Don’t Chuck Your Salespeople Just Yet!

In a masterful content marketing play (or ploy), a CEO posted a story on LinkedIn saying he would never hire a salesperson again and would basically do away with his sales team.  This ignited a firestorm in the world of B2B sales with tweets, articles, counter-articles and all the usual hallmarks of a tempest in a teapot.

Let me grossly simplify the argument.  Buyers are now extremely educated with all the reviews, comments, endorsements and brochureware available about every possible product.  This is supposedly reducing the value of salespeople — pushing product just does not work.  You need to let the customer come to you and then delight them in not leaving.  So, instead of salespeople you need customer success staff.

For me the argument for having a B2B sales team to sell a SaaS product was definitely resolved by Mark Cranney’s on the Andreessen Horowitz blog. Your freemium strategy may get in the door at a client but once you landed, you need to expand.  And that can only be done by salespeople who can translate what your product does into an articulation of the value that your product creates for your client.

The argument therefore should not be about whether you need salespeople or not but what type of sales force do you need and what are its objectives.  And that is determined by the nature of the product you are selling and the competitive landscape.  But I am convinced that at some point in the sales funnel, a conversation with a client will be required.  It could be at the beginning of sales process — we are seeing lots of a traction in the model of companies like Insidesales.com which are combining predictive analytics with a methodological pursuit of sales prospects by inside sales teams.  Or it could be later stages where a free product tier has identified motivated users who can be targeted for an up-sale.

At some point, you will need to ask someone for their attention and their trust and to help you navigate a selling process that will involve a decision by committee.  That’s where leveraging relationships will be important and where Reachable will help you reach the people you must get to in order to open the doors to the kingdom.

-Laurent Ohana, CEO

Your Contacts are Leading a Double Life

Sorry to be to one to tell you.  But it’s true.  They are yours but they are not.  It’s complicated.

You met Jane Peters* 10 years ago have been doing business with her on and off since then.  She is in your Contacts in Outlook on your PC.  You joined Allied Systems a year ago and uploaded your Contacts into the enterprise Outlook.  You sent her an email about a potential deal.  She thus entered  Allied’s CRM.  She eventually bought one of Allied’s services.  Unbeknownst to her, Jane now belongs to Allied.

You found out because you left Allied to work at United.  When you left Allied you tried to download a copy of the Contacts file from the enterprise Outlook.  You were a shy person and during your time at Allied you did not meet a single person.  So, the number of people in your Contacts was the same the day you left Allied as it was on the day you started: 1984.  But you were locked out of the PC and you could not do it.  No matter, you are the “always have a plan B” guy and you had a copy of the 1984 contacts on your iPhone.

United and Allied sell similar products so you thought that your old friend Jane should hear about United’s amazing gizmos.  She agreed the gizmos were amazing and she took her business to United because she trusted you and your judgment.  Unfortunately for you, Allied heard about this and did not like it.  It sued you for stealing the Contact file and the customer (Jane) and it sued United for allowing you to upload stolen property unto their systems (i.e, your, or their, Contacts.)

You were a bit upset about all this so you uploaded all your contacts to LinkedIn and made them public.  Allied was not amused.

I could continue this parable but you got the point a while back.  Every time you enter your contacts into an enterprise system or into most social apps, the contacts acquire another life that belongs to someone else.  There may be legitimate reasons for this of course. You may have consented to this trade to receive a free service.  Businesses have a legitimate interest in keeping a record of communications with clients or prospects — in case someone else is assigned to work on the deal, or in case of a legal dispute with the client, etc.

At Reachable, we thought that this state of affairs was not good for the employee nor for the employer.  After all, the fuss is about something that may not be that valuable.  While I would not just hand them out, if you got a hold of my Contacts and started calling my relationships chances are you would not go very far.  Your best chance of getting to them is through me.  Still people do get sued about things like these.

Our response was to become the Contact Data Switzerland.  Contact data uploaded into Reachable’s platform is date stamped and belongs to whoever uploaded it.  A person can upload it or a company can.  Until a court tells us otherwise, it belongs to whoever uploaded it.

