Kudos to the White Springs team in Banbury

We often host meetings at our UK offices in Banbury with our partners and their clients. More often than not though, the meeting ends, we all quickly share our thoughts on whether the meeting has met expectations and we recap the actions.

So it makes a refreshing change when someone puts their feelings into black and white, which is exactly what Ken Cross, Business Development Manager at Sales Performance International (SPI) did:

“….speaking of the customer visit in Banbury, I would like to give you my compliments.  Your team did a fantastic job hosting us, managing the meeting, and determining the best path forward for this upcoming software development project.  I was very impressed.  Kudos.”

With so many of us working all too often in a virtual world, relying on email and various online collaboration tools, it’s good to know we’re still getting it right with customers and partners when we do meet face to face.

About Sales Performance International (SPI)

Sales Performance International (SPI) is a global sales performance improvement firm dedicated to helping the world’s leading corporations elevate their sales relationships and drive measurable, sustainable revenue growth and operational sales performance improvement.

A look back at the Miller Heiman Sales Performance Summit – Engagement, Activity, Achievement

Miller Heiman Summit

The White Springs Team (Gary White, Laurie Brown, Lucy Faro, Sandy Veronese, Greg Smith and Ollie Edmunds) with hosts Miller Heiman (front row: Aliena Martinez, Lisa Schnoll and Michelle Carter)

At the recent Miller Heiman Sales Performance Summit held in Denver, Colorado, White Springs CEO, Gary White, took to the main stage to present on the topic of the technology needs of the modern sales organisations.

He opened up with engaging and thought provoking questions, quizzing the audience on where they viewed themselves (marks out of 10 please), in terms of intelligence and creativity.

No one can deny technology is a useful tool in the kit bag of any sales organisation but it should not stifle, or worse, prevent creativity within the sale. Creativity is essential in overcoming obstacles and if we all become slaves to technology, the creative element in our daily lives can become supressed.

Gary gave a classic, and all too prevalent, example of where technology can let companies down. With the massive explosion of mobile (smartphone, tablet) usage, if an organisation’s website does not function sufficiently well, then sales can be easily lost. And it doesn’t end with the public facing website. What about internal systems? What about CRM?

If the sales team are told that they must use CRM, but it’s hard to access whilst on the road, then adoption will be severely impacted. As Gary explained in his conclusion, “it’s the difference between the activity and achievement. You can be engaged in the activity of something, but not really be achieving it, like dieting.”

“Dieting is a good example. There’s Bob. He’s actively dieting. Is he achieving in losing any weight? Not really. CRM is a word like that. You can say, ‘there’s Bob, his company use CRM.’ But if the sales force isn’t getting any value, then nobody’s getting any value. They may be engaged in the activity of using CRM but not actually accelerating a sale.”

Gary concluded, “At White Springs, we work across the entire sales training industry and have been proud to work with Miller Heiman since 2004, jointly developing the Sales Access Manager suite of products and witnessing numerous sales teams reaping the benefits.”

Gary supported his presentation using Prezi – a copy of his Prezi presentation, can be viewed here.

Understanding business ingredients correctly and avoiding a sales enablement coding mess!

White Springs Sales EnablementUnderstanding the business needs of a customer is undoubtedly key in meeting their expectations. How can you possibly develop a solution if you don’t have a mutual and clear understanding?

Listening, gathering and documenting requirements and putting forward a suitably detailed specification, provides the bridge between the raw business needs and the developers who, all too often, develop based on the information they’re provided with, in the ‘literal’ sense.

And therein lays the problem.

If the business requirements are ambiguous or open to interpretation, chaos and disappointment can ensue. Take this light-hearted example:

A mother to her young boy:

“Honey, please go to the market and buy one bottle of milk. If they have eggs, bring six”
The young boy returned with six bottles of milk, to which the mother said:
“Why on earth did you buy six bottles of milk?”
The exasperated son replied:
“BECAUSE THEY HAD EGGS!!!”

