Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability – Part 2

This is 2 part post. See the first part here

Confirmed Information

Once the marketing team or the sales team identifies the lead to be a potential customer, and the sales team does have an interest to pursue a particular lead, it is then converted. This conversion has a few of different categories of information; a contact, an account, an opportunity:

  1. A contact is a person within a company. It is possible to have multiple contacts within a company. Most interactions with a company is to a contact
  2. A company is also referred to as an account. Some systems have the capability to have parent and child accounts. This relationship is to ensure that head office and branch offices are maintained under the same account.
  3. The third aspect is the opportunity. An opportunity is a clear potential to make a sale. The opportunity in many systems are gauged by a timeframe within which the sale can be conducted and the value of a sale that can be done.
  4. There are other optional aspects such as events, notes and campaign logs that can be maintained for a converted lead. The reason behind these optional aspects is maintain a history of interaction with the customer. For example, for which marketing campaign did our company first meet with this customer or when was the email campaign sent.

The confirmed information about a contact and the company that she works for is a static data point that usually does not change over time. Contacts and account details can be used for a variety of activities such as sending proposals sending quotations, sending invitations to events or for specialised discounts and promotions.

People moving

One thing to note about a contact is that, the person may choose to work for another company in due course of time. In such a case, usually I would recommend that you mark the current contact as terminated or change the status to dead. It is very rare that you would transfer the contact data to the new company that she works for. However, you would create a new contact and the new company and keep a reference note under this contact mentioning that she had work previously for another company.

Duplicate data

Most systems will be able to detect duplicates within the contact database using fields like email, primary phone number or a combination of name and address. Duplication must be seriously looked at during this phase of the sales cycle.

The Sales Cycle

We had discussed about targets and is being part of the marketing campaign and everything  beyond leads to be part of the sales cycle. The sales cycle has numerous steps and depending on the complexity of the product or service that is being sold, the length of the cycle can drastically change.

Qualification

Qualification is usually the first step in the  sales cycle. Once the lead, or contact is qualified,  it means there is a clear need for the product or service that is being sold. The exact need would be identified in the next step of the cycle.

Needs Analysis

Based on the information that is received about the qualified lead which is converted to a contact and also an account, the exact pain point is identified. A single product or service may not address all the pain points, however, so long as there is sufficient number of pain points a value can be found.

Value Proposition

Understanding the value that the product or service will deliver to the customer is important because this value has to be clearly expressed to the customer. Before a sale, the customer has to believe that the product or service will deliver what is expected. Most of the value proposition will have to be built around solving the pain points that the customer has exhibited during the need analysis. This is a stage where the mapping of the product features to the pain points of the customer takes place.

Identifying Decision Makers

When selling a product or service to a large firm, there are usually multiple people who will be using the product and therefore, it will be necessary to identify all those who will influence the purchasing decision.

Perception Analysis

There could be other components that is required to ensure the sale can be closed. The perception of the customer is understood to incorporate the additional requirements to satisfy all the possible needs of the customer

Proposal/Price Quote

A detailed proposal is presented along with the price of the product/ service

Negotiation/Review

Most cases for large contracts, there will be negotiations that are conducted. There could be specifications that are changed or general price negotiations

Closed (Won/Lost)

This is the final stage where, the sale is closed and result is either a win or a lose. If customer is won, then the next step is to bill the customer. If the customer is lost then there could be a assessment to understand the reasons why this customer was lost.

Maintenance/Recycle

In most cases, the customer contacts are maintained for future business, whether the sale was won or lost.

Not all sales cycles follow this exact pattern. The type of product or service will determine the length of the cycle. For example, the sale of a chocolate bar to person would last a few minutes, while the sale of a large commercial oil tanker may take a few months. This difference is not because of the physical size of the product but rather the time taken to make the decision to buy or not. Most individual buyers tend to be much faster in their decision making as compared to a large corporate entity. Therefore all the phases of the sales cycle mentioned above may not pertain to the sale of a chocolate bar!