Companies and groups can set up a collective pool of Contacts hosted on Reachable and use Reachable to datamine the data to find connections to targets without sharing the original raw data in the group.  Employees join such enterprise groups with their data and leave with their data.  Companies add enterprise data to the group and can take it away anytime.  Everyone retains ownership of their data but the value of the Contacts can be exploited by the enterprise team while the employee is part of the group.

Every body wins with clear and simple rules and a technology solutions that embodies and enforces the rules — Reachable.

Laurent Ohana, CEO

* All names are fictitious of course, except for mine…

Fostering Collaboration to Leverage the Enterprise Business Graph

Reachable has received a tremendous response to its approach to fostering collaboration in the enterprise regarding personal contacts and relationships.  When we started talking to companies about the fact that they had an Enterprise Business Graph and that they should learn to use it, we had to explain to people WHAT was it was we were talking about.  We explained that one of the greatest assets of a company was who it and its employees knew.  (Some refer to this to as the Social Capital of a company but we feel this term to be too restrictive.)

The conversation with clients and prospects has now shifted from WHAT to HOW — how do we enable companies to leverage relationships?  It has become a hot topic and most of the incoming enquiries we get now are from people who are aware they have an untapped asset they should leverage.

The first thing we tell these clients is that leveraging relationships is not a science, it’s an art.  As well, we strongly believe that while automation has a role, it should not be applied to tracking interactions that employees have with others via email, phone, social networks, and chat — tracking and spying engender distrust and there is no way that people will collaborate when they feel violated.  We are not luddites and are quite adept in the use of Big Data analytics and algorithms to do what we do, but we don’t believe in simplistic technical solutions to solve complex social dynamics issues.

At the core of our approach is a data ownership and privacy policy that is really a paradigm shift in current practice in the CRM world.  We introduced the Bring Your Own Data/Take Your Own Data (BYOD/TYOD) policy to the market and it is catching on.  Basically, we believe that contact data that employees bring to an enterprise belongs to them.  Attempts by an enterprise to appropriate this data by requiring that it be entered in the CRM system are doomed — people don’t enter their contacts into the CRM system, and they are less likely to enter LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter contacts/friends/followers into CRM systems.  We do hear from time to time lawyers arguing that “this employee met this person at a company event and then connected on LinkedIn so the contact belongs to the company.” What does that even mean?

Reachable provides every person on the planet with a private, portable, and connectable web-based contact manager.  Private: Reachable’s Contact Manager belongs to the person who creates it and populates it with data.  It does not belong to the enterprise, even if the enterprise pays for special features and data enrichment that enhance the value of Reachable to the user.  Let’s be clear: we don’t give the enterprise a copy of the data in the Reachable Contact Manager.  Portable: When a person leaves the employer where they got access to Reachable, they can take the Reachable Contact Manager with them (but they lose the enhanced functionality paid for by the employer).  Does that mean that the enterprise loses the relationship data that the person brought with her to the enterprise?  Yes, it does.  Connectable:  Owners of Reachable Contact Managers can opt-in to enterprise groups (a “Team” group) and allow their contact info to be mined by Reachable’s algorithms so that their contacts appear in connection paths generated for other “Team” users.  At that point, Reachable tells the other person searching for the path that a colleague has a useful connection, and that they should contact that colleague and ask for insights about that relationship.  When connecting Reachable Contact Managers with other Reachable Contact Managers no data is shared or transferred — Reachable sees all the data and connects the dots where and when appropriate without data leakage.  In this manner, an entire enterprise and its ecosystem can become aware of each other’s contacts without giving them up to anyone. We think this is very powerful.

It’s a basic precept of human behavior that if you try to take something I care about I will never share it with you.  Relationships are extremely important to people and the mere hint of mishandling personal relationships will cause the entire idea of collaboration around contacts in the enterprise to go up in smoke.  Spying won’t engender trust and will violate privacy, which will cause companies that over-automate a lot of grief and embarrassment.

