Sales Manager, integrate your sales team with marketing, data, and artificial intelligence.
Sales used to be a 'human profession.' However, under the influence of technology (internet, apps, social media), the profession is changing rapidly. The initiative lies less with sales, the content of sales conversations is changing, and gut feeling is being replaced by data. What remains of sales, and how do you adapt to the change?
The internet has significantly changed the sales process. Nowadays, prospects do a lot of research themselves. They independently search for and find information about products and solutions at their convenience, at the moment and through the medium that suits them. They are well-versed in prices, specifications, competitors, and alternatives. On average, prospects spend around 14 hours on 'pre-work' before making a significant purchase decision.
To help prospects find the information that convinces them to choose your product or service, your information needs to be easily accessible. That's the role of marketing. Marketing ensures that information is findable, attractive, convincing, and as tailored as possible. Information that is adapted to the stage in which the prospect finds themselves and the medium they prefer.
Blogs, social posts, white papers, videos, cases, reviews are ingredients with which marketers gradually warm up prospects until they are ready to buy.
By making clever use of automation, you can warm up prospects in large numbers. This is called marketing automation. The foundation for this is a CRM system. Where CRM used to be primarily an internal knowledge source for sales, it is now the digital heart of both sales and marketing, linked to all communication channels that prospects use to interact with your brand, company, and product. In addition to phone calls and emails, visits to the website, customer portals, and social media are logged and tracked in the CRM system. As a result, we know exactly when a prospect opens a quote and how many times. We measure which videos have been viewed and to what extent. We see which social posts a prospect views or 'likes.' With this data, we can customize each subsequent contact moment. Based on behavior and interests, the right follow-up message is sent each time. Not convinced yet? Then maybe an persuasive customer case will follow. Already working on the quote? Then, for example, an advisory call follows.
By analyzing and using this data effectively, you know what to do with each customer or prospect, how your company is doing, and which investments will be the most profitable. Data turns soft assumptions into facts. However, analyzing data itself is a skill not everyone possesses. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help with this. AI is the application in which computers perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence. This has long ceased to be science fiction. Its business use is rapidly increasing. Even small and medium-sized companies can already use AI applications to optimize sales success.
AI tools like CrystalKnows, for example, analyze a LinkedIn profile and predict someone's behavioral style based on various online data. This helps you know how to approach those leads with the right words to achieve results.
SalesForce Einstein collects, filters, and organizes data, makes it more accessible, and continuously adjusts the computational models. The insights can be used for more precise lead generation, scoring, nurturing, sales forecasts, activity logging, and deal closing. This allows you to predict what leads will buy what and when. The sales department then has the freedom to establish personal contact with high-quality leads based on the insights obtained.
When the prospect is ready for contact with sales, you are dealing with an informed conversation partner. Therefore, sales needs to bring more to the table than the standard sales pitch. After all, the potential customer has already read that. In short, sales must operate at a higher level, tailor to the prospect's personal situation, and provide more of an experience. Sales is equipped with data and advice from AI applications.
In terms of sales skills in this new sales era, it is more important than ever to listen, ask the right questions, and provide targeted advice. Whether or not a deal is reached must be more subtle. Hard closing techniques make way for more subtle soft skills. However, this does not mean that the courage to ask for the order is no longer part of a salesperson's conversational repertoire.
The changes in the sales profession require not only changes in sales but also in management. Together, you steer towards new skills, different KPIs, and new time allocations. We believe that the current to-do list for every sales manager includes at least the following:
Sales Improvement Group helps companies improve results by optimizing sales organizations and training people. We share our knowledge and experience on improving sales through blogs and whitepapers. If you want more guidance on setting up a modern sales organization, read the whitepaper 'Trends & Modern Selling'.
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