Now that we have explore the different stages of a sales cycle, do let us know how you conduct the sales cycle in your firm. Please provide your comments below!

Building a robust Marketing and Sales Capability

Most companies are aware that revenue is of utmost importance to ensure growth and sustenance for the company. This is a 2 part post. Read the second part here

The two vital components of revenue are marketing and sales. Though most firms are well aware that marketing and sales functions are important aspects, very rarely do they look at marketing and sales as a capability not as an end goal  for generating revenue. This article does not downplay the importance of sales and marketing goals, but it does show that companies with systems and procedures can sweep up more opportunities than those firms with random or incomplete processes with goals at the end.

Another aspect is that, at times, companies fail to understand the boundaries of marketing and boundaries of sales.This creates an overlap of tasks and activities thereby causing loss in effective revenue management. The separate tasks and activities of revenue management as part of marketing and sales are described next.

Sales and marketing process has a variety of tasks and activities that can be sequenced in a linear fashion. This process is quite generic and can be adopted to a variety of industries and categories of companies. The following sequence shows the overall process of a typical sales cycle:

A typical sales cycle

Target → Lead → Confirmed Information (Contact, Account, etc) → Opportunity Exists → Understanding the pain point → Proposal → Negotiation → Closing → Maintenance or Recycle

What are targets?

Targets are pieces of information about a person or a set of persons from a particular source of marketing activity. For example, if a company has conducted a seminar, then all the attendees of the seminar would be potential targets for future marketing activities. There is no potential impact on the marketing or sales activities if targets change or have incorrect data. Target are quickly changed, deleted or modified depending on the type of information that is obtained about the target. There could be additional activities done on targets such as data cleaning or a call centre based verification. In some cases email subscriptions are requested to ensure targets are real. The most cost effective method is used to ensure targets are cleaned and moved to the next stage of qualification.

A target is just the starting point to a more personalised communication to a person or a company.

The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a target to a lead.

What are leads?

Leads are targets that have been qualified based on an email confirmation or a phone call. Since leads have origins in the target list, their conversion depends on the campaign activity.

Each campaign activity may have different types of qualifications and therefore not all targets get converted into leads. Targets which do not get converted, may not be important for the current campaign. In some cases, a marketing campaign starts from existing leads, that were used before or were those that would never converted in previous campaigns.

The stage of leads in the sequence of marketing and sales activities represents the boundary between marketing and sales.

A lead has sufficient information  about a person or a company to to have an effective communication. However a lead does not have all the information required to make it a sustainable data point for future interaction. This is because leads can appear as duplicates or may appear across different companies with different names.

Not all leads come from targets. Some are created directly in  the system based on the Information that is received by the company. These created leads are sometimes created by the marketing department and in some cases done by the sales department. Usually the volume entries for new leads are done by marketing department and lead corrections and data scrubbing is done by the sales department.

The conversion from targets to leads, exposes a level of efficiency that the marketing campaigns are able to achieve.

Why is this lead necessary?

In most companies the sales department may feel that marketing departments waste a lot of budget with no direct return on investment. A marketing department can use the ratio of targets to leads conversion to show a clear value of the different marketing campaigns that were conducted.

Usually leads have the same data that is in the target and therefore, most sales and marketing tools are not able to distinguish unique leads within their system. In the next stage of activity, the leads are changed to a more static data point and hence duplicates can be identified more easily.

Now, as a company, we are quite sure that the customer exists and the person we are talking to exists. The information about the lead has a significant level of confirmation. The next stage of activity in the sequence is to convert a lead to a contact.

Read part 2 of Building a robust marketing and sales capability

From Risks to Audits

Risk management and audit management are distinctly separate in terms of personnel involved and the techniques used. Most organisations that have ventured into assessing risks, have found that moving from risk assessment to audit (control and test creation) is quite a daunting task. Conceptually, moving from risk assessment to audits is the ideal and logical step to take, but there has be considerable hesitation from numerous organisations.

