Make Your Marketing Message Contagious


Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Jonah Berger first caught my attention in this Fast Company article (“Fifty Percent of ‘The Tipping Point’ is Wrong”). The article positions him as the new Malcolm Gladwell and challenges some accepted theory of The Tipping Point.

Berger is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School of Business. At Stanford, he was a student of Chip Heath, author of the marketing classic Made to Stick. Made to Stick describes why messages stick with audiences. Berger has taken this concept a step further in his bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Berger examines why certain products get more word-of-mouth marketing and why some online content goes viral...


Let’s Ban Press Releases


Let’s Ban Press Releases

In a memo sent out to staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January, the Trump Administration has prohibited press releases, social media postings, blog posts or new content placed on the agency’s website.

I’m a big fan of this policy.

Not only do I think, as a media agency, we’ve worked for several organizations who should have put this out to all departments (it would have saved some heartache for some them), but it just makes sense.

I’ve just come back from teaching a crisis communications lecture, where students very effectively showed that many a company CEO has led their organization to crisis (at the very least, a loss of revenue) by talking about their personal stance on something and it being represented as from the company.

Let’s take Dan Cathy (president of Chick-fil-A) and his comments against LGBT rights. It led to loss of traffic for Chick-fil-A (which continues today despite a damn tasty chicken sandwich) and several new restaurants (notably on University Campuses) that never opened.

It’s near impossible for a CEO to talk to any media outlet and not represent the organization that CEO leads.

Back to politics for a moment. This isn’t the first instance of a government agency being told to cease social media postings or communications in the new Donald Trump presidency. During Trump’s inauguration, the National Park Service retweeted two posts teasing Trump about his inauguration crowd size and hitting the administration for deleting references to climate change.

Dude!  If this was any professional business, heads would be rolling. There is no instance when one sub-department or rogue employee should be teasing the CEO of a business on social media. So, as PR pros we must make sure this is not possible.

So, I say, all press releases should be banned. Let’s face it, it’s a lazy tool that good PR pros just don’t need. There is no instance today that needs blanket press releases sent out, when a dedicated team couldn’t reach out personally to multiple press contacts to get the story right. I know you think I’m off my rocker or joking, but seriously, media relations needs some relations that are personal – not mass market. Leave that to advertising.

Next up, no one – no one at all – should be speaking to the media, unless cleared and managed by a senior PR person representing (I don’t care if it’s in house or through an agency) the organization. Today, there is too much at stake. Seriously – no one. Not the founder, not the owner (in fact especially not those two), not any person.

We need to wake up and smell the digital communication highway. Founders and CEO’s are brilliant people, but that doesn’t make them brilliant at the nuances of media spokesperson. Yes, they can be very desirable as their quirky, entrepreneurial, shoot from the hip, style makes them very quotable. But there is a lot at stake. One wrong soundbite and it can be echoed around the world and back again leading to considerable financial loss.

So that’s my drive for 2017. Ban press releases and tighten control so no one can speak to the press unless it can be controlled by a media pro.

Anyone with me?


Profitability through PR


Profitability through PR

Growing a company into a global brand is all about building reputation and doing it over and over until potentially millions of people know and love what you do. The process for this success is relatively simple.

Visibility + Credibility = Reputation + Profitability.

Please note, this is a process, and not a formula.

First your brand must be visible in the community (ideally your target market). That is when people know who you are and what you do.

Over time, you establish credibility. Credibility is when people know who you are, what you do, and they know that you are good at it.

And then and only then do you get to reputation.

You know when you have reached reputation, because that will result in sales, which in turn should lead you to profitability.

So, what does that mean in the word of marketing?

Step 1 - Visibility

The best way to get visibility to a mass audience is to go straight for that TV commercial in the Super Bowl. That spot ran at $5 million for just 30 seconds of air time this year. So, maybe, just maybe, that’s not going to be the best use of your marketing budget.

Luckily, you are probably not targeting the 110+ million people that tune into this sporting event. You can probably target a little better than that. Nope, you can target a lot better than that.

Targeting takes skill and research, but it is time well spent. Once you know your target and what media they consume, you can build a plan to speak to (not reach) them.

Most media contain two elements – the free section and the paid for section – the media relations section and the advertising section. 

Placing ads is just great, if you have a large budget and a short amount of time. The trouble with advertising is well documented and can best be summed up by the pioneer in marketing, John Wanamaker, who famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half”.

