Tag Archives: Sales

The Strange Bedfellows That Make Sales AI Work

At some point, the discussion about artificial intelligence and sales is going to mature. Too many people still think AI for sales will resemble C-3PO, a bumbling assistant that gets in the way more often than not, or the Hal 9000, subverting the sales process in ways that endanger the very existence of the sales person.

As the discussions mature, and as people learn more about the somewhat arcane inner workings of AI, the reality is becoming clearer: how AI will impact sales and sales people is… complicated.

That’s mostly because the teaching of these systems — or “training,” in the AI vernacular — is done by subjecting the systems to large amounts of data. We’ve been trained by science fiction to think that all the data in the world is contained in that system — but that isn’t really the case. The data used for training must be focused on the objectives of the AI system — and that depends on humans selecting the right data.

Defining the Terms

To understand how that works, you need to understand the terminology. “Artificial intelligence,” “machine learning” and “deep learning” often are thrown about carelessly, which contributes to the general confusion about the technology.

To put it concisely, “artificial intelligence” simply refers to a machine that uses the same characteristics as human intelligence. “General AI” is the sci-fi image of the starship Enterprise’s seemingly all-knowing computer, and that is still a long way off. But “narrow AI” — artificial intelligence targeted at a discrete set of data aimed at helping people in specific roles — already plays a role in our lives.

Early AI was entirely hand-coded, with a long series of “yes-no” decision trees. “Machine learning” offers something different: the ability to use algorithms to parse data, learn from the data, and make deterministic predictions from the data. In other words, ML combines data with algorithms — in large volumes — to “train” the system to teach itself on an ongoing basis.

The next level, and the place real breakthrough work is taking place, is “deep learning.” Complex sets of algorithms make a series of many decisions about data, assigning a weight to each input. At the end of the process, they draw a conclusion based on the weightings of those decisions. The term “deep” comes from the depth of the neural networks, which must be substantial in order to simulate what human brains can do automatically and on the fly.

A DL system can learn, build on its past decisions, and become more accurate as it acquires and processes more data. To train it, data is introduced into the first layer of the network, and individual neurons assign a weighting to the input — how correct or incorrect it is — based on the task being performed. If the algorithm informs the neural network that it was wrong, the error is bounced back through the network’s layers. It then must consider other attributes and weigh the attributes examined at each higher or lower layer. Then it guesses over and over again until it has the correct weightings and gets the correct answer practically every time.

Once the neural network is properly weighted, it will have become a massive database filled with an enormous amount of weights and thresholds — the vast majority of which are not needed for any one request.

Digging through it all would slow performance to a crawl, so the network instead uses inference: taking smaller batches of real-world data and quickly coming back with the correct answer (and doing so repeatably), in a way that is simplified, compressed and optimized for runtime performance.

Over time, these models and applications should become smarter, faster and more accurate, and training will grow less cumbersome.

With this in mind, your organization already can identify the people who will play key roles in making AI a success for your sales department.

Your CIO and CFO

AI systems, with their massive data requirements, will depend on a flexible, scalable storage infrastructure. The training data is an enormous set of information, and the AI system itself will generate a tremendous amount of data that needs to be stored, managed, and fed back into the system to keep it current.

Your CIO will have to be prepared to build and manage what is known as “a scale-out storage infrastructure” — that is, an infinitely scalable system that can grow easily in response to needs. Object storage is a good option for this, since it’s scalable and can be managed as a single namespace even when its nodes are spread all over the world.

If you’re going to build this infrastructure — and bring on new AI technologies — it also will be necessary for your CFO to understand your investments and be OK with investments in tools — both hardware and software — to deal with an explosion in data.

Your Head of Sales Operations

Sales Ops increasingly is becoming the keeper of insights pulled from data via analytics. It’s becoming sales ops’ job to know which data about sales is the most important, and how to use it. That puts them in an ideal position to know the best sets of data to use to train the AI system.

Data from all aspects of sales — from CRM data to compensation management to sales training and enablement to configure price quote (CPQ) — can and should be part of what’s used for training AI. The key question is, what do you want AI to do for your sales team?

It may be a better bet to use a narrow set of data at first to deliver specific results than to try and build some all-knowing sales AI. If that’s the decision, then it’s up to sales ops to figure out the best data sets to provide for the training process.

Your Salespeople

AI does not sell by itself. People still buy from people. Your sales team ultimately will be the ones who determine the success of any AI efforts. Will they know the right questions to ask the system to generate useful insights? Do they have the skills to weave information pushed forward by AI into the conversations they have with customers? At a more basic level, will they have the desire to adopt the system, or will they simply ignore it?

Salespeople have proven adept at ignoring powerful sales technology in the past; if members of your team have internalized that skepticism of technology, you’ll need to work hard to make sure they aren’t left behind.

Furthermore, once they are using the system, salespeople have to maintain communications with sales ops or whoever is put in charge of the AI application to help eliminate wrong answers when they sneak through — and they invariably will.

A sales team that has to work around the occasional mistaken recommendation and doesn’t feel sufficiently engaged to help remedy the situation is likely to stop using AI entirely.

The most important attribute of the sales team ultimately centers on sales talent. Will your salespeople know how to ask for the right data from AI, and then will they know how to present that data to the customer in a way that advances the sale? Sales is still, ultimately, a human interaction. AI merely provides key advice along the way.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that the individuals on the AI vendor or integrator’s team are the make-or-break people for your sales AI. The reality is that AI will challenge your sales team’s communication skills, and force people to partner in ways that they may not yet be comfortable. To deliver success, artificial intelligence may well depend on your team’s natural intelligence.
end enn The Strange Bedfellows That Make Sales AI Work

Chris%20Bucholtz The Strange Bedfellows That Make Sales AI WorkChris Bucholtz has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2009. His focus is on CRM, sales and marketing software, and the interface between people and technology. A noted speaker and author, Chris has covered the CRM space for 10 years.
Email Chris.

