Four Practical Ways You Can Improve The Consistency and Performance Of Your Customer Facing Employees
For decades, manufacturers have applied the principle of continuous process improvement to make money by reducing operating expenses and inventory while increasing throughput – as defined by sales – all at the same time. Continuous process improvement is centered on creating consistency by eliminating variances in individual process steps, stripping excess capacity and waste from the system, and allocating resources and capability to their most profitable use in creating throughput (sales). Firms like Toyota, Nike, John Deere, and GE created billions of dollars of value in the 20th Century by adopting Lean Manufacturing, Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma and Kaizen in their operations and supply chains.
This notion of continuous process improvement is not isolated to production and the supply chain. It can be applied to almost any business process, from the design of computer chips to optimizing the performance of computers, to managing cash flow and the return on capital.
That begs a big question – if businesses like Toyota, Intel, and Nike were able to create billions of dollars of firm value applying continuous process improvement to their operations and supply chains – how can we do the same in the demand chain?
The answer is to better leverage your investments in sales enablement technology. Why? Because sales enablement technologies make it possible to improve consistency and make selling more scalable. These technologies give managers three ways to create financial value:
- The unprecedented ability to enforce process discipline, propagate best practices, apply the best resource to the biggest opportunity, and measure the consistency of every step of the revenue cycle.
- Enormous potential to improve the productivity, engagement, speed, and visibility of sales teams.
- And advanced analytics provide the ability to analyze that data to accurately prioritize opportunities, recommend smart actions, find the right content, and allocate effort to the best actions and opportunities.
Most organizations have already invested in over a dozen such tools. The issue has always been management commitment to demand and extract their full value and concern over forcing too much change on their managers and sellers. The reality is that any organization can generate more value from their investments in sales enablement through a series of individual actions that incrementally improve revenues or costs or the customer experience. This process of continuous improvements in process performance that can add up to big gains in revenues and profits over time.
Four Practical Ways Sales Enablement Technologies Can Improve The Consistency and Performance Of Your Customer Facing Employees
There are four practical and financially attractive ways any organization can employ sales enablement solutions to make their selling system more consistent and sustainable. These include focusing their customer facing employees on the right actions, clients, and conversations. Maximize time spent engaging buyers. Optimize your ability to onboard, ramp, coach, and reinforce the selling behaviors and activities that create customer value. These are outlined below.
1. Streamline and simplify the seller workflow to improve the seller experience and eliminate wasted effort. Growth leaders are improving sales performance by actively “knitting together” the various pieces of their technology portfolios to build digital selling platforms that automate, simplify, and speed up selling by addressing the major hot spots in the selling process. “As sales enablement, engagement and training platforms evolve and converge they provide more support at the different steps in the seller workflow, says Greg Munster, Global Sales Enablement Director a Canonical and a Director at the Revenue Enablement Institute. “In my experience executing digital selling platforms at Red Hat and now Canonical, the thing that distinguishes successful enablement initiatives from the ones that fail is the ability of operations leaders to knit together and build out these different blocks to create a more uniform user interface and simplified user (seller) experience. One where the user (seller) doesn’t have to deal with a bunch of disparate tools that all have different user interfaces.” Simplifying the seller experience creates significant financial value because it eliminates a host of problems that are directly caused by a bad seller experience – from higher selling costs to inconsistent selling performance. The financial consequences of poor seller experience and disjointed day to day seller workflow are severe. They lead to lower levels of seller performance, which begats poor quota attainment, and ultimately rep attribution. Connecting the dots across our sales technology ecosystem to eliminate the key points of friction in the day-to-day seller workflow gave us a systematic way to generate ever increasing returns by continuously improving the consistency and performance of the selling system,” says Jeff McKittrick, Walk Me. “We achieved these gains through a series of incremental gains and micro disruptions that avoid the change management issues typically associated with commercial transformation projects.”
Knitting together a highly profitable and productive portfolio of selling technologies is not rocket science. But it does require hard work, teamwork, and leadership. But there’s definitely a cookbook – and the recipe for success is pretty straightforward. One key is to recognize the sales technology portfolio is complex and every organization has made a large investment in legacy systems to enable their unique go to market approach. “The trap a lot of technology provider fall into is they try to be all things to all people. You can’t connect all these dots by yourself. You have to be open to connect with other parts of the ecosystem – even if you compete with them,” reports Robert Wahbe, the CEO of Highspot, a business that has helped hundreds of organizations better connect the dots across their sales technology ecosystem. “That’s why we have focused our product roadmap on building a unified and open platform from the ground up, rather than acquired different technologies.”