The GRC Envelop tool has a risk management module for the enterprise version. Risk registers, associated risks, stakeholders, risk opinions/scoring, risk treatments and many more features are present in the risk module. However, there is no connection between the risk management module and audits module.Why is this left out?

Once there is a decision by the business management as to which risks exist and which are to be assessed, the next step is vague for most of the clients. Here are some of the approaches that have been noticed when we implement GRC Envelop at organisations who have started risk-based auditing:

  • create a new audit and define a “relatively” new set of controls that will assess the risks
  • map the risks to a department or division and create a new set of controls
  • modify existing controls and tests to cover the new risks, but later realise there are control gaps

Over time we have observed two aspects that should help overcome the hesitation while moving from risks to audit creation; first, the understanding that risks are part of a process that exists in the organisation and second, the overlap between existing controls/tests and the new ones has to be taken care of.

Risk as a part of a process

Risks do not exist independently within an organisation.

The recommendation is to attach a risk that needs to be handled, to an existing process. This existing process forms the basis of the risk based audit. Attaching the risk to a process is the most efficient mechanism to track where the risk would fall within the entire organisation.

However, attaching risks directly to a process may not be the ideal situation because risk exists with reference to an objective. A risk is the situation when an objective fails to achieve the desired output of a process. Therefore, attaching the risk to an objective is a much better alternative. This results in the overall structure being: Process (at the top), having numerous objectives, and each objective having numerous risks.

Do keep in mind that risks may span multiple objectives.

Control and test overlap

Though it is true that newly identified risk may need a new set of controls and tests to capture the assurance that business management needs, it is not true that these controls and tests have to be new completely new. Most large organisation have quite stable processes and keeping this assumption means that the newly identified risks may have been implicitly captured in some other control.

Understanding control overlap caused by the newly identified risk is a painful process of weeding out controls and tests that are no longer needed. This also maintains an optimised number of controls and tests for each process (not to mention control owner satisfaction).

Not so easy to find a common path

To conclude, I agree that moving from risk assessment to audit execution is not a straight forward task, but the framework of using the process/objective hierarchy will help ease the transition and help manage the ever growing risk control matrices in large organisations.

One aspect that I’d like to throw in is, the feedback from audit results back to risk assessment, but I think I’ll keep it for another post.

I look forward to your feedback on how you move from risk assessment to audit definition!

Looking for an Audit management tool at low cost?

When looking for a GRC software, how much would price affect your decision? Would you try a free open source, but reduced feature software?

An interesting comment on the Norman Marks blog asks why you would stick to a fixed set of features rather than look for “á la carte” GRC software. At what “point” would you choose product that covers a fixed feature set over a pick-and-choose approach to software or visa versa?

The GRC Envelop is a risk and audit management tool that is web – based and has risk and audit work flows. To answer the price issue, GRC Envelop tool is available in 2 licences: an open source licence and an enterprise licence. The open source licence is referred to as the community version. The enterprise licence is refer to as the enterprise version. The enterprise version has commercial support and many additional features to help with risk and audits. Please take a look at the feature list to decide which one is better for you.

GRC Envelop tries to blend the price and feature set issue by the classic software design of breaking the tool into modules. For example, the risk management module that can be swapped for another risk management tool, using APIs provided.

Audit and risk management tools are quite common in the enterprise, and they help structure the audit work flow, maintain a common repository of audit/risk related information (such as objectives, risks, controls, and tests) and manage the people around the audit/risk activities. Assuming we look at audit management for now, there are four basic areas for every audit management tool should have:

  1. Creating audits – Title, description, start and end dates are of some of the features that are available while creating an audit. You can also attached work papers to an Audit. While creating an audit, you can create the processes, the objectives, the risks, the controls and the tests. At each of these levels you can attach work papers too.
  2. Managing and executing audits – to manage or execute an Audit, the GRC Envelop tool provides a separate workflow to ensure that auditors can only enter test results and test descriptions. While executing the audit you can create findings and actions. The ability to make control and test assessment is only available in the enterprise version.
  3. Report generation – the main use of this tool is to provide easy report generation at the end of an auditing exercise. report generation template can be modified according to your needs. The community version has only one default report generation template. The enterprise version has the ability to have multiple templates.
  4. User management – Restricting users to their areas is an important task for a tool. The community version has only one user type ( auditor) whereas the enterprise version has 6 user types (Audit manager, auditor, external viewer, internal business user, repository manager and risk manager)

