There's a new business paradigm for the sales force today that goes well beyond SFA into what we call "sales force effectiveness" (SFE).
Innovative technology and communication methods require the sales force of the interactive age to be integrated across the enterprise to create a centralized sell-side network. This facilitates information sharing across all customer touchpoints and internal departments and allows stronger relationship entanglement. The net result is more accurate measurement of sales effectiveness and more appropriate incentives for desired sales behavior.
Here are some ways to bring your sales force up to speed to build customer value:
1. Stay relevant to customers.
Add value to every interaction by becoming entangled in the customer's ongoing business, regardless of where the customer is in the sales cycle. And it's not just up to the sales force to figure out how to do that. Other departments within the enterprise must provide supporting tools and services to help the sales force become valuable resources for customers. In one healthcare insurance company, for instance, marketing worked closely with sales to develop key client issues and customer ratings. These issues were identified through sales feedback, market research and operations-performance measures.
In addition, sales must have up-to-date information on competitive offerings, as well as tools to aid in the design of complex customer solutions.
2. Gain enterprise-wide knowledge about each customer's value and needs.
Most sales organizations understand the customer's value at some level, but knowing the true value of a customer goes well beyond revenue recognition. A rigorous customer-valuation process will identify opportunities for optimizing resources to high value and high potential-value customers, as well as drive efforts for account planning and management.
3. Make "understanding customers' needs" a mantra.
The sales force must be integrally involved in a systematic process to collect and analyze customer information and take action based on such insight. But, a key difference enabling today's business model is involvement of the entire organization in the development of such needs-based programs.
4. It's the strategy, stupid.
Sales automation and infrastructure are critical enablers of enterprise-to-enterprise relationships. But successful use of technology starts with solid customer strategy, followed by processes to support the application strategy. The real gain, however, happens when information is captured and leveraged enterprise-wide. The human factor between sellers and buyers will always be the key to sales force effectiveness and building customer value over time.
5. Measure what you really want sales to do.
It's important to look beyond revenue increases or order inventory when measuring success. Metrics such as share of customer, retention, willingness to collaborate, customer profitability and loyalty must be added to measurement and compensation models that have been traditionally based on sales-revenue quotas. And sales-force compensation should be linked to increases in current and potential customer value to help ensure employee buy-in and active participation.
At one major consumer packaged goods firm, value-driven reports enabled marketing and sales to set their own staff goals and compensation structure to support customer-focused selling and reinforce an account team selling approach. This approach would have failed if the reporting system had not changed to accommodate the view of the customer.
With or without "sales force automation," a sell-side competitive edge is all about sales force effectiveness. It means having a well-oiled ecosystem that includes partners, call centers, field sales and any team involved in selling. Complex sales transactions, channel strategy, integrated planning and team selling, customer knowledge shared across the enterprise, customer-focused metrics, compensation, sales automation -- these aren't issues to ponder casually. An honest appraisal of each area will help you determine the relevance of your sales team. Their effectiveness depends on it.
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All materials copyright 2003 Peppers and Rogers Group - 1:1 Marketing.