Is Your Business Prepared For Today’s Landscape?

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come.

Welcome to the Mobile Era, the Era of Big Data, the App Era, the Cloud Era—whichever name you prefer, we can all agree on its chief message…

that the days of “business as usual” are over. Innovation—specifically, continuous innovation—is essential for companies looking to shape their future and forge new paths.

[source: FastCompany] The shift from a physical to a digital economy has rewritten the rules of competition. Today, the rewriting occurs even faster, accelerated by mobility, the cloud, and ever-present security risks. Ask the world’s top executives and IT managers what keeps them up at night, and odds are they’ll describe the paradoxical nature of disruption. Call it the Uber Syndrome.

A new competitor with a new model, they fear, can catch them off guard and upend their entire industry. Uber isn’t the only billion-dollar case study. Look at the impact of Airbnb on hospitality; Netflix and Spotify on entertainment; BuzzFeed on media; Amazon on retail; and Apple on consumer electronics and telecommunications.

At the same time, these very executives and IT managers have the opportunity to carry out the disruption themselves. The same technology that enables a startup empowers existing players to innovate and reinvent their industry. A never-ending wave of new apps allows companies to better understand their customers and partners, and develop groundbreaking products or services faster than ever before.

But nonstop innovation requires its own ethos of motivation and its own set of organizational skills. And, of course, its own tools. In particular, the demands on corporate IT systems have never been greater—or more complex. Businesses need not only more computational, storage, and network capacity, but also more speed and flexibility. Or as Gary Barnett, the chief software analyst for London-based research firm Ovum, says, “Infrastructure capable of allowing companies to evolve different parts of their portfolio at different speeds.”

The Mobile Reimagining

Fueling the upheaval, of course, is the proliferation of mobile devices and apps. Next year, mobile connectivity to the Internet worldwide is projected to surpass fixed-line connectivity for the first time. The economic implications are significant: By 2018, global consumer spending via mobile is estimated to reach $626 billion, according to Goldman Sachs.

From an IT standpoint, mobile growth represents a formidable undertaking: After all, a single transaction, such as changing your airline seat or making a bank-to-bank transfer, instantly generates dozens of interactions with a corporate IT system (from account authentication to fraud analysis). Extrapolate that flurry of activity across a few billion smartphone users the world over and you get a sense of the urgency facing IT executives.

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come. “If you use an app on your phone to, say, open your hotel room door, that resets your expectation,” says Nigel Fenwick, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “When you go into another hotel, your perception of value has changed.” The entire concept of a key suddenly becomes antiquated.

To coordinate the interplay between apps and back-end systems, companies are relying more on APIs, the software-based rules that allow applications to share data with each other and with IT systems. Increasingly, this communication is driven by machine processes rather than by a consumer or by a mobile device. “A huge amount of cognitive activity is taking place between businesses without any direct human intervention,” says Jason Gartner, CTO of API Economy at IBM. “The key to that automation is having the processes, tools, and DevOps culture to be agile and responsive.”

The behind-the-curtain technical jujitsu between databases, analytics code, and the cloud services that power such sophisticated automation is one of those feats that wasn’t possible until recently. But in short order, it’s remaking business operations and much of our digital lives.

Just a few years ago, simply having a mobile app set you apart. Soon after, the focus shifted to the best user interface. Now, a company distinguishes itself by the intelligence derived from its mobile data. In the right hands (read: right IT infrastructure), it can enable real-time personalization, the holy grail of digital experiences. The apps on your devices know you, anticipate your needs, and deliver in the moment.

We’re Guardians of Data Now

The snake in this garden of opportunity is the increase of cyberattacks, both in volume and sophistication. The number of new malware threats now exceeds a million a day, according to Symantec. Nearly half target big companies.

Today, a brand’s equity is inextricably tied to the trust a company establishes with data. “The biggest threats to this whole world of datafication are security and privacy,” says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who worked for 37 years at IBM, much of it identifying emerging technologies. “If people don’t trust that their data will be both protected and properly used, they won’t share it or participate.”

That duality—the thrilling potential and the bracing risk of technology—epitomizes business for today’s IT executives. How do you recognize and seize opportunities in such a dynamic environment? How do you equip your organization to keep evolving? How do you innovate week in and week out?

Find the answers that work for you, and you’ll find yourself and your company on the right side of disruption.

 

Excellent Salesmanship

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What separates the superstar salespeople from the pack? These tactics of excellent salespeople may help you close the deal.

Selling should be part of every small-business owner’s job description.

[source: American Express OpenForum] Whether you’re the sole salesperson at your business or managing a team, here are six tactics excellent salespeople may rely on to close the sale—and six little “tricks” to help make each tactic work for you.

1. Ask for the Next Step

Whether you’re asking for an in-person meeting or for the close, an exceptional salesperson can likely move every interaction with the prospect forward. Don’t end an interaction in defeat by admitting the prospect doesn’t want what you’re selling. Instead, consider proposing a step, however small, to continue the connection with the prospect, such as telling them you’ll send them more information via email.

Trick: Don’t ask for the sale; rather, you should assume it’s been made. For example, say, “What color would you prefer?” or “Which plan works best for you, the monthly or quarterly servicing?” By implying that the person has already decided to buy, you may be able to increase your chances of closing the sale.

