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How To Create A Business Case For Social Selling

Chris Heffer

£20 note fanned outDo you work in sales?

Are you passionate about how social can help your organisation sell more?

Do you want to know what role content marketing & content creation will play in the future way you will  communicate with your potential customers?

This post is going to explain to you how you can build a business case to help change the way your business sells it products and how your sales process works.

In my previous post on how to sell in a social era I explained some of the differences between a traditional sales person and person selling in the social era. I mentioned that up to two thirds of buying process is done before you speak with a salesperson. With this post I want to go into a bit more depth and help you demonstrate the return on investment for whoever it is in your business that you need to get buy in so you can focusing in this area. This post will give you some ideas how you can demonstrate the concept to the following people to allow you to either spend more of your time in your current role or create a new role for you to help the whole company/department/team do it better.

  • CEO
  • CMO
  • Managing directors
  • Sales directors
  • Sales managers

For the purpose of this post

I define social selling as:  using the social web to help you sell your products/services

I define content as:  material used to convey a message such as a blog, video, podcast ebook etc

Teaching vs selling

abc writing

There is a phrase which I learn from thesaleslion.com post – assignment selling. The higher the value item you sell the more relevant this is.

The concept works like this. When a salesperson goes to a sales appointment they spend a great deal of their time trying to inform the customer what their product does and why they need one. If the prospect doesn’t know this information before you go to the call you risk wasting time your time with a potential client who is never going to be a customer.

Assignment selling works by giving some responsibility to the potential client to do some specific research that you ask them to do before you will go to meet them. You send them a link to an ebook explaining the answers to the top 20-30 questions you normally get asked on sales call or a video explaining similar things or at the very least a couple of relevant blog posts you have written.

If they do not seem interested or do not bother reading the content you send them, then they are not that interested in doing business with you and are just looking to buy on price. If you are selling a product which is more expensive or better than your competitors, then this customer is obviously not interested and only wants a cheap price.

Selling is what helps you hit your targets, keeps you in a job and pays the bills. Spending time travelling to your customers location and having a meeting with them to teach them about your product is not what helps you achieve your objectives.

If you can do the teaching with your content before you get there you can save you time to do the selling.

Increase productivity

As a continuation of the teaching vs selling I want to elaborate how it can help improve your productivity. When you are in a senior position within a company you have the luxury of being able to delegate work to your PA or to your team. Most salespeople do not have that luxury. I want to explain how creating content can help you delegate parts of the process to your content, to enable you to do more selling.

This is the typical steps in a sales process

  • Generate awareness for your product
  • Generate leads
  • Initial discovery of requirements
  • Presentation of recommendation
  • Evaluation of different options
  • Negotiation
  • After sales support

All of these, with exception of negotiation, could be done to some extent or entirely with content. If you was to publish the answer to every question you ever get asked in a blog or a video and then bundle up the content to give to people at different points of the sales process you could automate almost the whole sales process.

Depending on the complexity of your solutions and how much customisation you need to do, you may not be able to present a recommendation. If you were to create content to fully educate your potential client then they may be able partially or fully figure out what they need.

Negotiation is one thing you couldn’t do with content. However if your content did a good enough job of demonstrating the value of your product or service then the potential client would understand the value as well as the cost and be able to make a decision as to whether they think it offers value to their business. If done well enough may remove the need for negotiation. 

Increase credibility of salespeople

In a short space of time you can establish credibility as an individual. If you read my post why use social media it explains what you can achieve in a very short space of time. I know personally that blogging can, within a short space of time, escalate you to be viewed as an expert in some people’s eyes. It can help you gain access to share your content with a larger audience if you content is good enough.

If you wrote an article and it was featured in your national newspaper or industry trade magazine it would position you an an expert because you have had third party recognition that your content is of good quality.

There are varying degrees of credibility you can achieve which I have depicted below. You can easily create the first two on the ladder by writing an email or telling your marketing department to send out a communication. I think when you start to see content published independently for the world to see and find it, it gains credibility.

Although anyone can publish a blog or white paper, for you to put your name to an idea or theory and publish it, gives it more credibility. Most people would have more confidence that what you saying is correct because otherwise you may find you get some public criticism about the content. When you start generating high quality content you can start to submit content to third party publishers. If they like your content they will add more credibility by distributing it through their platform.

