Archive for September, 2013

Use ASPOs To Improve Cold Call Response Rates

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Inside salespersons and business development executives who lack the skills or perseverance needed for making cold calls and mask their shortcomings by claiming that “cold calling is dead” need not read further.

On the other hand, if you believe that cold calls are indispensable in B2B sales – just that they need to be done differently – you’ve come to the right place.

Years ago, you could get heard by cold calling someone and rattling off a boilerplate script about your company, products and services. As an increasing numbers of salespersons started doing this, prospects switched off and cold calling in its plain-vanilla form stopped working.

In the next stage of cold calling, you’d to change your tack and package your offerings in such a way that they resonated with the pain areas and hot topics of your target market. Depending upon the local business culture, size of market and seniority of target audience, going to market with Marketable Items, as we call them, is still quite effective in reaching out to your target audience and creating awareness for your company among potential buyers who have otherwise never heard of you (“strangers”).

In recent times, there’s another approach that’s helping start conversations with strangers at the top of the funnel: “Account Specific Point Offerings”. An ASPO creates a link between what you’re selling on the one side and a specific strategic initiative of your prospect on the other. A strategic initiative is a concerted action taken by a company’s top management in response to trigger events. Trigger events comprise of internal or external factors that impact a business such as new product launch, big contract win, loss of a major customer, hike in office rental and new regulation, to name a few.

Let me take the following example to illustrate how ASPO works.

Vendor X sells an advanced accounts receivable software product. One of its leading prospects (Prospect Y) recently announced a new government contract win. For reasons highlighted in this blog post, Prospect Y might find it challenging to execute this contract profitably.

A traditional cold call would’ve started with “I’m calling to tell you more about our advanced accounts receivable software product that helps you to manage your outstandings better”.

With our ASPO approach, the pitch would change to “Congratulations on bagging the large government contract. From our experience with other customers, you might face a delay in receiving your payments. I’m calling since I thought you may be looking for a way to tighten your collection process so that you can avoid these payment delays.”

The second message can result in many more conversations because (a) it resonates with the prospect’s strategic initiative to execute the contract profitably and (b) helps the person on the other side of the cold call to support the agenda of their C-Suite.

Besides, since it makes no mention of your product or service, you can cross your heart and answer “No” when secretaries and other gatekeepers screen your calls with “Is this a sales call?”.

In a future blog post, I’ll describe ASPOs in greater detail and outline a methodology for developing them. Watch this space.

Mobile OTP: Cyanide Or Caffeine For Online Payments?

Friday, September 13th, 2013

I recently received an SMS from one of my credit card issuing banks – the Indian subsidiary of a British high street bank that has a global presence – informing me about the following change in procedure for using its credit cards online:

With immediate effect, for each online transaction on your BANK1 Credit Card, an OTP (One Time Password) will be sent via SMS to your registered mobile number. In order to complete the transaction, this OTP will have to be entered by you instead of the erstwhile Verified by Visa password.

As though making online payments isn’t terribly painful as it is, this bank has just raised the friction in the process to the next level. Successful completion of a transaction is no longer just a function of quality of Internet connectivity and the uptime of merchant, acquirer, issuer and epayment gateway websites. It now also depends upon the mobile network coverage, message delivery times and availability of the mobile phone at the point of transaction.

Even before this new step, the end-to-end payment chain had so many moving parts that almost one in 12 payments failed, as I’d highlighted in my earlier post Skating Away With Online Payments. Now, I expect failure rates to shoot up with Mobile OTP because network coverage is spotty while indoors and in roaming mode, messages  could be delayed by several hours during peak volumes observed on holidays and the presence of the regular mobile phone at the point of transaction is not guaranteed when the shopper is traveling abroad since most people tend to use a different SIM to avoid the exorbitant international roaming charges charged by their primary Mobile Network Operator. All these will only reinforce my recent shift to Cash on Delivery for online shopping and avoidance of online bill payments.

Going back a couple of years, BANK1 introduced two-factor authentication for all types of card-not-present payments – via web, mobile and phone. It had also started sending SMS Alerts for all card transactions (more on that here). In all those cases, the bank had ascribed the new security measures to the Reserve Bank of India, which is India’s central bank cum banking regulator. BANK1 hasn’t (yet!) chanted the “As per RBI rules” mantra to backstop its latest move. I fervently hope that the regulator doesn’t mandate mobile OTP and instead focuses on the huge problem of failed payments. Ideally, it should issue a mandate to all card issuers to reverse debits in the event of all incomplete payments, no questions asked. But I digress.

If it’s not to comply with regulation, I wonder why BANK1 chose to implement mobile OTP, a move that could diminish loss of its interchange revenues by further alienating experienced users away from online card transactions.

Is it to persuade 70% of online shoppers who currently use cash-on-delivery to switch over to credit cards? It’s quite possible that, when they hear about mobile OTP, many fencesitters might feel comfortable about exposing their card information online. Until they actually experience online friction and failed payments, the heightened security promised by the new step might just nudge them towards using their credit cards to make online payments, thereby boosting the bank’s interchange revenues.

Only time will tell whether Mobile OTP will stimulate online payments or sound its death knell.

It’s Raining QR Codes

Friday, September 6th, 2013

My previous posts about QR codes and Augmented Reality (see Related Posts at the bottom of this post) were based on my exposure to these technologies in newspapers, posters and billboards.

I recently noticed a shower of QR codes in a new medium: magazines. Just the 10 June 2013 issue of the FORTUNE magazine featured five ads that used a QR code or some other form of Augemented Reality.

Here’s a quick overview of how this technology is put to use in these ads:

UBS: The leading Swiss bank directs readers who scan its QR code to a 100 second video featuring the CEO of its Asia Pacific wealth management business.

MARINA BAY SANDS: Asia’s self-proclaimed best MICE hotel lets QR code scanners book packages for – what else – meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions at its Singapore property.

JP MORGAN CHASE:  America’s top bank uses a QR code to let interested readers register for its Corporate Challenge Run in various cities all over the world.

DUPONT QR CODE: The “skyscraper” ad in the first half of the magazine goes to a desktop – i.e. not mobile-optimized – landing page on the American chemicals giant’s website.

DUPONT A/R: In its double-spread ad later in the magazine, the company has eschewed QR code in favor of an augmented reality app called Actable. I downloaded and installed the app on my smartphone. When I scanned the ad, I was led to an animated video with several icons. Since it wasn’t easy to decipher them, I tapped on a few icons randomly. Each tap took me to a different page on the company’s website, none of which was optimized for the mobile form factor. To put it mildly, I’ve seen better implementations of A/R. Besides, Actable is too heavy (over 11MB). Just in case Dupont is not aware, there are many other AR apps that are lighter and capable of delivering a superior UX compared to Actable. ALIVE and POINT are two such apps I’ve used in the past.

The widespread use of QR codes in a single issue of a leading magazine got me wondering if magazines are becoming the new home for augmented reality technology.