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AI And Machine Learning In Sales: Everything You Need To Know For The Future

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and its ability to perform human tasks accelerates exponentially, we’re finally seeing some attempts to wrestle with what that means, not just for business, but for humanity as a whole.

From the first stone ax to the printing press to the latest ERP solution, technology that reduces or even eliminates physical and mental effort is as old as the human race itself. However, that doesn’t make each step forward any less uncomfortable for the people whose work is directly affected – and the rise of AI is qualitatively different from past developments.

Until now, we developed technology to handle specific routine tasks. A human needed to break down complex processes into their component tasks, determine how to automate each of those tasks, and finally create and refine the automation process. AI is different. Because AI can evaluate, select, act, and learn from its actions, it can be independent and self-sustaining.

278038 278038 h srgb s gl 1024x683 AI And Machine Learning In Sales: Everything You Need To Know For The FutureSome people, like investor/inventor Elon Musk and Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma, are focusing intently on how AI will impact the labor market. It’s going to do far more than eliminate repetitive manual jobs like warehouse picking. Any job that involves routine problem-solving within existing structures, processes, and knowledge is ripe for handing over to a machine. Indeed, jobs like customer service, travel planning, medical diagnostics, stock trading, real estate, and even clothing design are already increasingly automated.

As for more complex problem-solving, we used to think it would take computers decades or even centuries to catch up to the nimble human mind, but we underestimated the exponential explosion of deep learning. IBM’s Watson trounced past Jeopardy champions in 2011 – and just last year, Google’s DeepMind AI beat the reigning European champion at Go, a game once thought too complex for even the most sophisticated computer.

Where does AI leave human?

This raises an urgent question for the future: How do human beings maintain our economic value in a world in which AI will keep getting better than us at more and more things?

The concept of the technological singularity – the point at which machines attain superhuman intelligence and permanently outpace the human mind – is based on the idea that human thinking can’t evolve fast enough to keep up with technology. However, the limits of human performance have yet to be found. It’s possible that people are only at risk of lagging behind machines because nothing has forced us to test ourselves at scale.

Other than a handful of notable individual thinkers, scientists, and artists, most of humanity has met survival-level needs through mostly repetitive tasks. Most people don’t have the time or energy for higher-level activities. But as the human race faces the unique challenge of imminent obsolescence, we need to think of those activities not as luxuries, but as necessities. As technology replaces our traditional economic value, the economic system may stop attaching value to us entirely unless we determine the unique value humanity offers – and what we can and must do to cultivate the uniquely human skills that deliver that value.

Honing the human advantage

As a species, humans are driven to push past boundaries, to try new things, to build something worthwhile, and to make a difference. We have strong instincts to explore and enjoy novelty and risk – but according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, these instincts crumble if we don’t cultivate them.

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AI is brilliant at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data. What it can’t do is deduce the existence, or even the possibility, of information it isn’t already aware of. It can’t imagine radical new products and business models. Or ask previously unconceptualized questions. Or envision unimagined opportunities and achievements. AI doesn’t even have common sense! As theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says, a robot doesn’t know that water is wet or that strings can pull but not push. Nor can robots engage in what Kaku calls “intellectual capitalism” – activities that involve creativity, imagination, leadership, analysis, humor, and original thought.

At the moment, though, we don’t generally value these so-called “soft skills” enough to prioritize them. We expect people to develop their competency in emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, curiosity, critical thinking, and persistence organically, as if these skills simply emerge on their own given enough time. But there’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

Lessons in being human

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level – and to do so not just as soon as possible, but as early as possible.

Singularity University chairman Peter Diamandis, for example, advocates revamping the elementary school curriculum to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and persistence. He envisions a curriculum that, among other things, teaches kids to communicate, ask questions, solve problems with creativity, empathy, and ethics, and accept failure as an opportunity to try again. These concepts aren’t necessarily new – Waldorf and Montessori schools have been encouraging similar approaches for decades – but increasing automation and digitization make them newly relevant and urgent.

274686 274686 h ergb s gl 1024x681 AI And Machine Learning In Sales: Everything You Need To Know For The FutureThe Mastery Transcript Consortium is approaching the same problem from the opposite side, by starting with outcomes. This organization is pushing to redesign the secondary school transcript to better reflect whether and how high school students are acquiring the necessary combination of creative, critical, and analytical abilities. By measuring student achievement in a more nuanced way than through letter grades and test scores, the consortium’s approach would inherently require schools to reverse-engineer their curricula to emphasize those abilities.

Most critically, this isn’t simply a concern of high-tuition private schools and “good school districts” intended to create tomorrow’s executives and high-level knowledge workers. One critical aspect of the challenge we face is the assumption that the vast majority of people are inevitably destined for lives that don’t require creativity or critical thinking – that either they will somehow be able to thrive anyway or their inability to thrive isn’t a cause for concern. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, which means that everyone will need help acquiring them. For humanitarian, political, and economic reasons, we cannot just write off a large percentage of the population as disposable.

