“The king is dead, long live the king!”
In the technologically charged world we live, it seems like there is a daily prophecy of something being old hat and done, and something else being the new savior to the problems we didn’t know we had. There are some things that do pass the litmus test and truly become forces that forever change the way we do things.
The “trend du jour” right now is the Internet of Things (IoT), shorthand for the connected network of devices, some we consider quite mundane, that are increasingly being equipped to collect and transmit data about themselves.
The classic IoT model is that of the digitally-enabled home, where as many as 500 connected devices discover and transmit data– the “internet-enabled fridge” that knows what things are typically inside it and can order to replenish itself as you run out of milk and eggs, etc. This is the simple idea behind IoT: connect things together and get things working more seamlessly.
Consumer benefits are clear to understand, but for business IoT has a huge opportunity that is only just beginning to be unraveled. It allows businesses to create proactive services around traditionally ”analogue” activities. For example, if a business’s copy machine ran low on toner, it could send data about this to the copy machine vendor, who could instantly deliver toner based on an existing contract with the customer – the analogue analogy would require a sales person to be involved directly and enter the order manually.
There are significant ramifications here for customer experience and loyalty efforts. For example, the logistics industry’s ability to track packages and keep their customers informed about delivery dates stems from IoT thinking and technology. Appliance makers can use this data to proactively send consumable products like filters, or diagnose service issues before an appliance breaks down. Imagine an IoT-enabled car that can identify an impending component failure – instead of being stuck by the side of the road, the owner will be able to avoid inconvenient and even dangerous breakdowns if the he or she pays heed to the warnings triggered by analysis of multiple data points.
There are also huge impacts for sales professionals. If orders can be made by machines to machines where does that leave sales? Does an application based on IoT thinking remove the moments of truth that allow sales people to connect with customers and build loyalty, or take away their up-selling and cross-selling opportunities?
These technologies are going to have an impact on low-value sales – consumables like water filters or toner, for example – and remove the hassle for customers, which should enhance loyalty. By automating these transactions – which are more frequently being done on e-commerce platforms anyway – you will free sales to pursue higher-value activities, solving almost every sales leader’s biggest problem of sales capacity.
IoT can clearly help with the automation of the sale, but it can also help improve the sales person themselves. Think about sales people as sensors within an Internet of Sales. Each sales rep generates considerable amounts of data during the selling process without realizing it – every interaction with a customer, every interaction with a system yields very valuable data. If the data can be gathered at scale then it provides real-time insights that will have a huge impact on the sales person and the sales process – the types of discounts that are effective, contract terms that are always mandated, the most effective commission structure, where to put sales reps, etc. This data, combined with powerful analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, can enable sales managers to make data-driven decisions that lead to improved sales performance.
Sales people are already generating this data by doing what they always do in the act of selling. The trick, then, is to have a platform in place that can capture this information (namely, a compensation management solution) without requiring sales to consciously enter that data into a system. Once captured, this data can then be analyzed and correlated with other data to produce insights that can then be used to standardize selling best practices, provide coaching to the sales force, and adjust as customers’ expectations of the sales process evolve.
Capturing the data is not enough. You then need an analytics engine that is capable of performing rapid analysis on this data and help you adjust sales’ course in mid-air.
It’s a metaphor that makes sense: in many ways, sales people are your business’s sensors. They’ve been transmitting information back to you for years, but if you’re like most businesses you’re only recording, monitoring and taking advantage of part of the data – and usually, the part of data that is least actionable, documenting only the outcomes but not the processes that led to them.
Taking advantage of these data inputs from the Internet of Sales brings with it a massive competitive advantage, since they can be used to expose truths about the way the sales force works that would be invisible otherwise. Are they discounting too deeply? Are they ignoring technology tools? Are they missing out on deals at the same stage within vertical markets? Are sales people performing differently when incentives change? These insights and many others are invisible until examined in context, or in comparison to other data. If you don’t have the technology and the tendency to attack the data, these insights will remain locked away. If you can find the key then the king truly is dead, long live the king!