Technology Enables Us to Automate Certain Tasks, But We Remain Bullish on Human Interaction
We can no longer define the world as B2B or B2C, but rather H2H – Humans to Humans. Technology enables us to automate certain processes and tasks, but we remain bullish on human interaction.
From growing up in Kyrgyzstan to finding a sales technology-driven e-commerce company, Olga Vidisheva, Founder and CEO of Shoptiques.com, considers in-person sales still remains a top competency for any business leader. She chats with us about her mastery of sales strategy to stay on top of the sales game.
Tell us about your journey into digital sales community?
I have to start by telling you that I love sales. I really believe that to be successful in life you need to be good at sales and persuasion in some capacity. I grew up in Kyrgyzstan, where from a very young age, I would organize neighborhood theatre performances and would convince older and younger kids to join me. I think this was one of my earliest lessons in sales, persuasion and team building. From Kyrgyzstan, we moved to America, where I graduated from Wellesley College.
Applying to school definitely teaches you lessons in story telling and positioning yourself, which is a very helpful skill in sales. Upon graduation, I joined Goldman Sachs in their Investment Banking Division in New York and spent two years as an analyst.
GS provided their young employees with a tremendous amount of exposure to senior leaders, both within and outside of the organization. That helps tremendously to see case studies of successful leaders and how they drove change and progress in their respective organizations.
I later attended Harvard Business School and upon graduation, I started Shoptiques.com. In Shoptiques’ early days, I engaged in door-to-door sales to sign-up boutiques. I walked the Nolita and Soho neighborhoods of New York City and would convince store owners to join the platform that didn’t yet exist: there was no website, no press, no traffic, but I had a big idea.
I think the early in-person sales really helped me develop my sales pitch and the product by listening to the boutique owner’s objections and concerns. I believe that the best sales leaders lead by example, so my journey to digital sales is filled with trial and error. I believe in constantly iterating the sales process, testing new strategies and quickly changing if the product or the sales pitch doesn’t resonate with our customers or boutique owners.
I now consider Sales to be one of our core competencies and excited to stay ahead of the curve.
How do you leverage sales technologies to stay on top of your game?
I minored in mathematics when I attended Wellesley College.
I love Sales for the same reason I love Math. It is black and white.
I can look at the metrics and have a hypothesis about why someone isn’t performing. Of course, nothing can replace actually listening to your team members speak with potential clients and helping them that way – but metrics are tremendously important in Sales.
So, we use CRM called close.io to track all the performance of our leads and conversion funnel by each rep. It comes with an ability to listen to each call after the fact that enables our Sales Managers and Leaders to provide ongoing feedback and training, even if they are not actively at the meeting. We also empower our Sales team to use data to monitor their performance. In addition to close.io, we have an internal proprietary technology we built to make our Sales team successful.
Tell us a little more about the recently launched – Point of Sale Technology (POS)? How does it provide stores with an omnichannel solution?
Shoptiques launched our new Point of Sale solution in January of this year, and it is quickly becoming one of the best (if not the best) solutions out there to run a boutique. We build POS specifically for boutiques, so it is a very targeted solution. Because we have been working with thousands of stores for over 6 years, we were able to build a Board of Advisors of Store Owners who helped us develop their “dream” solution.
One of their frustrations was that there was no solution that handled everything for them: employee management (including hours worked tracking), online sales, inventory management, analytics, email marketing – so we built a comprehensive solution that incorporates all of the demands of the boutique owner’s day-to-day into a top solution.
Furthermore, the system connects seamlessly to Shoptiques.com, which gets a boutique owner access to 1mm+ shoppers, allowing them to drive more traffic and awareness without extra work.
How do you deliver conversations at scale to your customers?
It really depends on the type of conversation/message we need to deliver. We send out emails to our boutique owners to update them on changes to technology we have made, products that are selling very well or customer requests. We have also developed a Knowledge Base that stores can access.
If a message is an urgent one (even at scale) – we prefer to give a boutique owner a phone call to ensure email didn’t get lost. We also aim to build a community of our boutique owners, so we hold meet-ups and events to engage the stores locally.
