With briefcases and suitcases in tow, business-to-business (B2B) sellers have always traveled the distance to meet buyers wherever they are. Buyers are going digital in a big way, so sellers can put away their bags (at least part of the time) and step into digital or hybrid selling. This dramatic shift in B2B buying—more digital, more self-service—has led to a steady decrease in the amount of time buyers spend with sellers. To adapt to this new omnichannel reality, sales teams are reinventing their go-to-market strategies.
B2B selling has truly changed much faster and more dramatically than anyone could have imagined. Buyers now use routinely use up to 10 different channels—up from just five in 2016.1 A “rule of thirds” has emerged: buyers employ a roughly even mix of remote (e.g. videoconferencing and phone conversations), self-service (e.g. e-commerce and digital portals), and traditional sales (e.g. in-person meetings, trade-shows, conferences) at each stage of the sales process.1 The rule of thirds is universal. It describes responses from B2B decision makers across all major industries, at all company sizes, in every country.
Although digital interactions, both remote and self-serve, are here to stay, in-person selling still plays an important role. Buyers aren’t ready to give up face-to-face visits entirely. Buyers view in-person interactions as a sign of how much a supplier values a relationship and can play an especially pivotal part in establishing or re-establishing a relationship. Today’s B2B organizations require a new set of digital-first solutions to navigate the complex and unfamiliar terrain. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights can help.
Omnichannel presents new challenges
Increased opportunities to engage involve increased complexity. First, data ends up scattered across many different systems like customer relationship management (CRM), partner relationship management (PRM), e-commerce, web analytics, trials and demos, online chat, mobile, email, event management, and social networking. Assembling those pieces into a complete picture of a buyer or account is a complicated task that few B2B organizations and their existing systems can handle. Second, customer experiences are becoming increasingly fragmented as organizations struggle to maintain consistency from one touchpoint to the next. This issue is particularly acute for sellers when they don’t have critical context like previous interactions conducted on other channels such as content viewed, product trials initiated, online transactions, and product issues. Giving sellers visibility to the data is a start, but that would still require sellers to digest huge amounts of data to make sense of it all, hampering swift action.
But there are new possibilities
To deliver seamless omnichannel experiences, B2B organizations need a customer data platform (CDP) like Dynamics 365 Customer Insights that’s designed to maintain a persistent and unified view of the buyer across channels. The enterprise-grade CDP creates an adaptive profile of each buyer and account, so organizations can rapidly orchestrate cohesive experiences throughout the journey. Leading B2B organizations rely on unified data as a single source of truth as well as to unlock actionable insights that increase sales alignment and conversion, including account targeting, opportunity scoring, recommended products, dynamic pricing, and churn prevention. For example, sales teams can proactively prioritize accounts based on predictive scoring that takes into account firmographics and all past transactional data as well as behavioral insights like trial usage across all contacts at the account. Or a seller knows it’s the right time to engage since a buyer has just signaled high intent through website activities like viewing multiple pieces of content. Insights like these widen the gap between omnichannel sales leaders and the rest of the field.
The profiles and resulting analytics from Dynamics 365 Customer Insights can be leveraged across every function and systems—including sales force automation (SFA), account-based management (ABM), and e-commerce platforms, so that every person and system that the buyer engages with has the context to provide proactive and personalized experiences at precisely the right moment. This flexible design enables sales organizations to stay agile and future-proof their data foundation even when new sales tools are inevitably added to the mix.
Importantly, sales organizations can ensure that consent is core to every engagement. Privacy and compliance are crucial when it comes to customer data. In this new privacy-first world, consent funnels are as important as purchase funnels. It’s no longer only about collecting and unifying data. When companies build targeted and personalized experiences, customer consent must be infused across all workflows that use customer data. Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is designed from the ground up to be consent-enabled, allowing sales organizations to automatically honor customer consent and privacy, and build trust, across the entire journey.
A next-gen customer data platform can help
The next normal for B2B sales is here, and there’s no looking back. The buyer’s move to omnichannel isn’t as simple as shifting all transactions online. Omnichannel with e-commerce, videoconference, and face-to-face are all a necessary part of the buyer’s journey. What B2B buyers want is nuanced, and so are their views about the most effective way to engage. B2B organizations must continue to adapt to meet this new omnichannel reality. To learn how a CDP can help delight your customers while helping your sales team navigate omnichannel selling to lower the cost of selling, extend reach, and improve sales effectiveness, visit Dynamics 365 Customer Insights.
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Celebrating many identities within a global community of impact: An Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month conversation
Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective,…
Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective, Jane, what do you feel is different about this past year?
Jane Hesmondhalgh: We’ve continued on our journey of working to create an inclusive culture at Microsoft. And there is still a gap between our aspired culture and everyone’s lived experiences today. For some, that gap may be small; for others it may be larger. But the fact that at Microsoft we have this value system we’re aspiring to is, I think, very much aligned to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
We’re consistently working toward respect, accountability and high integrity at Microsoft. I would say that our continued work to make progress is not so much different this year, but that we’re focusing even more effort on it.