In the end, anything an AI does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique human abilities into account. Why would we want to give up our humanity in favor of letting machines determine whether or not an action or idea is valuable? Instead, while we let artificial intelligence get better at being what it is, we need to get better at being human. That’s how we’ll keep coming up with groundbreaking new ideas like jazz music, graphic novels, self-driving cars, blockchain, machine learning – and AI itself.

Read the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.

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Tips for Organizing Workflows in Dynamics 365 for Sales

Organizing Workflows 300x225 Tips for Organizing Workflows in Dynamics 365 for Sales

If you are using workflows to help control data and processes in Dynamics 365, you may end up having several workflows for a specific entity, like Opportunity. Also, you may have several workflows that are child workflows of a specific workflow trigger, for example, On Create of a record or On Change of a specific field.

It is a good idea to name the workflow in a way that describes what it does in broad terms like “Assign Opportunity to Owner of the Account.” But what if this was a child workflow to a workflow that started On Create of the Opportunity that looked at other criteria before determining to assign the opportunity to the Account owner? In this case, we recommend using a naming and numbering convention to group Parent-Child workflows together so that when looking at a list of workflows the user can see which ones are related to each other and under what trigger.

Another recommendation is to include the entity name or an abbreviation of the entity name near the beginning when naming the workflow. This is because when doing solution deployments from a development environment to a test or production environment, the selection list for Processes (workflows) doesn’t show to which entity the process is related, and when you have dozens of processes to look through this becomes very helpful.

Additionally, for entities that have multiple processes based on different triggers, including the event trigger in the name is helpful.

Finally, knowing the sequence within a group of related workflows is a good idea, so some form of a numbering system can help when included in the naming.

For example, let’s say we have a set of steps that we want to happen within each stage of an opportunity. For each new stage, we could set the opportunity probability and perhaps assign some tasks and send emails. The tasks and emails may be broken out into child workflows called from a parent workflow.

This diagram shows how a set of parent-child workflows might be related.

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This is how one might name such a group of related workflows to keep them organized:

Parent Workflow that is triggered when the opportunity stage changes: Opp On Chg Stage 1.0

First child workflow called from parent: Opp On Chg Stage 1.1 – Stage 1 send email and set probability

Next child workflow: Opp On Chg Stage 1.2 – Stage 2 send email, assign task and set probability

And so on.

Your Process View List, when sorted on Name, might then look like this:
Opp On Chg Stage 1.0

Opp On Chg Stage 1.1 – Stage 1 send email and set probability (child to 1.0)

Opp On Chg Stage 1.2 – Stage 2 send email, assign task and set probability (child to 1.0)
Opp On Chg Stage 1.3 – Stage 3 send email, set probability, assign to closing department (child to 1.0)

Opp On Chg Stage 1.3.1 – send email (child to 1.3)

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If you create workflows that update or “fix” records in Dynamics 365 manually (on demand) or perform other types of administrative functions, I call those “Utility” workflows and they are usually limited to a specific administrator user. To keep them separate from other workflows, prefix them with the word “Utility”: or “Util:”. For example: “Util: Fix Opportunity Probability”.

You will find that if you put a little thought into how you name you workflows, it will make your work much easier whenever you or someone else who did not originally create the workflows might need to go back and research or modify them.

For more helpful tips and tricks check out our blog!

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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How to Use CRM for Sales Enablement

gettyimages 534827625 e1510935521779 How to Use CRM for Sales Enablement

Despite the name, most CRM solutions today go beyond the basics of customer relationship management. In fact, your CRM solution might prove to be the second most valuable part of your sales process—with your sales team taking the top honor.

This is due to the fact that a CRM solution configured for sales enablement can provide insight into your sales process, the effectiveness of your sales team, a centralized hub for sales content, and more.

Such knowledge can help your team make more informed sales decisions and better engage with customers and potential customers. So how can you leverage your CRM to improve your sales performance and create a sales enablement strategy that delivers?

Develop an Insight Driven Sales Workflow

One of the most useful features of a CRM solution is that it provides a wealth of historical data. Analysis of the data can help you better understand the average length of your organization’s sales cycle and create sales forecasting reports to inform future decisions.

This data can also reveal the top lead sources as well as the most successful sales tactics. Using this information, you can create a sales workflow that is both scalable and repeatable. You can then you use the workflow to train new sales team members and implement a sales strategy that enable them to succeed time and time again.

Provide Resources to Better Engage Customers

As with marketing, content is a valuable asset when it comes to sales. That means that developing a hub of great sales content and marketing materials is essential to a solid sales enablement strategy.

There two types of content your sales team should have at their disposal: customer facing content (e.g., presentations, white papers, and case studies) and internal content (e.g., sales scripts and product sheets). Your CRM is the perfect solution—accessible and directly connected to actual leads and opportunities. This tight integration allows your sales team to be ready to deliver at all stages of the sales cycle.

Automate and Customize Communications

No matter what your organization sells, the customer experience should be the cornerstone of all sales communication and outreach. That means ensuring that the content your team delivers is timely and relevant to the needs of the customer.

A CRM solution used to support a sales enablement strategy provides the perfect tool for maintaining an automated and customized communications workflow. The integration of your CRM with an email marketing solution allows you to create automated sequences that send customized emails at key junctions in the sales process. With the data you gather from each sent email, you can better determine how to engage customers at every stage of the sales cycle.

The sales landscape is constantly evolving. Configuring your CRM solution as a sales enablement tool can help your sales team successfully navigate this changing tide. With the data from your CRM, your organization can create a sales workflow that can help optimize sales performance and effectively engage customers.