For those with slimmer budgets, the world of media relations is the way to go. PR is wonderful for creating visibility, because it is amazing at educating an audience. With PR you can get into how and why of your product / service. You can get deep.

It is going to take time - effective frequency is a controversial topic. Some say you need to see a message seven times for it to be effective. Some say it’s twenty. Whatever the mathematical accuracy is for your brand, sooner or later there will be visibility.

Step 2 – Credibility

Too many people and brands don’t recognize the need to move to step two – credibility - the quality of being trusted and believed in.

Advertising is not great for gaining credibility. Your customers – irrespective of whether you are in a B2C or B2B business – see through the ads pretty quickly. Be honest, so do you when you are a consumer.

Media relations, on the other hand, passes the smell test. There are all kinds of articles that can be placed for build credibility such as getting testimonials from clients/experts and sharing business insights / information with customers without selling to them directly.

In fact, we would suggest to you that media relations is the best marketing tactic for building credibility (and if you don’t believe us, speak to one of our customers or read some more of our great articles).

When will you know when your credibility campaign is working? Your reputation grows through word of mouth and profits will follow.

Just don’t forget – credibility is where the magic happens.


The Fear of Digital Marketing and One Little Secret you Need to Know


The Fear of Digital Marketing and One Little Secret you Need to Know

Business owners and marketing experts are scared. Just like other (more regular and boring) people, they fear the unknown. They fear what might happen, loss of control and what won’t happen.  Some have even admitted to me that the digital changes we experience today that cause disruptions to their business are keeping them up at night.

The fear is real and justified. Digital is transforming how we market to customers and how customers interact with us and our clients. They can make us more efficient, they can increase customer service and they can bring bigger profits. They can also work against us.  The fear is based in the unknown. We’ve yet to find a company that have it right, constantly, long term.

Unlike traditional threats to business, there is little insurance available to mitigate these risks. We hear that businesses are exploiting data, virtualizing infrastructure, reimagining customer experiences, and seemingly injecting social features into everything, but do we have a handle on it?

I spoke to hundreds of business owners in 2016 and none – not one – has said they gain clients because of their great Twitter campaigns. Now I think about it, not one has said they have gained a substantial client base from any single online digital platform.

I have spoken to several companies that have advertised very successfully online, using platforms such as Facebook, but the small print is that these companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing/advertising. So, what is the little secret?

The secret is simple - digital marketing can work, but it is not a standalone tactic. The success of digital only works when it is integrated with traditional and off-line marketing strategies.

If you think any one digital marketing platform is the ticket to success, then you are going to be wasting time and money in 2017. If you can integrate digital marketing into your traditional this year, I’ll toast to your success.

Have you cracked the digital / traditional integration nut?


PR trends for 2017… what you need to know today.


PR trends for 2017… what you need to know today.

There is one major driver to the world of media relations, and that is digital media. It’s not new this year, but it is developing quickly and has a hand in what media is, how consumers absorb content, how we as PR pros deal with the media and how as PR pros we communicate to our customers. As the world changes, so do we need to. Here’s what you need to be aware of.

1. Visual Storytelling

Facebook now sees 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users

Snapchat users watch 6 billion videos every day

US adults spend an average of 1 hour, 16 minutes each day watching video on digital devices

78% of people watch online videos every week, 55% watch every day

And according to some, there is a 74 percent increase in understanding when someone watches a video. These are some simple reasons to start using video and other visual tools right now.

2. The Traditional Media Press Release Is Dead

How you write it and how you distribute it.

First up, your release must be digital friendly. This means you need to include links and hashtags. Without these, others (possibly a journalist or editor) will add them, but you loose control of the message and the online advantage of multiple links/hashtags going live at one time.\

Secondly, while we can use a news wire (sure, why not?) this is not the answer. They are increasingly affordable and quick to access. Better still, get that news out directly to just the right (small group) of quality, professional journalists. At the same time, publish your own piece of news on your own blog and then multiply it by posing across social media

3. Amplify your Social Media

Yes, the lie between PR and advertising are ever greyer. Once you have used your own social media platforms to publicize your own news, it’s time to turn the volume up with some amplification. You can use paid promotion, such as Facebook promoted posts, Twitter promoted tweets and LinkedIn sponsored updates. Google AdWords will continue to be another great paid promotion tactic.