Unfortunately, this past year we have seen the continued trend of acts of hate toward Asians globally. But the fact that Microsoft is strongly supporting the community in the face of those is super critical for the community. And that much-needed support is not a one-time event where we say something and then we’re on to the next thing. It’s the ongoing recognition that acts against violence, injustice and inequities across the world are unacceptable.
SPS: That’s right. We’ve also been focused on community education in the wake of this alarming rise in acts of hate and violence — how the community can leverage safety practices, and how can we work with the local government communities to increase safety.
JH: Our Inclusion Council has also been really engaged in these discussions. Other examples of sustained commitment to the community include the events we’ve done to engage with external experts in ongoing learning such as Microsoft Include, and of course the support of our Asians at Microsoft Employee Resources Group (ERG). I have heard from the community specifically that one of the most powerful things they’ve attended this year are our community calls, where people have had the opportunity to talk through how they’re feeling with others who may have experienced similar things.
SPS: Based on what we heard from our community, we’ve also been increasingly focused on how we strengthen and support the advancement of the ERG and its members at the company. I am really proud of how we’ve been working with outside experts on leadership development across the company, all the way from entry-level employees to the most senior in the company. This is the kind of year-round investment that is directly benefiting the community.
JH: I’m so passionate about this piece — the leadership education for Asians and Pacific Islanders. When I started as the sponsor for the Asians ERG, that was the No. 1 feedback, that the community wanted unique and tailored leadership education.
As we know, there are 4.7 billion people in this broad community across the world. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 60% of the world population. That really strikes me. Because within that, there are so many different perspectives. So, a question for you is, how do we ensure that different types of conversations and perspectives from the entire community are brought in?
SPS: As you said — 60% of the global population! And we are trying to represent diversity within the community at that scale. It’s actually one of our strategic pillars in our ERG — including all community members. I think we’re doing a really good job with that. The leadership team has ensured that we include many voices, and as a result of that diversity of thought, we’ve seen new steps and actions being taken. For example, we had an Asians ERG art exhibition. We had a day of remembrance where people could talk about their practices, cultures, ancestors. We had a stand-up comedy event. And we’ve focused specifically on women inventors. Those are just a few examples.
So, focusing on the many dimensions of identity within our global community ensures that we can all share our experiences and learn from each other.
JH: This leads me to reflect on the word “community” and what does that mean? With a global team located all over the world, how do we bring everybody together in a sense of community? At Microsoft the community is a combination of people, cultures and beliefs. So, I think that community piece is our connection to the history across the Asia Pacific region. Within this vast land mass, we can appreciate and understand the differences and uniqueness of the people in the sub-communities and societies. We talked earlier about Microsoft’s culture and values. I think one thing that helps us is that Asian values around integrity and respect are very similar to the company’s. And then of course we go beyond respect to actually celebrating our cultures. Each of our ERG chapters and groups, each culture, is a contribution that is valuable to the world.
And these values are actually critical for the work ahead, right? This year, next year and beyond, we want to tackle the biggest problems that divide us as a society. And we’ve got that microcosm of society within our Asian and Pacific Islander community. We can play a huge role in landing the mindset of interconnectivity and learning both within and outside the company. Each person must be committed to driving positive change, be more intentionally inclusive in the workplace and build our empathy. With this, we can build momentum to meet the challenges of the world.
SPS: Well said Jane. As you’re speaking, I’m thinking about my own personal journey as well. Part of my life I lived on a farm in a small village. I experienced a community there where everybody looked like me, spoke like me with a very similar kind of language. When I lived in various cities, that was the first time I’d experienced people looking like me but speaking different dialects.
And then when I started working on a multinational level, I encountered people who had such a range of cultural differences from me. What I’ve learned is whether it is living in a village, in a small community or at the global level, human values remain the same. I’ve realized more recently that as things become more complex, more turbulent, and we do not know what future will hold, the constant is the values that we all stand for. And that is true across the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and all across Microsoft and our nine ERGs and many dimensions of identities.
JH: You know, I never thought about it in this way but because you shared a little bit about your own background, I’ll share something about when we moved from the U.S. back to the U.K. In his new school, my son felt left out, and suddenly struggled with questions around “I am British, but do they think I am American or Chinese?” He didn’t feel that sense of belonging, and all these new questions of identity came up which he held to himself. Things did get better, but it reminds me that it’s all of our responsibility to help each other understand that while people are different, everybody has something to offer. People need to feel like they’re valued and that they can contribute without being judged.
SPS: It is so true. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any misperceptions about the Asian and Pacific Islander community that you would like to address?
JH: I’ve heard people say things like, gosh Asians are good at math and science, and they have an easier entry to STEM fields and occupations. I don’t know that I would ever categorize it as easier or not easier. There are many Asians who are not good at math and science, right? It’s a generalization, and there are a lot of these.
