Years ago, the sales rep was the primary source of information for the customer. The customer looked to the sales rep (and at times, their peers in competitors) to educate them. Those were simpler times, when sales reps could regulate the flow of information and control the sales cycle.
Today, customers get on the Internet and educate themselves on business problems, products and solutions, read independent reviews, join communities, and consult peers all in a matter of minutes. This has hidden a large chunk of the buyer journey from you, impacted how you communicate with the customer, at times even affected your average selling price, and severely altered customer expectations. Earlier, buying criteria were far less refined, often revolving around vendor criteria rather than solution criteria. But nowadays, B2B purchase decisions are complex group buying transactions wherein different sets of buyers (say marketing, finance, legal etc.) have their own set of buying criteria, often based on Internet research.
The digital explosion may have caused outside sales teams to shrink and made face-to-face meetings rarer, but it has given reps multiple channels to communicate with customers: email, virtual meetings, text messages, and even social. The best part of digital for both, sales and marketing folks alike, is the ability to track and monitor customers’ digital behavior.
To adapt to the digitally evolved marketplace, Chief Sales Officers (CSO) plan to loosen their purse strings: 67% of CSOs plan to introduce new methodologies or selling tools in 2014, says CSO Insights. Marketing automation for the sales person, sales enablement, and automation of contract management are all important technologies that can help deliver sales intelligence and significantly shrink sales cycles. Altering sales behavior with coaching and replicating model behavior of top reps is also of utmost importance.
Marketing automation platforms when tightly integrated into CRM give your reps daily alerts on leads, comprehensive visibility into lead activity on your website in real time, and the ability to run trackable hyper-targeted campaigns. Sales enablement can take them further, helping reps to add value to the customer conversation. Do your sales reps know what content is best to use at each point of the sales cycle? Sales enablement can equip sales with the right intelligence for every pitch, giving reps a central repository for all marketing approved content, messaging, tools, and coaching. According to Aberdeen Research, reps in best in class companies spent 20% of their time searching for sales intelligence, while reps in laggards spent as much as 27% of their time looking for sales intelligence. With enablement, reps can spend less time looking for sales intelligence and needn’t reinvent the wheel, making content from scratch for every pitch.
The speed of the Internet has also meant customers expect deals to get done fast, once they have made up their mind. Does it happen to you that a rep takes three months to close a deal but making the contract takes another month? Automating contract creation and negotiation can significantly shrink the sales cycle and help companies achieve speed and scale, even as it frees up time for reps who can then sell more.
In order to sell more, reps also need coaching. An increase in time available to coach can give you an increase of 17% in quota attainment. A coaching platform should be used to uncover the DNA of your company's top performing reps, or "A" players. Once a company understands the behaviors that are making their top performers successful, it is easier to uncover the gaps and deficiencies in their lower performers. Tracking top reps' key behaviors along with various KPIs, will enable managers to proactively coach their reps to help them attain quota, instead of coaching reactively during the performance review.
How have you prepared for the digitally evolved marketplace? Look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section.