Integrator Sales Strategy: Strategic Communication With Asterisk
Last week we presented the “Low Hanging Fruit” sales strategy. Go after the business that is ready right now. Another sales strategy is selling strategic on features. Executives want to upgrade their company operations using strategic capability. That could mean upgrading the tools they use to communicate and manage their work. It could mean giving more training and motivation to their work force. It could mean using their tools more effectively and even making the work between different departments flow faster and smoother. All these strategic changes come down to tools and skills. The tools to run a strategic company are all around us. IT companies like Oracle and SAP and new ones like Salesforce.com have been revolutionizing the strategic work the corporation. With large suppliers offering strategic tools (also called business applications) to the large corporate market, the medium business market is also seeing an explosion of available tools. These are available to do just about everything a company needs to do. The most visible tools are CRM (Customer Relationship Management) like the ones from Oracle and Microsoft. The last decade has also seen an explosion of tools available as internet sites. They are sold as services (also called SaaS: Software as a Service) Salesforce.com is one of the big success stories, going against big companies with a site (instead of software) that today is one of the more effective CRM solution not just for medium and small companies.
Let’s turn to the strategic solutions in the telephony field. Call centers and computerized PBXes are not new. They have been around long before Asterisk became the most popular platform for these functions. Early systems were based on hardware designed for the telephony sector. These were solutions from Avaya, Nortel, Lucent, Ericsson, and others. Then came solutions from networking suppliers like Cisco and HP (previously 3Com). This first phase of products gave corporate strategists the ability to create call centers at a fraction of the cost of just a few years earlier. Then came Asterisk, an open source telephony platform. At first it was a computerized (PC based) PBX with the added benefit of IP (Internet Protocol) built right in. In a few years, starting the mid 1990s, developers started adding “applications” onto Asterisk. The first revolutionary application was the call center. Together with the use of the internet to reduce international calls to zero cost, a call center revolution took place. At the mid 2000s, the IT application use together with the call center met and started what now is the second corporate telephony revolution.
In the call center and IP-PBX marketplace, strategic solutions come from integration with IT applications, strategic operations, skills and training of agents and supervisors and the overall company use of call center capability. Most companies looking to upgrade their strategic operation in the call center will know what they want. This usually runs from better tools and proceedures for service agents to better management processes between agents and supervisors. Real time reporting and long range statistics for analysis by management are also useful in strategic operations. When it comes to integration, the best way to assess a strategic need for call center integration is to look at the CRM and sales tools the company uses. If CRM and sales support applications are heavily used, call center integration will be a strategic upgrade. Moving data back and forth between Crystal Call Center and CRM applications for users on both sides are a good indication of the need for strategic upgrades. Some companies do not see the potential for integration of call centers with other sales and support functions. Here is the integrator’s opportunity to show corporate managers how to use call center capability in harmony with other IT applications (CRM, sales management, BI). One of the most useful sales tools is case studies and material from the application suppliers. Business application marketers use strategic sales techniques. You can use their tools and work with them to integrate your system together with theirs. The smaller sales organizations also add “low hanging fruit” techniques, so you can combine the two.
The book The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies is a strategic sales classic written by the Miller-Heiman company. It describes the classic American corporate sales organization and the techniques used to sell into corporations globally. While your organization may not be Marriott hotels in size or complexity (J. W. Marriott Jr. wrote the forward to the book), knowing what goes on in big strategic sales engagements and the organizations behind it, is a great way to start thinking about strategic sales in today’s VoIP filled world.