The mother (a.k.a. the business) was clear in her mind what she wanted, but the son (the developer) took the instruction literally. In code, you could say:

int numMilks=1;
if (eggs.Count () > 0)
numMilks=6;
return BuyMilk(numMilks)

In the world of solution development, being able to understand and, where necessary, challenge in order to clarify the business requirements, leads to code development meeting the needs of the business. All of which avoids the oversupply of milk and the undersupply of eggs!

Using technology for sales enablement is no different. Using years of experience, White Springs bridges the gap between the business and the developers, providing solutions living up to expectations.

The Evolution of the Employee – Past verses the Future

I came across an interesting post recently by Jacob Morgan, Principal of Chess Media Group, on the evolution of the employee. In an excerpt from his latest book – The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, he states, “…that work as we know it is dead and that the only way forward is to challenge convention around how we work, how we lead, and how we build our companies.”

Whilst his article isn’t solely aimed at those in sales roles, everything he writes about certainly applies to sales. His key points on flexible working, use of any device, the importance of sharing and collaboration etc. are highly relevant to the world of sales.

The_evolution_of_the_employeeThis got me thinking about the synergies between what he writes about, which are succinctly summed up in his infographic (reproduced here), and how White Springs is already practicing what he preaches in the area of Sales Enablement. The work anytime, work anywhere, using any device, with a dependency on collaborative technologies has been part of our ethos from the outset.

 

Jacob Morgan’s full article can be viewed here.

The secret behind getting 100% customer satisfaction

White Springs Customer SatisfactionDo you know organisations in the software industry guilty of letting open support tickets roll on and on, for days, weeks or even months? Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end as one of those frustrated customers.

At White Springs, we believe in putting ourselves in the customers’ shoes.

For three consecutive weeks, we’ve successfully closed, to the customer’s satisfaction, 100% of sales enablement support tickets. Customers are loving it. But how do we achieve such high standards against an industry average of just 88%?

Is it by throwing resource at support? Of course not, that’s not a sustainable business model. In fact, we’re actually below the industry standard for the ratio of support personnel to customers. Whilst we firmly believe we have stable solutions, it’s only natural for support issues to arise.

The secret of our success lies elsewhere. Not only in what we do but how we do it. Talking with our VP of Customer Support, Neil Cochrane, he points to his team consistently, ‘going above and beyond the call of duty’ and ensuring customers receive prompt, courteous and efficient service.

The customers wholeheartedly agree with feedback comments including:-

“E**** went above and beyond the standard support responsibilities to try and work out options. She’s been incredibly helpful through all of the challenges!” Infrastructure & Tools VMWare

“Issue has been resolved. Thanks for the tremendous support!” Baxter Corporation

“J** is a great resource for us. He’s always willing to lend support and provides it in the most direct and concise fashion which is greatly appreciated.” CS STARS

What’s the difference between playing Jenga and building software?

Answer – virtually none. Read on!

Post by Scott Reynolds

‘Tweaking something rather than starting from scratch’ might ring true for some but, in software development projects, it threatens chaos, disaster and the tumbling of the Jenga tower.

Software development a bit like JengaChanges to software specification, or ‘feature creep’, is one of the major causes of delay in a software project. Unlike the simplicity of editing a word document where it doesn’t make a huge difference to the final document, with code writing, each line of code maybe dependent upon ten other lines of code or values and other subsequent layers of code.

So think back to our Jenga tower, delete one block of ‘Jenga code’, just one word, one value or one command and it could be the same as removing one block too many from the tower. Crash.

The analogy also goes a long way to illustrating how last minute changes to a software project are, potentially, the most damaging.

Making scoping changes during the early specification or requirement gathering phase of a project is, of course, the cheapest, quickest and easiest point in time to do so. There are minimal knock on effects.

However, as developers begin to turn the specification document into code, the tower grows brick by brick. In the early stages of programming, just as when the tower is only a few rows high, it is relatively easy to swap and remove bricks. The tower remains robust and won’t topple easily.

However, as more and more bricks are added, the tower becomes less stable. The same is true with code. As more code is written, it becomes increasingly interlinked and dependant on its component parts.

In an ideal world, a finished piece of software, designed as per the specification, should equate to neat Jenga bricks, all stacked in 3 x 3 perpendicular rows.

But just how often does software exactly mirror the original specification?

