SalesTechStar Interview with Ian Campbell, CEO at Nucleus Research
What are some of the associated factors will deepen the impact of certain B2B sales trends in 2022 and beyond? Ian Campbell, CEO at Nucleus Research has a few thoughts:
Hi Ian, we’d love to hear about your journey with Nucleus Research and your role there as CEO…
My journey and that of Nucleus Research are a little bit one in the same. Before Nucleus, I held various tech positions leading up to being a Vice President at IDC for many years. Over that time, I recognized that in the research world, there were a lot of perspectives being shared, but not a lot of facts — real numbers to back up and justify technology decisions. So, I left IDC to form Nucleus Research, a firm with a research approach specifically designed to present the measurable value of technology rather than analyst opinions.
Our research foundation is built on the ROI case study approach, which measures the the return on investment that a company actually achieved, as opposed to hypothetical assessments of a particular value of a product, a market segment, market share numbers, or anything else. Like other firms, we produce multiple market matrix reports, but there’s nothing magic about our value matrix. We use feedback from actual customer deployments to assess the two factors that drive ROI — adoptability and functionality. Being a leader in our matrix means a vendor has successfully balanced ease of use with functionality.
2021 was a dynamic year for B2B sales teams, with the new year approaching, what are some top trends that you feel will dominate the market?
It really has been a year with some high-level changes. We’ve seen a continuing move to automate as much as possible, especially from large companies like Amazon. However, even small companies are accelerating automation. I have a friend in manufacturing with about 400 employees and his new product line will be almost entirely automated. It’s about maximizing the value of each employee by adopting technology and automation as much as possible. We’ll see that trend continue for the foreseeable future.
We will also continue to see an increase in HR solutions — workforce management, scheduling, onboarding, talent management — all the products that touch people. Putting aside the regulatory issues of remote employees, managing them will not get easier. Look for a new wave of solutions that directly address the challenges of a remote workforce. That means more than just monitoring remote employees but rather identifying remote employees that are valuable, that need coaching, or that may not be keeping pace with the needs of the organization.
Supply chain solutions, which we all know is a major topic right now, will continue to remain top of mind with organizations. We see multiple industries with supply chain challenges, such as automotive companies having trouble getting chips for their products. We have solutions for supply chain management but look for a rise in more active crisis management tools that use machine learning and predictive analytics to adjust in real time to disruptions. If you need to change shippers, for example, the earlier you predict the need for a change the more likely you are to secure a spot on another ship. Crisis management in the supply chain is a battle, and the winners will be the ones who use technology to identify and avoid problems sooner than their competitors.
One more thing I see that I’m very hopeful about is the Internet of Things (IoT) making a resurgence. We saw IoT sort of grow a few years ago and then it tapered off to be a more specific point product, but with low-cost ways to communicate over long-distance —- look at LoRa for example — I expect we’ll see a new round of clever IoT solutions.
In what ways should those in B2B sales and customer-facing teams be measuring ROI and customer effectiveness in today’s market?
The best way to measure ROI as a B2B salesperson is to start the value discussion at the first interaction. You want your prospect to know you care about the value they will receive, and you want to start talking about the value other similar organizations have received from your solution. Don’t be quick to talk about the features of your solution but rather ask the prospect what they are trying to accomplish then reframe it with a metric. For example, “I want to increase my response rate by 20% or decrease my cost of sales.” Whatever it may be, set the stage for the ROI business case by clearly identifying the metrics that will measure value — especially if this is a client that you plan to grow over time.
This is even more important with a SaaS solution where every two or three years you’ll face that justification discussion. Just because they bought today, doesn’t mean they’ll renew two years from now. If you have those baseline ROI indicators defined at the start it’s a lot easier to show how valuable you are when the renewal comes around.
As sales and salestech trends evolve to meet changing end-user needs, what types of sales tools do you feel will start to become more crucial for salespeople?
More than anything, real, actual examples of success are your most valuable sales tools. You only need to look at Amazon to see this in action. I’m sure many of us have purchased something from them in recent months, and we’ve spent at least some time during that purchase decision reading reviews. Those reviews are the most important things we read. They inform us and help us decide to buy or not. So, how might that apply to tech sales? Each salesperson should take a look at their own customers and cultivate a few who can speak to the value they received. Of course, you have the well-vetted approved corporate customer references but the few you keep for yourself that can speak to actual value will go a long way to closing those important deals.
What do you feel B2B sales teams and B2B salestech will look like in the near future?
We expect B2B sales to become even more consultative in the approach. Prospects are coming to deals well versed in the technology and already informed about competitors. They need less education and more consultation around deployment scenarios and building the ROI business case to justify a purchase.
Right now sales teams are well supported with CRM solutions and fed with leads from marketing that are better targeted and filtered. Conceptually, that sales funnel has narrowed to look more like a sales pipe where prospects at the top are much more likely to fall through to a closed deal. That requires a more sophisticated sales approach from the very beginning rather than the old-style filtering that required multiple prospecting calls and stages in the funnel.
Any final thoughts or takeaways on B2B sales practices/tips/insights before we wrap up?
With a more targeted sales pipeline and multiple ways to share an online review of your solution, the most important thing for a CEO of a company to keep in mind is that their B2B sales reps are often the first to represent your organization. In the past, customers might tolerate sales reps that were half-hearted or mediocre when where they were trying to sell something to them. Customers knew the salesperson was trying to get the next phone call. Going forward, you’re going to expect a slightly higher caliber of sales rep, somebody who’s really engaged with the customer and concerned about representing your organization well.
Make sure that everybody understands your brand values and how to represent them. They should know how to act in a certain situation and how to respond. In many cases you’ve only got one chance to get that customer; you might not get a second or third opportunity.
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