3 Practical Ways to Delight Your Customers

As a sales manager, you are responsible for growing your revenue. However, unlocking your company’s true potential relies on building a customer centric organization, not just a top notch sales team. At ToutApp we admire customer centric organizations and aspire to be one ourselves. It’s a never ending process but here are some ways we found effective in building a customer centric business.

Build Customer Feedback Into Product Development

The first step in delighting your customers is the realization that you need to build better products. We’ve all been frustrated with software that’s counterintuitive or lacking in key functionality—and ultimately adds to our problems rather than solving them.

As Head of Marketing, one of my key responsibilities is to bring our engineering team closer to customers, so that we can build products that exceed our customers’ expectations. Before each product launch, we start with customer validation which includes a prototype demo of the new feature to a handful of key customers. Through this customer validation, our team gets direct feedback on how to build the feature in the most intuitive and optimal way that meets as many uses cases as possible.

The customer validation doesn’t stop with the demo, we then go through a few iterations and invite the same or similar customers to an early access program to use the product for a month. During the early access program, we hold weekly feedback sessions with each customer to get real-time feedback. Each feature goes through this scrutiny before we collectively, with our customers, decide that the product is ready for launch.

Keep Your Customer Support In House

Many organizations see customer support as a cost center and outsource the role to cost-effective locations. While this may work for some organizations, for many, the customer support organization is not incentivized to empower customers—but close tickets, fast, based on the script they were handed. Even worse, while those scripts may close out “the problem,” the organization misses the opportunity to incorporate that customer feedback back into the product.

At ToutApp, we keep Customer Support in house. In fact, they sit right next to our engineers so there’s always a direct line of communication to resolve issues fast. Instead of relying on scripted answers to close out tickets and run the risk of turning your Customer Support team into robots, take the extra time and leverage your support team’s in-depth product knowledge to specifically respond to customer’s questions. Then, once the customer support team resolves customer’s questions—that customer feedback and information should be directly fed back into product requirements and help shape your organization’s product roadmap.

Unleash The Power of Customer Success Teams

Focusing on growing revenue, without investing in customer success will lead to high churn and eventually bad reputation. Customer Success is one of the most important roles for enabling growth: they are key in creating long term value for customers.

At ToutApp, we’ve created a successful Customer Success organization by developing content and curriculum for both our self-service and enterprise businesses. We rely on welcome email series, in-person trainings and weekly webinars to onboard and continuously educate our customers. Our Customer Success Managers analyze the usage of the platform over time for each of their customers and tailor their in-person trainings based on their findings and feature adoption levels.

In sum, being customer centric is more than offering good service but coding it in your organizational blueprint so that you are setup to succeed as an organization. Some of the seemingly small organizational decisions you make around where your customer support team sits or the background of your marketing hire can steer you closer to a customer centric culture.

I hope you found these tips helpful. What does your organization do to create a customer centric organization? Let us know in the comments. 

Get An Inside Look at Startups in the SF Tech Crawl

Join us, Betts Recruiting and 11 technology companies for the first SF Tech Crawl on Thursday, January 21st from 4 – 9 pm at company offices throughout the city. At every stop on the crawl, you’ll meet with founders and employees for a chance to further build your network of SF professionals.

For one night only, each participating company is opening their doors and you’re invited to have a beverage (or two) and Happy Hour snacks, drop off a resume, check out fantastic office spaces and have a great time at the most in demand companies. To join the crawl, all you need to do is RSVP and choose a starting office. At your first office, you’ll get a map of all the participating offices around the city and you’ll get a custom SF Tech Crawl pint glass (while supplies last).

SFTechCrawlMap

Photo Courtesy of Betts Recruiting

Crawlers will be led ll throughout downtown from the Mattermark office to PandaDoc to our 29th Floor office and end their night at Betts Recruiting HQ for an after crawl party.

If you’d like to join us in a night of drinking, networking and geeking out—be sure to reserve your spot here and use our promo code “toutappjanuary” for a 50% off discount. For more information on the SF Tech Crawl, visit their website sftechcrawl.com or follow them on Twitter @thesftechcrawl.

