Over the past few weeks we talked with thought leaders in sales, Nikolaus Kimla and Jon Ferrara, founders of PipelinerSales and Nimble respectively, about the evolution of sales in digital world. Each conversation shed light on just how quickly customers are changing and the challenge that represents to those looking to build quality relationships with them.
Building on this conversation, Yesware CEO Matthew Bellows discusses how micro-analytics can help sales professional use a few data scientist skills to better engage customers who have increasingly more control of the buying process. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)
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Business Trends: Can you tell everybody a little bit about your personal background?
Matthew Bellows: I’ve basically been a sales guy for most of my career. Mostly in the startup world, although due to a series of acquisitions from little companies, I worked in a couple publicly held companies, as a bag carrying sales rep, and also as a sales manager for small teams.
It was actually out of that experience, both as a salesperson and a sales manager, the idea for Yesware was born.
Small Business Trends: Can you talk a little bit about what Yesware does?
Matthew Bellows: Yesware does two things. It customizes email, and adds a bunch of sales-specific features to it.
Salespeople spend an inordinate amount of time in their email box. So how can we make email work better for them? The answer is to add the features, technology and services that they would benefit from, right in the email box where they already work.
Small Business Trends: We know that anything that decreases the load in terms of data entry is definitely a winner for sales folks.
Matthew Bellows: Our customers report saving between an hour and an hour-and-a-half a day from data entry. That’s just an hour to an hour-and-a-half a day more selling time so.
Small Business Trends: What is micro analytics and why is it important to a salesperson?
Matthew Bellows: The idea of micro analytics gets to the other side of Yesware. We add these features which help them do their job better, but it’s the analytics and the micro analytics that really crystallize and help a salesperson take it to the next level.
For example, if I’m a salesperson and I’m trying to sell you my product, I sent you an email. It has a proposal attached to it, and I see that you opened the email and I see that you opened the proposal. The data that we have shows that if I then call you at that time when you’re opening my email and reading my proposal, there’s a 30% to 40% chance I will connect with you on the phone.
So, compared to the normal connect rates, that’s about 10x what normal salespeople see. That’s not a big data play. That’s immediate feedback of what’s happening right now. It’s telling the salesperson in real time, this prospect’s reading your proposal. Give them a call. That kind of micro analytic is the stuff that we’re enabling at Yesware.
Small Business Trends: How does micro analytics help position the salesperson to be more aligned with the folks they’re trying to build relationships with?
Matthew Bellows: As an old enterprise sales guy myself, I’ve really lived through this transition. The buyers now are very different than how they were 10 or certainly 15 years ago when you’re trying to sell to a bigger organization. There might be a single buyer who you’re generally coordinating with. But it’s much more likely to be a committee of people on the other side of the transaction. So what you’re really dealing with now is a collaboration within your prospect’s organization that collectively have to decide to buy your product.
Another thing that’s happening is the amount of information that collective is going through. And the work that they’re doing ahead of contacting the potential vendor has increased dramatically.
Then the third big change is the kind of person who’s buying is different. I did a panel with my colleague at Groupon who was the purchasing champion when we sold Yesware to Groupon. She is a 29-year old Indian American woman who has totally different interests and cultural background than me. You have to relate differently with these prospects and customers than the playbook will allow.
Small Business Trends: You talked about a shift from data entry to data science for a salesperson. Are you seeing sales folks be able to make that transition?Are you seeing salespeople having difficulties in transitioning to being a data scientist of sorts?
Matthew Bellows: I think the best salespeople are empathetic. They’re more interested in the customer or the prospect’s point of view. Therefore, they build long-term relationships and can help their prospect or customer be more successful than they would have otherwise.
The thing that you throw out there though is in how does data help that happen? I think one of the problems that we have now is that in the current CRM systems, there’s not a lot of data. There’s actually just a lot of opinion, guessing and approximation because it’s all manually entered. When you ask salespeople to manually enter things, and guess when this deal’s going to close or guess when or what percentage this deal’s likely to be, it’s a 50% chance to close and it’s going to close in two months. Those numbers are not data – they’re opinion.
So part of what we’re working on at Yesware is to extract the data from sales activity, and use real data to inform the forecasting and the knowledge process. So for example, if I know that after sending three emails and making three phone calls into a particular prospect they’re dramatically less likely to buy, I can stop calling them. I know that this deal’s less likely to close. Or if I know when this person’s reading my proposal it’s a great time to give them a call, that’s going to help me connect with them. But it’s also going to help me build the relationship. I’m going to find time to reach out to them, and I’m going to find something to talk about with them.
You can use data and micro analytics to inform when you do a particular kind of action that you need to do – to close the sale.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about your service and how they can start utilizing micro analytics to build relationships?
Matthew Bellows: We have a great free product. You can get it at Yesware. If you use it and you like it a lot, we’ll offer you paid plans. Or you can just keep using it for free forever. I hope it helps you close a lot of deals.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.