"Evolution is not a force but a process." - John Morley
Sales organizations across all industries face a fundamental shift-a change in course that increasingly relies on acting quickly, meaningfully, and in the context of a prospect's interest.
In a growing number of industries, salespeople no longer have the luxury of making multiple site visits, meeting with various people within an organization, and deciphering the decision-makers early in the sales process. More and more, prospects today are well into their purchase process before they invite a salesperson to speak with them. As a result, salespeople must arm themselves with customer information culled from numerous channels and administered through a variety of devices.
Welcome to 3.0 selling.
Where selling 2.0 relied largely on SFA tools to streamline workflow and provide contact history, 3.0 selling requires more than an automated work stream and generic information. Today's sales reps need to be armed with social CRM insights, integrated data, and mobile technologies that provide them agility to respond quickly to customers and prospects' inquiries, the ability to collaborate, and insight into customer and prospects' behaviors, needs, and potential value.
"It's a revolution," says Nicholas Kontopoulos, director, global marketing, CRM, at SAP. "Customers are driving the conversation, they're more empowered, and they have higher expectations," he says. "If you're going to create the 21st century sales force, you need to look at how to orchestrate the technologies, people, and processes."
James Rogers, vice president of marketing at Hoover's," adds that reps must act quickly and in relation to specific opportunities."By the time the customer comes to them, they need to have the information beforehandso that they can immediately apply the context of their solutions in a meaningful way to that prospect," he says.
One way that toobtain that context is by leveraging social CRM.Some organizations are even mandating that their salespeopleparticipate in social networks and industry-related online communities to trackthe ideas and products that areimportant to customers and prospects and to get a deeper understanding of their needs."I personally would rather hear a sales rep say, 'I was on LinkedIn and participated in a CRM group,' than to say, 'I made 12 phone calls,'" says Jason Rushforth, president of Pivotal CRM at CDC Software. "When we morph into the 3.0 world, it's about being online and about the timeliness of messages."
Brian Ludwig, Cvent's vice president of sales, also relies on social media-mostly LinkedIn and Twitter-to move prospects through the sales cycle. He says communications received in those channels stand out. "When you see a personal message in LinkedIn, it catches your eye," he says. He hires reps who have social skill sets to support that strategy and already have a strong presence in sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Surviving in a sales 3.0 world also means integrating and analyzingdata gleaned from social sites and customer feedback with SFA and CRMdata,and transformingit in a consumable way to help salespeoplemake effective decisions. This deeper view into potential opportunities, allows reps to sell based on customers' needs and close deals faster. "By bringing that data in and understanding the six degrees of separationthat's where the reps in the field become consultants by knowing this information and drawing parallels," Rushforth says.
However, integration doesn't necessarily require a central data hub. According to Chad Ashcraft, chief sales and marketing officer at Toovio, a common misconception is that the data must be centralized. Instead, it's possible to use a tool that integrates the data and extracts specifically what sales reps need when they need it. "It's about pulling the data that is relevant," he explains.
An evolution to 3.0 selling largely relies on the ability to adapt to new technologies-an issue that remains a barrier in many companies often due to siloed organizational structures, risk aversion, budget constraints, or a lack of training. Neolane's Brian Serino, vice president of sales in North America, says that sales leaders who can adapt to technologies like mobile, as well as to changes in the marketplace, will thrive. "People who have the sales force automation systems, as well as the ability to access customer information and solve business problems from one process to the next," Serino says, "will be the most successful."
Many companies, in fact, are installing enterprise apps on reps' mobile devices so theycan access business and customer insights on the fly.Organizations need to keep pace with mobile innovation andwith increased adoption of devices like iPads and smart phones. This meansproviding their reps with a choice oftechnology to manage deals to a successful outcome,as well asbridging the devices and integrate them into their CRM platforms. "If you want to recruit the best and brightest, they expect these tools," Kontopoulos adds.
Don't overlook people
While the ability to harnesssocial CRM insights, mobile tools, and in-depth data is paramount, people and relationships remain at the core of building a sustainable business. "Technology does not replace salespeople," SAP's Kontopoulos says. "If you're starting point is technology, you will fail."
And because salespeople are at the core of relationship building, shifting to a 3.0 sales approach means helping salespeople adapt to that change. So, Kontopoulos advises that sales organizations adopt a clear executive-owned vision of the transformational sales processes that will guide reps to successful selling in a sales 3.0 world. He also emphasizes the importance of investing in training. "So many companies get it wrong as they roll out the strategy and technology. If I look at my past experience where projects have failed, it's because I didn't invest in training," he says.
A paradigm shift
Sales is very much on CEOs' agendas, but taking the sales organizations beyond the basics of solutions selling to incorporate social media insights, in-depth data, and mobile technologies will require a Herculean shift in many organizations.
Kontopoulos says to think big, but start small. "The trend we're seeing now...is that [sales] is more of a strategic platform," he says.
CDC's Rushforth adds, "If you can make a paradigm shift from traditional sales efforts and you can truly make it a meaningful experience where you can build relationships of trustyou are in a different stratosphere of innovation."