From $15M to Being an SDR: The Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

This past year on the ToutApp blog, we’ve authored a lot of content. From 130 blog posts, 3 books, 5 case studies and a YouTube channel worth of videos–it’s been quite a year for us. That’s a lot of content. To help you dig through the most popular content of the year, we’ve compiled a top 10 list of everything you need to read and discover something new that you might’ve missed in 2015.

1. ToutApp Raises $15 Million to Build Sales Software for Closers

In March we announced our Series B round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz and Sigma West, Founder Collective, Launch Fund and 500 Startups participating as well. The investment came on the heels of a tremendous 2014 and set us up for further success in 2015. With our Series B, we were able to grow our team from 25 employees to over 65, and grew our operations across Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Engineering and Business Operations.

2. How to Write 5 Kick Ass Emails to Irresistible to Delete

Of the 200 emails decision makers get per day – how many do you think he or she deletes before reading more than the subject line and teaser? Probably a lot. If you want busy decision makers to pay attention and ultimately sign your DocuSigns, read this blog post to learn how to rise above the noise and get your emails read.

3. Part 1: What I’ve Learned from 1,000 Interviews

As a sales leader, hiring is your #1 priority. In the span of two years, Daniel Barber, our Senior Director of Pipeline, has interviewed roughly 1,000 sales candidates and has hired less than 50. In this blog post, Daniel shares his insights on why he only hired 5% of the candidates he interviewed and shares his go-to recruiting methods.

4. Why is Sales Productivity Such a Huge Deal?

Did you know that on average sales leaders spend nearly $20K/year/rep to improve sales productivity? And in addition to that yearly spend, Salespeople only spend 33% of their day on actual selling while the rest of their time is spent on manual data entry. In short, sales productivity is a huge deal. To solve for this, we need to shift our mindset and you should read this blog post to learn how.

5. Introducing Prospect Builder

Prospect lists are every B2B company’s lifeline. However, establishing an effective process to collect leads in your target market is, at times, harder than brain surgery. There needs to be an easier way to find and reach your target audience. Last month we released our answer to this huge problem: Prospect Builder – a better way to supercharge your pipeline with the right people.

6. Don’t Send Emails on Behalf of Sales

Often times Marketing will send emails on behalf of Sales. And we think that’s a huge disservice to the entire sales process. No one wants a sales email that’s disguised as a marketing email. So, if you’re in Marketing–don’t send marketing emails on behalf of Sales. Instead, send a real email, we beg you.

7. The 5 Books Every SDR Manager or Aspiring SDR Manager Should Read (or Read Again)

Every year I make a New Year’s Resolution to read more. And every year I start off strong and as the year chugs along my desire to read falls flat. Let’s rectify that situation in 2016. We talked to a handful of cutting-edge SDR Managers and asked them what’s on their must-read list and we compiled it in this listicle.

8. ToutApp’s New Digs: We’ve Taken Over 16,000 sq. ft at Salesforce’s One California

In addition to our Series B funding, 2015 brought us to our new ToutApp HQ on the 29th Floor at Salesforce’s One California in San Francisco. We’ll let this office tour video do all the talking for us:

9. Introducing Tout Connect – An API That Brings Tout Features Into the Tools You’re Already Using

In order to make the best sales platform, we knew we needed to bring Tout data and functionality to every tool in a Salesperson’s stack. In March we released Tout Connect, an API integration that instantly adds tracking, templates and analytics to any CRM, lead platform or customer success platform.

10. ToutApp Hero: Mike Fidler, 426 Days as an SDR

2015 was the rise of the SDR and as more and more sales teams segment between prospectors and closers, we took the opportunity to profile Mike Fidler, a rising SDR at GuideSpark and took a closer look at his day-to-day. For an in-depth look on how Mike juggles emails and dialing 100+ calls/day, check out his ToutApp Hero profile.

That’s a wrap on content for 2015. Thanks again for making it such a great year in content for us. We look forward to churning out even more rich content for you in 2016. Get your RSS feeds ready.

Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016. Happy Holidays from ToutApp!

For every notebook I’ve owned, I’ve always started it off with my favorite quotation. This quotation has no attribution, but I’m sure I’m not the first person to have said it. It says:

Everything I write, will become reality.

It’s the simple idea that if you aim for it, your dreams can come true. And at the end of the day, that is what we’re all doing. For each of us at ToutApp, we’re each pursuing our own dreams for achieving greatness for ourselves, our families, and those we care about.

The beauty of entrepreneurship — and life for that matter – is that a simple idea you sketch on a napkin, can manifest itself and become your reality. It requires hard work, focus, and perseverance, but ToutApp, as it stands today is a perfect example of how your dreams can become reality.

Having the privilege and honor to lead ToutApp as it’s founder, and to realize the success we’ve had thus far is truly a dream come true.

This time last year, I was sitting in our old office at 221 Pine. We had just signed all the paperwork for our Series B funding, there was $15 million more in our bank account, and there were still about five people left in the office out of our 30 person team working on closing out a few deals. 2014 was a blockbuster year for us, and the new funding was icing on the cake.

Fast forward to today. What a difference a year makes. I’m sitting here writing this post from the 29th floor of One California, our still-brand new office spanning 16,000 square feet in the Financial District of San Francisco. We’ve hired 42 more people this year, rounded out a stellar executive team, and the office is buzzing with activity even with our skeleton holiday crew. We’ve released eight completely new platform features, published three books writing to advance our thought leadership on Sales and Marketing, and although our fiscal year isn’t over yet, we’re on track to grow enterprise revenues by triple digits — for yet another year — by bringing on 1,026+ new customers.

We’re lucky that we get to do this every day, and in a way, our collective efforts, gets to fundamentally impact not just our respective crafts whether it be Sales, Marketing, Engineering, or Management — it also gets to fundamentally and positively impact how technology empowers Salespeople.

As I look forward to 2016, I am so excited for what lays ahead. The way we prospect, close and manage is changing because of the way people buy and the technologies we use to sell. While it is still early days for this category, and for us to artificially call ourselves a leader, we are incredibly proud for being part of this journey and for having the opportunity as a company to fundamentally impact how selling is done.

Before we close out 2015, I wanted to share with you our year end video–we couldn’t have done it all without you. From the ToutApp family to yours, we wish you Happy Holidays and an incredibly prosperous new year in 2016. 

 

#weclosedeals

8 Productive Things You Can Accomplish During the Holidays

For many work/life balance is often talked about, but many of us rarely get to experience. As we head into 2016 and close out the year with the holidays, it’s the best time to slow down, recharge and plan for the upcoming year.

As we head back home for the holidays and reconnect with our families and friends, it’s important to take some time for yourself and make the most of your free time and check off your inventory of backlogged things you’d like to accomplish before 2016.

To get your creative juices going, we’ve compiled a concise list of what we’ll be working on between now and January 1st.

1. Form new (productive) habits before the New Year

We all have our routine, and sometimes it’s hard to break away from our everyday habits and radically change our day-to-day. Instead of dwelling on how difficult it is to form new habits, start with small steps like “micro quotas” and “macro goals.”

We’re in Sales and we’re used to quotas. Let’s apply quotas to learning new habits. Want to get into the habit of reading the news before diving into your inbox every morning? Take five minutes to follow new resources on Twitter and move the app right above your inbox so you’ll remember to check that first before answering emails.

2. Double down and learn a new skill for your job

As #SocialSelling is the future for Sales, it’s important for Salespeople to think (and act) like mini-marketers and position themselves as credible sources for their prospects. It’s wise to use this time during the holidays to learn new skills that’ll help position you as a mini-marketer.

If you’re interested in photoshop, but are wary of investing or committing fully into the art of it–take the time to learn Canva to get your feet wet first. Your authored posts, inspirational sales instagram quotes and social profiles will benefit from the visual refresh. Next step: GIFs.

