Best Practices and Lessons Learned (The Future of Sales Technologies)
Throughout our research and our discussions with leading organizations, we identified at least three emerging sales technology trends requiring the attention of successful sales organizations:
Current and future business challenges will require organizations to adopt flexible and well-thought-out CRM systems.
CRM today will only serve to increase customer expectations, requiring organizations to be one step ahead in the race to serve customers and create valuable relationships.
Technology is evolving and software systems themselves will be more flexible and sophisticated, requiring organizations to stay on the cutting edge to remain competitive.
The popularity of CRM among organizations we interviewed reflects a fundamental shift to customer-focused strategies and an emphasis on the value of managing mutually beneficial relationships with customers. These companies are taking steps to increase their value to customers and their customers’ value to the organization. And as customer relationships become more complex, information becomes more complex.
The challenges to sales organizations discussed throughout this book, including growing global competition, new skill requirements, and new channels to market, will require wellplanned and flexible CRM systems if organizations want to strengthen their focus on the customer. For example, as alternative channels and additional customer touch points become more important factors in customer relationships, CRM must take each aspect into account. Additionally, CRM systems also must be fluid and flexible as e-commerce continues to expand and after-sales service becomes more integral to the customer experience.
As customers receive more value from their interactions and continue to have more positive experiences, they will inevitably expect more. For sales organizations to be successful, they will need to meet and exceed those expectations. This will require flawless implementation of CRM systems and the continuous reevaluation of business objectives, sales processes, and individual skills.
Finally, as technologies advance, organizations must be flexible enough to react. Increasingly, CRM systems will not only increase efficiency but effectiveness as well. As current software increases efficiency, for example, by allowing sales reps more time to make sales calls, organizations now also require sales reps to make better and smarter sales calls. Technology providers will focus on making the sales force more effective.
There will be more functionality being put into CRM tools to include knowledge management systems, sales coaching systems, and service intelligence systems. Finally, suppliers of sales force technology will increase their “vertical solutions” and phase out their one-size-fits-all CRM system. Software suppliers now realize that there are different types of customers, business models, and selling strategies, and over time there will be different CRM software to support these differences. Successful sales organizations must be ready to seek out and leverage these technological advances to compete in the global economy.
Chapter 5: Adopting a Consultative Selling Approach
“Today I have to listen harder. I no longer ‘show up and throw up.’ Telling the customer everything I know about my company does not convince them that we are a better supplier. I listen to their goals, their problems, and then work with them to develop a solution to those problems. I am responsible for building trust, for adding value.”
Another strategy that we heard repeatedly from participant organizations in our study was the adoption of (or a reemphasis on) a consultative selling approach. This is reflective of the salesperson’s key role as “being the face” of the organization. As overall corporate strategies and marketing strategies have become more value-based and customer-centric, this philosophy must be represented in each interaction held with customers. As such, a consultative sales approach can be central to creating the desired defining moments with customers. On the surface, this may not seem particularly innovative—after all, most organizations have been talking about consultative selling in some form for at least a decade. What is interesting is that few organizations would claim to have executed on this strategy to the degree sought. In fact, not only are organizations reexamining their use of consultative selling, the approach was held up as the baseline, regardless of industry, geography, or target market. This means that while the transactional sales model will continue to have a place in many sales organizations, it has become a less common use of face-to-face and inside sales channels. What has become the more pressing concern is creating a sales force that understands consultative selling and that can make decisions as to what extent it should be used.
So, what does consultative selling mean and why, after ten years of talking about it, do organizations still think it’s worth the considerable effort required? This chapter will explore the answers to these two very important questions.