To go to the next level, try asking big influencers in your industry to share and contribute to your content to give it more credibility and publicity.

4. Native Advertising

Now we have you over the hurdle of actually paying to play in the form of amplified social media posts, next you need to consider native advertising. Ad and digital agencies have been pushing these solutions for some time.

Native advertising typically match the look and feel of the platform it appears in and provides *useful* content rather than a typical call-to-action to purchase something. It’s about time the PR pro understands how and when to use native advertising.

5. Personalizing Your Pitch

We have known for many years that mass pitches do NOT the job. You need to build relationships with journalists and editors if you want to increase your chance of getting your content published fast. So, why is this going to be a trend in 2017? Well, people seem to have forgotten. Many believe that they can use technology to overcome this vital part in the PR process. You can’t. We believe that traditional processes of getting to know journalists will have a resurrection this year.

What else do you think will be driving the PR industry in 2017?



What we just read… lets us get to ‘yes’ quicker.

The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders?

Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

His first solo work in over thirty years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini draws on an array of studies and narratives to outline the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.”


A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
By Robert Cialdini



What we just read… just made us smarter, faster & better than you.

At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters—this book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently.

Here’s what we took away and how it can be applied to the world of international integrated marketing.

Productivity relies on making certain choices. The way we frame our daily decisions; the big ambitions we embrace and the easy goals we ignore; the cultures we establish as leaders to drive innovation; the way we interact with data: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.

The structure of the book hinges on eight key productivity concepts that explain why some people and companies get so much done:

  • Motivation

  • Teams

  • Focus

  • Goal Setting

  • Managing Others

  • Decision Making

  • Innovation

  • Absorbing Data

Packed with true stories and scientific discoveries that explain that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently. They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.

Smarter Faster Better is both a page turner and a book that will frequently cause you to turn down page corners to be read again later.

The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg


11 strategy points you have to consider if you’re serious about content marketing


11 strategy points you have to consider if you’re serious about content marketing

11 strategy points you have to consider if you’re serious about content marketing

In the forever changing world of marketing communications and public relations, if you’re not talkingcontent marketing, then you’re behind the curve.

Here are NettResults’ 11 strategy points that we work on with our clients, to help them meet their business goals and outperform their competitors when it comes to content marketing.

1 - Creation of a real content marketing strategy

Does your organization have a documented content marketing strategy? Sadly, most do not. Companies that do have one, and review it consistently, are more likely to be successful. Even though you might think this is basic, it’s not. We are still too focused on campaigns and talking about our products, instead of truly driving value outside the products and services we offer.

2 - Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is quickly gaining importance and the C suite is getting it. It seems that every enterprise has some kind of content and influencer strategy, but few organizations execute a real strategy that makes sense.

3 - Purpose-driven marketing

What’s your why? Why do you create your content? Does it have a real impact on your customers and prospects? Is there a deeper purpose behind what you do, instead of just creating content as part of your sales and marketing machine?

4 - Video and visual

We’ve been saying it for years in this blog, using video and having a visual storytelling strategy are paramount for success. But, most brands are still hanging their video strategy on the viral video, instead of building a process and organization around the ongoing delivery of valuable information through video.

5 - Teams and workflow

Doesn’t matter how good your strategy is – who’s on your team to implement it? Having quality people that understand content and the business you’re in is so important. Equally important, how are the client/agency, and the internal team going to work? Get that workflow right to give visibility and make the process as smooth as possible – clear communications with on-time delivery and checks to ensure nothing is delayed or inaccurate.

6 - Stories & writing

It’s all in the story. Writing still counts, perhaps more than ever. While some marketers are fanatical about social media and video, they don’t comprehend that most of our communication is still text and story based. Make sure your team has really, really good writers.

7 - Integration with sales

Sales and marketing HAVE to be integrated. If we don’t market well, then sales perform poorly. If there is less money that comes into the company, there is less money to pay salaries. Who are they going to cut first – a sales person that can make more money for an organization or a content marketing team? Hello! Your job is on the line. There you go – we said it.

8 - ROI and measurement

If you don’t measure it, you don’t know if there is a return on investment. If you can’t prove your ROI you’re out of a job. There you go – we said it again.

9 - Email and marketing automation

Email is far from dead, and may be more important than ever for our content marketing programs. In fact, with a lot of the conversations moving to text, chat, apps and personal email accounts, the business email account is a particularly uncluttered marketplace right now – if you use it wisely.