If you are seen as a leading opinion on your chosen topic then one day, you may be contacted by national press to give you thoughts/opinions on a story they want to run. This won’t happen very often but you need to build your credibility and profile before you would ever be found let alone asked to be part of any such coverage.

importance of information source

 

 

Improve your closing ratio

marcus_sheridan_the_sales_lion

There is a great example of how a sales cycle can be changed by using content to improve your closing ratio. The example is borrowed from thesaleslion.com post where he talks about how he has changed the sales process of his swimming pool company

1. Customer calls and asks us to come out to give them a quote.

2. We respond by explaining our process is different—we educate more than anyone in the world with our website, videos, blog articles, and eBooks—which gives consumers everything they need to know about us, our products, and what pool/options suits them the best.

3. Once a potential customer educates themselves through our content, they tell us the pool and options they want, at which point we send them via email an actual quote.

4. If the customer reviews the quote and agrees to its terms, we then go out to their home to confirm there are no hidden costs and write up the contract.

This process was designed around the fact that they realised that the typical closing ratio of their industry (30%) was improved to 80% if they could get their prospects to read 30 pages of their blog. They then made it their mission to build content into the sales cycle to boost the closing ratio.

Cynics may  doubt if their customers would spend $50k on a swimming pool without meeting the salesperson but they actually found out more about the company and why they would want to do business with them than if they had met them  couple of time.

Increase your profit margin

As part of a salesperson’s role they have to demonstrate the value in what they sell. More often than not the salesperson gets to the end of the process having spent a lot of their time on the deal. The price then gets negotiated down which devalues the product/service you offer and the time you have spent with that customer.

If salespeople could demonstrate the value of the product/service they are selling then they could demand the fair price they started the sales process with. This would rely on companies setting a realistic, fair list price.

If you are selling a product or service which costs more because it is worth it, then be proud of the fact you are better than everyone else in the market. Tell people you are more expensive and prove to them why you are worth the extra investment. The earlier you do this in the sales process the less time you will waste with customers who do see the value in your product to pay what it costs.

If you tell someone your product is £1000 and they say they only have a budget for £250 you can either suggest a cheaper product you sell or qualify out. You might go through the sales process and increase their budget to £500 but you will never get £1000.  If they say they don’t see the value in spending £1000 on your product when you can buy similar products for £250 it is a different conversation. You then need to educate the potential client in the value your product can add to his company.  They can then decide if they think the value proposition is right for their business. You can decide if you move forward or qualify out.

Help people buy and don’t sell = Build trust

Think of the last time you went to buy a car or a mobile phone or anything else where you speak with a sales person. Did they help you buy or did they sell? If you make the ultimate goal to help the customer and not to make the sale then you will begin to earn trust.

build trust - falling man caught by team

If you as a salesperson have the ultimate goal of helping a customer buy, then you are more centered around their objective of buying the right product/service than your objective of making a sale.

To gain trust you need to be comfortable to do the following

  • Tell customers when your product is not right for them
  • Be honest about the weaknesses you may have
  • Recommend a competitors product if it is better for the customer
  • Be transparent around costs

If you can do these things you may not win the battle but you will win the war. You may not get every deal but trust is something which you earn and it will help you sell when your products are right for the customer. It will help you get referrals from the people you haven’t sold to when one of their friends wants to buy something you sell.

Some great examples of content that builds trust are linked below

Understand who your customers are and what they want

This is one of the most common themes you would find if you were to google social selling. I think creating content is equally, if not more useful in the sales process and is a topic less frequently spoke about.  A great resource in this area is the Social selling university.

It is a great idea to use the social web to research your potential clients. You can find out information about who they are, what they are doing and how you may be able to help them. I do not know one salesperson who would not want a good reason to call a potential customer at the right time with the right approach. Researching your customer through the information they share on social networks is a great way to do this.

Social research has limited use when your potential client is not active or has no presence on the web. These techniques rely upon mining information to provide some context around a contact.

I feel that generating content is a more universal technique that could help the sales process across a wider range of industries and customer types. If someone is not on social networks you could still email them the content or even print it off and post the content in hard copy.

Summary

All of this can be done without one call, meeting or email to a customer. They can do this research and find the answers they need before they even talk to you as a sales person. If done well you can influence the whole buying process and not just the last bit when they want to talk to a sales person.

The result is perfectly qualified leads, who are ready to buy or are very close. The deals you close will be more profitable, more forecast-able and you will close more deals. Sales people have more time to sell because they are only talking to people who want to buy and not wasting so much time.

