Building a modern sales machine - Interview with Leadfeeder CSO Jaakko Paalanen

I had the privilege of interviewing Jaakko Paalanen, who is the Chief Sales Officer at Leadfeeder. Leadfeeder is a very interesting fast growing B2B software company. Jaakko had some really good views on modern sales and marketing that we were able to capture in our interview. I believe that many of the methods that Leadfeeder is using to grow are best practices of modern sales and marketing, that many companies could benefit from. These best practices can be applied in many other industries, not just technology/software.

Here are some good bits and pieces from our discussion.  
 

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What are important trends you see in sales and marketing? 

Social selling because I think the personal approach in sales will grow in importance. With GDPR, cold emailing and cold calling is becoming harder and harder. Sales and marketing will become increasingly aligned and automation will increase. Artificial intelligence is also pretty exciting, because sales, marketing and AI will be working together in the future to make things more automated. 

What should humans do and what should be automated?
I think the funnel should be automated all the way until someone wants to try your product, if set-up correctly. At the point of trying the product you need to close the deal. Depending on your price point, closing will always be left for manual sales on some level. Ofcourse you can bring lower priced services via automation. In more complex decisions, you want to a personal touch and someone to talk to from the company you are buying from. I think there's so much we can already do more intelligently using data-driven sales which brings multiple possibilities for today's B2B sales process.

What about F2F vs. virtual meetings? 
I think in the future F2F meetings and virtual meetings will be the same. F2F is losing its value as technology develops. Within 3-5 years VR meetings will be mainstream. "For larger deals the F2F will remain longer but with possibilities that AR/VR world brings I can easily see a fully remote meetings even when the biggest decisions need to be made in future's enterprise sales.

What is the relationship between sales and marketing at Leadfeeder?
Marketing actually aligns together with what we call the "sales machine".  In our line of business, if marketing doesn’t work then sales does not work either. They are fully dependent of each other and we have very transparent funnel vision with sales, marketing & customer success so that everybody can understand different relations of each aspect.

How have you built your customer journey at Leadfeeder?
First we drive traffic to our website from different sources such as social media, Google organic search, paid search, PR and newsletters. Then we convert these visitors into trial users and this is where the signup process happens. We have a 14-day free trial for companies to fully try out our product. During that period we market the full premium features so that users fully understand our capabilities. We use intelligence during the on-boarding phase so we can tell exactly which trial users need how much hand holding or if we leave them for automation.

During the trial we encourage users to share information about us in social media and in return they get an extended trial or a cash-back. This has been a good way to get people to spread the word about us already in the trial period. Technically it’s just a unique link, that someone new needs to sign up through to get the trial extension or cashbacks.
At the end of the trial we let the users know what they are losing out on, if they do not move over to a premium and only keep using the free version. 

How have you organized marketing, sales and service at Leadfeeder?
We have a customer success and product lead, then me from the sales side and our marketing lead and we have a monthly funnel conversion meeting. We’ve mapped the whole process from marketing all the way to customer success. 

How important is onboarding?


“Onboarding is everything” 

We use intercom to orchestrate and automate the whole onboarding process.  We can welcome the user early on and teach them how to use our tool with automated messages. Based on what they are doing with our product, we can trigger different types of messages. For example if we see that a customer is not using some type of feature that they could be benefiting from, we send them an automated reminder that tells them about how the features could be helping them.  When they actually go ahead and try it out, we send them a Congratulations message to let them know they did a good job. 


Here were just a few tidbits from our interview. More to come in the book. 

Thank you Jaakko for the interview and for your insight!

/Jan
 

Connected service: Making every customer interaction count

Service Excellence means that we can turn every interaction with every customer into a great service experience, or even a sales opportunity.  

The digital mission in manufacturing is to create experience ecosystems that transform the focus from designing, selling, and servicing complex products to one where the product becomes the platform through which new digital products and services are delivered.
— An IDC InfoBrief, November 2017

The recent research article by IDC is supports our findings in this Revenue Growth Platform book project. Your product is your platform when you cover it with services focusing on its output, and the experience of these services is dividing winners and losers. Is it so simple? At least in its best form consuming the service is easy to 1) find and compare 2) understand 3) purchase and  4) efficient to consume.

