Infosys experts share their views on how digital is significantly impacting enterprises and consumers by redefining experiences, simplifying processes and pushing collaborative innovation to new levels

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June 25, 2015

Release Your Inner Sales Person


In life, to be successful, you have to be a sales person. 

Now it was not an easy conclusion as it took all of 18 years of consulting with Accenture and Capgemini, a wife and three kids before I embraced this completely.  Once embraced, it motivated me to take my first pure sales role with Infosys eight years ago and my current position leading Practice Sales for our budding practice.

However I understand that this is not an easy conclusion to accept, as some feel the ability to sell is a characteristic you are born with like creativity, instead of a skill to be developed like communication.  So before we dive into the need to be a sales person, consider this definition of sales:

Sales - the exchange of a promise of an outcome in return for something equivalent in value.

The promise of an outcome is important to consider because whether professional services or goods, the promise is fulfilled at different times in the ownership lifecycle.  So before you lose an opportunity to a competitor or before you sit through another romantic comedy or action movie because you could not sell the other person well enough, consider these takeaways. 

Ask your client - Whether it's testing a price point or asking specifically what budget is available for the program or who are the actual decision makers or users, always ask.  The thing to keep in mind is that its human nature to want to help and when the client can't answer, they won't. Takeaway: don't be afraid to ask for information or help.

Client wants to pay more - if you internalize the adage "you get what you paid for" then this is simple to understand.  Start with the assumption that your client wants to afford the premium good or service, so now focus on highlighting exactly why its premium, not why its cost competitive. Takeaway: find out who is the real consumer and show them the Cadillac not the Chevy.

Don't leave empty handed - whether it's a follow-up meeting, or a POC, don't leave without securing an outcome.  It's simple but you have to be ready for a fallback position or two when the client says no thank you.  Takeaway: always prepare a fallback position in any sales transaction.

No freebies - depending on your position with your client, this could be the most difficult concept to adopt.  The simple idea is that anything free is generally unappreciated.  Too much and it will be taken for granted and even expected.  So even in the case where you have to give something away - never make it free - go through the process of quantifying the request, then document the credit or secure another piece of work in return that would otherwise go to the competition.  Takeaway: nothing is free.

Sell the value - we will not discuss value selling here; there are books and methodologies dedicated to this.  However, the key point is, do not drive the discussion to a price and credential exercise.  At least never start there.  There will always be someone else that is willing to go cheaper or that has more references.  Instead focus from the beginning on the value that you are creating.  The catch is to personalize or link the value to your methods or techniques or solution.  Otherwise you are simply creating the customers value proposition (or business case) which then the customer will simply shop to the lowest price:  Takeaway link business value and results to your specific approach or secret sauce.

Change the game - when the client thinks of value received, it sometimes comes in forms we do not normally think about.  Practically, what this means is while the client's purchasing team or vendor management office are adept at saying "do not deviate", well the business mostly wants to know if there is something they have not thought about or value that can be brought beyond this specific transaction.  On a personal note, try to not say "I don't want to go shopping for tools or dresses, etc." instead why don't you try "I can do that, or I can plant a new garden in, or work on vacation plans, or..."  Whatever the buyer value is, they may see more value in your offer than in the initial plan.  Takeaway: Don't hesitate to offer alternate scope, terms, payment, or models that are in line with buyer values.

Don't do it alone - this will take a little faith, however always consider a partnership strategy for the deal.  Whether it's leveraging their endorsement, technology, or simply investing in a relationship that might help for a larger upcoming transaction, partnering often improves your offer.  Keep in mind a few things: 1. A smaller piece of the pie is better than all of nothing and 2. Enemy of my enemy can be my friend.  3. Consider that even if a potential partner turns you down on a deal.  A NO is still insightful, especially if you are uncertain about their standing.  In such a case you could update your sales strategy to deal with them as a competing party.  Takeaway:  Keep your partners close and your competitors closer.

Know when to shut up - Once the deal is closed or you have agreement, stop selling.  This is a common mistake which instead of helping might trigger cold feet.  Simply put, once the customer makes up their mind, additional justification can raise doubt and cause additional opportunity to change their mind. Takeaway:  Stop selling the second you get an agreement to avoid initiating buyer's remorse.

