The internet as a competitive source to drive productivity

This post talks about the subject of the semantic web, providing a definition and context and outlining how this can be exploited to drive commercial productivity particularly in a sales driven CRM process. The conclusion reached is this is a category of technology which can provide key competitive advantage for companies that are savvy enough to spot the trends early enough.

The internet is critical to the way we do business today, rich with key insights to drive your business forward but using ‘search’ to find what you need can be frustrating, imprecise and time consuming. Whilst online data-sources and Corporate profiling tools can deliver value they are often costly, require discipline to drive and can be too narrow in their focus.

Automated Market Surveillance – Finding without looking

The challenge is magnified by the fact that the internet really knows nothing about us, our business and specific market challenges, our key customers and prospects and our competition. It doesn’t understand what our definition of ‘the west’ or International really means and combining business terms together to find patterns is almost impossible. A new category of semantic web technology discovers the *context* and true meaning of web based business content linking this to specific business topics to get answers to critical questions from the thousands of sources.

Questions like:

  • Are my customers growing or contracting?
  • Are my competitors announcing new products?
  • Are there changes in my customers’ senior management team?
  • Are customers launching new initiatives that would create demand for our products or services?
  • What does the market think of our customers?
  • What does the market think of my company?
  • What will I talk about at my next meeting with my biggest prospect?

The semantic web changes all of this and through the use of technologies like Artesian’s Visual Market Surveillance the sales function should never be short of the insight it needs at the critical stages in an engagement process when it is required. This post talks about the subject of the semantic web, providing a definition and context and outlining how this can be exploited to drive commercial productivity particularly in a sales driven CRM process. The conclusion reached is this is a category of technology which can provide key competitive advantage for companies that are savvy enough to spot the trends early enough.

And the beauty of automated intelligent semantic applications is you can find without looking or asking saving valuable time and insuring intelligence is continually available on tap. Let’s take a few minutes to explore some of the specific challenges we face in the world of the sales professional and look at ways these challenges can be addressed by the intelligence which is available on the web.

The flow of Sales Opportunities – using the web to find your next opportunity

Most sales organisations have figured out what an ideal customer profile looks like. Successful companies are also able to spot certain customer behaviour which in itself creates the need for their products and services.

For example an energy supplier might look for the following customer related stories

  • Plant and machinery purchases
  • New deals or projects
  • Hiring or firing
  • Expansion or contraction
  • Business booming or shrinking
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • R&D announcements (new products and services)
  • Awards and accolades
  • Director announcements

Most sales organisations have also profiled a target list of companies they would like to do business with. Combine all of this with an intelligent semantic web based application and the end result is a flow of news and information stories which provide and facilitate demand.

Consider also the challenge of engaging with a customer for the first time. Corporate web sites are fine for basic information but what is your prospective customer doing in the market, their competitors and associated activity and what are the real industry issues right now?

By linking surveillance to a sales force CRM system intelligence is continually available on tap without the sales person needing to look or even ask saving valuable time and insuring maximum credibility and productivity.

Better Forecast Accuracy

A critical process is any sales focused business is an accurate sales forecast. Companies who are engaged in a lengthy and complex sales process often adopt a methodology which categorizes opportunity by stage or status. These stages tend to be classified as percentage factors which when applied to a trading forecast should provide an accurately estimated number which the business is likely to deliver.

For any sales-person selling high value products and services, the key to success is to try to advance a commercial opportunity through these recognized stages of the sales process.

Though the process and stages will vary from business to business, at the point where you become the vendor of choice and contracts are being discussed and signed, the probability becomes high that the sale will likely follow and it’s at this stage that the ‘deal’ is likely reported at the Board level and high expectations are set.

The key to sales management is to provide adequate sales pipeline cover for the plan number which needs to be achieved. The science behind this involves insuring that the adequate number of opportunities are in the pipeline and advanced to the stage where they can be forecasted with a high degree of certainty.

Sales people need to be adequately prepared at key stages in the cycle such as at engagement when they need to be knowledgeable about what the company does and why it’s been in the news. There are also critical points in the process where the customer contact diminishes typically towards the end where nerves are tested – this is commonly known as death-valley.

By linking market surveillance technology to a sales force CRM application you can insure there is a constant flow of insight which is tagged to the opportunity and presented in a way which corresponds to the sales process you are tracking.

A sales person need never be short of discussion topics at critical stages in an engagement or surprised by a piece of news which could delay conclusion of forecasted opportunities.

Reduced Surprises

Have you ever had *that call* or email from a colleague, which causes embarrassment because it tells you something you should really have known already about your best prospect for the quarter? Automated market surveillance can help reduce surprises by tracking the key customers and prospects and your competition to understand when they are winning and losing and why.

Leveraging your Business Network and Commercial Knowledge

With the advent of web 2.0 the delivery of relevant stories should just be the start of a process to leverage the insight delivered through intelligent semantic surveillance. Combining relevant insight with the use of social collaboration tools and social networking principles make it easy to share and rate content amongst your business community team.

With Artesian you can instantly create a network of collaborative team Forums, each time bringing together the right team for the right discussion topic. Forums are useful to share ideas and facilitate knowledge sharing. Discussion groups are secure and private equally allowing you to collaborate with hundreds of different people, teams and departments globally in one place.

Advance search using business terms

It is also possible to carry out advanced searches for those things that are not published as general gazette content and unlike internet search engines, the index knows about your business and what you mean by the business questions you are asking. These tools are simple and easy to use promoting the sharing and better understanding of the stories we surface and what they mean to your organisation.

Intelligent Semantic Applications to Deliver Market Surveillance

Artesian delivers headline driven, exception-based, insight presented as a unique ‘news gazette’ which incorporates online market intelligence and social networking-style collaboration to deliver smart insight straight to the desktop or mobile device of the subscriber. Users are encouraged to provide the system with feedback about relevance and accuracy. Collaboration and sharing is also prevalent throughout the application to insure communication is streamlined so that context and opinion can easily be provided resulting in a shorter time to action.