We are seeing the best user experience win in many consumer services already and now it is coming to business to business services as well. When there is a product that can provide you effortless experience from the above mentioned four stages, then the winner is probably the one with the smoothest experience. 

So we need to define the connected service building up to this greater customer experience around your products. Your service experience consists of the channels handled and the types of interactions delivered. 

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The technology needed to fullfil great customer experience can be categorised in these four key areas:

1. Base information systems provide information of which your customer is entitled to - typically a CRM  system with contract and service level information. These systems additionally have capabilities to capture orders and manage billing information etc. 

2. Case management systems handle all the channels your customers are guided to use. So those channels can be for e.g. text messages like Whatsapp, online chats possibly even augmented with bots, phone calls, emails, social media 

3. Knowledge base systems continuously grow with customer interactions, which help serve customer better and better.  This decreases customer interaction cots and improves your customer experience. Therefore the better your content is, the better results you will achieve in your service

4. Analytics to uncover areas you need to address to enhance the customer experience and service every day

On top of these, if your products needs regular service and you are selling or sending field engineers to solve customer problems during e.g. the warranty period, you need a field service solution to manage work orders, sales, security and knowledge in the field. If your product is connected, it might be creating service cases automatically based on analysis, then you will need an IoT solution.

While many manufacturing R&D resources are used for customer support,  please note that R&D is not front-line layer of service. You need a proper customer support organization, enabled by technology. R&D is often far away from the front-lines and measured and compensated differently than customer facing employee. Normally R&D should not be interacting with customers as their every day work, but still their intellectual capital needs to be put to work in the front-line. The solution to this is to ensure you have great processes in place to make sure information flows smoothly within the organization from R&D to the customer facing employees. 

With the right technology, roles and KPI's in place, you can make information flow smoothly within the organization and improve customer experience. This is how you build a connected service organization, that makes every customer interaction count.

Should you start building your connected organization now? Yes.

Written by: Sami Lampinen

Sales technology: From Account Manager to AI driven Sales Shark

Our previous two blogs posts focused holistically on the different sales, marketing and service systems: Systems of Engagement as well as the wide marketing software space: Marketing Technology. In this post we will focus on the Sales Technology part.

We can divide this sales technology part to three main phases which need to be established in place in this particular order.

1. Foundational technology to drive your sales - we need that registry of leads, deals, feedback and customer info, as well as a tool for quoting with right product / services. Often the implementation of this phase has been left in the middle and some parts don't even exists so the foundation is not solid enough to build on top of. In principle the more you can do with a single tool, the more it supports sales reps, and the more you are able to drive your sales results through it at the end of the day.

2. Integration with other tools to bring more value - Someone said "no man is an island" (it was actually John Donne Google told me) - but same with the technology "no CRM is an island". There is so much technology we can use nowadays and take a benefit out of and the evolution of these tools is running faster and faster. Therefore, the ability to connect with different sources, different user apps and data analytics is a key. When you have your foundation in place you can simply start with your email, move into the direction of leads entry with for e.g. Zerokeyboard and when deal is agreed ask your customer to sign it with Docusign - just to mentioned a few.

3. Intelligence and insights usage to accelerate business and decision making - When it comes to the data, the key is how to use it. In general we are talking about the category of systems of intelligence. It helps if an individual is a consciously analytical person, but not all of us are. Therefore it helps a lot when you have your foundation in place, integrated with the right tools and sources. You then also need capabilities that support analysing this data - or any data you invent to use in conjunction with your customer info - this of course easily. Sales tools like for e.g. Salesforce with its Einstein - are at the verge of bringing rich data insights along with the work process to boost individual sales people productivity, but only when you have your foundation in place.

So these are the three easy to understand phases of how any company should build their way forward on the Sales Technology side. It is evident that when a sales organization is supported with end to end solutions, there is an enormously higher adoption within the user base as well as a higher probability to succeed.

In relation to these phases we can see huge synergy arising between marketing and sales working tighter together when enabled with technology. And why not? Its clear that when both marketing and sales see the benefit of working together in concrete numbers, this created a positive feedback loop.

Although, there is much discussion at the moment about systems of intelligence, it is clear that many cannot benefit fully from this opportunity. This is because a solid foundation must be built in phases 1 and 2, and not all companies have succeeded with this. We will write a separate blog that covers systems of intelligence at a later point. 