This will equip your sales team with the tools and resources to spend more time on achieving business gains—and less time on administrative duties. It’s definitely an investment worth making.

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How Microsoft’s Acquisition of LinkedIn is Revolutionizing the Sales Game for Dynamics 365 Users

LinkedIn Plus D365 300x225 How Microsoft’s Acquisition of LinkedIn is Revolutionizing the Sales Game for Dynamics 365 Users

As Microsoft continues to reinvent itself and forge ahead as THE leader in the business apps ecosystem, one of the developments that stands out as a source of great excitement for all Dynamics users is the new integration with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Today’s blog will outline a few of the benefits that we are most excited about!

Identify Higher Quality Leads/Build Better Pipeline

The Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn integration brings troves of valuable information found within LinkedIn profiles, right into Dynamics 365. Now, salespeople can tap into their professional networks and relationships to create a pipeline that they have better insight into than ever before possible.

Icebreakers: By viewing a person’s LinkedIn highlights, activities, and more, salespeople will be able to come up with more relevant icebreakers to get the conversation going and go into meetings with more confidence.

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Get Introduced: By viewing LinkedIn connections, salespeople will be able to find the best channel for an introduction.

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Related Leads: This integration will also give salespeople suggestions for potential leads, by highlighting leads with similar profiles.

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Stay on top of Activities

inMail and regular messages exchanged through LinkedIn can be selectively synchronized to Dynamics as specialized LinkedIn activities. LinkedIn notes can also be selectively synchronized to their corresponding Contact and Account entities on Dynamics.

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Exciting stuff right?! And this is only the beginning. Microsoft is heavily investing on continuing to enhance the innovation to this exciting integration. To get the connector for Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn on AppSource, click here.

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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AI Integrations Help Sort Out Sales Signals

Clari, which develops software focusing on the opportunity-to-close, or OTC, process, plans to announce integrations with DocuSign, Clearslide and Xactly on Wednesday at Dreamforce 2017 in San Francisco.

Clari’s artificial-intelligence-powered OTC platform already integrates Google and Microsoft email and calendar activity, which gives sales teams immediate knowledge of sales reps’ and prospects’ behavior.

The new integrations will give sales reps insights into the following:

  • the degree to which a prospect engages with files, documents and presentations;
  • when prospects engage with documents, as well as the overall activity around files shared with them; and
  • how forecasted opportunities will impact their sales commissions.

“There’s probably no stronger signal when you send a document and see there’s no engagement with it,” said Clari CMO David Karel.

“For example, a sales rep might think a (US)$ 100,000 deal will close this quarter — but through Clari, the sales manager can see there’s no comments on this,” he told CRM Buyer.

Clari already gives users real-time insights at any given moment during the quarter, and lets users view all of their business activity using a single configurable dashboard.

“Even early in the quarter, we can help sales organizations forecast what the sales numbers will be, Karel said.

The integrations with Docusign and Clearslide “will give access to more buyer signals,” he noted. “There’s all this other buyer behavior locked up in other systems, like Docusign and Clearslide, that we can now unlock and give sales reps more access to.”

More importantly, that information will be given in the context of the workflow, Karel pointed out. “That way, a sales manager has that extra signal to see the nature of the deal. It’s not about putting 100 reports in front of you — it’s about a focused feed of relevant information.”

Enhancing Salesforce’s Abilities

Clari’s product is a Software as a Service offering that “integrates very elegantly with Salesforce,” Karel said.

“One hundred percent of our customers today are on Salesforce, which means they get value by adding Clari on top of Salesforce to help them with pipeline inspection and better forecasts,” he noted.

Clari is “more of a prospect miner than a CRM platform, although there’s a lot of overlap, especially since Salesforce went down the AI rabbit hole [with Einstein],” observed Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“It’s more about seeing the opportunities in the CRM dataset,” he told CRM Buyer.

CRM packages are “limited fundamentally by reps providing information, which is always a struggle,” Karel said. “We’re not constrained to CRM information. From the early days, we were getting additional information from other systems like email and calendar, and we’re really just scratching the surface.”

Clari and AI

AI “is the core of our platform,” Karel said. “We have in-house data scientists that are really putting in very practical applications with AI.”

Clari has more than 100 sales organizations that use its practical applications of AI, he noted.

Among those applications is opportunity scoring. “We look at patterns that drive the likelihood of winning or losing [a sale],” said Karel.

“We’re seeing increased attention on sales-enablement platforms,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“The rise of AI has driven new and unproved capabilities and new vendors,” she told CRM Buyer.

Many of these apps are being marketed as add-ons to CRM, “because it’s an easier sale than replacing an existing sales force automation package,” Wettemann observed, “but many also have core SFA capabilities as well.”

While CRM vendors such as Salesforce offer their own AI-driven sales performance management features, niche players like Clari “often offer tools at a lower price,” noted Wettemann, “with more prepackaged capabilities than the big vendors, which means less time-consuming admin work to set up.”
end enn AI Integrations Help Sort Out Sales Signals

Richard%20Adhikari AI Integrations Help Sort Out Sales SignalsRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Tips and Tricks for Deploying and Managing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales and Service – Ignite 2017

Here are the tips that we shared as part of our interactive discussion at Ignite 2017 around Deploying and Managing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales and Service.

We wanted to share them in a blog article to those who attended (to reduce the need for notes), for those who could not attend, and help reduce our own need for more PowerPoint slides. For those in attendance, feel free to ask any questions during the last 45-60 minutes of our session, or come find is in the hallways at Ignite. For those of you who couldn’t attend please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll do our best to reply in a timely manner.

