SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Loretta Faluade, Solution Strategy Director at PROS

There is still a lot of disruption in store for marketing and sales and even eCommerce brands, as trends change and business practices evolve; Loretta Faluade, Solution Strategy Director at PROS joins us in this chat to explore a few of these upcoming changes:

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Hi Loretta, welcome to SalesTechStar! Tell us about your journey through the years…take us through your role at PROS?

I joined PROS about four and a half years ago from a Semiconductor company. It was so interesting to see how a software business like PROS compared to a hardware company. The fundamentals of business processes, strategy, and business developments were similar with the main difference being the execution tactics used to achieve the necessary results. I started at PROS as a Sr Product Manager for our Smart CPQ solution.  This was a great fit for me as CPQ solutions are used primarily by sales teams and I had spent four years of my life in a direct sales role. From there, I transitioned to overseeing our entire suite of selling solutions before moving into my current role as a Solution Strategy Director. Now, I see myself as a source between the market and what our customers face, and help align our internal organizations (marketing, sales, development, product management, etc) with a strategy that helps us to create and sell valuable solutions for our customers.

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We’d love to dive into the topic of the moment – digital transformation in B2B commerce and improvements through 2021; how are you seeing brands innovate to meet changing business and customer needs?

2020 took the world by surprise and many businesses had to accelerate their digital initiatives (especially their eCommerce strategies) to enable their buyers to make purchases or engage with their brand.  Now fast forward a year and businesses are starting to get more comfortable with the notion of B2B eCommerce.  They are looking for ways to increase transparency, usability, and make it easy for buyers to find the right products and solutions. …

Now in 2021, the biggest innovation that we’ll see is the push to integrate the eCommerce channel with other existing sales channels so customers have a consistent buying experience regardless of where they choose to make a purchase.  Brands must become more agile in how they approach each customer – they have to understand the customer’s needs even when that individual does not need to engage with a salesperson.  Salespeoples’ ultimate goal is to enable their customers or prospects to find what they need and deliver a palatable price, quickly, or risk losing the buyer’s interest to a competitor.  One key way to achieve this type of personalized engagement is by investing in tools that leverage AI analytics.  AI is so powerful because it can process large amounts of data in near real-time. For example, with AI, businesses can use a customer’s historical transactional data to provide product and price recommendations that aligns to their needs.  AI changes the game by allowing businesses to elevate the level of personalization they can deliver to customers during every engagement.

A few tips on how companies can create a more seamless B2B customer experience?

  • Put on your consumer hat. Whether buyers are making purchasing decisions for their organization or in their personal lives, it’s clear they want more control over the buying process. Buyers want to do their own research on items and compare products without needing to interact with a salesperson for pricing information. Thinking about any B2B buying decision like you’re a consumer can help point to what your customer needs and expects during the transaction.
  • Form meaningful relationships with customers to fully understand their needs. B2B buyer preferences are constantly changing and they’re not afraid to look somewhere else if their expectations aren’t being met. In fact, 70% of buyers said that they’d switch vendors because of COVID. Consistently checking in with customers is key to keeping track of their needs, especially as new technology and changes in the market continue to evolve B2B buyer preferences.
  • Unlock your data to deliver personalized buying experience – Data is one of the most underutilized assets an organization has. You can find so many different insights about buyers, their preferences, their peers, and competitors just by looking at data. Companies need AI-based tools to help make sense of their data and deliver actionable insights that drive a high level of personalization. Delivery should not only be relegated to a couple of sales channels but should be provided to the customer in their preferred channel. No matter how a customer begins their buying journey, whether in-person or online, companies need insights from data and AI wherever possible to make the most strategic offer recommendations that will win the sale.

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Transparency is an important part of a holistic digital customer journey – how according to you can brands ensure this?

Transparency and consistency are both critical to delivering a great customer experience.  Transparency allows buyers to gain knowledge about a product and make decisions based on the information being presented. In parallel, consistency helps drive trust with brands. To deliver exceptional omnichannel buying experiences, companies must deliver both transparency and consistency in every sales channel they serve, including eCommerce channels. For example, if a brand’s website shows a high price for a solution compared to a competitor with a significantly lower price, that vendor can be quickly eliminated and not make the shortlist. To ensure transparency and consistency, businesses should centralize their portfolio offerings and pricing to a singular platform.  This allows their internal teams to effectively deliver transactable prices to the different sales channels while ensuring harmonization across all the sales channels to avoid conflict like price discrepancies.

What according to you are today’s B2B omnichannel platforms still not solving in terms of customer needs- how can providers/businesses help streamline this?

Many B2B platform vendors provide disjointed access to different channels, but stop short of fully providing the coordination between the various channels that buyers need to access. In today’s market, eCommerce has exploded and many vendors are allowing customers to shop their offerings and even check out on their website. This is a great first step, but lacks certain elements that make up a holistic B2B sale. If the buyer were to see a price on an eCommerce platform, and then decide to negotiate with a salesperson, that seller needs to know exactly what the buyer was looking at – price included – in order to best service the buyer. If the seller lacks these details, the buying process is disrupted and the buyer has to restart the process. However, if the salesperson has the key details about that buyer’s browsing history and pricing, they can pick up the phone and know exactly what their customer needs. That’s channel fluidity — which is essential for an effective B2B omnichannel platform.

Can you talk about some of your most successful strategies from 2020, given the market dynamics and your biggest takeaways for 2021!

2020 was a pivotal year for PROS and our most successful strategy was making the shift to focus on a holistic approach to selling. Our goal was to eliminate the internal friction between the various players in the sales process, and provide a seamless experience for customers that interact with multiple PROS solutions. My biggest takeaway from 2021 would be to focus on people and the results will come.  Too often in the commerce world, we define business engagements as B2B or B2C, but the way we should be thinking about it is Business-to-people.  Put people in the center of sales strategies and you’ll see a significant impact for each customer.

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A parting thought on your most memorable moment in tech or at PROS!

My most memorable moment in tech was getting a front row seat to the disruption of the reading industry.  During the 2008 recession, one of the customers I supported was a display maker who manufactured the displays in eReaders.  During this time, there were questions about the long-term viability of eReaders because people were used to having physical books in their hands. Then in 2010, the iPad came out and completely changed the game in electronic digital devices.  The lesson I learned at this time is applicable today: Disruption will come.  We as humans evolve in the way we behave, interact, and live. The winners are those who know how to anticipate or adapt to our changing environment.

PROS

PROS provides AI-based solutions that power commerce in the digital economy.

Loretta Faluade, Solution Strategy Director at PROS

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