Editor’s note: Today’s post is from myDocket CEO Jason Wesbecher. This will be Jason’s third post on the Funnelholic, the other two posts just absolutely killed it: The “3 Ps” of Killer Drip Campaigns and Your Content is the New Cold Call. He came back with another great post and of course I said: “Let’s get it up now!”. Here it is, enjoy it and check out myDocket when you get a chance. Here we go:Two opposing edicts have, at one time or another, surfaced in every sales organization for which I have worked. The first is the edict from the VP Sales that says that if your expense reports were too low, you weren’t doing your job. The theory here is that the more money the salesperson spends on travel, meals and entertainment for customers, the closer of a relationship they are developing. The second edict, directly opposite from the first, is from the CFO and goes something like this – “all travel & customer-related expenses are frozen for the remainder of the quarter.”
This type of organizational schizophrenia around expenses can be typical in large enterprises. Heck, I even worked for a public company that, during the same fiscal year, asked my team to work weekends throughout the first quarter and sent us home without pay during the last 10 days of the fiscal year! It’s even more intense when it comes to expense reporting given the emotional positions that the 3 stakeholders hold (sales + sales management + finance).
Expense Reports as Insight
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the blanket of the very revenue that I provide, and then question the manner in which I provide it.”
Sometime in the 1980s expense accounts gave way to expense reports. In this new world, sales reps would no longer have a fixed budget to “use or lose” on customers each quarter. Instead, reps would be measured on how disciplined they were spending the company’s money given the established guidelines. It seems more than coincidental that this shift occurred roughly at the same time that the “relationship sale” was giving way to the “solution sale.” (The ability to procure lunchtime martinis quickly became secondary to the ability to talk to the customer about their business challenges).
This increase in CFO controls* ushered in a newfound ability for the VP Sales to inspect expenses on an account-by-account and opportunity-by-opportunity basis. Now that the VP Sales was responsible for approving individual receipts rather than a basket of dollars, the expense report began to be viewed in an entirely new light. In this new era, the shrewdest VPs looked at expense reports not as measure of sales rep frugality, but as a measure of customer engagement.
Several VPs to whom I reported over the years cared less about the dollar amount of an individual expense report and more about the dollar amount relative to the deal I was working at that particular time. The cleverest one of them all would conduct forecast calls with two sheets of paper in front of him – the forecast and the expense report. The latter would be used as proof points about confidence levels in the former. Did the executive buyer show up to the dinner? Yes, well then this feels like we are on track. There still is a huge opportunity for companies like Expensify and Tripit to associate their activity data with CRM data to create a real-time set of checks and balances within the forecast. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.
Email as Insight
But the one thing missing from expense data is context. Sure, the executive buyer showed up for dinner. But what did she say? And how did you respond? And did that influence her? Context, in this extraordinarily noisy, 140-character world, is like oxygen. It is the lifeblood of rational decision-making. Take the case of Google, which last winter had to apologize for massively overstating the occurrence of influenza in the United States. Their algorithm worked as it was written. The problem was that the algorithm was built to account for flu-related search queries, without discounting the fact that as many as half of those queries were news and social media driven. In other words, the algorithm lacked context. It became an echo chamber.
Context is a critical puzzle piece that sales reps and managers require to succeed in today’s market. Email tracking tools represent the best way for sales teams to create this context. Just like what Hubspot and Marketo have done at the top of the funnel, there now has emerged a set of tools for the middle- and lower-funnel specifically designed for salespeople. These email tools help salespeople answer critical questions like:
- Did the customer read my proposal, case study, powerpoint, etc.?
- How long did it take them to open it from the time they received it?
- How long did they spend reading it?
- How long did they spend reading the ROI, pricing, or references section?
- Did they share it with anyone else on their team?
- Did they ask the sales team any questions about it?
- Did they read it more than once?
The answers to these questions can provide valuable context for what is truly happening inside an account, which people are engaged, and whether that engagement level is accelerating or decelerating.
The emergence of a new class of sales-specific email tools is a direct reaction to how starved sales teams are for some signal – any signal – to help them contextualize what is happening in their deals. These insights, at times coupled with opportunity-based expense data, could have a meaningful impact on how confident sales reps, VPs and even CFOs are about their quarterly forecasts.
*Ever wonder why CFOs are obsessive about controlling sales expenditures? A Robert Half Management Resources survey of 1,600 CFOs found egregious expense report abuses. Ridiculous items submitted for reimbursement included: pet food, lottery tickets, cigarettes, wedding anniversary dinner, and cosmetic surgery.
Author: Jason Wesbecher is the CEO & co-founder of myDocket, a tool that helps salespeople measure the intent of customers based on how they engage with their sales collateral.