“Has Your Sales Team Embraced Technology?”
– Glenn Baruck/Chief Marketing Officer
The following article written by: Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer, Harvard Business Review
The convergence of mobile, analytics, context-rich systems, and the cloud, together with an explosion of information, is transforming sales, and enabling buyers and salespeople to engage with each other in more effective and efficient ways. Recently, information technology research and advisory company Gartner compiled a list of top 10 strategic technology trends. At least five of these trends have significant implications for sales forces, including:
1. Computing everywhere. Through the proliferation of mobile devices, buyers and salespeople can reach each other anywhere and anytime.
2. Advanced, pervasive, invisible analytics. By layering analytics seamlessly on top of linked data on customers, sales activities, and salespeople, companies can deliver the right decision assistance to the right salespeople and customers at the right time.
3. Context rich systems. Data and analytical insights can be tailored and targeted for the specific situations faced by customers and company personnel. The extreme customization aligns perfectly with how salespeople think and work.
4. Cloud Computing and 5. Software Defined Infrastructure: These enable fast deployment and at-will scaling of systems to keep up with ever-changing business, customer, and sales force needs.
Consider three examples.
A telecom company developed a collaborative filtering model, similar in concept to predictive algorithms used by companies such as Netflix and Amazon, to help key account salespeople. The model used advanced analytics to make specific recommendations about which products and services to offer to each customer based on analysis of past purchases within that account, as well as purchases in other accounts with a similar profile (i.e. “data doubles”). The model also forecasted the size of the opportunity and the likelihood of purchase at each account. This information improved marketing campaign targeting, as well as sales force targeting. Through a mobile app, salespeople could get the information when and where they needed it. Cloud computing and a software defined infrastructure enabled the system to seamlessly keep up with ever-changing sales force and customer needs. The data and technology enabled the sales force to better understand customer needs and target the right products for the right customers, driving stronger uptake of new product lines and improving the realization of cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
In the pharmaceutical industry, technology is transforming the sales process. A few decades ago, pharmaceutical companies promoted their products almost entirely through personal contact by salespeople with physicians. In 2014, almost half of all physicians put significant restrictions on the time they would spend with salespeople, and approximately two-thirds said they prefer to get information through digital methods. Consequently, pharmaceutical companies now look beyond the sales force to reach physicians. Computing everywhere and context rich systems allow pharmaceutical companies to get the right product information to the right salespeople and physicians at the right time, using communication channels that include email, social media, microsites, online video, and mobile apps.
In the financial services industry, a company had an outbound inside sales team that sold credit and lending products to small businesses. The company examined millions of phone records and listened to dozens of calls to identify ways to improve customer targeting and sales process execution. Using advanced, pervasive, and invisible analytics, the company performed tests, quickly producing simple, but breakthrough insights. First, by focusing on just 7 of the14 target industries, salespeople could increase profits by 16%. Second, by shifting calls to the right time of day, salespeople could triple the probability of a sale and increase profits by 20%. Third, by using specific consultative sales techniques employed by top performers, salespeople could further enhance their effectiveness and performance.
Interestingly, the use of technology to improve sales processes is not new. The first “traveling salesmen” used the railroad and then the automobile to broaden their geographic reach. Subsequent generations of salespeople have embraced innovations such as telephones, computers, and cell phones to build stronger customer connections. As today’s technology trends continue to have an impact, and as new trends emerge, sales forces must constantly and creatively adopt and adapt new technologies to improve sales processes and better serve customers.