Society’s on the verge of dramatic change, there’s no doubt about it. And technology will be a major catalyst, we know that much. But how will those developments impact sales and marketing? Bloovi editor Magali De Reu joined Showpad’s Sales & Marketing Leadership tour and asked Louis Jonckheere about the particular shifts in these particular disciplines.
Showpad is making quite the splash in 2017: the company recently signed off on an acquisition and is set to make an impressive 20 million dollars in revenue this year. It is the perfect time to accompany the scaleup on its Sales & Marketing Leadership tour, where I discovered how companies like Atlas Copco, TVH and Proximus use the tool to succeed in their sales and marketing endeavors.
Shift #1: Power shifts at company and customer level
Customers are changing the way they make purchases, so companies have to follow suit with fresh approaches to sales and marketing. Or, as Louis Jonckheere puts it: “Technology caused a pivot of sales and marketing towards the customer. Consumers have become more knowledgeable, smarter even. They can find almost any type of information online without even talking to a sales representative. It creates a power shift that I find very interesting. Especially because the result is a need for sales teams that learn and evolve even more quickly than before. And above all else: they have to use new, powerful technology to cater to these modern customers.”
“We’re seeing a power shift in professional environments”
The customer is getting more power as time goes on, that’s abundantly clear. What’s interesting, however, is that we’re also seeing a peculiar shift in professional environments, says Jonckheere. “In B2B environments, it was usually the CIO who had the last say when it came to purchasing new technology. Today, those decisions are made by a group of six to seven people, often including the CMO. Think of Proximus, the organization we just visited. We see an ever-increasing amount of business units being involved in technology purchasing. It’s a great opportunity, in my opinion. That’s why Showpad isn’t an island, it integrates with various technologies (Editor’s note: such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics) that are being used by a variety of departments.”
Shift #2: Data-driven organizations for improved customer focus
This improved customer wisdom in turn demands companies that are customer-centric. “You know, fifteen years ago, sales was very process-oriented,” Jonckheere explains. “Every specific process led to a very specific outcome. Today, companies are forced to surrender completely to customers and their expectations.”
“Those who think of customer focus as a cost will soon be in trouble”
And that’s why you need data, of course. Companies who ignore this shift might not even be around in five to ten years, according to Jonckheere. “Back in the day, the relationship between seller and consumer was very straightforward,” he elaborates. “But nowadays, consumers come into contact with businesses in all sorts of ways. Since there are so many different touch points, companies need to learn how to objectively measure and understand these moments of contact. When we had just founded Showpad, data wasn’t quite that important yet. Today, data is critical in order to lead a customer-centric organization. And a customer-centric organization is a prerequisite to keep fulfilling contemporary needs. Those who still think of customer focus as a cost will soon be in trouble.”
Apart from technology, co-founder Jonckheere has a few tricks of his own to gather customer data. “I spend 50% of my time with clients,” he beams. “And yes, I believe every CEO should do just that, provided they have a team large enough to run autonomously. Otherwise, you get locked into your own bubble and you miss what’s going on.”
Shift #3: Man and technology go hand in hand
Implementing and using technology can be quite daunting for many organizations. That’s why Jonckheere believes that tech companies like Showpad should make the shift from traditional processes to technology as seamless and low-threshold as possible. “Part of it is change management,” he points out. “In our business, many sales representatives are uncomfortable making the switch from print to digital aids. That’s why we want to make our product as accessible as possible, to prove that man and technology do indeed go hand in hand.”
Jonckheere, confident in his opinion, explains that tech companies should make their technology as ‘granny-proof’ as possible. “The simpler, the better,” he nods. “Moreover, the technology should be as stable as possible in a bid to win over users. This is especially essential for software applications like Showpad. Should Showpad crash mid-presentation, we would see a lot of unhappy sales representatives. That’s why our product engineering vision is simple: don’t break things. As a matter of fact, that’s a pretty atypical approach for a startup, as their credo is usually something along the lines of ‘go fast and break things’ (laughs). But to us, it is precisely that unique vision that gives Showpad its added benefit.”
Jonckheere discusses his vision to transform Showpad into a digital sales assistant. When sales representatives can use technology to stop spending a third of their time on administration, presentations, et cetera, they can use that extra time to spend with a client. “We’ve entered an era in which man supports technology and vice versa,” Jonckheere believes. “That shift is the result of the evolution of technological pursuits like machine learning, which turn technology into an enabler. I don’t believe in man versus machine. I believe in man with machine.”
As the Showpad bus grinds to a halt, I have one last question for Jonckheere. When I ask how his company responds to this technological shift, he tells me that the scaleup is already using artificial intelligence today. “AI and machine learning are a logical result of digital,” he posits. “Digital organizations sit on a mountain of data, and machine learning is basically a technology that learns from data – it has huge potential. Showpad applies that knowledge by offering sales representatives the most relevant cases and marketing collaterals. It does so by checking which information the prospect has already consumed. We see the same type of efficiency in chatbots and voice search, two technologies Showpad has started to dabble in. Soon, companies won’t have to enter any keywords, but they’ll be able to truly communicate with the solution. Those things don’t just contribute to sales productivity, they also impact sales effectiveness, which is exactly what Showpad was built on.”