Your customers have done research and made decisions before you get the opportunity to sell to them; this means less influence. But integrating your data across systems can help you make better decisions and get a better return on your sales force. Axiom Consulting Partners’ Partner Donncha Carroll shares how below.
Everyone knows the B2B sales process has changed – a lot of information is out there that didn’t exist before, customer ratings both positive or negative on your products or services, information from public sources that is now broadly available on a subscription basis – and that means your customers have done a lot of research before they pick up the phone. They have made a lot of decisions about whom they want to work with and already understand, to a large extent, your product or service and whatever you are bringing to market. The practical implication of all this is that you have less influence and less time to influence the buying decision.
Really what we are looking at is the natural integration of technology into the sales cycle, both on the customer side and on the sales team side. I think we have all been in a position where we are using Outlook or Linked In or different tools that allow us to do our research. Before we sit down with a team or a potential buyer, we understand who we are meeting with now much more than we did ten or fifteen years ago. And while the relationship is still critically important and building trust is still essential to closing a deal, what we are seeing is an augmented capability. We are now working alongside technology to accomplish lots of things.
Healthcare is a great example – doctors working alongside machines to make better, faster diagnoses by looking at millions of observations from MRI machines and X-rays. So the sales team can do the same thing – who they should call on and what they should talk about. And of course, there are lots of vendors. It is a very crowded sales technology space, whether it’s lead generation or tools for field sales management. And really, what these tools are doing is leveraging the experience of the team. What they are not doing is focusing on the complete life cycle of the sales process, because many of these solutions are niche and focused on one element of the cycle versus leveraging the experience across the entire process from start to finish.
And what we are saying is that if you can integrate your data across multiple systems – demographics on customers, conversion rates from the transaction system, payments that are being made by the customer, email communications that give you visibility to the different stakeholders that are involved in the process or how your team is interacting with the customer, you can start to connect dots across these multiple systems to really give you a picture on how to go to market: who to call on yes but how to call on them, which team to deploy, when to deploy a sales engineer, when to engage the professional services team – and so that is the real potential that technology brings. And you are not going to find that in any one vendor, so what you are going to have to do is bring that data together across your systems and use new analytical capabilities inside your organization to try to use that data more effectively so that you can make better decisions and get a better return on your sales force.