1.       Review new features and functionality

·         Review what new features are available that you can leverage in the latest Dynamics 365 version and use this information to build a business case to migrate or update to the next version

·         What customizations can be retired in favor of out of the box configurations

                                                               i.      Example: Retiring certain JavaScript in favor of Business Rules

·         What’s New: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/what-s-new.aspx

·         Important changes coming in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/get-started/whats-new/customer-engagement/important-changes-coming

·         CRM Roadmap: http://crmroadmap.dynamics.com


2.       Data Migration Strategy

·         What data and features actually needs to move to Dynamics 365

·         Data Loader for Microsoft Dynamics 365: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/lcs/2015/10/22/preview-feature-data-loader-for-microsoft-dynamics-crm-online                                                              

·         Other options include: Dedicated ETL tools (multiple platforms), SSIS adapters, and usage of .NET libraries such as the PFE Core Library or just the Dynamics 365 SDK assemblies

·         CRM on-premises to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement Migration Tool – Session on Friday morning at 9:00AM in OCCC W207 AB


3.       ISV Solutions

·         Review current requirements and if there is no Out Of The Box solution you can consider ISV solutions that may meet your needs.  Microsoft AppSource is your starting point for finding ISV solutions.  Contact the specific ISV’s to confirm their solution works with the latest Dynamics 365 version.

4.       Federation with Active Directory

·         A benefit of Dynamics 365 being part of Office 365 is the shared identity configuration, therefore Dynamics 365 can support capabilities in Azure AD such as:

·         Conditional Access –  https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt750484.aspx

·         Group Based Licensing – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/active-directory-licensing-whatis-azure-portal

·         Azure AD Connect – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/active-directory-aadconnect 


5.       Integrations: Review current and planned – common approaches include:

·         Logic Apps can now be notified by Dynamics 365 (online) and may talk back into Dynamics 365 (online): https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/connectors-create-api-crmonline 

·         Microsoft Flow: https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/

·         Microsoft PowerApps: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/introducing-dynamics-365-home-the-new-way-for-users-to-discover-and-launch-apps-built-with-powerapps/

·         Service Bus Integration:

                                                               i.      Previous version of service bus limited (CRM 5.0 – 8.0)

                                                             ii.      Updated service bus starting CRM 2016 Update 1 (CRM 8.1 and higher) https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg334766.aspx

·         Other tools including ISV online hosted integrations

6.       Outlook Integration

·         Consider your current Outlook integration and if the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook will work for your organization. 

·         Deploy Dynamics 365 App for Outlook: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn946901.aspx

·         Dynamics 365 App for Outlook User’s Guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/crm-app-for-outlook-user-s-guide-lightweight-app.aspx

·         CRM for Outlook has been deprecated in the v9 release: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/crm/2017/08/08/deprecation-of-dynamics-365-for-outlook

7.       Email Options

·         It’s strongly recommended that you use Server Side Sync as we have deprecated the legacy CRM E-mail Router.

·         Supported E-mail service configurations for server-side synchronization: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn531050.aspx

·         Set up server-side synchronization of email, appointments, contacts, and tasks: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn531109.aspx     


8.       Reporting Strategy

·         SQL Reports against the transactional database are not possible with Dynamics 365 (online).  Existing SSRS reports should be updated to use FetchXML

·         This is also a perfect opportunity to look at self-service BI options like PowerBI

·         Synchronizing data to an enterprise data warehouse

·         Data Export Service: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt788315.aspx

·         Microsoft Dynamics 365 Reporting Considerations: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn792525.aspx


9.       Mobility Solutions

·         Review your current mobility solutions or requirements for mobility with Dynamics 365

·         There is an app for Dynamics 365 for Tablets & Dynamics 365 for Phones available on Windows, Apple and Android

·         Mobile customization tips:

                                                               i.      Same form is now used for web, tablet and phone

                                                             ii.      Supported custom javascript will work as expected

·         Dynamics 365 for Phones and Tablets User’s Guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/crm-for-phones-and-tablets-user-s-guide.aspx

·        Setup Dynamics 365 for phones and Tablets: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/dn531128.aspx

·        Customize Dynamics 365 for phones Tablets: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn531159.aspx

·        Mobile offline: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/work-offline-in-dynamics-365-for-phones-and-tablets.aspx

10.   Dynamics 365 Updates

·         Customer Driven Updates (CDU)

                                                               i.      Review the information in the Updates page in the Dynamics 365 (online) Administration Center (https://portal.office.com > Admin centers > Dynamics 365 > Updates tab) to find out what instances are ready to update, and the schedule.

                                                             ii.      Approve the update.  If you do not approve the update, Microsoft will not apply the update. 

·         Service updates are applied to your Dynamics 365 (online) instances and communications are posted in the Office 365 Message Center and are visible by O365 Global Admins and Dynamics 365 Service Administrators

·        Manage Microsoft Dynamics 365 (online) Updates: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn308237.aspx

·        Manage Microsoft Dynamics 365 (online) Service Updates: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2925359/microsoft-dynamics-crm-online-releases


11.   Sandbox vs. Production Instances

·         There are two different types of instances in Dynamics 365 (online).  Production organizations are meant for production deployments and most organizations will only have 1 or 2 production instances.  Sandbox organizations are used for development purposes and customers commonly have 1 or more sandbox organizations.

·         Sandbox organizations offer additional management features such as Reset, Admin Mode and Delete.