Other great resources to help you on your social selling journey

Social Selling university

Marcus Sheridan’s eBook on the Sales Lion website

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Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

Social Media Matters: 6 Content And Social Media Trend Predictions For 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Julie Ellis

As 2015 winds down, it’s time to look forward to 2016 and explore the social media and content marketing trends that will impact marketing strategies over the next 15 months or so.

Some of the upcoming trends simply indicate an intensification of current trends, however others indicate that there are new things that will have a big impact in 2016.

Take a look at a few trends that should definitely factor in your planning for 2016.

1. SEO will focus more on social media platforms and less on search engines

Clearly Google is going nowhere. In fact, in 2016 Google’s word will still essentially be law when it comes to search engine optimization.

However, in 2016 there will be some changes in SEO. Many of these changes will be due to the fact that users are increasingly searching for products and services directly from websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

There are two reasons for this shift in customer habits:

  • Customers are relying more and more on customer comments, feedback, and reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that they are most likely to search directly on platforms where they can find that information.
  • Customers who are seeking information about products and services feel that video- and image-based content is more trustworthy.

2. The need to optimize for mobile and touchscreens will intensify

Consumers are using their mobile devices and tablets for the following tasks at a sharply increasing rate:

  • Sending and receiving emails and messages
  • Making purchases
  • Researching products and services
  • Watching videos
  • Reading or writing reviews and comments
  • Obtaining driving directions and using navigation apps
  • Visiting news and entertainment websites
  • Using social media

Most marketers would be hard-pressed to look at this list and see any case for continuing to avoid mobile and touchscreen optimization. Yet, for some reason many companies still see mobile optimization as something that is nice to do, but not urgent.

This lack of a sense of urgency seemingly ignores the fact that more than 80% of the highest growing group of consumers indicate that it is highly important that retailers provide mobile apps that work well. According to the same study, nearly 90% of Millennials believe that there are a large number of websites that have not done a very good job of optimizing for mobile.

3. Content marketing will move to edgier social media platforms

Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat weren’t considered to be valid targets for mainstream content marketing efforts until now.

This is because they were considered to be too unproven and too “on the fringe” to warrant the time and marketing budget investments, when platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were so popular and had proven track records when it came to content marketing opportunity and success.

However, now that Instagram is enjoying such tremendous growth, and is opening up advertising opportunities to businesses beyond its brand partners, it (along with other platforms) will be seen as more and more viable in 2016.

4. Facebook will remain a strong player, but the demographic of the average user will age

In 2016, Facebook will likely remain the flagship social media website when it comes to sharing and promoting content, engaging with customers, and increasing Internet recognition.

However, it will become less and less possible to ignore the fact that younger consumers are moving away from the platform as their primary source of online social interaction and content consumption. Some companies may be able to maintain status quo for 2016 without feeling any negative impacts.

However, others may need to rethink their content marketing strategies for 2016 to take these shifts into account. Depending on their branding and the products or services that they offer, some companies may be able to profit from these changes by customizing the content that they promote on Facebook for an older demographic.

5. Content production must reflect quality and variety

  • Both B2B and B2C buyers value video based content over text based content.
  • While some curated content is a good thing, consumers believe that custom content is an indication that a company wishes to create a relationship with them.
  • The great majority of these same consumers report that customized content is useful for them.
  • B2B customers prefer learning about products and services through content as opposed to paid advertising.
  • Consumers believe that videos are more trustworthy forms of content than text.

Here is a great infographic depicting the importance of video in content marketing efforts:
Small Business Video infographic

A final, very important thing to note when considering content trends for 2016 is the decreasing value of the keyword as a way of optimizing content. In fact, in an effort to crack down on keyword stuffing, Google’s optimization rules have been updated to to kick offending sites out of prime SERP positions.

6. Oculus Rift will create significant changes in customer engagement

Oculus Rift is not likely to offer much to marketers in 2016. After all, it isn’t expected to ship to consumers until the first quarter. However, what Oculus Rift will do is influence the decisions that marketers make when it comes to creating customer interaction.

For example, companies that have not yet embraced storytelling may want to make 2016 the year that they do just that, because later in 2016 Oculus Rift may be the platform that their competitors will be using to tell stories while giving consumers a 360-degree vantage point.

For a deeper dive on engaging with customers through storytelling, see Brand Storytelling: Where Humanity Takes Center Stage.

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About Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis – marketer and professional blogger, writes about social media, education, self-improvement, marketing and psychology. To contact Julie follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.