The more realistic picture is of a tower, after several rounds, where bricks have been taken out and rearranged and with each tweak taking the tower closer to its eventual collapse. It just takes one brick and one tweak too far.

Software rarely falls gracefully. It reads down the lines of code, happily loading itself as its goes until it meets some broken code which it can either skip over and carry on or stop completely and fall over, just like the Jenga tower and its critical missing brick. Let’s remember, the greater the crash, the greater the repair cost.

The morale of our Jenga coding tale? Resist the urge to tweak late in a project. Make changes as early as possible in order to build a strong, tall coding tower and software of which we can all be proud.

Lessons from the hackathon: teamwork, teamwork, teamwork

After catching up on some much needed sleep, Team White Springs (Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott and Dan Cook) shared their thoughts on the recent, Salesforce sponsored Summer of Hacks event held in London.

Twenty six teams entered and pitched their app ideas to the amassed audience. Everyone had voting chips, but only fifteen teams made the cut to press ahead and develop their apps – Team White Springs being one of them. The team were lucky to acquire the services of Andrei in the role of pixel pusher, helping to realise the vision of the app with his graphic design skills.

Giveaways and freebies were in abundance (thanks Salesforce), but a hot topic of conversation were the White Springs t-shirts – even Salesforce badgered the team until they finally gave in and handed one or two over!

Throughout the weekend everyone was made to feel welcome and comfortable. The food was awesome and plentiful and no doubt helped to fuel some very creative development. Not all apps were sales related, and that played to the judges agenda of taking the Salesforce 1 platform to a wider audience than sales.

Did the team learn much over the course of the three days? Sure, they learnt plenty, bouncing ideas around, getting instant feedback and having an environment totally focussed on the task in hand. A key take away was absorbing and really getting to grips with the judging criteria. It wasn’t just about the coding, you needed a good presenter to pitch (on which Dan did a sterling job), you needed a great user interface (kudos to Andrei) and when coding got tough, as Dan says, “it was a case of stepping away for a few minutes and giving the coding elves time to fix it”.

Sleep was optional and the team worked through the night on Friday, catching a few zzzz’s before pitching their app on Saturday morning. They cracked on through to midnight, again catching a few hours’ sleep, before getting back to work early on Sunday morning. Sleep patterns were certainly disrupted, with Tommy suffering a bit of “jet-lag” back at the office on Monday.

Salesforce Summer of Hacks, London Team White Springs – (left to right) Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott, Dan Cook

Salesforce Summer of Hacks, London Team White Springs – (left to right) Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott, Dan Cook

The Team’s efforts were certainly noticed, with positive feedback and encouragement from Salesforce and others. In closing, the team shared a few thoughts on their lasting memories of the 2014 Summer of Hacks:

Dan: “The variety of cool people we met and worked alongside.”

Chris: “Appreciating the different skills a team needs. We all needed a Pixel Pusher, a Code Breaker and a Special Weapon. It’s not all about coding. You need a complete team.”

Tommy: “The food and Salesforce really liking our app and encouraging us to carry on with development and get it loaded onto the app store.”

So onwards and upwards Team White Springs.

Back from the hack – fuelled up on pizza and knowledge

Our intrepid hackers are home, having made it through last weekend’s Summer of Hacks. The Salesforce sponsored Hackathon in London saw teams competing to spec, design and build a variety of mobile apps centred on the Salesforce1 mobile platform.

The team did a great job delivering the pitch for their “Game of Sales” app and were rewarded when the votes were counted and their pitch came in second place.

Game of Sales has been developed as a tool to keep the sales team engaged and incentivised by unifying data and game-play to leverage Salesforce to better competitive advantage. There is a lot of data in Salesforce but the challenge is to turn it into something meaningful, make it sticky and increase adoption.

The hard work began and fuelled by copious quantities of pizza (other food groups were available) and the odd beverage, the app began to take shape, with the invaluable help and assistance from “Pixel Pusher” Andrei Toma (@ICDSarch) helping us out with graphic design.

