Welcome to our biweekly blog feature. Every two weeks, I interview an executive from a top sales and marketing solutions company. We ask the same questions of every executive so readers can learn about their unique positioning  and their vision for the industry.

Smart Selling Visions

This week I interview Duncan Lennox, CEO and Co-Founder of Qstream.

Nancy: What does Qstream do? What problem/s are you solving for sales and/or marketing organizations?

Duncan: The buying process has changed dramatically in the last decade and today as much as 70% of the buying cycle happens before a prospect ever reaches out to a vendor. (They are reaching out to their friend Google instead.)   This gives a very narrow window within which a sales rep must be able to add value for a prospect. Add to that the complex nature of the buyer’s world and this means the volume of knowledge and level of skill a rep must have to be competent has never been higher.   The problem is the methods we use to equip those reps today to be successful (like sales meetings, eLearning and WebEx) don’t actually work very well and also don’t suit the mobile, fast-paced world of today’s rep.   Qstream allows sales reps to reinforce the core skills and knowledge they need to be successful in just minutes a day through fun, competitive challenges delivered to their mobile device. It’s also based on a scientifically proven method of driving long-term retention we developed at Harvard Medical School.

Nancy: How does your solution uniquely address the problem (or in what way do other solutions fall short from solving the problem)?

Duncan: Instead of approaching the problem as “how do we dump the most information on our sales reps in the cheapest and fastest way possible,” we actually look at it from the point of view of neuroscience and psychology by asking the question “how are behaviors changed, and what do sales people need?” and align our solution with that. It turns out, there are ways to drive long-term retention and behavior change that are also fun, easy and work well for today’s mobile rep. That’s Qstream. It’s like Jeopardy for your sales force. Reps engage by responding to simple Q&A-based challenges on their iPhone or other mobile device. They compete against their peers in individual and team competitions and can answer their questions while standing in line at Starbucks waiting on their morning latte. In addition to their standings in the competition, they are presented with the correct response and explanations to help increase their understanding.

Nancy: What’s the most important thing that today’s business decision-makers should look for (or ask, or consider, or solve)?

Duncan: Our most recent data found that over one-third of sales reps aren’t prepared for sales calls. As their manager, do you know what they know? It’s prettyscary to think about. It’s important to focus on changing the current approach to reinforcing selling skills and new product knowledge. Today, organizations invest tons of money in sales meetings, where reps suffer through death by PowerPoint only to forget nearly 80% of what they learned days later. Integrating a proven mobile solution in support of accelerated onboarding and product launches, for example, ensures success. Qstream does this through ongoing reinforcement of key concepts, resulting in measurable performance improvements. Today’s decision makers want to establish more metrics-driven cultures based on real-time data. Qstream’s analytics engine captures hundreds critical data points based on reps’ responses then instantly transforms them into actionable management insights, such as targeted coaching opportunities. This helps sales management to proactively manage and measure team strengths. This sort of leading indicator is unprecedented.  Most insights today are based on lagging indicators, such as quota achievement to assess a rep’s ability to win.

Nancy: What are you most excited about for the next 12 months?

Duncan: As mobile technology continues to evolve, it’s exciting to see organizations incorporating mobile selling solutions to bolster the strengths of their sales teams. The key to success is engaging your reps in a way that suits their busy workday. A powerfully simple mobile solution addresses the challenge without disrupting selling time. We are particularly excited to help companies do this at scale.  With just over two years in market, we already work with 6 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and are seeing strong interest in other industries, such as financial services and technology.

Nancy: What do you think is the biggest underlying theme or trend for sellers and/or marketers in 2014?

Duncan: The selling environment is evolving, and it’s time to transform sales behaviors to address the needs of today’s hyper-informed buyers. The key is to drive the right behavior, which is traditionally really hard, if not impossible. In order to succeed, you must understand why changing behavior is difficult in the first place. This year offers a great opportunity for companies to re-evaluate their approach to sales enablement. Companies are now implementing mobile sales reinforcement strategies like ours in an effort to address the human aspect of selling.  Previous approaches are focused primarily on prescriptive process and content. We aim to equip reps for the type of dynamic, contextual and value-added conversations that customers demand when they engage with a rep.  Studies show that this level of contextual selling can boost win rates by up to 25%.

Nancy: What would you challenge sellers and/or marketers to think about for 2014? 

Duncan: We see too much focus on process tools and a misguided belief they will drive significant incremental revenue. Your CRM has never closed a deal, your reps do.  Think about how you are preparing your sales force to win. Are they equipped with the skills they need to add value for customers? How do you know? Most sales leaders can only wonder what their reps are saying to customers. Differentiate your sales force by leveraging an ongoing, measurable approach to improving selling skills and knowledge. Move toward a selling system that hones the skills your sales force needs to address buyers’ complex needs, giving your reps a competitive edge and keeping them sharp and ready to win. And do it on their terms: simple, fast, mobile, effective and fun.