As a CEO, what pointers do you rely on for an impeccable Customer Success?
Great question! I try to always make myself available to my team and to our stores. Because many store owners have my personal cell and email, I hope that if there is an escalation or a frustration, that my team has not been able to resolve to their satisfaction, they would reach out to me. Our team is also trained to bring up all product requests or escalations to our weekly meetings. We love and listen to our customers – they provide the best roadmap for our product and ensure we are an integral part of their business.
We also use a technology solution called Stella Service – where after someone interacted with our Customer Success Team, they are sent an email to rate the experience with this particular Customer Success Managers. This allows us to track the performance of each rep over time, QA the low-scored tickets and provide feedback. BSTers (Boutique Success Team Members) love it as well because they are able to see live how the Boutique Owners are rating their interaction. We do the same on the Consumer-end as well.
Lastly, I made it my priority to have monthly check-ins with a few stores to ensure I keep a pulse on their experience and their needs.
How do you plan to compete against the established giants in ecommerce – Amazon and Macy’s? What’s your secret recipe?
I think the reason local boutiques, and hence, Shoptiques are able to compete with established giants is the uniqueness of their inventory. For example, we work with a boutique called Pinkyotto with a few stores in New York and Boston – the only place you can buy their products is their stores and through Shoptiques. That’s exciting to a consumer who doesn’t want to look like everyone else around them. Shoptiques also enables a consumer to discover products from other countries and jet-set around the world (without the jetlag).
How do you define and build “The Path to Sales Mastery” using CRM and automation tools?
Everything I talked about so far in this interview is pertaining to sales on our boutique side of the business. There, we are very methodical on how we use CRM and the frequency of follow-ups. One thing worth noting that our sales is a bit different because we conduct interviews with each store to determine if they would be the right partner to Shoptiques.
Define the ‘State of Sales Transformation for Ecommerce’ in 2018? How do you leverage People Management resources to adapt to this transformation?
I think as a start-up in 2018, the only limit is imagination and resources. Technology enables us to execute on the ideas that we never used to think were possible. Technology enables us to automate certain processes and tasks, but we remain bullish on human interaction.
For example, we continue to offer Personal Styling Appointments for our customers to enable them to speak to someone or meet with them in person and our boutiques still are being called by a real person who understands their business and wants to learn about them.
Given the current shift in analytics and customer intelligence, what skills and knowledge do sales teams need to close deals faster?
I think 2 necessary skills that every salesperson needs to have today is persistence and the ability to read people. Today, we are constantly bombarded by emails, texts, chats, what’s apps, phone calls, video games, Instagram, likes etc – we are constantly stimulated by something going on around us. So, to get through that clutter is a lot harder than it used to be – so I think persistence is key. That means not giving up, that means being organized to know when to follow-up etc.
The second skill is the ability to read people. To close the deals faster, you need to know when to push and when to let the client breath. In sales, every minute is gold, so you don’t want to waste time on a lead that won’t close until next month and should move on to someone who will do it this month.
What’s the most exciting part of using sales technologies and intelligence? Could humans ever match in sales what virtual assistants and call tracking analytics deliver?
I think the relationship is closely complimentary and I think you need to have both to be successful in sales.
Sales is extremely mathematical and methodical – you have to make xx number of phone calls to reach x number of store owners to close x number of deals. Once you know those conversion metrics, you can work backward of how many leads you need etc. I am not sure you need to waste time figuring out that analytics by hand when you have the modern technology which makes it so easy.
How could AI in sales and marketing further disrupt SaaS platforms? How do you prepare for the disruptive sales ecosystem at Shoptiques?
I believe we can no longer define the world as B2B or B2C, but rather H2H – Humans to Humans. Perhaps because we work with local boutiques who value personal interaction in their in-store business (you come to a boutique for that personal touch) and from everyone, they work with – we really focus on providing the best human connection with every interaction we do. I think AI is far from replacing a human understanding and perhaps in some businesses can help, but we are not jumping on that bandwagon yet.