It can be a scary realization that most people reject especially when you attach sales to used cars or cold calling. So use some or all of these ideas in context and with judgment.  For a personal or a client transaction considering each of these items on its own merit will force you to go through the mental exercise and better prepare you for the sale ahead.

Whether you are focused on becoming a technical wizard, a CEO or trying to change the movie choice with your date, you become more effective at selling your ideas and securing your desired outcome when you embrace your inner sales person.

June 22, 2015

'The Internet of Things' and

Steven Spielberg presented the 'Society of future' in 'Minority Report' where mutants foresee all crime before they occur, helping Precrime division to arrest suspects before the act of crime. In 2011, Los Angeles Police Department embarked on an experiment known as 'Predictive Policing', involving data crunching to determine where to send officers to thwart an impending burglary; this experiment was named as one of the best inventions by Time Magazine.

'Predictive Policing' and 'Society of Future' seem to have arrived with the idea of devices becoming more talkative than humans i.e the advent of Internet of Things. As per forecasts, by 2020, Internet of Things(IoT) could include between 30 billion and 75 billion connected devices ranging from smart bands, toys, TVs, washing machines and photo frames to medical devices, earthquake sensors and aeroplanes. Anything and everything that can be connected, is likely to be, in the next decade.

The challenge and opportunity for Customers and Systems Integrators will be to make sense of all the data being gathered by the machine to machine mesh and leveraging technology to create a secure and integrated environment. While creating the next level of customer service gets even more challenging with the connected devices revolution, opportunity lies in identifying and investing in suitable tools and processes that will support proactive listening as these devices start conversing.

How does fit in the scheme of things?

Salesforce has evolved from being only a CRM product to a complete Digital platform with comprehensive Sales, Service, Marketing, Portal, Analytics, IoT and Mobility offerings on its Salesforce 1 platform.

Salesforce1, has incredibly flexible APIs that facilitate sending and receipt of information from the devices connected to it and trigger events such as sending a personalized marketing message, calling a customer, or initiating replacement of parts.

Salesforce has recently unveiled the next iteration of the B2B marketing automation service under the 'Sales Cloud' umbrella, features made possible by Salesforce Pardot. 'Sales Cloud Engage' will take customized ad campaigns a step further by breaking down the borders for prospect and client data within the Salesforce platform. Salesforce 'Engagement Studio' will help sales and marketing professionals build adaptive campaigns with real time adjustment to different types of behavioral responses.

Salesforce 'Service Cloud' provides a platform for listening and acting on information from connected devices. Salesforce has now created new hierarchy called 'System of Intelligence' over and above 'system of records' and 'system of engagement'. Salesforce service cloud supports 'intelligent workflow' automation by pushing tasks based on skills, 'intelligent workload' allocation and 'intelligent' omni-channel collaboration in a manner that the earlier customer context is not lost as the customer switches between channels.

Salesforce 'Wear' is helping design and build wearable apps that connect to Salesforce1 Platform. The platform is now compatible with an extended list of wearable devices, besides Google Glass, ARM, Fitbit, Apple Watch, Myo from Thalmic , Salesforce now runs additional support for Epson Moverio ( Smart glasses), Jawbone UP (Fitness tracker), Meta Glasses (3D smart glasses), Oculus Rift (Virtual reality headset),Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses ( Android based wearable computing, communications and display system). This new offering from Salesforce holds the greatest potential in helping businesses provide innovative ways of servicing their customers.

Customers are creating Social Machines using Salesforce Connect for Facebook and Twitter. 'Toyota Friend' is built on Salesforce1 platform that allows Toyota's cars to use social networks to communicate with their owners - for example, sending alerts when key maintenance tasks are due besides providing a dedicated social networking community for Toyota car owners.

With only 7% of consumers saying that customer service experiences they have with companies typically exceed their expectations, there is a huge opportunity for us to encash on the capabilities offered by

And as the popular quote goes in 'Minority Report-'Sometimes, in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark'- How about taking the challenge to build a network of connected devices for the future on one of the best of breed products?