·         All organizations are on the same hardware and treated as Production instances

·         Manage Dynamics 365 (online) instances: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn659833.aspx

12.  Dynamics 365 (online) Backup & Restore functionality

·        On demand backup\restore

·        Available for 3 days

·        Does not count against your storage limits

·        Backup\Restore to Azure Storage coming soon!

·        https://technet.microsoft.com/library/mt748060.aspx

13.  Dynamics 365 Administrators, Dynamics 365 Service Administrators & Office 365 Global Admins

·     Dynamics 365 Administrators can manage instances in the Dynamics 365 Admin Center

·     Dynamics 365 Administrators, Dynamics 365 Service Administrators and O365 Global Admins will receive Dynamics 365 notifications and communications

·     Dynamics 365 Service Administrators can provision new instances

·     Office 365 Global Administrators are needed to approve e-mail addresses if the e-mail address changed since syncing from AAD

·     New users e-mail addresses are automatically approved now.  Note: This is a new change added update a few weeks ago

·     Administering Dynamics 365: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn531101.aspx

·     Dynamics 365 Service Administrator: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt793847.aspx


14.   Online Management API for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

·        https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/developer/online-management-api/

·        Support for: Backup\Restore, Create\Delete Instance, Enable\Disable Admin Mode, Create\Enable\Disable Tenant App Identities, Retrieve Instance Information and Status

·        2 Theater Sessions on Wednesday: 10:20AM Expo Theater #9 & 12:35PM Hyatt Regency Theater – Level 1


15.   Organization Insights

·        View metrics about your instance with Organization Insights dashboard     

·        Active Users, Filter by User (added in release on 9/20/17), Specific Operations, Total Page Requests, etc.         

·        Available on AppSource: https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/dynamics-365/mscrm.04931187-431c-415d-8777-f7f482ba8095?tab=Overview


16.   Deprecation of SOAP Service & Support for WebAPI & OAuth

·        If you use the CRM SDK .NET client libraries: CALL TO ACTION: Update to the latest SDK libraries (8.1 or higher). These will eventually start to use the WebApi under the covers – no need        to write a custom http client.

·        If you authenticate with CRM via non-.NET languages: Java, Python, Ruby, etc. CALL TO ACTION: migrate SOON over to using ADAL which will use oAuth. 

·        Planned: starting in the next major release of CRM WebApi will be the supported endpoint

·        CRM 2011 wcf/soap service has been declared deprecated – no, it’s not going to disappear in the near term but it’s a signal to all developers to start migrating

·        If you use the .NET SDK libraries you can keep using these.

·        https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/crm/2016/06/17/deprecation-announcements-with-dynamics-crm-online-2016-update-1-and-microsoft-dynamics-crm-2016-service-pack-1

17.   Microsoft Dynamics 365 UI Automation Library (EasyRepro)

·        The purpose of this library is to provide Dynamics customers the ability to facilitate automated UI testing for their projects.

·        http://aka.ms/EasyRepro


We really enjoy hearing all of the success stories about how you are leveraging Dynamics 365 products to accelerate and grow your business success!  We also enjoy hearing about any challenges you are having with your deployment and how we can help make it successful with our Premier Field Engineering Services and our Microsoft Consulting Services.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at Ignite 2017!

Shawn Dieken & Sean McNellis

Follow the conversation:
@sdieken and @seanmcne
@pfedynamics | http://www.pfedynamics.com

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Dynamics CRM in the Field

Einstein Tries Sales Forecasting

When Salesforce unveiled sales forecasting with its artificial intelligence tool, Einstein, my immediate reaction was that it should have tried something easier — like solving global warming. Really, a sales forecast that bears some resemblance to reality has been a grail quest for all of us for many years, and Salesforce is not the first software company to throw its hat in the ring.

salesforce einstein Einstein Tries Sales Forecasting

On reflection, it’s not that the company should have tackled an easier problem, but that the success of a sales forecast is inversely proportional to the amount of human involvement in producing it. Because Einstein relies on AI and historical data, I can give it a higher probability of success than many other methods.

Avoiding Forecasting Pitfalls

You know a forecast is in trouble when it gets downloaded to a spreadsheet. Once optimism gets injected in the form of a spreadsheet jockey, you can abandon all hope. Not to be cruel, but the human brain is adept at playing tricks on itself and simultaneously assuring itself that it is not. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Economics Prize for figuring that out on the way to initiating the study of behavioral economics.

At any rate, that is exactly what Einstein Forecasting does not do. It is automated, and it gets human optimism out of the way and analyzes real historical data. It also compares present data about a deal with the history of a sales rep’s earlier deals to derive an understanding of where a deal is in its progression.

However, my experience is that this route really, really needs to include a sales process or model of how “we sell our stuff.”

Specifically, other AI systems have made discoveries, like higher rates of closure on deals where the budget owner/decision maker is involved in a demo, just to pick an easy example. It would be great if the AI system took that kind of history into account rather than simply discovering that one rep sandbags and another is overly optimistic.

Opportunity Scoring

It seems as though Einstein does. It is fully automated and able to understand process and key factors like seasonality, according to the company, and that’s great. Perhaps more important than the forecast at the end of a sales cycle is a less well-advertised capability, called “Einstein Opportunity Scoring,” that does exactly what you’d expect from such a product.

Getting the score right on a new opportunity does some valuable things. For instance, it focuses the rep on the best deals, not necessarily the easiest, and that automatically will make for a better pipeline that is easier to forecast.

You might think that opportunity scoring is a no brainer but it’s not; sales reps can waste a lot of time and resources chasing deals that will never close.