And then, as many B2B enterprises have done, they move from just email into marketing automation. That’s a conversation for another time.

10 - Executive buy-in

Content marketing is an approach… a way of doing business… and many executives in the C suite are still firmly set with the traditional four Ps model. Without executive buy-in, you’re dead in the water. Not only are you doing something they don’t understand or value, but you’re then not able to do other functions that they think you should be doing. What does this lead to? Job insecurity. Oh yes we did.

11 - Global integration

At NettResults we come from an international stand point – it’s in our DNA. More and more in today’s market, organizations are operating globally. This means complex processes, scattered teams, communication issues, politics, and varied customer experiences. Simply put, it’s hard. The global integration needs more communication, understanding and tools.

And a bonus… maybe more tactical that strategy:


Snapchat has surpassed Facebook in total video views, it’s about time we started to take notice. OK, so you may need your 13-year old daughter to explain it to you, but if you are targeting the users of Snapchat, then you need to start engaging now.


Engaging with external stakeholders – what we can learn from leading companies


Engaging with external stakeholders – what we can learn from leading companies

Engaging with external stakeholders is more important than ever to company leaders, according to the fifth McKinsey Global Survey on external affairs. Yet while most executives believe outside stakeholders will be increasingly involved in their industries in coming years, few say their companies have taken an active approach to engaging with stakeholders or that they have found success in their external-affairs efforts.

52% of CEOs say external affairs falls as their top or top 3 priority

The results suggest that to step up their game, companies should start by strengthening their capabilities—many of which aren’t any stronger now than they were a few years ago. The companies that, according to respondents, are most successful at external affairs not only have better overall capabilities than their peers but they also are particularly skilled at organizing their external-affairs functions.

External affairs is a rising priority for CEOs and boards. When asked about the most influential stakeholders, executives expect government entities and regulators—as well as customers—will have the greatest effect on their companies’ value. Furthermore, executives in developing markets and in Asia are likelier than others t see external affairs as an opportunity rather than a risk.

11% of CEOs say their companies frequently succeed at shaping government and regulatory decisions

Despite the growing focus on external relations and the recognition of the value at stake, responses suggest that success is rare. Only 11 percent of executives say their companies frequently succeed at shaping government and regulatory decisions, and there are no regions or industries where more than one in five respondents report success. Managing the corporate reputation is challenging as well: just 22 percent of respondents say they frequently succeed at this.

On average, respondents (n= 1,334) report little progress – and even decline – in the strength of their companies’ capabilities since 2012. What’s more, few executives report that their companies are actively engaging with stakeholders. Just one-quarter say that in the past year, their companies have taken a very active approach to engaging with governments and regulators

Not surprisingly, those companies that are engaging external affairs are reporting greater success. More importantly, what are they doing – and what do we help with at NettResults?

We break it down into three areas that really differentiate those that are doing well and those that are reporting not to succeed:

Strategy formation:

- Building a fact-based narrative to support positions

- Aligning external-affairs agenda with company’s corporate strategy

- Prioritizing items on external-affairs agenda based on potential value at stake


- Tracking quality of relationships with most relevant stakeholders

- Engage CEO to support external-affairs activities

- Balancing local engagements with corporate-level priorities

- Attracting talent with the right skills

- Having a coordinated response to a crisis

Stakeholder engagement:

- Mapping stakeholder landscape to understand networks of influence

- Engaging with stakeholders in response to unfavorable policies

When setting the external-affairs agenda, respondents at the most successful companies are 2.5 times likelier than their peers to say they’re very effective at building fact-based narratives to support their positions. They are also much likelier to report effectiveness at tracking the quality of their relationships with stakeholders.

Other data suggest that digital tools have a role to play. Although a whopping 82 percent of all respondents say their organizations use digital tools (such as social media) for business reasons, those at successful companies use these tools differently. When asked about their main goals for using digital tools, for instance, they most often cite promoting their companies’ priorities and engaging with specific stakeholders, rather than driving website traffic or increasing their companies’ media visibility—which respondents at other companies cite more often.

If you would like to find out more about how your organizations (or an organization you represent) can engage external stakeholders more effectively, then call or email to set up an informal conversation and we’d be delighted to discuss your situation.


