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2018

A changing buyer landscape

 

It is coming to the end of 2018 and without doubt, in the B2B commerce world the buzz word of the year is Artificial Intelligence or AI.

 

This is the year that all the large ERP and CRM vendors announced AI initiatives following on from 2017 Dreamforce and the Salesforce announcement of Einstein.

 

So why is everyone suddenly talking AI and what does it mean to sales organizations?

 

For field sales organizations, one of the most sobering statistics to come out in recent years is the steady decline in average quota attainment for B2B field sales organizations. There have been many suggested causes, but no doubt today’s B2B purchasers have done their research on-line prior to ever engaging with your sellers. In addition, according to research undertaken by the Harvard Business Review “The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.”

 

Sellers are facing more informed buyers and more of them involved in each sale.

 

AI can help

 

Although there is no simple panacea, there is a way for sellers and sales organizations to improve their odds. By using AI.

 

AI can help sales organizations prioritize opportunities, identify deals that are not currently a focus but should be, and surface important reasons as to why deals are either on track or off track.

 

But not all AI is the same. AI succeeds when you have three key ingredients:

 

  • a richly descriptive set of data
  • domain expertise to be able to define problems sets and interpret answers
  • machine learning (ML) infrastructure to “learn” from the data.

 

It is not just about the the algorithms as most have been available for over 30 years. And it is not just about having the data. It’s the intersection of all three.

 

What machine learning can do is look at vast amounts of say opportunity data and discern patterns in the data. By having a large enough data set that contains both opportunities that won and opportunities that lost and stalled. By looking at patterns across a sufficient set of opportunity data, the machine learning will identify what does “good” look like and what does “bad” look like in terms of winning and losing.

 

Once the machine has determined this, you have a very useful model. Good AI predictive models will have the ability to identify the key influencers that are evident in won and lost opportunities.

How to use AI for Opportunity Management

 

Armed with these models, forward looking sales organizations are deploying them via applications like ours. It is important to realize that AI does not replace human judgment, but augments it. In fact to take out human judgement will almost guarantee low adoption throughout an organization as sales professionals have tribal knowledge and emotional intelligence insights that AI can not yet replicate.

 

An opportunity probability win score should aid in understanding the totality of a pipeline, and should triangulate with human judgment, either reinforcing through agreement, challenging through disagreement or uncovering hidden insights into overlooked opportunities.

 

In our product, we headline this through our Opportunity Map, where we take all opportunities with close date in a particular quarter and group them into four buckets:

 

  1. Deals that both the sales organization and Aviso agree are strong candidates to close win (committed deals)
  2. Deals that the sales organization believes are strong candidates to close win (committed deals) but the Aviso Score indicates otherwise
  3. Deals that both the sales organization and Aviso agree are weak candidates and are not likely to close this quarter
  4. Deals that the sales organization believes are weak candidates to close win (committed deals) but the Aviso Score believes are good candidates to close won and are worth another look.

 

Additionally, we provide insights or reasons as to why we are calling these deals the way we are, either confirming that deals are on track and are progressing at the right pace through the deal process or highlighting the reasons why the deal is off track and suggesting areas that need addressing.

 

Armed with this information, sales organizations and leadership can better:

 

  • Understand where reps should focus to avoid costly, drawn out sales processes while pursuing deals that otherwise might be overlooked
  • Help coaching conversations and guide next steps
  • Identify which reps are repeatedly over optimistic
  • Spot sandbaggers
  • Improve data hygiene

 

 

 

AI for Forecasting

 

Opportunity scores are not just for helping to decide where to apply scarce sales effort, but in addition can be used to create more accurate revenue forecasts earlier in the quarterly cycle. With deal level scores, a good forecasting system will combine an aggregation of projected opportunity win amounts with a top down view of deals that are projected to open and close (new won) in that quarter that are not currently in open pipeline.

 

A good system will be accurate from day one of the quarter, constantly re-evaluating both projected opportunity win amounts and new wins.

 

This does not necessarily replace more traditional judgment based rollup forecasting but it adds an extra dimension to triangulate the different methods. Typically, early call deals are less likely to be committed, meaning that judgment contributes to a higher percentage of the sales forecast earlier in the quarter as opposed to later in the quarter. AI is more willing to commit early stage deals and will compute new wins with better accuracy than judgment alone.

