More and more companies are using sales planning tools like machine learning and automation to personalize customer communications and accelerate connections. Businesses can effectively scale up by measuring customer engagement and automatically notifying sales professionals of times for higher-touch outreach.
Instead of the traditional product-centric approach of simply telling the brand's side of the story, automation is creating a greater industry focus on B2B customer experience, according to Kara Alcamo, vice president of media and digital activation services at R2integrated (R2I).
"Marketing channels are a direct conduit to buyers, and the shift is to use them to build relationships, understand the needs and wants of the buyer, and add value to communications versus simply selling products," she said.
Realigning sales roles
This redirected focus on B2B customer experience rings true for sporting goods creator and brand marketer Amer Sports, which serves sports equipment and accessory manufacturers like Atomic, Wilson and Suunto. The performance management company, based in Helsinki, Finland, paired up with cloud-based business planning and performance management platform-maker Anaplan to improve Amer's sales compensation strategies and enables its executives to set, consolidate and compare sales targets from different perspectives.
Thilo Dörrglobal sales development manager, Amer Sports
The sales planning tools helped reduce the time required to set sales quotas and targets by an estimated 70%, according to Anaplan. What would normally take a week to accomplish, the Amer Sports sales team can now do in less than a day, allowing field sales managers to focus more on customers and team performance.
"The Anaplan platform enabled us to successfully execute a significant organizational and strategic change," said Thilo Dörr, global sales development manager at Amer Sports. "We realigned almost 440 sales professionals who previously had nearly identical roles into a new structure with four distinct positions, all of which operate across different locations."
Amer was better able to address the needs of their brands, customers and consumers; the seasonality of sports; and the complexity of individual countries, Dörr said. Responding to increased customer activity, the company transitioned its sales positions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa into the more specialized roles of sales managers, smart service sales representatives, visual merchandisers and tech representatives.
Amer is now looking to expand the use of the Anaplan platform into territory planning and customer engagement monitoring. The company plans to use sales planning tools to measure and improve customer engagement.
It's all about the customer
In B2B marketing, placing more importance on B2B customer experience enables companies to prioritize leads and follow up with the right customers in a timely manner to prevent loss of sales. R2I, which automates account-based email, mobile, social, digital ads, web management and analytics, successfully scaled sales through automation by reshifting its focus on B2B customer experience, Alcamo said.
Using the Marketo marketing automation platform, R2I quickly turned around sales for B2B companies by developing and implementing a lead scoring strategy that tags leads as either low or high priority so they can be sent to the sales team.
Kara Alcamovice president of media and digital activation services, R2integrated
"If a prospect has a certain job title and isn't in a targeted account, but engages with certain pieces of content, we tag [it] as bottom of the funnel," Alcamo noted. "They would then also be routed to our sales team."
The key is to provide B2B customers with complete lead activity history, logging what online content they interacted with and when so businesses can better prepare for customer conversations and cite relevant case studies. Using sales planning tools at R2I, Alcamo added, sales teams can focus their efforts on engaging leads and prioritizing the ones that best align with their outreach efforts.
"At the end of the day," she said, "B2B, in particular, requires a balance of non-human and human interaction, and automation allows us to ensure that the sales professionals are supported by automated communications versus inundating a prospect."