Opportunity Management – Making A Change

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We all can agree: professional opportunity management is good for both the sales person and for the company. It generally takes the form of a defined, consistent sales process, designed for the company’s organization and goals, and shared data for transparency and teamwork.

So, why doesn’t everybody jump on it? What makes people sometimes feel wary? And what can be done to make implementation a smooth and successful process?

The introduction of professional opportunity management means change – change for the better, but change. In order to manage the implementation for everyone’s benefit, we must understand what change means to people.

First of all there is uncertainty. People get used to their own way to work. They develop routines and habits that they feel comfortable with, and although these may not be optimal, they provide confidence and make life easier. Changing the way you work means learning how to do things differently, adjusting habits, and hence giving up routines. This can cause uneasiness, which makes changing anything difficult, not just the implementation of a professional opportunity management.

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The 2 x 2 Matrix

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2 x 2

In sales automation done right, I make extensive use of one of my favorite business analytical tools, the 2×2 matrix. It’s a given that if a complex idea can be framed into two counter or opposing issues, the four quadrant result of a well-planned 2×2 matrix can throw a huge amount of understanding on a problem.

One of the most well known examples is Stephen Covey’s wonderful grid for managing personal resources. Covey says that tasks should be viewed from the two aspects of importance versus urgency. Some stuff that requires urgent attention may not in fact be important, and vice versa.

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The HTC Flyer

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HTC Flyer

This post is about my experiences with the HTC Flyer, a seven-inch tablet device that just happens to fill my specific needs better than any other that I have found.

In a previous post I talked about my love for paper, but also said that I thought paper was under threat from the tablet computer. For me, the seven-inch tablet represents the sweet spot for sales. At last we have a tablet footprint much the same as a small pad of paper, coupled with a screen that doesn’t involve too much compromise when running demanding business applications.

Tablet sales are increasing daily in the business market, so much so that the experts think that the tablet will eventually replace the laptop. Apple has introduced the iPad Mini. There are a plethora of Android devices in the seven-inch category, led by Google with the Nexus at a breakthrough price of around $200. So what is so special about my year-old HTC Flyer?

The Flyer looks like any other quality coloured-screen, small tablet — well executed and running Android 3.2 and with a nice custom overlay called HTC Sense. When I bought it many months ago, it was pricey. I didn’t realize how pricey until later, when I found the pen was not included in the kit and I had to buy it separately!

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I Still Love Paper

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Old Man Taking Notes Although I’m an evangelist for salespeople using computers, it doesn’t alter the fact that however much I try, I can’t wean myself off paper.

In my book, Sales Automation Done Right, I am downright discriminatory against paper. I’m not backing away from that, because there I’m talking about paper-based processes. Paper isn’t conducive to dynamic workflow; it can’t move itself, so it needs people to pick it up and move it from one desk to another. It accumulates in heaps, and we tend to get intimidated and procrastinate when we have to stare down a leaning tower of paper.

It is much better to make a process electronic and move it using electrons down a wire or through the air. Paper-based information has to be stored in big metal boxes, and it seems to take a lifetime to make some practical use of it. It’s a much better idea to store everything on an xx-terabyte hard drive and use some friendly software to extract the stuff you need.

Before the office computer, paper was always at the heart of the system or process. I remember one system that was used to keep records of all the products we sold. Each product got one or more of those little index card things on which someone could record its history. The only way to share the information was to call the person in charge of the cards and have them read you the stuff you wanted—they were the only ones who knew how to find it. It worked well, but worked much better when we made a complete electronic analogue of it that anyone could access, any place, any time. I’m sure customers benefited from that.

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Microsoft’s CRM Powerhouse

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If companies were asked which technology they use to automate their sales teams, I bet most would say Microsoft Excel. I said the same thing ten years ago when I wrote a blog similar to this one.

The spreadsheet is the best list-making tool ever invented. I don’t know who invented it, but I’ve seen meticulous hand-written spreadsheets detailing the provisioning of the British Navy done by the great diarist Samuel Pepys in the seventeenth century. I’ve also seen Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development, tell the story of how he built one of the first electronic spreadsheets for the Apple II in 1982.

In 1999, I was the CEO of the Canadian division of a multi-billion dollar global bioscience company. Their future sales projections depended on a spreadsheet. This giant spreadsheet would arrive from the head office and each regional office would type in the projections for their region. Everyone e-mailed it back, and it got rolled up with scores of other region’s results. Then you got it back again to see how you were performing.

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Google Nexus 7

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Nexus 7
This is about why I bought a Google Nexus 7. Before I talk about why, let me talk about my background. I have a computer science degree, and I’ve worked in the software industry for nearly 15 years. I consider myself a smart consumer because I don’t buy things that are not worth buying. I always do my homework and make sure I get the bang for the buck.

Before the Nexus 7, I used a HP Touchpad. Yes, you got that right. I bought it when it was on a fire sale. Was it worth buying at the time? Hell yeah, but that’s a different story for another time. I was running Android 4.0 on the Touchpad, and it ran quite well. So what made me switch to the Google Nexus 7 besides all the hype about this device? For me, it is definitely the form factor, a beautiful 7″ screen, 340 grams, quad-core Tegra 3 processor, not to mention for the price tag of $249 (16GB version). I can feel the power in my hand. That’s right, I said “hand”, not “hands”.

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The Mobility Frontier

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Technology changes the way people work, and that means it has to be where people are. In the particular case of salespeople, that is anywhere.

Not long ago, a salesperson, after a full day of visits, had to return to the office desktop to update the information and forward the actions, prepare and submit proposals and also address pricing approvals and discounts with their managers.

The first major change was the size and portability of computers. Today, notebooks and laptops are accessible realities. Smaller and smaller, with a processing capacity greater than the “old” desktops, they are essential items to the salesperson’s tools arsenal, followed closely by the software they carry: spreadsheets, databases, word processing and customised sales applications. With that, salespeople now have the mobility to work with their computer anywhere.

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Introduction to the Sales & Technology Category

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I’ve worked with salespeople for a long time in a lot of roles, from being one of them to managing them, to having them as one department among many in my company. There’s no doubt in my mind that salespeople love technology.

My experience in sales goes back further than I care to remember, but the salesperson’s affinity for tech has always been there, even in the days before computers became a commodity. It has to do with the personality. Salespeople are achievers, they are fixated on setting targets and measuring themselves against goals. They are curious, always needing to understand the latest concepts. They are creative, always striving to find the best way to get stuff done.

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