2. Use intelligence about next best action and customer priorities to optimize selling and resource allocation by generating more and better insights from customer engagement and seller activity assets. This is a big opportunity because. Less than half (47%) of reps say they have access to competitive intelligence solutions. Any business can better focus their selling time, resources, priorities and the way the treat customers to make more money. The emergence of sales enablement technologies like Highspot offer tremendous potential to improve the performance of selling teams and channels. Businesses can realize these efficiencies by sharpening segmentation, focusing account priorities, shifting engagement to digital channels, and fine tuning the emphasis and priorities and actions of their sellers. For example, advanced sales enablement solutions use CRM and sales engagement data to create models that can more accurately predict which customers are going to buy from you, with the least selling effort, and which ones are not likely to buy or will require too much work to convert. When compared with the estimates of sales teams and local market leaders – these models are usually 20% more accurate at predicting who will buy, and who will not, according to research by Blue Ridge Partners. When combined with human insights about local markets and customer relationships, they become even more predictive and accurate. Most organizations see near term gains of 20% or more in conversion, sales quota attainment, and account development when they use propensity to buy models to focus their resources.
3. Improve the utilization and return on your data and content assets. Maximizing the return on growth assets can unlock significant firm value because these growth assets are expensive, valuable and generate a significant portion of the financial value of your firm. However, in most firms they are severely and persistently underutilized and poorly managed. For example, customer data is perhaps the most valuable asset in the business, yet it not fully leveraged in terms of actionable insights that front line sellers can use to support decision-making and actual conversations. Selling content is a big and growing component of the growth investment mix (41% of marketing budgets according to HubSpot). 80% of CMOS report they are increasing their investment in content creation and delivery. This content fuels critical selling activities like guided selling, next-best-action guides, playbooks, that are used in day to day customer conversations and decision-making. But customer insights are not fully leveraged, selling content and proven plays are not fully utilized, and sales training is not applied. As a direct consequence, sales reps still spend most of their time not talking to customers because it’s too hard, labor intensive or stressful to find and apply all three of these assets in their day to day workflow. Using sales enablement solutions to consolidate, manage, and align selling content with the customer journey regardless of which organization creates it, can create large returns. This will ensure more of your front line sellers get quick and easy access to the playbooks, training, thought leadership, competitive information and customer references to support more relevant, compelling, and impactful interactions. “If data is the oxygen that runs the modern growth engine, content represents the gasoline required for combustion,” reports Bruce Rogers, author of Publish or Perish, A CMO Roadmap for managing the Content Supply Chain. “Content is a valuable commercial asset because modern selling is increasingly centered around owned digital selling channels that rely heavily on timely, targetable, personalized, and compliant content.”
4. Reallocate sales overhead to more scalable investments in training and development. The average organizations spends over $10,000 a year on “selling overhead” on a per rep basis. Up until the mass adoption of work at home and work from anywhere policies, most of this overhead was associated with real estate, travel and market development funds to take clients out to dinner. Very little – less than a third – was spent on scalable investments in training and technology to enable sellers. Replacing some of all of this overhead with technologies and training offers the potential to double visibility, speed, productivity, and engagement while still yielding a net reduction in cost of sell. This will improve the economics of field selling by improving the speed of ramping sales reps, raising the overall level of readiness and skill across the entire revenue team, and reducing churn to retain top talent that performs at a high level. A five percent increase in sales rep attrition across your sales team can increase selling costs 4-6% and reduce total revenue attainment by 2-3% overall. For low growth and low margin companies ten points of salesforce attrition can wipe out revenue plans and margins if nobody picks up the slack. The difference between a 5% attribution rate and 25% means cost an increase of over 50% in cost to sell and revenues drop by 20%.
You can get more research on ways to apply the principles of continuous process improvement to your demand chain and ways to use sales enablement technology to improve the consistency and scalability of your selling system by accessing our Revenue Operations research or arranging a briefing with our expert faculty by calling 203.912.8172.