When I finished my undergraduate degree, I entered a workforce unlike any I’d been prepared for. My class entered the job market at the height of the 2009 Great Recession. Looking back, I didn’t understand many of the struggles my friends and I would face, but I soon realized things weren’t going to be as planned. Hindsight may be 20/20, but one thing I’ve learned is that in order to thrive in any environment, we must adapt and evolve!
This is the newest in a series of blogs that describe how organizations can build a culture of customer experience excellence. Click here for the first and here to read about B2B marketing excellence. In this, I describe how a Sales organization can adapt and evolve to best enable their sales organization in order to compete in what Oracle calls the “Experience Economy.”
The customer relationship with brands is in constant evolution. As marketing, sales, commerce, and service professionals, we're forced to adapt to these shifts or risk extinction. That's never been more true than it is today. We’re living in the Experience Economy, where your customers’ experience with your brand is inseparable from the value of the goods and services you provide.
The Experience Economy is driven by the way the world works today. People expect physical goods to arrive at their doors in a matter of hours, not days – and they expect answers to arrive on their mobile screens in a matter of milliseconds.
Before I graduated, I took an internship with the university where I promoted events for all visiting speakers, artists and musicians. Even though I was a sales and marketing beginner, I was willing to put in the labor-intensive grunt work to market to the masses through paid advertising, social media and other channels.
My first job after graduating was in technology sales. What I didn’t know then was that this role would continue to strengthen my learning curve well beyond my education.
#1 Inbound Sales is where the path to Sales Excellence begins. The focus is to build a customer base through traditional channels. It could even be spreadsheet-based, with little or zero automation. When a customer calls, the answering rep takes their info and connects the product or service with the customer. Pretty basic stuff. If you are an organization that is lucky enough to have an SFA tool, you may have integrated with mobile and email, but the sky is the limit from here.
Again, most sales organizations begin by equipping their reps with a salesforce automation (SFA) tool, and then build off of that. Going beyond this initial step takes us to our second step in this path.
#2 Foundational Sales is largely automating many business tasks associated with sales, like contact management, data sharing, order tracking and more. SFA is often synonymous with CRM, although CRM doesn’t always automate all sales tasks. The next logical step is to integrate vital functions that sales reps need in their daily lives, be it mobile access, email and real-time data.
While these integrations expand and fortify the foundation, the organization still has to think ahead. This means leveraging tools that help with forecasting, quota management, incentive compensation, and territory management. Aligning sales and organizational business goals is critical. Sales teams leap forward from short-term thinking to strategizing around top tier accounts.
These tools help reps feel confident they'll succeed through automation and guided-selling, while protecting margins and making their quotas. Mastering these capabilities helps put a hyper-focus on transforming your organization into a streamlined and efficient, revenue-focused business.
After strengthening the core Sales foundation, the ideal next step is to differentiate your brand’s ability to personalize its communications across all your customers’ touch points.
#3 Personalized Sales requires an organizational commitment where it’s clearly understood how Sales fit within and across every single department. This must be a transparent and collaborative process that is agreed to by all departments and communicated across the company.
Sales and service teams need access to the most up-to-date customer data and history to make this successful. This requires integrating CRM and CPQ systems for downstream processes to get accurate financials and forecasting. This blend of historic and real-time data gives sales a fuller, more accurate picture of accounts and helps them to prepare and personalize customer interactions.
The planning and forecasting benefits that result from this blend of data include sales planning and incentive compensation, quota, and territory management. A Sales organization that stays on top of these capabilities motivate and retain top talent, incentivize partners, and build upon a better forecasting process.
After you’ve built the foundation and personalized functionality, you're well down the path to practice 'responsive selling.' Gone are the days of being reactionary to buyer needs and seller wants. You’ve now instilled a strong strategy and invested a tremendous amount of time and effort to maximize benefits from your sales investments.
At this point, you are delivering a unified brand experience across all customer touch points. Activating customer intelligence in each micro-moment when your customer engages helps drive revenue growth.
#4 Responsive Sales is the phase where elite sales organizations that practice responsive selling also adopt strategies that use AI for Sales and Guided Talk Tracks to access smart talking points for price optimization, which helps protect margins. All these innovations arm your sales organization to help exceed customer expectations.
The Experience Economy breaks our CX Sales strategy into a vision where buyers get what they want;
Sellers get what they need;
Responsive Selling represents the pinnacle of success for sales organizations. It takes commitment from the top of the organization to create a company-wide culture and effort to propel the business there.
For me, it took a rocky start that led me to change my surroundings and adapt to the market. I would not change a thing! That initial pressure and stress taught me that you cannot stay stagnant. Instead, it motivated me to be in a constant state of evolution and learning.