The B2B buying experience has become “Amazonized,” and these changes are dramatically impacting today’s sales organizations and driving a need for increased personalization in the selling process.
After searching the Web recently for some new software, our company narrowed the choices to three, conducted some additional research through online reviews and chose one company to give us a product demo. While some variations exist – particularly with complex sales – this story represents another proof point for research findings that buyers are nearly 2/3 through the purchasing process before engaging with vendors.
But sales organizations need tools to keep up with the times. There are CRM systems that give companies an efficient way to manage and store customer data, letting teams quickly see where things stand at a given moment. There are tools that help improve productivity such as phone dialers. But without a complete view of the customer, sales tools fall short when it comes to delivering buyer insight and personalization.
Incomplete customer picture propels new sales tools – and funding
With partial views, organizations haven’t been able to complete the customer profile needed for today’s new selling paradigm. Recognizing this need, companies flooded the market with new solutions, and investors followed suit.
While some confusion exists in the category – solutions can be described by an array of terms such as sales optimization, sales productivity, sales enablement, sales automation, and more – the opportunity is crystal clear.
In recent research done by LiveHive, Inc., more than 200 companies and approximately $1.2 billion worth of venture funding were uncovered in this space within the last three years. LiveHive looked at vendors playing in sales enablement, sales engagement, sales automation, sales acceleration, sales productivity, etc. Also worth noting is that the figure only represented the funding that was made public.
The sector is a hotbed of activity and – with a market projected to reach $30 billion by 2017 – there’s no slowing down in the short term.
Analytics and automation jointly provide the key to success
No matter what function the sales tool delivers, analytics are critical in the new sales paradigm to give sales buyer-side insights. On a very basic, transactional level, these tools might provide email tracking, showing when sales emails are opened and viewed. However, email tracking alone is not enough to provide sales organizations with insights about a customer’s interests or interest level.
More powerful analytics can show how customers engage with content to a very deep level. These tools can show precisely when and how prospects engage with sales documents, revealing how much time is spent viewing each page and delivering profile information for recipients of all forwarded documents.
Automation has also become a necessity for organizations to reduce the amount of time that their sales reps spend on routine, non-core selling activities, such as email and calling tasks. These activities take away from time that sales reps need to focus on core selling activities – and drive more revenue for the business.
But, by combining automation – such as email templates or group email delivery – with analytics, organizations are finding the most powerful solution. By combining automated systems with deep engagement analytics, businesses can power repeatable sales processes.
The need for repeatable sales processes
At the end of the day, sales leaders want answers to three questions:
- Are my sales reps productive?
- How do I get new reps to full productivity fast?
- If something’s working well, how can I repeat/scale that process?
With marketing pushing an increasing volume of leads to sales, these questions have taken on more urgency. Sales reps, sales development reps (SDRs), lead development reps (LDRs) – whatever this role is called within the organization – are drowning in leads.
By combining analytics with automation, organizations can accelerate the sales cycle. Sales teams can automate routine processes, better understand a buyer’s interest level, quickly spot decision makers in the buying process and rank the top opportunities.
With automated processes, such as email templates, reps can quickly send out emails – or a sequence of emails – that sales management has found proven to be most successful based on engagement analytics.
Through sales acceleration platforms – that combine these powerful analytics with advanced automation – companies are seeing their sales reps’ key productivity measures such as meetings per week climb from 10 to 50.
By seeing what works – whether it’s through sales content, email sequencing or stakeholders in an account – sales organizations can build repeatable processes based on what works best.
And it is precisely the need for and the immense value to be gained by these repeatable processes that have made sales technologies the new billion dollar baby.
Suresh Balasubramanian is CEO for LiveHive, Inc., whose sales acceleration platform automates sales follow-up to increase buyer engagement insights that power repeatable sales processes. Suresh is a seasoned software industry executive with more than 20 years of operations and senior management experience. Before LiveHive, Suresh served as CEO for Armor5, and GM worldwide at Adobe Software.