3. Focus on learning a new skill for personal enrichment

Learning creative skills that’ll help you in the sales process is enriching, but learning new skills for outside of your job are equally important. Try to pick something that’s completely outside of your day-to-day like a ceramics class or a coding class at General Assembly.

4. Download and play around with new apps and technology

There’s a new apps popping up everyday and it’s hard for us to stay in the loop. Take this week off from your usual go-to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook apps and take a new app for a test drive. Want to learn a new language? Try out Duolingo. Want to stay financially responsible in 2016? Check out Mint. Want marketing lessons? Download Primer.  

5. Clean out your inbox – work and personal

Inbox zero is a myth. But, organizing your inbox (both work or personal) is different than checking your email. Think about how many emails you get in a day: five? 10? 20? Yikes, that’s a lot of email.

Take the time to organize your inbox by creating labels, starring important communications and unsubscribing from miscellaneous newsletters. Remember, we’re only organizing–we’re not checking and responding to emails.

6. Set goals for 2016 and beyond

Sales is changing and to keep up, you need to set goals for the next year and beyond. Personally, I start with a list of what I’ve accomplished this year and what I want to accomplish in the next year and plan goals around those two lists. To get more specific, you can set your goals into micro-goals that add up into one larger goal for the entire year.

7. Catch up on your RSS and reading list

More than we’d like to admit, we’re often consider “going through Twitter” as our daily intake of reading time. During this holiday break, we’re looking forward to catching up our almost-abandoned RSS and reading lists.

8. Don’t forget to unplug

It’s the holidays, get away from the computer, phone or tablet and spend some time with your family and friends.

How do you plan on staying productive during the holidays? Let us know in the comments section below. Have a happy holiday from all of us at ToutApp.

How to Leverage Content Marketing During Social Selling

The terms “Content Marketing” and “Social Selling” get thrown around a lot these days, but they’re both more than B2B buzzwords. Traditional Sales and Marketing activities no longer impact the buyer’s journey, which puts both salespeople and marketers in a position to invent new ways to reach their buyers. Enter: Content Marketing as the future of Marketing and Social Selling as the future of Sales.

What is Content Marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and to drive profitable customer action.” For us in Sales, that definition is music to our ears. So, how we do we leverage it during Social Selling and our sales process? We partner with Marketing.

Sales Must Partner with Marketing  

We recently conducted a survey of over 300 B2B marketers and asked them what they wanted from their sales counterparts–and 70% of them said they’d benefit from more meetings and believed that it would boost outcomes.

Content should be a Salesperson’s secret weapon, and using it in an effective and timely way is key to winning in Social Selling. But before unleashing your secret weapon, every company needs to have true alignment between Sales and Marketing. The clearest way to achieve alignment is to hold bi-weekly or weekly meetings between stakeholders in Sales and Marketing. During those meetings, a topic of discussion must be Social Selling, particularly how content can be added to the different stages of the sales process. This means that, Marketing should come up with a social content strategy that is easily deployable by Sales on their social channels.

Here are the similarities between Content Marketing and Social Selling:

Create Content Based on the Buyer’s Journey

With alignment in place, the best way to add value is to share compelling content that educates buyers throughout the buyer’s journey. The most important component of Social Selling is Marketing and to get the best content, Sales must partner with Marketing.

A problem that many organizations face today is how they can find and curate great content and feed that content to Sales. To fix this problem, Marketing needs to work with Sales and Sales needs to leverage Content Marketing.

Not only is Marketing responsible for the creation and distribution of its content, it should be held accountable for mapping the said content back to the Framework for Social Selling.

Content for Research:

  • How-to Blog posts that meet buyers business needs
  • Overview reports about the industry
  • Thought leadership
  • eBooks

Content to Connect:

  • Long-form blog posts
  • Infographics that relate directly to their roles
  • Content from thought leaders pertaining to their role or industry

Content to Engage:

  • Case Studies with competitors in their space
  • Newsletters
  • Data Sheets
  • Long-form blog posts

However, as Salespeople are sharing on social and emailing more content than ever, they’re starting to become mini-marketers and are no longer tied to the email, phone and follow-up activity chain. On both LinkedIn and Twitter, Salespeople should share the above Marketing-produced content in addition to content from credible sources and articles that they’ve written themselves (either green content published on LinkedIn Pulse, their blog or company blog).

