I watched Microsoft VP Hayden Stafford deliver his Keynote at the Apttus Accelerate event earlier this year in San Francisco. He followed, Sir Richard Branson, which must have felt like a hard act to follow, but he quickly won the crowd over and delivered the line, “It’s not industries that are transforming, it’s companies transforming industries. More precisely it’s people transforming those companies.”
Sales teams are turning to Microsoft to speed up the selling process and do more by leveraging applications like Dynamics 365, Office 365 and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. As he left the stage, I sat down with him for a chat about celebrating his four-year anniversary at Microsoft and his vision for the future of Microsoft business applications.
One of the big themes dominating 2018 is that consumers don’t just want to buy a product, they buy an experience, and it’s about the relationship over the transaction. Do you think businesses are getting this message and how are they reshaping the customer experience in preparation?
Absolutely. From the data that we are seeing, customers have already completed half the sales cycle before they have even engaged in a sale. Between 60% and 80% of the sales cycle is now completed before the first call.
Our customers are very well informed. They’ve done their research, they’ve already done the reference checks. Two elements of the sales cycle are essential. Of course, the product and the price are important, but it’s the trust in the relationship that matters now.
The most important piece of customer engagement is the life after the sale and the commitment. Whether it’s a customer success manager or executive sponsor that remains involved after the sale to point out blind spots or weak areas where they’re not using the product correctly or helping them when they’ve hit a problem, that's customer experience.
Whether you make a product, deliver a service, a bank or a government it's all about the experience and service that you provide now. We are all in a service-based economy, we are all service based providers, even if we sell a product and it’s all about the experience, the whole way through the sales process pre-during and post.
I watched Brian Garcia for Microsoft onstage too recently, and he’s he was talking about turning relationships into revenue. Did you see the keynote and expand on it for anyone reading this?
Yeah, Brian’s a great guy. He’s very socially present, and has a significant following on Twitter, etc. Nearly two years ago we announced the acquisition of LinkedIn which is crucial for us at Dynamics. The sales navigator element of LinkedIn has differentiated us and set us apart.
When you integrate relationship insights and connections into CRM, you’ve just immediately overnight converted a CRM tool from a management reporting, and a management oversight tool to a seller enabled tool.
You’re bringing the seller insights to who their relationships are, how healthy the relationship is. So, you are really making a seller’s tool versus a manager’s tool, and that’s important to get adoption. It’s the proverbial carrot and the stick.
Brian knows social selling inside and out, and he’s got a very high Social Selling Index (SSI). We track SSI, of our AEs and our specialists, and Brian’s a key player in that and LinkedIn is a crucial player to our success in this space and stay tuned, there’s a lot more with LinkedIn, not just sales navigator. There are the whole learning and enablement stuff around Linda and what that can do for our talent solutions.
It's great to see LinkedIn is evolving, can you offer any teasers around Microsoft's plans for the business-oriented social networking website?
Many of our competitors already have integration in the LinkedIn sales navigator. But when you start bringing together your emails, Skype details, CRM and LinkedIn information, you begin building a total picture of relationship health of sentiment, of intent.
If you have data that highlights that you have five degrees of connections within the business, it quickly becomes compelling. LinkedIn can enable you to know when your emails are being opened and how many times or if they are forwarding them on to other individuals.
However, when you run that through algorithms, the power of machine learning quick proves invaluable. It can tell help you define the diagnosis of any opportunity. Although, we’re not quite there yet, machine learning and artificial intelligence will help bring the totality of the Microsoft product portfolio to life.
You can listen to full interview with Hayden Stafford by clicking on the link below. We also discuss how are preparing the manufacturing industry for the digital transformation.