 

 

 

Summary

 

It would be a mistake to judge all current AI marketing as hype, believing it will play a future role, but not this quarter as you focus on making the number.

 

Companies that embrace the right AI tools for Sales today will have a leg up on their competitors. These companies will learn earlier how to deploy AI to derive maximum value. These efforts will pay off in terms of shorter and more predictable successful sales cycles, more effective deployment of resources and Day 1 visibility into where the Quarter will land.

According to Gartner, there will be more than 25 billion connected things by 2020. It means the Internet of Things is going to be a huge connected network between people-to-people, people-to-things, and things-to-things. It is not only connecting with us more, it is also changing the way we live. Whether we prefer to notice it or not, yet IoT is transforming our surroundings and will keep on doing it.

 

Now, let’s talk about CRMs. In earlier days, the focus of CRMs was to reduce the cost around customer acquisition, retention, and servicing them. Now, it has customer portals that look after saving time and resources along with cost cutting. It also strives to provide quality of services to customers. Sugar CRM facilitates enterprises by enabling them to build customer portals to better their engagement.

 

Blending Automation with Convenience
So, IoT is changing the way people live and Sugar CRM is changing the way enterprise work. Now what if they both work together? This synergy will create an environment of predictive and preventive functionalities that send alert for future actions. Such a system will notify your customers in advance before they face any problem and provide a service or solution to the issues they might face in the near future. IoT will decode the buying pattern of the customer in real-time, and it will help the SugarCRM client portal or application to include them in the right marketing campaign.

 

Is it possible?
Yes, it is possible to use 'Internet of Things' and integrate it with SugarCRM Customer Portal and applications. The major three components of IoT can generate huge benefits for organizations if it works in sync with CRM. These three important components of IoT that your Sugar CRM solution can optimize are:

  • Sensors
  • Wireless Internet Connectivity
  • Computational Capability at the Device i.e. Data Processing Capability

 

Gartner researched recently about the drivers of a CRM applications. In that study, the most important attributes were: Mobile, Cloud, Big Data and Social Networking capability. Further, that study says that Internet of Things is going to be the fifth driver after these four.

 

Exemplifying the Ease of IoT and SugarCRM
Consider a scenario of a hearing aid company. The hearing Aid Industry has become more advanced. Now it is trying to introduce innovative features in their product lists. Examples could be longer battery life, Bluetooth compatibility, noise reduction. It is also introducing products for controlling your hearing aid device through smart phone, etc.

Let us take few scenarios from this company. It will help us to understand how IoT helps in providing services to customers, with the help of IoT and its integration with CRM.

 

3 Different Scenarios Where IoT is Taking the Customer Experience to The Next Level.

  • A customer’s hearing aid instruments battery is malfunctioning. There is a need for it to replace that within next few days. Here IoT will notify about the status of the machine. This will allow the staff to inform the customer proactively and update him. They can communicate with them that the instrument’s battery is having some issues, and it needs replacement soon. It will help a customer to replace the battery, and they will not face any problem while using the product.
  • A customer’s hearing aid instrument is under warranty period and not working properly. Again, IoT will help the company to know about this issue. Hence, the customer service representative can call the customer and talk about it. Or they can straight away replace the instrument since it is not working properly and it is under warranty period.
  • The customer is not using certain new incorporated features of an instrument because of some reason. Here, IoT analytics will come into the role and will raise an alert. Now the support team can call and ask for a session or training. So that he/she will get awareness of those new features and customer can start using it.

How SugarCRM Takes These IoT Alerts for Next Level Customer Experience?
In all these scenarios, how the company official will get to know about all the issues? That is because a sensor placed in the hearing aid instrument sends notifications to the central application. It creates an alert in the system that there is some issue with the battery or instrument, and needs replacement. As being an open source, SugarCRM can render IoT alerts in different ways with flexibility. These are,

  • Company can design their Sugar CRM application to share this data. It can also trigger some informative information that certain features of the product are in use for a single time. SugarCRM application will integrate this information and will send a notification to the staff.
  • The flexibility of Sugar CRM will also allow you to render this information in another manner. It also drives the system to generate a service case where the system will register a support call automatically to the customer. The system will assign it to a service representative automatically, who will make a call to the customer to update the problem, or ask for other services.