Reps can now nurture prospects and maintain ongoing contact with them that’s highly engaged, no matter where a prospect is in the funnel. Any contact or touch point on social, like a tweet or comment, is an opportunity for a Sales rep to add value.

“When reps figure out how to have great content dripping out from their social channels time and time again, it’s going to generate awareness and buzz that’s going to spill into the next month and quarter.” – Koka Sexton, LinkedIn.

Share a Sales Holiday Card This Season

Giving back, supporting the community and lending a helping hand should be a mainstay in our lives year-round, the need for charity and saying thanks can be especially high during the holidays. We all choose to give back in a myriad of ways such as donating to a food drive, participating in a toy drive, volunteering at a shelter or expressing gratitude to those who’ve helped us throughout the year.

In Sales, we’re typically heads down and focused on meeting sales quotas and keeping healthy relationships with our customers and prospects. But, it’s important to pause, reflect and appreciate everyone who helped make this year so special for us. This holiday season, we’ve made it easy for you to show appreciation to everyone that’s helped you close a deal, prospect into that company or made you a better Salesperson.

Here’s how to get started:

Step #1: Select a sales holiday card from below by right click to Save Image As

Step #2: Share your sales holiday card with your list of people to thank or your entire social network

Step #3: Invite others to share sales holiday cards as well

Share one, two or all three holiday sales cards and spread some end-of-year cheer as you and your team wait with bated breathe for those last minute DocuSigns:

Card #1: Share a jingle with your coworker

Card #2: Share a laugh with a prospect or customer

Card #3: Give thanks to your sales mentor

As for us at ToutApp, we couldn’t have made it through 2015 without our team, customers and building management. This year, in conjunction with our office building, we participated in the San Francisco Firefighters’ Toy Drive which donates toys to hospitalized children throughout the Bay Area.

ToutApp employees donated over 40 toys.

We had a great turnout from our team and can’t wait to participate again next year. How will you celebrate the season with your team and customers?

Humans of Tout: Cliff Cate

Cliff Cate is our SVP of Customer Success, he joined ToutApp over a year and a half ago and immediately began to build out our Customer Success discipline. Cliff has spent his entire career in Customer Success and helping customers get the most out of technology.

In this edition of Humans of Tout, learn all about Cliff and Customer Success:

What is your definition of Customer Success?

My definition of Customer Success is about fulfilling the promise that we made to our customers when they purchased ToutApp. Customer Success is about three things: helping our customers get quick time to value on the product, helping them get more out of the product as they continue to use it and meeting the business goals that they have.

At ToutApp, the Customer Success team is the primary point of contact for the customer the minute they become a customer. We want to make sure we onboard them as quickly as possible and that we understand their goals and needs, so we can align their product training and learnings to those goals. As the customer evolves and gets more value out of the product, we want to make sure that we’re continuing to share best practices with them as their business needs change. We want to be there for them when they have problems or questions come up–and we want to provide time advice and support for them. We see Customer Success as core to the overall product experience for our customers–for us, it’s not just about buying software, but it’s about the overall experience for each customer.

What drew you towards Customer Success?

My career spans over twenty years and I’ve always worked in helping customers get the most out of technology. I first started my career in consulting and helped companies use technology to achieve their business goals. Over time my career evolved into working for software companies and helping customers of those software companies implement and use the software. What drew me to a career in Customer Success was that I always liked technology, but I was most interested in understanding and helping people get the most out of it.

How has the Customer Success industry changed over the years?