The GRC Envelop provides all these basic areas. Paid support is also available for the community version. The community version has to be downloaded and installed on your machine or server. The enterprise version can be run on your servers or hosted on a public server. Please take a look at the feature list to understand which version will be most suitable for your use. Here are a few questions that we’d like to pose:

  1. Do you think there are other basic areas that was missed out?
  2. How would you define if a audit tool is easy or complex to use (steep learning curve)? The time it takes to learn a tool is one aspect, what else affects complexity?

Let us know in the comments below.

Uniquely identifying the Unique Identification process

Unique identification for every citizen of India is an ambitious project that is currently underway. The project is carried out by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the unique identification is called Aadhar. It is my personal opinion that the process of uniquely identifying all Indian citizens (at a National level) is long overdue. Here are some of the finer aspects of UID’s project that are yet to be cleared up.

Obtaining data at a grass root level
Identifying citizens have been done numerous times by a myriad of agencies with in the government such as Income Tax (by creating Permanent Account Numbers) and External Affairs (by providing passports). What lies common to both these agencies is a need that is created for the citizen; to operate a bank account you need a PAN or to travel outside India you need a passport. In the case of UID the need is not clearly attached or maybe not clearly communicated. Hopefully soon all government interactions will require an Aadhar but, I think Aadhar should start at birth (at registering a new born).

Biometrics
Collecting biometric information such as finger prints and iris scans is definitely a leap forward in unique identification. Although codifying biometric information is not that difficult, however finding duplicates is an enormous task. I’m not sure if India has the computing power to find duplicates from the biometric data that is being collected, within a reasonable time frame. This is not to say that duplicate Aadhars will not be found, but for the short-run, it maybe possible to get multiple Aadhars! Watch out

Financial feasibility
A few weeks ago, my company got an enquiry to collect data for the UIDAI. A sub vendor was looking for a company that has the ability to invest resources (people and money) to help UIDAI collect data within a few specified districts. Initially I was shocked to learn that sensitive data collection was being outsourced to private companies. Later I learnt that there are security measures embedded within the data collection that may prevent tampering. Though I shall not question the eligibility of these companies to collect data, I question their ability to collect so much data in a sane and verifiable manner.

Why would these companies need to outsource this function and still maintain the risk of data tampering? My guess would be that these companies would be on priority for further projects, and most of the data cannot be verified by the government unless the citizen complains (who complains about their biometrics?)

Here are some numbers to keep this article interesting: the offer to my company was Rs 22 per registered citizen. Assuming an 8 hour day and around 8-9 minutes per registration (each registration includes, a photo, finger print, retinal / iris scan, document verification and some brief data entry) will result in a revenue of Rs 171600 per month for a single station. To make a nice round figure let’s look at 5 station and the initial expenses as fees and equipment for 5 stations comes to Rs 2154705.

Taking 3 years as depreciation for electronic equipment, and doing some math, the loss is approximately 1.26 lakhs per month! Now, if we work backwards, to break even, we should be able to process each registration under 4.5 minutes. What is the feasibility that the 5 step registration process will be completed at an average of 4.5 minutes? My experience with getting a voter’s ID having 3 steps was nearly 15 minutes! With these numbers there is going to massive cost over runs and selected private companies will have the opportunity to make a killing profit.

Data access and data sharing
According to UIDAI website, the security of data that resides with UIDAI seems to be rather well done. However, having a central data repository is of no use if data is not allowed to be extracted from it! The querying mechanism is not yet clear but the query response to see if an Aadhar is true is just a yes or no. No other data seems to be shared.