What Marketers Need to Know About Growing Sales


What Marketers Need to Know About Growing Sales

What Marketers Need to Know About Growing Sales

Make no mistake about it, when we’re in the marketing role, we are supporting sales. The two are joined at the hip and nothing in marketing should be thought about without the understanding of how it effects sales.


Let’s hand it over to McKinsey & Company and the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders to reveal how top-performing sales organizations harness digital to drive growth, meet the new challenges of managing talent, and evolve with the future of sales.



By understanding how the sales professional thinks, marketing gets better.



How do sales leaders harness digital and analytics to drive growth? How are management and talent challenges evolving? And what does the future of sales look like?



Based on discussions with more than 200 executives from companies like Adidas, American Express, and Siemens, as well as on advanced research and our firm’s extensive experience in sales, McKinsey & Company have distilled the lessons into a set of practical, real-world insights across five major themes:



  • Finding growth before your competitors do

  • Selling the way customers want

  • Optimizing sales operations and technology

  • Finding sales leaders who continually challenge the status quo and thoughtfully manage performance

  • Leading sales growth to make change happen



Here are some of the highlights:



Power growth through digital sales



Sales organizations may have felt that digital technologies and channels were jeopardizing their business, but they are now realizing they can turn them to their advantage.



By 2017, almost two-thirds of all US retail sales will involve some form of online research, consideration, or purchase. Digital’s share of total retail sales in the United States has been growing by about 15 percent annually over the past five years, and the value of those sales is predicted to grow at 9.5 percent year on year. Turn to mobile channels and the growth is even more dramatic: 25 percent a year through 2017. A revolution in processing ability has put unprecedented shopping and buying power into the hands of today’s customers. More than 60 percent of Americans have a smartphone, and 80 percent of them are “smartphone shoppers”—they use their phones to help them shop while in a store, most often to research product reviews and specifications and compare prices. In South Korea, shoppers are not so much mobile first as “mobile only.” Of consumers who shopped on a mobile device, 13 percent did not shop in stores, and 53 percent did not shop via other digital channels.



Smartphone users are in many ways a godsend for vendors. Their digital footprint makes them easier to track through their decision journey, and that additional data delivers richer insights that can help drive higher-value purchases. The convenience and tailored experience now on offer not only help companies build stronger connections to customers but also drive down costs. Some 40 percent of US drugstore chain Walgreens’ total online prescription refills are ordered via its mobile app. This saves time for pharmacists and reduces the need for additional employees.



Blending digital channels into a company’s overall multichannel approach requires changes beyond the sales force, encompassing product development, marketing, distribution, and customer service. Companies that are thriving in the digital age are those that can figure out creative ways to pull together the best resources from across the organization.

Get the most out of marketing




Historically, sales and marketing have not always been harmonious bedfellows, but the opportunities afforded by big data and the complexities of connecting with customers in more granular ways require integrated and collaborative models that bring marketing and sales together.



On average, a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the purchase process, and two-thirds come away frustrated by inconsistent experiences. The notion of a customer decision journey (CDJ) around which marketing and sales collaborate has become embedded in many leading sales organizations, but the journey differs by customer segment, with needs and expectations varying at each stage. Insightful customer research and advanced analytics mean these segments can be defined ever more precisely by marketing, but that work is wasted unless sales reaches the right people with the right offer. Nor is the onus all on marketing. Both functions generate enormous volumes of valuable data on customer segments and preferences, but at outperforming companies, the front line reports back to help marketing refine its value propositions.



As data becomes more readily available and easier to crunch, companies can move from broad-based predictive modeling to a much more personalized approach. Information from past interactions with a customer or from existing sources can be used to instantaneously customize the buyer’s experience. Remembering customer preferences is just the beginning; true personalization is the next wave in a customer’s journey and helps drive loyalty.



Pay attention to presales



For B2B sales, “personalization” is about delivering tailored solutions. To do that, sales organizations need a very clear understanding of customer needs. This requires technical experts to be involved with customers at a very early stage in the buying journey. These presales specialists are so important that one account manager at a global technology company said, “Every sales leader would say they couldn’t run the business without a specialist. The competitive dynamic is such that if you don’t bring your A-game to the deal, you’re not going to win.”



