Sales & Marketing

How a Tech-Savvy Sales Force Drives Higher Productivity in Tough Economy

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Practically every company recognizes the importance and value of a productive sales force. However these organizations frequently struggle to drive higher productivity. The current business environment is plagued with competitive pressures, shrunken budgets and increased customer expectations. In such a highly unpredictable economic environment, boosting sales and enhancing productivity become critical factors in business success. To address the issue of sales productivity, specific new and emerging technologies offer crucial benefits.

The following four examples of real-life sales situations clearly demonstrate the positive impact that new technologies have on the productivity of the sales force and success in the business.

Example 1: Knowing what your customer knows can save the day and win the sale  

John, an account manager, is traveling to meet a CIO and present a new product that offers features that deal with financial compliance and reporting on EITF-89-x, the new revenue standard. The CIO is a current customer and has been using products from John’s company for the past three years.

While John is en route to New York to meet with the CIO, John’s support team receives a call from the customer’s team concerning a potential mission-critical bug that has affected their installation, possibly becoming a major risk to the entire business. As the technical team troubleshoots the problem, John‘s flight lands and he drives to the customer’s office.

John arrives at the office to pitch a new product to the CIO at the exact time the CIO is addressing the critical defect. John is completely unaware of the situation and soon learns that, in order to devote full attention to the matter, the CIO has cancelled all meetings for the day, including John’s. Eventually, the CIO decides to replace the product. In addition to John’s company losing a client the company gains a bad reputation through negative online reviews.

As a director in a movie would do, let’s reshoot this scene and see how a new technology could dramatically change the outcome.

With mobility, the technical support team alerts John of the evolving customer situation in real-time, even while John is traveling. As soon as John’s flight lands, he arranges a conference call with the technical team; he gains a full understanding of the issue, its potential resolution and the expected time to close. With this timely, valuable information, John enters the CIO’s office and changes the meeting’s agenda to include a full debrief on the issue at hand and a suggested resolution. John then invites one of the client’s engineers to attend a video conference where John’s team can share the technical details.

The CIO is impressed with John’s due diligence, the speed of his actions, and is assured that the problem is rapidly on its way to a successful resolution. The CIO is then willing and able to listen to John’s EITF-89-x pitch and then awards the business to John’s company.

The new ending to this story was possible because by leveraging mobility technology, the right message was delivered at the right time to the right person. The key to the successful outcome was the ability to integrate the underlying sales and service/support process and systems, identify key business events, generate actionable insights and deliver to the right audience.

While mobility did the delivery piece, behind the scenes, this all had to be threaded so on one hand John’s company didn’t bombard John with constant messages and on the other hand miss a critical one. In our example above, the right message got delivered to John, who modified his agenda with the CIO, became savvy through use of information and won the day for both John’s company and the customer.

Example 2: Remember the Boy Scout motto ­— be prepared — before asking for the business

Debra, a high-tech sales representative, faces a huge challenge in getting a Fortune 500 CIO to listen to her product value-proposition pitch. The CIO’s staff and his peers have let it be known that he is a tough customer to please; generic sales pitches never go well with him and he has been known to have closed doors on sales teams.

Debra is perplexed with how to break through to this CIO. Her only source of information on this customer and on the CIO is past purchases provided by her sales operations and finance teams plus some general knowledge of his interests gleaned from a previous sales representative’s notes. Imagine the difficulty of this immense challenge facing Debra. She must develop a custom pitch that can hit the mark.

Let’s apply a new, Big Data technology in this situation. This technology will allow Debra to mine very large amounts of unstructured data, ranging from videos, blogs, weblogs, reviews and chats in a matter of seconds. Leveraging Big Data technology, Debra will be able to accomplish the following:

  • Mine the CIO’s past comments on technology from blog postings, videos and tweets to discover that he is not an early adopter, likes to see what the impact has been with other adopters and looks for solutions over a multi-year roadmap versus a specific product release
  • Review past purchases of similar customers to discern the steps they took to evaluate options
  • Gain insight into what competitors are saying about their products (as well as Debra’s company’s products) and what events this CIO has attended to ensure he gets a full and correct picture.