June 16, 2015

Omni-channel - The Next Paradigm in Quintessential Retail

In a nutshell, omni-channel is a robust method that aims at providing a seamless buying experience for customers across channels and devices - be it physical stores, television, telesales or online websites accessed via desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile etc. This entire notion of fulfilling a customer's expectation anytime and everywhere is very powerful indeed and has captured the imagination of every modern day retailer.

Around 52% of the e-business professionals consider omni-channel as a priority item on their to-do list (Forrester). And why not? As per MIT report, almost 80% of brick and mortar shoppers search for price information online before making a buying decision. You would already have observed the concept in practice all around you - be it same day delivery, ship from store/warehouse or even real time inventory update. The impact for such a holistic, all round buying experience is huge and threatens to change the retailing landscape for good.

Even though omni-channel seems like a cryptic process involving a lot of intricate parts, the core target for it remains the same i.e. it is primarily geared to tap into more sales, ensure a seamless customer experience and take the competition to the next level. In fact, companies like Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy's, Staples, Best Buy and others have already started walking down this road due to the immense value lying herewith.

While there are multiple reasons for the rise of the 'Omni-channel' buzzword, some of the core benefits are:

  1. Enhanced product discoverability:
    Retailers can harmoniously implement save the sale mantra as omni-channel solution enhances product discoverability. Online channels can effectively make use of underutilized inventory which is restricted only to brick and mortar space. This enables them to capture the potential lost carts due to out-of-stock product scenarios. Bloomingdale's smart fitting rooms have enabled customers to scan items with wall-mounted tablet. They will be able to view alternate colors and sizes available and recommendations and ratings/ reviews by other customers. It further extends to furnish the customer with call for assistance capability without even leaving the room.

  2. Reduction in the load of web distribution center
    With all the warehouses and drop ship vendors talking to each other, retailers can easily distribute the effective load in the most cost efficient manner. As retailers gather more data on user buying patterns, the distribution centers can be further optimized to match the requirements on ad hoc basis.

  3. Optimize back end of the returns process:
    The focus has now extended well beyond just buying and fulfillment of product, into being able to 'return anywhere'. By optimizing the return process, customers can be assured of a better buying experience. At the same time, the products can be recycled easily, reducing the time lag of product unavailability.

  4. Improve inventory turns
    Order fulfillment requests can be realized faster and store managers can keep a real time check on the inventory levels. Any depletion or abnormality can be easily addressed in sync with the demand, fueling better churn out and valuable time spent on searching inventory can be saved.

  5. Help stay competitive:  
    In an ever changing retail landscape, the ability to stay one step ahead of the competition is very crucial. With information flowing without any kind of bottle necks for consumers, it is very hard for a parochial mind set to make inroads into the landscape. While it takes a lot of precise calculation on the implementation side, omni-channel delivery helps a company develop strategic advantages and competitiveness in the long run. Take an example of Warby Parker, a trendsetter in glass industry by offering its home try ons program, which realized the importance of omni-channel presence was amongst the firsts to transition from web only to brick and click model.

  6. Efficiencies and cost savings:
    Depending on the manner omni-channel solution is implemented, it has potential to minimize wasteful practices and creates a lot of value in terms of cost savings in the long run. Better stock management, smarter labor planning and reduced shipping costs can take place within a highly optimized omni-channel company.

  7. Quicker delivery times
    Delivery times for buyers get shorter and omni-channel capability enables the retailers to fulfil the orders from closest fulfilment location. According to Forrester Researcher analyst, Amazon might have "same-day delivery algorithm," solution in place in order to pick fastest and cheapest delivery option by assessing various combinations of its delivery services at a given moment.  Its experiment with taxis, aerial drones and patent strategy 'anticipatory shipping' is also continuing to deliver packages same day.

The benefits do not end here and stretch far beyond the conceivable paradigm. With some ingenuity, omni-channel can be revamped to be even more powerful for an organization in the long run. The surface of this disruptive practice is certainly scratched with the solution. As more and more companies come forth and adopt such processes, the customer experience is bound to get a facelift and we are sure of one thing - the customers are in for a treat.

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