To summarize: build a solid foundation, only after that can you start to benefit from new arising opportunities. 

Written by: Sami Lampinen

Marketing technology is eating the traditional tech budget

Last week we introduced the basic building blocks of Systems of Engagement and here we continue with the first item in the stack: Marketing Technology.

It's commonly known that nowadays in the most successful companies marketeers have eaten the technologists budget. What that means is that its more important to drive company with the front office than back office. In recent years everything has become connected and people live with an "always on" mindset which creates a huge opportunity for all companies. First to understand customers better, second to engage in new ways and third influence through new channels and new ways.

So, what does it really mean when analysts are saying that amount of data is increasing exponentially? According to IDC:

"90 % of the worlds data has been created

in the last two years"

Where does that all data come from? Part of the answer is laying in our pockets - mobile phones create massive streams of data. The phone itself for the telcos, and all the apps we allow to access our information like; location, contacts, what we do with the app and so on is the humongous source for the data. Other sources of data are the equipment that are communicating with the Internet. So everything we do and everything that is doing something with us is creating that data - thats why there is so much of it.

It's good to understand this when we talk about marketing technology. Marketing technology is trying to make sense of all of that data to enhance customer understanding, engagement level and at the end influencing customer buying decisions. This explains why companies are investing more to marketing technology as a front office than the traditional back office. Back office gets investments only when necessary, front office when there is a potential to increase business performance.

What are then these marketing technologies companies are using to enhance their business? Take a look the picture below and try to make sense of those...

Picture is from http://chiefmartec.com/2016/03/marketing-technology-landscape-supergraphic-2016/ and descibes the challenge

Picture is from http://chiefmartec.com/2016/03/marketing-technology-landscape-supergraphic-2016/ and descibes the challenge

Despite the huge and increasing number of different applications to manage customers digital journey, we think that with the following stack of different marketing technology categories, any company can start their journey.

 

The above three categories have always been more or less a core part of the fundamentals of marketing. In this digital age, and from the point of view we started this blog post, all of these above mentioned categories just need to be deployed to the digital space where your customer is moving.

Compared to traditional marketing, the digital era allows for full transparency with analytics. This means that companies can gradually learn what works best and what does not. Todays marketing is a never-ending learning loop based on data. With these categories you will find ways to start capturing the data that your customers are leaving to the digital space as their footprint.

By continuously learning while doing you'll enhance your customer understanding,  increase engagement levels and also influence important conversions so that you drive better business results.

What do you think, are these the essential categories of marketing technology or is something missing? 

Advertising & Promotion
- Search and Social Marketing, Video Advertising, Display and Programmatic Advertising

Content & Experience
- Email Marketing, Mobile Apps, Campaign Management, CMS, Web experience management

Social & Relationship
- Webinars Management, ABM Tools, Social Media Marketing and Monitoring, Chat, Feedback

Written by: Sami Lampinen

Systems of Engagement are the foundation of success

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Systems of engagement are the foundation of success when it comes to customer management.  You heard (or read) it right, systems of engagement -  not systems of record also known as ERP's. We think that systems of engagement - very broadly thought as nowadays as CRM - consist of following key parts: 

○    Marketing
○    Sales
○    Service
○    Community

Marketing will a bit depend on your industry and customers, typically in b2b marketing tools are something where you manage your contacts, leads, events, campaigns and content, and where you track and steer your customers or prospects journeys towards to the conversion point. This conversion point may be anything between lead capturing to an order, thats why various different journeys are needed and its an ongoing looping task to learn and adjust according to the data. The very great thing in todays marketing is that you will have wealth of data, but the challenge is how to use it the best way.

Sales is everything from the marketing qualified lead to the closure of the deal and relationship nurturing. But as we already know, todays prospects have already progressed very far along in their buying journey when they contact the sales organization. Therefore the key to success in sales is to try to understand you customer behaviour better, stay engaged with them constantly and be ahead of your competition by understanding customer needs better. This all is dependent on the data and key success factor will be that which sales organisation can really utilise that data best possible way. Sales in a complex environment, long sales cycles and in front of demanding customers screams to use the data. At the moment data is very underutilised in most of the organisations. We will see huge sales productivity increase within the best sales organisations when they use this data to drive their operations in their systems of engagements.