In any of the way, a customer will be happy that the Product Company is taking a preventive action, and providing service promptly before they face any issue. It will help you to gain the customer’s confidence in your services, products, and increase their satisfaction level as well.

 

Apart from this, IoT with SugarCRM can also help sales and marketing functions in multiple ways. Real-time data generated by IoT will you to help understand in numerous ways. It will tell you usage of the product, buying patterns of the customer, opportunities for cross-selling and up selling, deciding flexible pricing, etc. Your sales team can analyze the IoT generated data to decide future campaigns by knowing the right customers.

 

It will help them reduce the cost in terms of market research. This data can also help the marketing function to identify those customers, who are not using your products anymore. For such customers, you can run separate campaigns, or invite them for trade shows and product launch programs, and try to retain them.

 

So, why wait? Leverage the power of IoT and Sugar CRM and get the best out of your business. It will make the work flow faster and user friendly. This will also stay helpful for your staff and assist them to boost their productivity.

 

View Source: Sugar CRM and IoT: The Synergy That Will Drive the Next Level Customer Experience 

With December starting this weekend and 2019 just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to create a guide for our family of SugarCRM customers to use and plan for the upcoming year. Here are four things to think about as we approach 2019.

End-of-Life Dates

Sugar maintains an end-of-life schedule which you can access at any time here. It’s important to be aware of these dates and include in your plans for the year. End-of-life means that the specific version of Sugar will no longer be supported or maintained by SugarCRM. Once the end-of-life date passes, you can no longer call Sugar support to request help, and Sugar will no longer release bug fixes or perform security maintenance on your instance.

In 2019, the end-of-life date you need to know is October 31. On this date in 2019, Sugar 8 end-of-life will occur. If you need to, you can purchase extended support for Sugar 8 which will give you up to a year of additional support on that version. We recommend planning for end-of-life six months before the end-of-life date. It’s important to speak with your partner (such as W-Systems) to prepare for end-of-life and the changes that come with it.

Upgrades

Don’t forget that Sugar adopted a new release process in late 2017. This process is documented here. If you are a Sugar Cloud (On-Demand) customer, you know that your system will be automatically upgraded four times per year. We recommend you work with your partner each quarter to understand what is coming in each update and evaluate whether your system’s current customizations need to be updated during the upgrade process.

If your Sugar instance is On-Premise, there will be one update available to you each year. With the current Sugar release process, the next update will be Sugar 9 in 2019 and Sugar 10 in 2020. Some organizations try to remain on an older version of Sugar, but this is not something W-Systems would ever advise. You will not have access to bug fixes or protective security patches. And the longer you wait to upgrade, the more costly and time consuming your upgrade can become (whether it’s development time, training users, or counseling employees through change). It’s best to stay up-to-date with upgrades to keep your organization’s data secure and your CRM productivity optimized. Want to know more about when it’s best to upgrade?  Check out this blog post.

Optimization

Here at W-Systems, we don’t believe in a one-and-done CRM system implementation. We believe that you must continually evaluate and measure your CRM performance and optimize for improvement. Here are a few ways to do that in your yearly planning:

  • Choose some record views to improve. This may include deleting unused fields, renaming fields to more relevant company lingo, or streamlining using dependent fields.
  • Create some auto-populated fields using calculated fields in Sugar. You can use this tip to create consistent names for records.
  • Create some new Sugar reports for increased accountability.
  • Review business processes implemented in the last year and make sure they are reinforced in Sugar through required fields and automated workflows.

User Training/Onboarding

It’s really important to incorporate CRM training into your yearly calendar. This is easy with all the Sugar resources available to you, such as:

Recurrent training is critical because of user turnover and also any changes that might be implemented to your CRM software. If you are a larger organization or using Sugar Cloud, we recommend quarterly training. If you are a smaller organization, we recommend doing training as new employees are hired or upon your yearly upgrade.

Concluding Thoughts

If you need help creating a plan for your organization and Sugar in 2019, please reach out to us! We can help you evaluate where you currently are, what your goals should be, and what to do next.

This post originally appeared on w-systems.com.