2. Sweat the Details

Excellent salespeople are prepared for any eventuality. Although they seem spontaneous and unrehearsed, in reality, they don’t “wing it.” Learn all you can about prospects before you engage with them. Thanks to social media and the Internet, there’s likely no excuse for not gathering this type of intel. But don’t limit your research to what you can find online; that’s the lazy approach, and exceptional salespeople aren’t lazy. Dig around by asking everyone you know and keeping your ears open for gossip, news and other insights.

Trick: When making sales presentations, you should expect the worst. Plan for everything that could go wrong, from a power outage to a computer crash, and be prepared with a backup plan for how you’ll handle it. Spare cables, extra batteries and chargers, and presentation printouts can be your friends here.

3. Follow Up

Extraordinary salespeople know that selling to a customer once is no big deal; what matters is selling to him or her again and again. Ordinary salespeople forget about the customer after the sale. Extraordinary salespeople know that’s when the relationship really begins. Always follow up after each sale to assess customer satisfaction, fix any problems and, most of all, establish yourself in their minds as an ally.

Trick: Follow-up can be a great opportunity to ask for referrals. Make sure the customer is satisfied with your products or services before you ask. Then try to get the customer’s endorsement (“I’m going to tell him you suggested I call; is that OK?”). You may not only get the referral, but also align yourself with the customer as a partner in bringing great service to their contact.

4. Keep Learning

Excellent salespeople don’t coast. They tend to always be learning new things about their companies, their industries, their target customers and, most of all, the art of sales. No matter how good you get at sales, don’t assume you know it all. Read books, take courses and observe how other successful salespeople do it.

Trick: Do double duty by listening to podcasts or audiobooks while you’re commuting or exercising. You can likely learn something new without wasting any precious time that you could spend selling.

5. Give 110 Percent

Every exceptional salesperson I’ve ever met, listened to or read about has emphasized that the only way to the top is through hard work. Joe Girard, a former car salesperson honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest salesperson of all time, sent out thousands of greeting cards and handed out an average of 16,500 business cards per month during his prime. Exceptional salespeople tend to start early, leave late and make more cold calls than anyone else.

Trick: Use technology to automate some of the hard work. For example, CRM systems can set reminders, send triggered emails and schedule follow-up calls for you. Of course, exceptional salespeople don’t use the time saved for a Netflix binge: They use it to sell more.

6. Never Interrupt a Prospect

It’s human nature to jump in and finish others’ sentences or throw our thoughts into the mix. Excellent salespeople don’t do this. By listening, they can spot openings that help them get to the next step with a prospect.

Trick: Get customers talking about themselves. Look for clues to their interests, hobbies and passions—whether in the form of a school tie, family photo or golf clubs in the corner of their office. Then ask them about it, sit back and listen.

 

What can your business do?

Twitter Spearheads Mobile Revenue Streams for Businesses

Twitter, now 7 years-old, is gearing up to iterate the twitterverse of 400 million monthly visitors, 200 million monthly active users and one billion tweets every two and a half days into serious business.

As consumers increasingly take to smartphones, mobile ads have become the crown jewel in the digital ad landscape for major players including Facebook and Google.

 

Design is important for a profitable business.

Design matters

 

Design has the power to shape, engage and move; Therefore design is a crucial component for the development and success of any business idea.

[Illustration: Ted Dixon]

Talking about design in connection with successful business models and profit still raises some eyebrows and is met with a certain kind of disbelief or mistrust. This despite a wide range of successful case studies across all industries clearly illustrating the point otherwise.

The direct impact of design and strong connection between a flourishing business and a thorough strategy for design has been proven many times. The most famous case is the often-quoted example of Apple and its rebirth and steep rise to success with a dazzling row of new and innovative products; products that not only met the consumer’s needs but created whole new genres. This ongoing success was possible through an integrated approach – putting cutting edge design at the core of the process. Other great examples for the power of design as an important part of a successful business model is Starbucks – a simple coffee shop turning into a global phenomenon, replicated a thousand times and successfully expanding its position, or Netflix – reinventing the old business idea of video rentals. It not only survives but also thrives despite the digital revolution and downfall of old media. These examples illustrate that when we talk about design as a tool for business success, the idea is not a simple and mere superficial beautification, a last polishing on a finished product, but much more. For design to be a key to success it has to be implemented from the beginning of the development and used as a core component of the process. Design is a strong tool to enhance and strengthen a product or service – any kind of business idea. Design can work as a strong differentiator – setting a product apart from tough competition.

So in what ways can design enhance products? Far beyond a pleasing surface, it is important to engage customers on a deeper level. No matter what the product or service, from electronic gadgets, the newest iPhone app or basic services like a coffee shop. A well-received product is a well-designed product with the user, or more precisely the user’s experience at its core. Not only the look and feel – the logo, shape or packaging has to appeal. But going further, the overall concept – the narrative told by the product or service has to be able to deeply engage the customer and meet their needs – allowing them to identify with the product and engage with it. Therefore involving design, no matter if working with an in-house design team or an outside consultant, is about creating innovative and engaging solutions for a whole process, generating a unique user experience and developing lasting engagement with your target audience. By making design a prominent part of the development process and not only the final product, both product and process will be deeply enhanced. — Karin Aue

Karin Aue currently lives and works between Singapore and Tokyo. She is an experienced Creative Director and Project Manager. Her recent area of research includes interdisciplinary design practices, narrative strategy and place making, putting theory to practice through the strategic implementation of projects.