So on one hand the biometric data that we provide of ourselves is secure, but it is of no use, other than saying, yes a particular Aadhar number exists. However, if the reverse were true, i.e. if I provide a retinal scan a government agency can pull up my Aadhar number and associated information, then it’s a worthwhile system.

When there is a centralised system about individual information, there are numerous social implications if this system fails. I shall not go into privacy laws, so here are some links for further reading:

Existing Data
What about all the data about individual identity that is already collected, for example, on state ration card, voters ID, LPG connections. How will Aadhar connect all these different databases? Will it be the responsibility of the individual to go and present their Aadhar number to each government agency and update their information? This is definitely going to create a messy situtation!

Overall, I eagerly look forward to my Aadhar number!

Information trends as a measure of Media maturity

Media maturity would be a measure of how comfortable a society feels with interacting with a particular medium as an information source and as channel to express themselves. Have you ever thought about where you are reading this article? Whether its on printed material or electronic media. If on printed, whether it is in an early morning edition, midday edition, or a weekly magazine.

Similarly on an electronic media, whether it is from a technology site, a blog or emailed newsletter. Why is media maturity important? Well if you are from the marketing profession then you’ll need to know what sort of media delivers to the kind of audience you are looking for. However understanding media maturity for everyone else, does not have a straight forward justification.

One overarching reason: When you interact with media that is not mature your opinions derived may tend to become skewed.Unfortunately there are no clean and simple methods of measuring media maturity. My recommendation would be to triangulate the results of a few different methods .

One method is to find out what the consumers of a particular media are actively seeking through that media. On Printed media look out for the classifieds or types of advertisements, while on electronic media look at search results or key words responses.

A simple result to show you how media maturity differs based on geographic location. A knee jerk interpretation would show that people in India have a higher sexual appetite (yes, we do have a large population but is not a well grounded reason), which is not true. In my opinion this difference shown in the images are based on the fact that electronic media is not mature in India.

I’m sure that those of you who have made this far with my reasoning would have numerous other factors that play into electronic media being not so popular in India.An apt question at this point would be to ask whether other media such as newspaper or television have higher incidence of carnal content at their early stages?

Using media technology as a focal point for discussion, how does media maturity affect media technology. The rather obvious affect for media maturity is the network effect, i.e. a more mature media would entice more people to use that particular media and in turn, the more people that use a particular media, the more is the usefulness of that particular media is to a single person. In other words particular media would more successful (read mature) if it has access to more people, i.e. “touching more people”. Lets take an example of the cell phone. If the cell phone media is not mature then there would be less cell phone users because they would feel that the information they receive through the cell phone is not sufficient or appropriate.

This would stagnate the growth of this media and in turn would reduce the number of people who put ads or write (content generators) and hence reduce the people who read or see these ads (content consumers).Keep in mind this does not affect you calling your friends or family through the cell phone.I guess I should have started this article by saying, “where should phone companies (any media company) look towards when moving up the valuing chain of handling information”

So, is measuring media maturity just about getting the information to a consumer? What about end consumers creating content? Isn’t the whole idea about Web 2.0 for ordinary people being able to share their content to the public? Could we use this as a measure of media maturity?

The second measure for media maturity: The more easy it is to share content on a particular media to the general public the more mature that media is. Would you say that the mobile phones are a mature media in this respect?
The last measure of media maturity that I’d like mention is mass customisation. Though this is debatable, the ability of newer media to customise messages or content more cost efficiently leads to more consumer engagement. So as compared to a regular newspaper article, if this article appeared in your email or mobile phone and started with “Dear Mr , I think this article may interest you because of your interest in IT and media.” I’m sure you will read the article with more interest.

Though mass customisation is based on need for more precision for content generators, it does provide a window into the different types of information that is possible for a particular media to handle.

So what do you take away from this small article? Mine would be: try to look at what others around me (society) are trying to get out of a particular media. If there is a wide variety of information ‘seeking trends’ then the media is a mature one.I eagerly look forward to your interpretations of what media maturity means to you.