Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is Sales More Like Hunting or Fishing?

When you implement a customer relationship management system (CRM) for sales force automation, you must analyze your sales process in order to understand the steps that should be automated, and all the business processes that come into play during the sales cycle.



Salespeople use many analogies that are used to describe sales, but the most common are hunting and fishing.  Hunting is the most common way of thinking about sales.  Your sales prospects are targets, and you spend your time tracking them down and finding out how you can reach them.  Sales tactics are a bit like hunting weapons, and you track statistics on how many of your quarry you bag and how many get away.

You can find sales books that explain sales as hunting, and how to use 'trust as your weapon."  Large sales are called "elephants" or "whales" and small sales are "deer" or "rabbits."  In the sales as hunting world, salespeople wander the earth to find prey and stalk them as long as necessary.

Fishing (specifically angling, or fishing with a line and a hook rather than a net) is another useful analogy to understand sales processes.  In most fishing, you cannot see the fish, so you rely on your judgment of the likelihood of fish where you are casting your line, and the quality of bait.

Marketing is the bait for sales.  The quality of your offering (product or service) is crucial for sales. You must have faith in the bait or lures that you use and present them with confidence to be successful.

CRM does a great job of keeping score of sales wins and losses.  It also shows which offerings are most successful, and often helps you identify successful marketing techniques.

What analogies do you use to describe your sales process?  How can these inform your CRM implementation?  If you see your sales force as hunters, how can tracking sales activities improve performance?  Can CRM reports help you understand the tactics of individual salespeople?

Don't assume that your CRM reflects your sales philosophy out of the box.  You can tailor it so that it reinforces the processes that you want to promote.






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Introducing Employee Self-Service Knowledge Base, from Microsoft

Microsoft recently announced a new option for employee self-service. Some of the biggest drains on employee productivity and engagement come from one thing: a lack of available knowledge. Whether it’s an IT, HR, or customer service question, having to search multiple places or contact another employee for knowledge that is not easily found, wastes valuable time and effort.



Microsoft Dynamics Employee Self-Service (ESS) is a knowledge management solution that provides accessible and consistent knowledge for all employees. Knowledge content is easy to create and manage, and can be delivered internally across all departments, and through multiple channels including devices, productivity tools and applications used every day. For instance, you can:

  • Provide answers to frequently asked questions such as sick leave or benefits
  • Promote consistent answers to customer questions through a well organized knowledge base
  • Offer internal troubleshooting tools 




Microsoft Dynamics Employee Self-Service is surprisingly affordable.  It's a cloud solution so may be deployed quickly.

Here is a video of the solution in action.  Contact me to get more information or join our January 14, 2016 webinar.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

GovCon Information Services: A List



I have not been able to find a comprehensive list of companies that provide databases to government contractors to find potential opportunities, so I'm starting the list here.

Many of these sources are reviewed here. This is a blog post which I will expand based on feedback from readers and additional research.

FedBizOpps: FBO from the General Services Administration is the best known source of federal business opportunities.  Many of the paid services list below include FBO search results.  Be sure to try the advanced search feature.

Deltek GovWin: Deltek's flagship service GovWin IQ is the largest and probably most comprehensive source, purchased by nearly every large government contractor. When GovWin was hacked in 2014, a news story claimed that 60,000 customers were affected, so this represents a large user base.  Deltek has purchased a number of competitors over the years, such as FedSources, Centurion Research and Input.  Deltek is one of the most expensive of these services.  Some users find the CRM user interface a bit out of date. Integration with Salesforce is available.

Onvia: Onvia covers state and local government and grant sources as well as federal opportunities. From my experience, their state and local coverage is the most extensive of all these services.  Onvia creates white papers, articleswebinars and analysis which are available without a subscription.  I enjoy their quarterly state and local procurement snapshot such as this one on Q3-2015. In August 2016, Onvia added integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  They also offer integration with Salesforce.

Bloomberg Government: Bloomberg is the largest new player in many years, bringing the same quality and breadth of coverage for which they are known in the financial industry.  Bloomberg hosts events with government and industry leaders as well as briefings from its analysts. I have attended Bloomberg events and the quality of their presentations and analysts is quite high.

Govini: Another relatively new player that, like Bloomberg, has recruited veterans from its competitors. According to this 2014 article from the Wall Street Journal, Govini has a plan to gather and publish contracts data from all over the world.  It was described in the article as a startup with 40 people and about 200 subscribers.

FindRFP: Contains U.S. and Canada government solicitations. You pay based on the geographic segment you would like to search.  You can try an anonymous keyword search to get a sense of how many search results you will get, although you will not be able to see the full opportunity detail without a subscription.  Plans are $19.95/mo. for regional and $29.99/mo. for national with annual plans of $199.50 and $299.50 for regional and national respectively.

Bidspeed: Merges data from multiple sources including FBO and provides templates for responses as well as additional services.

BidSync: Free and paid plans available.  Some government agencies publish bids through BidSync and user their infrastructure to manage amendments, proposals, and other documents. A few white papers are available. A review has been posted on Capterra in the category of procurement software.

FedMine.US: Established player.  Retro user interface with unusual use of color. Information on task orders as well as prime contracts.

Several procurement sites seem to be similar in terms of their offering and their data.  I had a harder time finding review information on the following:

FedConnect: Claims to be good complement to FedBizOps and Grants.gov which seem to be the sources of most if not all of their data.  Paid and free plans available.

GovernmentBids.com: Low cost subscriptions from $44 to $131/month.

GovDirections: Local, state and federal government bids. Offers daily update services called RFPDelivery. Federal data seems to be mainly from FBO.gov and FPDS.gov.

GovTribe:  Recent startup from Arlington, VA with refreshing user interface showing government agencies, vendors, contracts, solicitations, projects and more.  Monthly subscription is $24/user with volume discounts.

BidClerk: Specializing in bid opportunities for the construction industry.

BidPrime:  Pricing is by region, from $400-1,100 per year.

AmericasBiz.net: Administered by the North America Procurement Council, Inc. PBC (NAPC), a Colorado public benefit corporation, it includes some commercial as well as government solicitations.

USAOpps: Inexpensive service with free trail available.

EZGovOpps: Inexpensive service with free trail available. Seems focused on federal with data sources listed here.

EPipeline: Pricing not shown on website. Listed as a subsidiary of Mediagrif Interactive Technologies Inc. in Bloomberg Financial.

SmartProcure: Started in 2008.  Doesn't track bid opportunities.  SmartSearch is $425/mo. and SmartExport is $675/mo. billed annually.

I will add more information and links to each to these.  So far I have found none of these providers offering integration with Dynamics CRM.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When It Comes to Online Collaboration, It's the People and Not the Tools



It has been a long time since Lotus Notes defined the groupware category of collaboration software and Microsoft followed with SharePoint in 2001.  Since then, collaboration software has evolved and new approaches to collaboration have emerged based on social media (such as Yammer).

Business can choose from many collaboration platforms, some of which are free or included (like SharePoint) in widely deployed office suites.

What has not changed is that collaboration itself is a human activity.  Even the best collaboration tools are worth nothing without the participation of users.

Encouraging adoption for collaboration is more difficult than driving adoption of products which empower individual users.  For group projects, have only 80 percent of the participants using the collaboration tool often means failure of the tool for the project.

One of the best techniques to encourage adoption is to have managers and senior staff lead by example.  If they adopt collaboration tools and techniques, others are more likely to follow.

Another tip is to start small and try to avoid cumbersome governance policies unless absolutely necessary.  If you start by laying down rules of behavior that are difficult to follow, users will quickly learn that they should avoid the collaboration system rather than take risks in sharing.