The Customer Success industry, as a whole, has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Twenty years ago, software companies sold differently and had a different business model–a perpetual license. The customer spent all the money up front and then it was up to the customer to figure out how to get value out of the product. Now with SaaS companies, the business model has completely changed. It’s now a shared responsibility between the company and customer, both financially and the overall success. SaaS companies are obligated, from a business model standpoint, to ensure that their customers are successful. So it’s critical that companies think about how to acquire new customers, but also how to help customers get the most value out of your product. Otherwise customers can vote with their feet, leave and stop paying.

What are the key success metrics for Customer Success?

Customer Success should be a metric-driven team. There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not looking at metrics and thinking if these are the right metrics to track, etc. At a high-level, there are a few key metrics that I care about:

  • Usage: As a company, we have direct visibility into who’s using our product, when they’re using it, what features they’re using, what percentage of people are using the product, etc. I look at usage metrics to discern a customer’s time to value because I want to see how quickly customers are adopting the product.
  • Satisfaction: Customers communicate with us frequently either through support forums, email, phone, social media–through every interaction you can measure the sentiment of your customers like Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) or NPS (Net Promoter Score) scores.
  • Retention and Revenue: We look to see if accounts are growing over time, we look at renewal and churn rates and the dollar amount that customers are spending over time. We want churn to be as low as possible and the dollar retention amount to be as high as possible.

How important is Customer Success to revenue?

You can’t talk about Customer Success and not talk about revenue. The two are closely linked together. Revenue is a big reason why you invest in a Customer Success discipline because you want to maintain a relationship with the customer and deeply understand their needs and business goals. It’s important to think about the Customer Success team in the long term of the company. Customer Success is a good indicator, especially for early days SaaS companies, of a product-market fit in the initial Sales cycle and the quality of customers that you bring onboard.

Essentially, customers are your feedback loop because you can tell how happy your customers are and if they’re hitting the goals that you have for your product. Additionally, the Customer Success team is a feedback loop internally for both Sales and Marketing to make sure that we’re positioning and selling to the right people and we have the right fit in the market. If you get that feedback loop correct and you have timely feedback, it helps revenue because it ensures that you’re selling to the right people which ensures that they’ll be happy in the long term and be long term customers.

When should companies invest in a Customer Success team?

I don’t think it’s ever too early to invest in a Customer Success team. It’s actually the reason why I’m here today. When I met with TK, the company was six people and it was unique for me to see a company of that size think and invest in Customer success.

Most companies start to invest in Customer Success when they’re a C or D round company. Generally, for those companies, their motivation in Customer Success is because there’s churn or retention problems and they’re trying to fight those fires. I think investing in Customer Success early on is critical because you need to build that discipline into the DNA of a company. To be successful in SaaS today, you have to have a great customer experience, if you get that right, you’ll build it into the culture of the company. And trying to bolt it on afterwards, particularly if you’re trying to tackle a fire, it’s difficult thing to do right.

What are the qualities or characteristics do you look for when hiring a CSM?

At ToutApp, I’m the most proud of the people that we have on the team. You have to get that right. I spend the majority of my time in any given week either with customers or trying to recruit and hire new employees. I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s the right profile, what are the right skills and background to bring on the team and have broken it down to three main qualities:

  • First: I care a lot about raw intelligence and because we’re still a young company and the responsibility of the CSM role is ever changing, I want somebody who’s smart and can grow alongside the company.
  • Second: I look for people who are wired to teach and have empathy for customers.
  • Third: I look for people with incredible drive–there’s going to be adversity and they’re going to have to help customers work through problems, but also they need to be an advocate for customers within the building as well.

What is your promise for ToutApp customers?

My promise to our customers is that we’re going to work incredibly hard to make sure that they’re successful. As part of that, it means going above and beyond to understand their needs and goals. In every conversation of interaction with a customer, we’ll bring value and teach them something new about the product or industry that they might not know. We’re always looking for new opportunities to surprise our customer with new advice, best practices, thought leadership, etc.

Where do you think Customer Success is going?

Customer Success has grown tremendously in the past couple of years. Just search Customer Success Manager in LinkedIn and look at the number of roles open and the number of people with that role. The role and discipline has grown tenfold in the past few years. That, to me, is an indication that we’re still in the early stages of this discipline and when I talk to my peers, there’s still lessons to be learned about how to build and manage the team. I think we still have 10 to 15 years of growth ahead  and we’ll continue to see more and more people seek out this role.