Game of Sales - White Springs Salesforce Hackathon App Game of Sales - White Springs Salesforce Hackathon App Game of Sales - White Springs Salesforce Hackathon App

 

It wasn’t all about the food and drink though, there was ample opportunity to bounce ideas around, learn about the Salesforce1 Customer Platform and build greater knowledge of the exciting developments taking place in the market.

With coding complete, it was time to demo the app and pitch to the judges to cheers from the audience. On this occasion, the spoils of hackathon went to a worthy opponent though – not to worry, the whole experience was enjoyable and positive with a plethora of takeaways to apply back at base.

Great effort from Team White Springs: Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott, Dan Cook.

Fancy three days of sleep deprivation, pizza and coding? What the Hack!

Three intrepid White Springs developers will be heading to Shoreditch Village Hall in London, 25th – 27th July to face three days of sleep deprivation, pizza and coding.

Salesforce Summer of Hacks, London Team White Springs – (left to right) Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott, Dan Cook

Why? To join the London round of the Salesforce sponsored – ‘Summer of Hacks’. London is the final stop of the tour, which has taken in Los Angeles, Bangalore and New York. Teams are competing for a share in the $50,000 prize pot.

For those not in the know, a Hackathon is a time limited challenge between teams or individuals, usually to develop computer software over a period of just a few days – with or without sleep! Organisers will set a challenge and the entry that comes up with the best solution – in the eyes of the judges – wins the spoils.

And to keep them going, lots of pizza. Apparently developers love pizza (any developers care to confirm or deny?) and there’ll be plenty on hand this weekend. Maybe there is something in a pizza to produce better code?

So this all sounds like great fun for the developers, but is there a serious, business angle to all this? Hackathons give participants an environment where they are free from all the usual day to day business distractions, i.e. customer calls, project meetings and ringing phones. Although there’s only two days available to design, code and demonstrate, for a team of three, that’s probably about the same as ten or more regular man days of development.

Three of our most experienced developers will make up the force to be reckoned with that is: Team White Springs – Chris Castle, Thomas Elliott and Dan Cook.

When and where does all this shenanigans take place? Coding starts at 6.30pm, Friday 25th July at The Village Hall, Hoxton Square, London – the finishing klaxon will sound at 8pm on Sunday 27th – and sleep is entirely optional for a little over the 48 intervening hours.

Good luck Team White Springs and may the force of the pizza be with you.

Climbing tips for sales gurus on the vertical learning curve of technology

For those working in sales training, it can be a near vertical learning curve to get involved in the specification of software for sales tools, courseware and methodology.

From the world of sales training into the space of technology, sales training gurus find themselves in unfamiliar territory. It’s easy to see why our software developers report the ‘light bulb moments’ as methodology authors start to grasp the true potential of what can be created, often way beyond the specification phase!

Like any project, it’s imperative to manage initial expectations and developing specialist software for sales training and performance is no exception.

An accurate scoping phase can raise both eyebrows and questions, along the lines of, ‘it’s going to cost how much?’ and ‘why will it take so long?’

So why can it take so long and why can it cost so much?

Technology marches on and is becoming increasingly complex ‘behind the scenes’. Software now needs to be effectively delivered on multiple browsers and platforms, mobile devices included. It’s simply expected and such complexity is only going to increase.

Other influencing factors include integrations with one or more core business systems, such as Client Relationship Management (CRM) or legacy platforms. It all has to be taken into account and technically stitched together.

In essence, to make any software easily accessible and readily adopted, it needs to function in an eye-watering number of different scenarios which requires time and money.

Just like building a house, or perhaps a better analogy would be a tall office block, investing in the time to lay solid, supportive foundations will reap dividends later on. The cost and delay, and therefore frustration and potential working relationship breakdown, of having to go back and rebuild are in no one’s interests.

But we know it’s not easy. People don’t always know what they want until they get more deeply involved, realise what is possible and then the ‘feature creep’ starts.

So how can these types of challenge be overcome?

Put simply, use sales training technology experts.

White Springs has worked with all the world’s leading sales training and performance companies in transforming classroom training through into the everyday life of the sales professional.

We can make the vertical learning curve a lot less vertical and take sales training into the app-tastic, 21st century. Visit “What We Do” to find out more.

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