Based on synthesizing and absorbing the critical elements that provide insight into the CIO’s mindset, transition plan, competitor views and objection-handling areas, Debra develops a custom pitch that is hard to beat. With this information, Debra is able to gain a competitive edge by adapting to the CIO’s style and delivering a more compelling pitch.  The result: a much higher probability of success.

This in-depth preparation is possible with Big Data technology. Without the new technology, it might have taken Debra weeks or months to collect, interpret and analyze the data. But Big Data technology can collect data within seconds across a tremendous number of disparate and unstructured sources. The success of this case relies on gleaning through a lot of data and picking up true nuggets that are deemed essential in sales settings.

Example 3: Quickly preparing the best deal  

Lenny is trying to put together a perfect deal for a customer towards the quarter end, but he will lose this deal if he misses the one-week deadline. Lenny is ill-equipped to pull together the required product features and supporting options, financing/leasing options, discounts/concessions and service and support terms and conditions. The only way to meet his deadline is to call upon a host of people, including his regional sales head (who is on a one-week vacation) for specifics on the solution, his sales engineering team to pull together BOM/configuration and his finance/deal support team to obtain specifics on leasing terms and potential applicable discounts. Imagine Lenny’s anxiety over the prospect of losing the deal due to lack of coordination or untimely response across different teams.

This situation calls for the application of collaboration technology, whereby Lenny can inform all of his stakeholders of the need for specific help concerning product features and options, pricing, leasing and support terms while also highlighting customer-specific details including the submission time line.

Lenny is comfortable because he knows that, using collaboration technology, all needed information can be obtained — even though his regional sales head is on vacation and his support teams are in remote locations (including different time-zones).

On a collaboration workspace, Lenny finds past dialogue on such deal situations and gains preliminary understanding on how to construct such a deal. While this is happening, a peer sales representative in another geography that has gone through a similar experience posts updates including a take on constructing the deal, with the exclusion of specifics on pricing and leasing options. A finance team member, not directly involved on this deal, posts a link to deal pricing and leasing application and posts a video link. Lenny reviews the video from the engineering team on product bundles that are applicable to his customer’s situation and sets up an online chat with the engineering team that has knowledge of this product suite.

Overall, Lenny can construct a working deal that can now be expedited through sales management and finance approval.

All this communication is possible because of collaboration technology that overcomes the inherent limitations of email or phone communications (two-way communications). The technology enables him to leverage learning and insights from different areas of the organization while not relying only on a single management chain or matrix organization-based engagement model.

Example 4: A warm introduction can take the chill off a cold sales call

Katrina has been trying to cold call for months, wanting to connect with an IT vice president to present a unique solution offering, even though she knows the hit rate on cold calling is pretty low. So in this case do social media technologies offer benefits? Although there is no substitute for active networking, social media sources can point Katrina in the right direction. Katrina searches for the IT vice president on LinkedIn and similar websites and discovers she has no direct connections. Next, Katrina looks for contacts who work at his company. She discovers three names, but only knows one, and that person is not a high-level contact.

Katrina continues to search and now looks for a previous employer of this particular IT vice president, also searching for contacts who still work at that company. She finds two individuals who had worked at the previous company that know her well. From them she learns that the IT vice president doesn’t like to update his profile on social media websites because he doesn’t want to be bothered by cold calling sales representatives like Katrina.

With this knowledge, Katrina now knows whom to go through to reach this IT vice president. She leverages her contact from the previous company to get a warm introduction and sets a meeting with the IT vice president for a product/service presentation.

Technology made it easier to navigate through different contacts, companies and positions to determine a “warmer” way to get an introduction.

The above examples clearly demonstrate the great potential of mobility, Big Data, collaboration and social media technologies to drive sales productivity. To fully harness the potential of these technologies, organizations need to think holistically beyond functional siloes about threading business processes, systems and data. They then need to determine how these technologies can specifically improve customer, internal organization, team and individual experience and desired business outcomes.

Sanjay Shitole, is a founding member and vice president at Trianz, a global management consulting and technology services firm. He leads the high-tech vertical and management consulting practice with a strong focus on helping high-tech clients deliver business impact in the areas of sales, channels, service and support operations through executing on business and technology initiatives. For more information, contact sanjay.shitole@trianz.com.

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