pivot Table with fields to the right that you can start dragging and dropping into the Pivot Table Layout. The first image in this blog article was done using the Histories table. The one below is using the Opportunities table.
Here’s what I was able to produce in just three clicks: A report of opportunities by state by year. Pretty darn cool if you ask me.
Even better, with another few clicks I was able to change the report to one by sales person and by year.
A little work on my part setting this up created some great tools for drill down reporting. Once you save these spreadsheets, they remember the query instructions. All you have to do is click REFRESH and it will pull in up to date data.
Footnote: Here’s the link to download SQL management Studio Express: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=7593
Yesterday, I got an interesting request for an Excel formula. This person wanted to take the first word in a string, and add it to the end of the string, preceded by a comma. In other words, The cat in the hat would become cat in the hat, The.
Time to put on the thinking cap. I figured this would be a concatenation formula. I would get the first word, assume that a space would be the delimiter to break apart the first word, search for the remainder of the cell and concatenate that with the first word along with a comma. There were couple of ways I could do this. I’ll explain a couple of ways here along with what I finally sent him.
First off, a while ago, I found on the web some code that created a function in Excel called GETFIRSTWORD. The function looked like this:
Function GETFIRSTWORD(Text As String, Optional Separator As Variant)
Dim firstword As String
If IsMissing(Separator) Then
Separator = ” ”
firstword = Left(Text, InStr(1, Text, Separator, vbTextCompare))
GETFIRSTWORD = Replace(firstword, Separator, “”)
In Excel 2007 or 2010, to add a user defined function (often called a UDF) you open the Developer Tab and click on Visual Basic. In earlier versions, you click on Tools – Macros. Once in VB you want to insert a MODULE. Give the module some name that makes sense. I always call mine “Myfunctions.” You can have more than one function in a module. Paste the code shown above into the Module. To use the function, you simply enter a the following in a cell: =GETFIRSTWORD(xx) where XX is the cell number.
The function assumes that a space separates the words but allows for delimiters as well. For example, say I had a string of words separated by semi-colons. The formula to enter into a cell would be: =GETFIRSTWORD(A1,”;”). Cool beans.
The next thing I needed to do was get the remaining part of the cell string. That was a simple search formula shown here: =RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1)).
Using my function, the concatenation formula to build this would be:
=concatenate(RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1)),”, “,GETFIRSTWORD(A1)).
Broken down, the concatenate is joining the remaining part of the string with a comma and the first word. Works like a charm. But then, I said to myself, could this be totally done in a formula without a function. And the answer was yes. Here’s what I came up with.
Basically I needed a formula to get the first word, and without the cool function, needed to put in what was the character or location to search and then pull all characters to the left of that character. In this case, it was a space. Therefore, I needed to find the first occurrence of a space in the cell. In the last sentence, the magic word is FIND. Ah ha, there is a FIND function in Excel. Using the FIND function, I had this:
This said go look in A1, find a space, and show me everything to the left. Presto. I have my first word. Now, it was just a matter of merging together the two functions along with a concatenate command. This is what I created:
=concatenate(RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1)),”, “,LEFT(A1,FIND(” “,A1)-1))
The concatenate command joined everything to the right of the first word, a comma, and then everything to the left of the first space. In the example above where you might have a string of data separated by semi-colons, you would replace the space with a semi-colon and get the same results.
Intriguing problem that was fun to figure out. I figured it would make a cool blog article.
Footnote: Here’s the link where I originally found the GETFIRSTWORD function. http://www.teachexcel.com/free-excel-macros/m-138,udf-get-first-word-cell-excel-free-macro.html
Every year we here at Patricia Egen Consulting host a beta day event where we help test the next version of Sage ACT. Friday, June 30th, was this year’s test day. We had 19 people participating, 8 onsite and 11 remotely. It is always great to be in an event with some awesome ACT consultants. This year, we had two representatives from Sage – Amy Yosowitz and Mark Wheeler. I think it is nifty that Sage will send people from their development and QA groups out into the field to participate on these events. They provide help if we run into something odd, and advice about the new great features that we can’t tell you about – YET.
Here’ a photo of some of the people chatting right after lunch. Leslie from my staff brought some amazing sweet corn which we grilled along with hamburgers. It pays to come to our events.
One of the things that has always struck me is the desire of the ACT Consulting community to help make the product better and to ensure our customers desires are fed into the product. And it’s encouraging to know that Sage staff listen and try their best to make that happen as well.
That’s it for this post. I can’t wait for the next release to become available. I have high hopes for some of the new features. Sorry to keep you in suspense. Just keep staying on the look out for more updates.