Service and customer experience management is the essential part of the Revenue Growth Platform. Revenue Growth Platform in its simplest form is basically a subscription business. Your customers will pay you as long as they get value from the subscription they are using, hence in this situation your service organisation is your most valuable asset to renew the subscription and even sell more. No organisation should think of service as a cost center, they should take a look at how they can bring proactivity and accountability to their operations. Accountability for e.g. of the subscription renewals would lead to increase of proactivity i.e. higher engagement and better knowledge of the customer. Data will help again here. There is a wealth of data available on your sold products and services if you start thinking. Next you should think of how you could use this data to drive better business results.

Communities of customers or consumers in general took the power from the enterprises in this era of social networks we are living. The number one source of truth on how it is going with your products compared to your competitors products is the community. Its your customers source of truth but many times overlooked by the blind companies. Think if you could get all of your customers who are using your products since you started your company to the one community to tell you what works and what is not working. Is this a scary scenario or an opportunity? Think if you could use the power of your happiest customers in the community for your success and nurture your least happiest customers early on to not leave you or communicate bad news to others. This all is manageable nowadays with the technology in the community of customers wherever they are. Best companies are engaging with their customers, and results will follow.

So these are the building blocks of the systems of engagement, there are of course more and more complex things in behind each of these areas, which we will touch on more deep in the book. Also remember that automation of these parts of systems of engagement around your customers is the base of a well functioning Revenue Growth Platform. We will soon walk through more on that and how you can succeed with your business. Stay tuned!

Written by: Sami Lampinen

Six parts to the book

With literally hundreds of topics that can be covered for building a B2B growth model, we’ve now simplyfied the structure and themes for the book into six areas.

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Here is a breakdown of what each part of the book will be about and a few details about each section. There will be much more but this should give you a good overview of what is to come.

Part 1 - Winning B2B models

  • Expectations are changing - Living in the age of the customer
  • Changing B2B business models

Part 2 - Introducing the revenue growth platform

  • Rethinking: Value creation for the customer
  • Customer lifecycle management
  • Growth platform building blocks: technology and people
  • Building your growth platform: technology or people first?

Part 3 - Maximizing customer value

  • Customer Lifetime Value thinking
  • Bringing the customer into your core processes by collaboration
  • Maximizing value in the customer journey

Part 4 - Moderninign your organization

  • Re-organizing around the customer
  • Leading revenue holistically - Creating the right culture and discipline

Part 5 - Leveraging technology

  • Maximizing human potential with technology
  • Automate for the benefit of the customer
  • Emerging technology: AI, machine learning, VR & AR

Part 6 - Build your growth platform

  • Where are you now? (Assessment)
  • Set your vision & goals
  • Build your growth roadmap

Written by: Jan Ropponen

The Revenue Growth Platform - Let's get going!

Hi all, we are about to launch something special! During the spring time we discussed with Jan about challenges of businesses and came up with this idea of the Revenue Growth Platform. Its now forming from idea to an engaging blog, framework and a book coming out in January 2018.

Check this video and join us for the journey. We promise it will be great educative deep dive to something your business is seeking for. Focusing into: People and Technology - How modern businesses can build their platform for growth with best combination of both worlds.

Written by: Sami Lampinen

All revenue is not the same

Too much focus on only revenue can be a very bad thing.

The metrics and focus on revenue have changed in the last 20 years as business have been moving increasingly to subscription models.

Customers only want to pay for value, so the subscription/service model makes sense. Companies that can deliver on this customer need are in great position to secure the best kind of revenue, profitable, recurring and highly predictable. 

So when analyzing revenue, these are at least a few points of view to think about. 

1 - How profitable is the revenue you are generating?

2 - How recurring is the revenue you are generating?

3 - How predictable is the revenue you are generating? 

 

Written by: Jan Ropponen

Thoughts about our mission

  • In this point in time, tons of technology options out there.
  • Everything that can be automated, will be automated.
  • All companies must prioritize growth. Growth only comes from customers and increasing the value that companies are providing them!
  • Our mission is to help companies leverage technology, such as CRM and AI, and combine this with people. 
  • The Revenue Growth Platform describes a philosophy of streamlining and adding science not only to the technology part of B2B, but also how a company is organized into different roles, responsibilities and processes --> this is revenue growth platform thinking 
  • The combination of technology and people is what the revenue growth platform is built up of.