Another misconception is that because the Asian population is large, there are a lot of Asian leaders. But actually, the statistics have shown that we’re the least likely of all racial groups to become managers and executives. We need more role models and pathways to that senior level, which is where those development efforts we spoke about earlier come in. And of course, some other misconceptions came up during the pandemic around Chinese people.
So again, what combats these types of misconceptions and harmful stereotypes is learning and building our understanding and empathy for one another.
SPS: I absolutely agree. We will continue this work with the Microsoft communities and our leadership. I look forward to the impact we will make in the coming year. Thank you so much, Jane, for the chance to have this conversation. I look forward to our celebrations and recognition this month!
JH: Thank you, Srinivas! Happy Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
3 ways to turn your field service operation into a revenue-generating machine
For decades, companies have relied on skilled technicians to repair equipment and engage with customers in the field. While these technicians were often the only representation that the customer would see, their skills, processes, and systems were seldom seen as critical aspects of the company’s revenue cycle. Until recently, many field technicians or field service…
For decades, companies have relied on skilled technicians to repair equipment and engage with customers in the field. While these technicians were often the only representation that the customer would see, their skills, processes, and systems were seldom seen as critical aspects of the company’s revenue cycle. Until recently, many field technicians or field service teams were merely thought of as necessary cost centers. But like other parts of the organization, even the cost centers must learn to innovate and discover additional revenue–generating opportunities.
Field service is the process of organizing and managing work tasks that need to be completed at a particular location, usually a customer site. The field service process often includes many variables and can be quite complex. It encompasses dispatching, scheduling, skills matching, and route optimization, to name a few. Many people have been in a situation where they’re expected to wait all day for a technician because they’ve been given a broad arrival window time between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM. Well, that’s field service—albeit, a rather inefficient model.
As the field service domain evolves, companies are learning their inefficiencies in the field can quickly cost them revenue as customer satisfaction is negatively impacted and the lifetime value of their customers decreases. And while companies across all industries are realizing the extended costs of inefficient field service operations, those that are innovative have begun to understand how to also leverage field service to generate more revenue. Cost reductions by becoming more efficient can be great, but reducing costs while increasing revenue is pure gold.
Here are three ways to drive revenue through your field service operations and how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service can help create efficiencies.
1. Lead generation
This may sound odd primarily because lead generation has always been a staple of marketing and sales operations. But who else gets to know your customers better than your field technicians? Here’s a quick personal story:
After a recent move, I called several internet service providers. For starters, I selected the provider that could deliver service in the least amount of time. Upon arrival, the technician asked about other services, particularly mobile phone service. Since I had a different mobile phone carrier, he said they have specials and asked if I would be interested in hearing them. Shortly after confirming my interest and completing my internet installation, a field salesperson knocked on my door and converted me over to their mobile plan. A lead generated and a sale transacted—all originating from the field technician’s simple question.
Field technicians are skilled workers that often have a series of tasks needed to complete the service. By simply including a question or by noting a specific item on their task list, a Microsoft Power Automate flow can be triggered to automatically create a lead and route it to the sales team. This creates a qualified lead for the sales team and a cross-sell revenue opportunity for the company.
2. Expanding business units: Field Service-as-a-Service
To truly turn your field service operations into a revenue generator, the current operation must become efficient. Efficiency requires innovation; that is, innovation of processes, system platforms, and people. When it comes to field service operations, it’s safe to say not all organizations innovate at the same pace and some prefer not to innovate at all. This is where your innovation and efficiencies can become a revenue-generating asset.
For example, a large healthcare facilities provider began as a facilities management operation. They provided facilities management services to the vast and growing network of healthcare providers. Continuing to innovate and drive efficiencies with Dynamics 365 Field Service, the healthcare facilities provider quickly recognized the value they could bring to other healthcare provider networks and began offering their services to other hospitals. By leveraging their efficiencies, they were able to provide great value to more than 160 hospitals which allows their customers to create better patient experiences. The healthcare facilities provider is a great example of how field service efficiencies were used to create a revenue-generating business unit.
3. Connected Field Service: leverage data
Connected Field Service leverages IoT data collected from device sensors and integrates with Dynamics 365 Field Service to create a new revenue-generating service model. Connected Field Service allows organizations to graduate from the traditional break-fix service model to a proactive and predictive service model. This shift creates opportunities for organizations to market and sell new service offerings that yield greater revenue and increase margin.
A connected field service example is a Pacific Northwest mechanical contractor company. The organization specializes in developing energy-efficient buildings. However, by capturing the data from IoT sensors, their connected field service solution enables them to offer post-construction optimization services. IoT sensors capture a building’s energy levels and proactively dispatches a service technician prior to failure—thus, ensuring operational efficiency within their customers’ facilities. Building on their efficiencies, they can conserve and reduce travel costs by performing remote inspections and service with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. Such efficiency creates opportunities to sell more advanced support offerings thereby increasing revenue and profitability.
Learn more about Dynamics 365 Field Service
The good news is that becoming more efficient in field service operations can be extremely valuable to your organization. The better news is that through innovation, field service operations can even be transformed into a revenue-generating machine.
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