Comstor’s vendors and partners are unanimous in their decision to make extending their Customer’s Lifetime Value (CLV) their top priority. One solution for extending CLV that’s all the talk of our vendor and partner community is the investment in “systems” and “applications” that will address CLV by maximizing the sales potential of the installed base through data-analytics. Interestingly, like other technology solutions that first reached critical mass in the consumer sector, such as wireless and mobility, partners are intently watching the consumer-based Amazon Marketplace, demonstrating the value of a predictive analytic logic that literally turns pure marketing actions into instant sales.
For example, Amazon utilizes analytics to see that you previously purchased Crocs footwear and knows through historical trending, that you’re a high potential prospect for, of all things, corn dogs!
So upon selecting a pair of vividly colored and oddly shaped casual shoes, your mouth is soon watering in anticipation of the succulent and uniquely American dining experience that has been generously offered to you by Amazon. With that experience, a new appreciation is born for how installed base data can be the foundation for an analytic machine that will transform our customers’ purchasing agents into an unruly and rabid mob of corporate buyers, pointing and clicking frantically in pursuit of their high-tech equivalent of a corn dog.
While for most, the scene described above is recognized as quite silly, the promise of a more systematic sales discipline that is driven by a high-value data set is actually quite realistic.
It is important to appreciate, however, that in our environment, success through data-analytic marketing does not exactly resemble the Amazon consumer success where effective marketing literally converts to a closed sale INSTANTLY. Alas, the instant gratification so coveted by our millennial brothers and sisters cannot be found here.
In our high-tech, “high-ticket” sales environments, however, the solutions we offer do usually require upgrading, renewal, or even a forklift removal within a surprisingly brief period of time. The condition does seem to suggest a virtual nirvana for salespersons whose only care should be to prioritize an infinite number of customers with purchase orders in hand, all jostling for the salespersons’ attention, so that the customer can buy more.
Yet, with little provocation, partner leaders frequently speak with bewilderment as to why their often high-priced sales talent can’t consistently capitalize on this euphoric market condition.
Joining in on that state of mystery, big vendors like Cisco, in an effort to provoke sales euphoria, go to exceptional lengths to create and publish “tech refresh” materials, deliver product migration training, and sponsor high-cost events built for the sales channel to pursue the utopian land of “installed base” sales opportunities.
There are reasonable explanations as to why the “tech refresh” sales strategy doesn’t always reap those euphoric rewards. It is important to consider a couple of different perspectives on selling, and “migrating” products from vendors that have achieved a dominant market presence and a ubiquitous installed base. This is what I call, the Big Vendor Blessing and the Big Vendor Curse.
We are BLESSED to sell to customers where a brand has been long established, accepted, and trusted. The familiarity and even fraternal condition with big vendor customers significantly limits the demand for the “evangelical” sales actions more common with less mature brands. The mass of the installed base is awe inspiring, with seemingly unlimited opportunities for product migration, renewal, and “up-sell/cross-sell.”
We are CURSED, however, by the frightening army of competitors with a ruthless battle plan to invade the fertile landscape of our client base, thus deflating our optimism for a reasonably profitable customer experience.
For partners to succeed in the BLESSED condition, partner distinction is crucial to defeat the CURSE. Distinction translates to Extended Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). And that distinction, consciously and rigorously marketed, translates to new customer acquisition where the CLV is incubated.
The Big Vendor hex is seen in the form of a partner leader, helplessly watching the defection of a top customer, and that leader traumatically reflecting over the investment his company made acquiring and supporting the customer, sometimes over a period of several years. The leader asks, “What do we need to do to build a stronger adhesion to our customers?”
The leader continues asking, “How did we get out sold?” “What is wrong with my salespeople who don’t succeed with such a well-established installed base?” More and more, the question is asked, “How do I integrate a data-analytic system that can serve as the foundation to maximize CLV?”
Reflecting back on Amazon Marketplace as an example of success, emulating that model requires that an important distinction be accepted in our partners’ Big Vendor version of a data driven sales process. In our partners’ version, success should be celebrated when a sales opportunity is IDENTIFIED or ADVANCED.
Like the Amazon example, the TIME TO MONEY should be accelerated. It’s just nearly impossible to do so at the same head-spinning velocity that takes a consumer from Attention to Action/Purchase in the Amazon version. In other words, when the volume of new opportunities expands and the speed with which the opportunities travel through the sales cycle is accelerated, a sales success can legitimately be claimed! This is a good thing, and any system that will reliably and repeatedly accomplish this deserves serious consideration by our partners.
Another important contrast with the Amazon example is how rarely customers buy from our partners impulsively, and how the output of the partners’ data-analytics is more interpretive, requiring an additional exchange of information before that sale is advanced. I like to say that there is more than one way to skin a network cat. The seller should be prepared to communicate how a solution that was identified through data-analytics is not only technically correct, but is also facilitating an articulated business outcome and financial impact. Further, the seller should be trained to embrace challenges from the buyer as valuable opportunities to perform an additional discovery, and to expose even more insight into the customer’s business environment. Failure to manage this condition is almost analogous to the Amazon sales cycle where a consumer clicks through on their selection yet is told that the site is “down” and to “please return later.” In both examples, the opportunity is highly at risk of being lost.
This is another rich and exciting topic in which my Comstor family is well versed and eager to further share or experience with partners and vendor associates. At the core, our discoveries and the programs we have developed are built on the premise that any partner investment to develop or acquire data-analytic systems or applications, must be balanced with the investment on a less “binary” component of the equation. That component is their sales talent and their ability to process, interpret, and humanize the attributes of the systematically produced output. When both elements are addressed, the big-data sales hallucination becomes a more sober, yet entirely satisfying business reality. We are delighted to share our insights in greater length and welcome our EDGE360 readers to offer their experiences.
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