My Conclusion

To demonstrate how important all of this is for Salesforce, the corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures, also announced a US$ 50 million innovation fund to promote development of increasingly better AI functionality on its platform.

Salesforce has broadened its outreach beyond traditional CRM in the last few years, and it now boasts applications in multiple subspecialties and vertical markets, like media and finance.

Einstein is a broad-based tool that can be applied to benefit almost any business or process. While this has been the year of Einstein, in which all elements of the portfolio have begun receiving an AI assist, it’s good to see the company paying attention to its CRM roots.

Forecasting and opportunity scoring are two of the more difficult challenges that we’ve faced in CRM, and it’s good that they’re receiving attention.
end enn Einstein Tries Sales Forecasting

Denis%20Pombriant Einstein Tries Sales ForecastingDenis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

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CRM Buyer

Improve Sales, Marketing, SEO and more with Sales Call Analysis

blog title rethink podcast amit bendov 351x200 Improve Sales, Marketing, SEO and more with Sales Call Analysis

This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

Michelle Huff: What are people trying to learn from analyzing all these sales conversations?

Amit Bendov: Sales is a pretty complex craft. There’s a lot of things that you need to do right. Anything from being a good listener, to asking the right questions at the right time, to making sure that you uncover customer problems, that you create a differentiated value proposition in their minds, to make sure you have concrete action items. So, there’s quite a lot to learn. And then there’s also product and industry specific knowledge. For example, if you hire a news salesperson at Act-On, and first they need to be good salespeople; second, they need to understand marketing automation, they need to understand the industry, they need to understand competitive differentiation.

So, all those things are little skills that Gong identifies how are you doing and how you compare against some of the best reps in your company. And then it starts coaching either by providing you feedback or a manager feedback, and improving your reps so you can become better at all these little things, becoming a better listener, asking better questions, and becoming a better closer.

Although we sell primarily to the sales team, the product marketing and marketing teams are also big fans, because you can see if there are new messages that are being rolled out, and are customers responding to the new messages, are we telling the story right. What are customers asking about, both from a marketing and sales perspective, but also from a product, which features they like, which features they don’t like, which features they like about our competitors. So, it’s a great insight tool for marketeers and product guys.

Michelle: What do you think we could learn from unsuccessful sales calls?

Amit: I’m a believer we could learn more from successful calls. There are fewer ways to succeed than ways to fail. So, learning from what works is usually more powerful. But we all have our failures. And nobody’s perfect. Even some of the better calls have lots of areas to improve. One of the first things that people notice is the listen to talk ratio. And one of the things Gong measures is how much time you’re speaking on a call versus how much time the prospect is speaking. The optimal ratio, if you’re curious, is 46 percent. So, the salesperson is speaking for 46 percent of the time of the call and the prospect’s filling in the rest.

A lot of the sales reps – especially, the new hires – tend to speak as much as 80 percent of the time. Maybe it’s because they’re insecure, maybe they feel they need to push more. And that’s almost never a good idea.

Michelle: That’s such a good feedback loop. Forty six percent, that’s a good ratio, right? It’s not not saying anything at all, but letting them do the majority of talking. That’s interesting.

Amit: It is like a Fitbit for sales calls. Once people see that feedback, it’s pretty easy to cure: ‘Oh my God, I spoke for 85 percent.’ And then they start setting personal goals to bring it down. And because they get feedback on every call, every time, it’s pretty easy to fix this problem.

Michelle: What are certain keywords when it comes to customer timelines that you train people to look for?

Amit: One of the things we’ve analyzed, and we ran these on a very large number of calls, is what’s a reliable response to the question regarding the time of the project. If a salesperson would ask a customer, when would you like to be live? And there’s a range of options. We found the word “probably,” as in probably mid-February, is a pretty good indicator that they’re serious about it. We don’t know exactly why. But I mean we can only guess that maybe they’ve taken their response more seriously. Versus “like we need this yesterday,” or “we have to have it tomorrow,” which are not really thoughtful answers. Or obviously, “well, maybe sometime next year,” which is very loose. So, the word probably is actually a pretty good indicator that the deal, if it happens, it doesn’t mean that it will close, but if it will, it will probably happen on that timeframe.

Michelle: That is super insightful. Because it’s almost counterintuitive. You’d think that if you hear the word probably, it wouldn’t, they’re not very firm.

Amit: Here’s another interesting one. A lot of the sales managers and coaches are obsessed with filler words, things like you know, like, basically. And sometimes they would drive the salespeople nuts with trying to bring down their filler word portions. And what we’ve found, we analyzed a large number of calls, and tried to see if there’s an impact on close rates, in calls where there are a lot of filler words and calls where there are not a lot of filler words. And we found absolutely zero correlation between the words and success. So, my advice to our listener, just don’t worry about it. Just say what you like. It doesn’t make a big difference. Or at least there is no proof that it makes a difference.

And my theory that it’s more annoying when you listen to it in a recording versus in a live conversation. Because in a live conversation, both you and the customer are focused on the conversation and trying to understand what’s going on, and you don’t pay attention to those filler words. But when you listen to a recording, they’re much more prominent.

Michelle: I think at the end of the day, if there’s a connection, people are buying from people. I feel like those are all things where it’s good feedback, where you can just improve on how you up your game across the board on all your conversations.

Amit: Absolutely. You shine a light on this huge void that is sales conversation, what’s happening in conversation, just how people see clearly the data, versus just rely on opinions, or self-perception, or subjective opinions on what is actually happening.