Reachable offers a foundation for enterprise collaboration around relationships and contacts.  It inventories relationships and collects data about the professional and educational biographies of people and infers who might be connected to whom using its proprietary algorithms.  But that data is used to show paths that could be useful, it is not shared.  By suggesting who might help who, we engender conversations and discovery of useful intelligence in sales, marketing and recruitment.  Technology does its job, then it’s up to people to create bonds of trust and choose to collaborate.

If your enterprise is people friendly and wants to unleash the power of its Enterprise Business Graph today, we invite you to connect with us today at sales@reachable.com or go to our web site at www.reachable.com.  Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Facebook and Connect with us on LinkedIn.  Feel free to leave a comment here or on other social platforms.

Laurent Ohana, CEO

Those Tricky, Tricky Intro Requests

We all get them, and we have all made them.  They are tricky.

In case you were wondering, the intro request conundrum preceded the advent of social networks by, I am sure, hundreds if not thousands of years.   Social customs developed in every age to handle these requests.  In the Victorian Era, for example, the Letters of Introductions were an elaborate affair with the choice of paper, scent and whether to seal them or not of major import, and the relative social status of the requester, the connector and the target dictating who could ask whom for what.  (See how Benjamin Franklin dealt with it in Paris.)

I think that in the age of LinkedIn and Facebook there is an urgent need for some new rules.  People are exposing their Connections wily nilly (though that may change) and connecting to lots of people they barely know.  As well, the ability to hide behind a computer screen is encouraging intro requests.  On the receiving end, showing off the size of your Connections list online exposes you to getting lots of requests, and having to figure out whether to grant them or not.  What if you don’t want to help the requester? What if you don’t really know the person regarding whom the intro is requested?

Yes, I am aware that some people may be reading this thinking that this discussion is a waste of time because they would never ask for an intro.  They are convinced that their abilities in the cold calling department are so hot that they can overcome the chill of any unsolicited call.  Or their marketing automation tools are emotionless and they will continue emailing you forever anyway.  This is completely missing the point!  Consider this:

Rule #1.  Go for Insight.  Use the fact that I know a person or an organization to ask me for insights.  You may learn something.  (May be you are calling on the wrong person?  How valuable would it be to avoid an infinite sales cycle with this account?)  Use the new ease of, and lack of formalism in, communications to connect and learn.

Rule #2.  Be Patient.  Often it is better not to ask but wait for the intro to be offered.  I know you are calling for an intro but don’t corner me.  Allow me to decline without having to say no.  I will appreciate it and next time you call, I will take your call as opposed to ignoring you for eternity.

Rule #3.  Don’t Exclude the Connector.  Asking for contact info so you can contact the target directly takes me out of the loop and excludes me (a bad thing unless I am seeking to hide my involvement).  I may need or want to remain somewhat involved to make sure that all goes well and everyone behaves.  Some people move me to bcc right away, others never do — somewhere in the middle will do.

Rule #4.  Choose Who you Ask Carefully.  Ask people you trust and let them introduce you to people they trust.  Even if an “extra hop” is introduced in the connection path (using Reachable lingo), you gain knowledge with every hop because the trust factor leads to information sharing.  Remember, your task is not to “get to this person,” it is to close a sale/deal with this company.  Very different…

Rule #5.  Reachable can help :).  Yes, it’s a plug but I mean it.  Reachable gives you information about the context of relationships — who knows who but also how they know each other and (using our algorithms) deriving how well they might know each other (our relationship scoring).  Reachable gives you many paths to a target — you be the judge of who is the best connector to use in this context, we can’t really figure that out (thankfully for you we don’t read you mind, or your emails like other companies I won’t name…)  Reachable protects the data of your teammates by only revealing metadata about their relationships not contact data and enhancing people’s expectation to privacy at work, not destroying it…

Relationships are tricky indeed but also very helpful.  Only you can truly manage them but Reachable can help.

Laurent