 

 

Will Salespeople be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence?

We were promised hoverboards, flying cars, and self-tying Nike shoes. As October 21st came and went with the infamous “Back to the Future” scene, we couldn’t help but reflect on what we thought 2015 would look like “in the future” and what it actually looks like today.

But wait. Sure, we may not have flying cars, maybe the hoverboards aren’t quite hovering, and Nike was able to manufacture only one self-tying shoe for Michael J. Fox. Sure. But let’s look at what we’ve accomplished.

Teslas will drive on “auto-pilot” for you

Just in the past few weeks, an entire population of people woke up in the morning, and an overnight software update added a “feature” to their cars which allows it to essentially drive itself. Look ma – No Hands!

Google will answer emails for you

Google announced that as part of their Inbox email application for Android and iOS, they’ve developed a feature utilizing recurrent neural networks to automatically suggest responses to the emails you receive. Ironically, even with a fancy system like that, one of the most common responses the machine kept coming up with was “I Love You.”

Facebook will coordinate, fetch, and deliver through normal conversations

Not to be left out by Google and Tesla’s announcements, Facebook also announced “M” — a personal assistant of sorts which utilizes both human beings and machine learning to have conversations with you and answer questions, do your bidding, and even arrange to get your dry-cleaning picked up.

How will these technologies affect Sales software?

Here at ToutApp, we build sales software that empowers salespeople to close deals faster and helps managers manage smarter with deeper insights into what’s working in the sales process; so when we see developments like this, it gets us excited and gets our creative juices flowing.

Much like how military technology trickles down to our consumer lives, consumer technology also trickles down to B2B, where businesses make massive amounts of money productizing technology breakthroughs that revolutionizes business problems.

At ToutApp, we’re enamored by all that is happening in the space of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and analytical insights. Which begs the question, when will be the day that you will wake up, and we’ll have deployed a ToutApp update that automatically closes deals for you?

Salespeople are paid to be humans

Interestingly enough, we’ve noticed two key trends when it comes to machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the general state of things when it comes to the fear around “machines replacing human beings”

  1. Humans <3 Humans – There are still a ton of tasks where machines just completely fail. Have a tough dilemma you want to talk through? Feeling melancholy and just want to vent? Need help navigating a complex decision and are facing information overload? Interestingly enough, with all the machine learning technologies, not only is there a challenge to deliver relevant insights, humans also require transparency into the recommendation process. The answer to “Why?” is equally important to humans as the answer to their original question. Even with the pace at which artificial intelligence is developing (and believe me, we’re only exposed to a small percentage of it), we believe there will still be majority of cases where humans will want to talk to a human.
  2. Machines augmenting Machines – Interestingly enough, for a majority of cases above, it’s still not the case where the machine just takes over. For Tesla, it’s human assisted auto-pilot, for Google, they’ll still want you to vet the message, and for Facebook’s M, it’s actually a combination of machine learning and real humans that are doing the bidding for you.

So we believe that for the foreseeable future, Salespeople will continue to be paid for what we’re good at — being human beings to be consultative and answer crucial questions that spans across both the logical and the emotional.

But, don’t be too surprised if you wake up one morning and ToutApp has released an update that will help you plan better for that sales call, or assist you in follow-ups after a meeting, or comes to you with “three great ideas” that’ll totally help you move this deal forward.

You can call him artificial intelligence, machine learning or whatever. We like to call him Jarvis here at ToutApp.

Why LinkedIn’s New Mobile App is a Game Changer for You

Last week, LinkedIn’s mobile app got a complete overhaul with changes that cater to the on-the-go (Sales)person. With 380+ million members, and two new members joining every two seconds, LinkedIn is the go-to network for professionals everywhere. Dare we say that it’s the staple network for more engaging content than Facebook?