In addition to getting experts working on deals, the pre-sales function can play a vital role in qualifying leads. Social media, digital marketing, advanced analytics, and the more pervasive use of inside sales have exponentially increased the number of deals a company can pursue. But too many potential deals can have a negative effect on the organization by diffusing focus and taxing resources. It is far more efficient and effective to qualify leads using data and analytic tools, so that only the most attractive ones then move into the pipeline.



Despite its importance, pre-sales is often understaffed and overlooked. A high-performing sales organization should have about two-thirds of its presales team undertaking technical presales activities (crafting solutions to customers’ problems) and the rest involved with commercial presales activities (managing deal qualification, pricing, and bid). For maximum productivity, the function should account for 40 to 50 percent of the overall commercial headcount. B2B companies with strong pre-sales capabilities consistently achieve win rates in excess of 40 percent in new business, which is 10 to 15 points higher than we usually observe.



Although this technical sales support is most associated with B2B sales, it can apply to B2C, too. Apple’s product geniuses may be the best-known examples, but some car dealers send the product expert, not the salesperson, out on the customer’s test drive to answer questions.

Reimagine sales growth



With its focus on how digital technologies, data, and analytics are changing the face of selling, it’s natural that Sales Growth concludes with some thoughts on where the future may lie for sales organizations. The pervasive automation of back-office processes and the complete outsourcing of the sales function, enabled in part by precisely this technology shift, are redrawing the lines of sales management.



Machine learning and intelligent automation are already transforming a wide range of industries and functions. By 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human, and 40 percent of sales activities could be automated using technology that already exists.



“Cognitive agents” such as IPsoft’s Amelia, already understand, interact, and—crucially—learn in order to solve customers’ problems in industries from financial services to telecommunications. They can parse natural language and independently determine which questions to ask in order to diagnose what the customer really needs and act accordingly. It’s a small step from helping customers tackle basic processes to selling, and Amelia can already solve basic customer problems, for example, moving a customer to a more comprehensive phone tariff.



These new technologies and trends do not spell the end of salesmanship. They will fulfill much of the presales work, but many sales will still need people to close them. Making sure that the right salesperson is in place is becoming easier, too, thanks to analytics. Matching the seller with the lead and equipping the salesperson with the maximum amount of useful information to close the deal will characterize the new sales environment.



AI can be deployed beyond just responding to queries. Today, even with modern CRM systems, only a quarter of leads are actually contacted. A bot can contact 100 percent of them and do so in a relatively engaging, human-like manner that should not put off any potential customers. Companies that have pioneered the use of AI in sales rave about the impact, which includes an increase in leads and appointments of more than 50 percent, cost reductions of 40 to 60 percent, and call-time reductions of 60 to 70 percent. Customers love it too—these companies have seen an increase in customer satisfaction as customers get what they want faster.



Sales teams will need to be comfortable with algorithms and able to work with data scientists and marketing-tech experts to design solutions. Sales leaders, meanwhile, will need clear escalation and exception protocols to manage the trickiest or most valuable situations. As the machines get smarter, the biggest differentiator of success will be the human touch. Senior executives will need to ask the right questions, vigorously approach the exceptions that the machines highlight, and shine in the areas that AI will always struggle with: ambiguity and emotional engagement.



With more sales organizations turning to technology vendors to solve problems, is it only a matter of time before the whole sales function is outsourced?



Outsourcing the part of your business that involves selling to customers sounds risky at first, but for pioneering companies, the fact that the salesperson doesn’t work directly for the company no longer matters, nor is it important that s/he may be selling products from several different companies in the same category over the course of a week. What matters for the manufacturer is that someone is out there pounding the pavement, the phone, and the digital platforms, getting the product into the hands of customers more cheaply and effectively than the company can do itself.



Telesales is the most common form of outsourcing, but we have also seen a big rise in the outsourcing of sales operations. Alongside CRM, companies are outsourcing sales-compensation programs, lead-generation insights, sales analytics, account planning, and other operations. In return, they benefit from lower costs of operation, greatly reduced error rates, and the ability to shift their limited resources and energy to the critical parts of their business that they are best equipped to manage.



CEOs have valid reservations, yet sales often has significant variation between top and bottom performers and thus is ripe for being handed over to companies that can bring costs down and performance up. Outsourcers are experts at standardization and script every part of the sales interaction to bring the average performance up to the highest levels.



As outsourcing providers become more sophisticated, they are likely to infiltrate more complex B2B sales settings where customers need more tailored solutions and managing accounts still requires the personal touch.