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I love those little radio controlled helicopters; not the ones which recently became popular as autostablized aircraft but the real 4-channel machines. A helicopter, in general, is neither automatic nor stable. There is a simple analogy explaining the complexity of flying a helicopter.  Maintaining control of a car is like centering  a ball in a bowl. If you change direction, the ball moves accordingly.  When you go back to the start position, the ball comes back to the center. This is called auto-stable.

Flying a plane is like centering a ball on a flat surface area. When you change vectors, you need a correction at the end of the maneuver towards the opposite side to get the ball back to the center. Flying a helicopter is like balancing the ball on the outer side of an upside-down bowl. You’re constantly correcting and the ball is never stable.

Like a helicopter, a sales account is never auto stable. Waiting for the next move may mean losing.

We even wonder why people consider a full view 360 degrees. This already limits the view to a single dimension.  360 degrees merely describes a circle; however, a sphere is much more than this. We reached Web 2.0 some years ago yet some people still think in terms of flat dimensions. It is an easy task to make available data from a single solution, but this is not enough. 

A full view on my Customer means looking at a significant number of data sources.  “I can rely on what I see” is key for high user adoption.

More than a few customers during the past few months have mentioned a common experience in the cloud. Some solutions initially do the job for the Line of Business user.  At a certain point in time; however, people recognize that cloud data are on a one-way-street and that the Enterprise consistency has been lost.

Let´s make it more tangible.

Our Customer360 solution is designed for Sales Hunters:  the people chasing down the customers in their respective markets. They are a very specific group of people with very little tolerance for a bad user experience. Their productivity, in €/working day, is tremendous.   Everybody wants them to spend as much time with customers and prospects as possible. This is a perfect group for a best in class cloud user experience…. AND …. the “customer” in their Sales system is exactly the same “customer” that gets an invoice, receives a quote and is managed in the distribution logistic after deal closing.  They analyse their client´s contacts before each visit via Linked In and use other 3rd party data completion services.  In this way, they are sure to pitch to the right part of the company. Do you want to manage any of this data twice? No way.  Not in the Web2.0 century. 

How do you create a full view of an Account?

This is what Sales Reps want and need. “What´s going on at my customer? Which deals are cooking? Which escalations do we have? What has been invoiced last month? Which campaigns have been directed at my contacts by marketing? Who recently joined my customer´s organisation? Sales Executives typically think to themselves: “I want to stay on top of shipping status, accounts receivable, orders and back orders until the customer is deployed and launched”. There are two ways to solve this issue. You can deploy a full blown solution in the cloud and hope your customer only uses this single solution for all corporate functions.  Alternatively, you can be clever enough to connect the cloud solution with API´s and Mash Up´s with various sources incl. an ERP backbone.

Let´s assume, in the long run, that both solutions are an option.  We’ll focus for the time being on smart connectivity. The cutovers between cloud and on premise have blurred boundaries. Requirements follow a simple pattern: Get things done. NOW.

Standard data containers in an A2A connection ensure master data is exchanged permanently and bi-directionaly. Webservices trigger processes like quotes or price requests in the corresponding systems and send status information in real time back into the requesting system. An additional mediated integration enables customers, on nearly any backend release, to book a ticket on the cloud train.

Depending on the industry, there is a lot of information that a sales person has to rely on to do business. During the last couple of months, our CoInnovation team (see link:http://blogs.sap.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/files/2012/01/Co-Innovation@SAP1.pdf) has met with many customers and discussed many such use cases. No doubt this is KEY to success. Some examples should illustrate this use cases. We talked to a customer in a B2B2C business. Their sales  people can only rely on last month’s invoiced revenues compared to a rolling 12 month average to analyse if a NON-Exclusive Dealer still sells their products in addition to the competition. A full account view wouldn´t be complete for them without accounting data. Another example is a B2C client who needs stock management at the Sales Rep’s fingertip to commit a delivery date during the onsite visit.

A  real time 360 degree view on service requests and escalations to the Sales teams is needed before the Sales REP enters the customers site. 

System alerts help regular sales people get better

We all know the cases when you prepare for ages for a customer negotiation.  Arriving onsite, you are faced with a service escalation… surprise, surprise. This is not a good day to defend your prices with quality arguments. Wouldn´t it be great if escalations were pushed to an account dashboard?   Take another example: You miss the end of the long lasting maintenance contract and the competition is smarter.  They now run the service at your customer. What kicks it up a notch now? We have learned that creating a real full account view is like flying a helicopter: you balance a ball on the outer side of an upside down bowl and need to make sure all data of all views are up to date anytime. This is highly dynamic.  Monthly exchange of flat files is stone age technology. And the product pitchman´s way of selling is from the last century.  A significant portion of the buying process is already complete before the customer contacts sales.   

Let us know what you think!

Bert Schulze (@BeSchulze) and Sven Denecken (@SDenecken)

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