The overhauled app is segmented into five different areas: Home, Me, Message, My Network and Search. We’ve spent the past few days using the app on our lunch break, waiting in line for coffee, on our commute to work and in bed before calling it a day, and we’ve compiled a list on how you can reap the benefits.

1. Create a More You-Centric Home Feed

The first major change is a more focused Home feed, which is less about your network and more about what matters to you as a Salesperson. The Home feed is a mix of updates from your network, who you follow and hand-picked topics and influencers that appeal to your interests. This marks a huge shift from LinkedIn’s desktop page where it shows your network activity, to a more you-centric feed.

Once you update (or download, if you’re new to the mobile app), during the onboarding experience, you’ll be able to select topic, subjects and influencers to follow that are relevant to you–which it makes it easier than ever to stay informed and in turn apply those learnings and content to your sales process. LinkedIn has long touted itself as the professional social network, and finally they’re living up to that name by surfacing content and news that helps you grow professionally as a Salesperson.

More of what matters for your day, less of what doesn’t / Photo Courtesy of LinkedIn

Now, we’re not saying that your network doesn’t matter–it does. But sometimes with all the clutter on LinkedIn, it’s nice to have a focus on what matters to you and allows us to better connect with prospects. With a streamlined Home feed experience, it allows us to zero-in and dive deeper into what matters.

2. Boost Your Opportunities to Connect With Your Network

If you find yourself asking, “Isn’t Sales about building relationships and educating customers? And not putting myself first?” The answer is yes. Sales is about educating the buyer and solving their problems. As LinkedIn fully revamped the Home feed section, they’ve moved information such as work anniversaries, promotions, new jobs, when a connection published a post, etc. to the My Network section.

Why? It makes more sense. All of those activities are now compartmentalized in it’s own section where you can focus on engaging with your network. Here’s how it works:

New update card from your connections

Blake J. Harber, Enterprise – Account Development Manager at HireVue, recently published a post and I was notified in the My Network section. I can read the post straight from the app, like it, comment on it, etc. Additionally, I can take my #SocialSelling efforts one step further and “reach out” and write a quick note about my thoughts on SDR teams.

The My Network section creates individual cards for each activity update, so you can focus on one person at a time and truly personalize each outreach message from congratulating a prospect on their promotion, wishing a customer a happy birthday, to sending a quick note about a post. With this new LinkedIn experience, you’ll never miss an opportunity to connect.

3. Stay Engaged With Your Network, Anywhere

If 70% of the buyer’s journey happens before they talk to Sales, Salespeople have to get creative and learn new ways of how and when to connect with buyers earlier on in the journey in order to have any influence during the sales process. As the sales stack continues to evolve with #SocialSelling, texting and working from their phones–LinkedIn’s revamped Message section will play a huge role in how Salespeople engage with their network.

The Message section is less like the formal InMail feature and is a more casual way to keep in touch with your network–whether it’s a prospect, customer or former colleague. No matter the intended audience, the revamped section facilitates quick, yet highly engaged conversations. And why is this a game changer for Salespeople?

Photo Courtesy of LinkedIn

The new Message section functions like a messaging app and gives your sales outreach a  personalized touch in a more immediate format. It’s optimized for those 1:1 engagements where you’ve already established a relationship with a prospect, they’re far down the funnel and you want to stay top of mind without sending a formal email, sharing a piece of content to your entire network, or scheduling a call. Instead, you can send a quick message and have a real-time discussion.

Conclusion

As Social Selling and personalizing your sales outreach is becoming more critical, LinkedIn’s new mobile app makes it easy to access information and implement it during your sales process. Joff Redfern on the LinkedIn blog said, “We know time is scarce, so we made it as easy as possible for you to connect to your professional network and stay informed about the conversations and content most relevant to you.”

In addition to the new functionality and sleek UI, we think that LinkedIn’s mobile app is going to be an even greater contributor to the sales process. If you haven’t updated your app yet, we urge you to do so now because it’s going to change the way you engage. What are your thoughts on the new LinkedIn mobile app experience? Let us know in the comments section below.