Michelle: We talked a lot about the sales use case. What are some of the other areas we can use Gong? How about customer success?

Amit: Almost all of our customers now use it for customer success as well. Again, here’s where you want to know what the customers are thinking. Are we taking good care of them? Are we saying the right things? What is it like, which customers are unhappy with our service, what do we need to improve? So that again shines a light on how customers feel. Because without that, all you have is really some usage metrics and KPIs and surveys that are important, but don’t tell the complete story. What people actually tell you, I mean you could have customers that use the product a lot and are not very thrilled with your product. Or customers that don’t use it as much as you think that they should be, but they’re very excited. So definitely Gong is used for customer service in almost all of our customers.

Here is another interesting application. I know a lot of our audience are marketers. A lot of what we do in marketing has to do with messages. First is like how we describe the product. So, you can learn a lot about it from what your customers say, not what your salespeople are saying. But if you listen to real customer calls, I mean existing user, and you’ll hear how they describe the product, this is probably a very good language for you to use. If you listen to enough calls, you can get a theme that will help you explain your product better.

You might have heard that I’ve used ‘shine a light on your sales conversation.’ I didn’t make this up. We’ve interviewed 20 VPs of sales that use the product. And we looked at what are the common themes they use when they describe the product. And this came from them. So, it’s a great messaging research tool.

The other application you could use Gong for is SEO and SEM. Usually one of the first things people will say when they join an introductory call is, we’re looking for “X.” That “X” might not be what’s on your website, or how you describe your product. If you listen to a lot of calls and use their own words, those are the words you want to bid on or optimize for. Because that will drive a lot of traffic. And this is what people really search for and not the words you would normally use in your website. We do that, too.

Michelle: In our conversation, you’re bringing up your research and the insights you’re able to gain. Having these research reports seems to be a key part of your marketing and brand awareness. How do you leverage these research reports? What are you doing? And how is it helping?

Amit: We identify that’s the key strategic marketing capability that we’re going to be counting on. Something that people have not seen before, so it’s like the first pictures from the Hubble telescope. OK, so here’s what the universe looks like. Or the first pictures of the Titanic. This is what it really looks like and that’s where it lies. So, we’re doing the same thing for sales conversations. It’s something that people are very passionate about. There’s some 10,000 books on Amazon on how to sell. But nobody really has the facts. So, we identified this as an opportunity.

And we’re trying to do things that are interesting and useful. We try to keep it short. We take a small chunk, we investigate it, we publish the results, and try to make sure that whatever we do it’s something that people have at least some takeaway. So, it’s both interesting and immediately be applicable to what they do.

That does generate activity on social media. We get hundreds of likes per post. We get press from it. Some of it got published on Business Insider, and Forbes, and it drives a lot of traffic. Plus, it’s in line with our message, shining the light on your sales conversation. We do get a lot of people coming into sales calls, ‘Hey, I read this blog on LinkedIn, this is very fascinating about how much I should be talking, what kind of questions I want to apply to my own team, which is what we sell.’

Michelle: I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

Amit: My pleasure, Michelle. I had a lot of fun. Thank you.

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Act-On Blog

4 Tips for a Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment

gettyimages 622324734 4 Tips for a Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing. While both departments are almost always working toward the same overarching goals, they’re not always integrated or working together seamlessly. In some cases, organizations will devote time and energy to only one of these departments, without approaching the two functions as equally valuable. Below, we’ll go over some important tips to keep in mind when beginning the process of creating and sustaining a successful sales and marketing-aligned organization.

Goals alignment

As aforementioned, the goals of sales and marketing are almost always the same. At the end of the day, both areas of your organization are trying to accomplish company growth. And that objective can’t just be done by the sales team, and it can’t just be done by marketing alone. Both parties need to be integrated and work together to accomplish growth.

Another common goal between the two departments is lead generation and lead development. While marketing is commonly viewed as the go-to when it comes to bringing in leads, it also lies in the hands of hardworking inside and outside sales reps to fill the sales pipeline, whether that’s through relationship building, customer referrals, LinkedIn searching and contacting, etc. Ensuring you’re tackling the same goals is crucial to a workable, integrated organization.

Hold frequent joint meetings

Have everyone meet and get to know each other. It’s that simple. And there are a number of different ways to do this. Perhaps the easiest is with weekly or biweekly meetings. If you’re having a weekly sales meeting, it might be wise to invite the marketing department to sit in every other meeting. This way, marketing will have a better understanding of what sales is targeting and going after—it also gives marketing a chance to share where they’re going after leads and their current tactics.

There’s an even easier way to get the two departments on the same page, however, and it starts at the beginning. Having an onboarding meeting with both sales and marketing newly-hired employees creates an opportunity for communication and openness that might not be there without an introduction. A lot of the time, sales reps just don’t know exactly what marketing is doing, or how they’re helping, and vice versa. Having these open conversations and meetings is a great place to start the dialogue.

Utilize CRM

When you’ve got the same goals drawn out, you should also be sharing the same data and analytics. There’s no better way to share the progress of a campaign (or a sales pipeline) than with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. By implementing this solution for your sales and marketing teams, you’re equipping everyone with the same data and the same visibility. There’s no hidden agendas, no lack of accountability.

Invest time together

In the end, the key to having a seamlessly working team of salespeople and marketers is being comfortable around each other and opening the lines of communication. Spend time together, and encourage team bonding activities between the two departments. When you’re actively working together, or you’re simply bonding over an out-of-office activity, you’ll be much more comfortable collaborating across the board.

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OnContact CRM