Author: Joshua Seedman
Table of Contents
Volatility is the new normal and sales is no exception because digital and consequently more sophisticated customers are continually pushing sales expectations. Thus, companies must disrupt themselves and its sales function before the market and its competitors do it for them. With sales divisions often representing a significant portion of a company's revenue internal disruption has never been more imperative. For example, this substantial revenue generating business unit (i.e., sales) can consist of thousands of global employees, leading to a large variance in the sales journey and customer experience. Successful organizations understand the importance of effective selling. However, an enterprises's sales force is often full of significant variances, gaps, and inefficiencies which lead to customer pain points, lost sales, and profit erosion. To combat such value destruction this article introduces a 3 phase (9-step) sales framework (i.e., 9 best sales transformation practices). This proposed framework will aid in optimizing the entire sales function, which will unlock significant and sustainable growth across the enterprise (See Exhibit 1).
Such sales transformations are vital because the days of being successful on merely a differentiated product are over. Without creating a top functioning sales team that offers a world-class customer experience supported by a distinctive digital ecosystem the product alone will fail. This resonates more deeply than ever because digital disruption across B2C shopping, with Amazon leading the way, has forever changed customer’s shopping expectations across all industries and in both the B2C and B2B spaces. Simply, customers make no differentiation between buying, as world-class sales and customer experience are industry agnostic. To the customer, shopping is shopping – plain and simple. This has left a large customer experience “sales gap” between what customers expect and what they actually receive in their sales journey, equating to a poor customer experience, decreased lifetime value, low loyalty, decreased advocacy, and ultimately significant sales erosion (See Exhibit 2).
Many organizations, in an effort to combat this gap, throw excessive money at marketing, branding, products, and digital platforms instead of actually fixing the root problem – poor sales capabilities and consequently pain point ridden customer service. Thus, declining customer loyalty (i.e., lower revenue) combined with additional, yet poorly allocated, investments (i.e., higher costs) create a vicious profit destroying machine. Simply, inefficient investment costs that are aimed at correctly a bottom quartile sales function can easily trump revenue benefits meaning the company is going out of business that much more quickly (See Exhibit 3). Consequently, enterprises must ensure a rigorous rethinking of the entire sales process by uncovering hidden opportunities, identifying inefficiencies, and transforming the sales function into the revenue generating machine it is meant to be. The following 3 phase | 9 step sales transformation journey can help in this process.
Sales Transformation Journey
- 3 Phase | 9 Step Journey Overview -
Creating and maintaining a top performing sales division is not for the faint of heart but rather requires intense dedication and holistic processes. The following framework provides a comprehensive roadmap, ensuring an embedded and sustainable transformation across the enterprise. This includes (1) employee engagement, (2) cross-functional collaboration, (3) capability building, (4) product strategy, (5) digital transformation, (6) channel capabilities, (7) sales team reallocation, (8) CRM and pipeline optimization, and (9) customer experience. In its simplest form, this nine-step framework is distilled into the following three phases: (1) employee engagement, (2) product strategy, and (3) customer experience. See below for an overview of each of the transformation phases and accompanying steps.
- Organizational Health -
PHASE 1 - STEP 1
Customer engagement and thus sales success is highly correlated with employee engagement. For every $1 invested in improving employee engagement an up to $4 ROI can be seen with customers. With only 30 percent of employees engaged in their work the investment decision is simple. Simply, if you want to drive growth and create raving customers, first create raving employees. Click HERE for additional information on "why" employee engagement is key to customer success and click HERE for details on "how" to improve employee engagement.
PHASE 1 - STEP 2
Internal company competition is often fiercer than external competition. This produces silos, misaligned incentives, and value destruction across sales, marketing, customer experience, and brand. Sales winners are not those with size but rather those with speed. However, without top cross-functional collaboration speed, personalized customer experiences, and ultimately sales will be suboptimal because enterprise silos and piecemealed initiatives create customer pain points. Click HERE to read more on driving impactful cross-functional collaboration.
PHASE 1 - STEP 3
Employees are a company’s greatest assets so it should invest in them. However, not all sales training is equal. To create engaged employees sales training must also be engaging, combining the best of classroom, hands-on, and experiential (war-room) learnings. In turn, firms will create a far more capable sales force that will in turn be inspired to sell more and create "wow" customer experiences. Click HERE to read more on implementing effective capability building.
- Product, Platforms, & Channels -
PHASE 2 - STEP 4
To ensure sales productivity and customer satisfaction, companies must keep a constant pulse on its product portfolio. Simply, companies must consistently perform robust product segmentation that is concurrently cross-referenced with rigorous customer segmentation. When leveraged together, such insights can improve product viability, sales health, brand strength, and customer success. Click HERE to read more on value maximized decision-making for improved product, customer, and market decisions.
PHASE 2 - STEP 5
Digital disruption across B2C retail, with Amazon leading the way, has permanently shifted customer’s sales expectations in both B2C and B2B spaces. Simply, world-class sales and customer experience is industry agnostic. To the customer, shopping is shopping. This has left a large “sales gap” between what customers expect and what they receive. Implementing digital at scale initaitives is key to closing this gap. Click HERE to learn more about digital transformation and how to leverage digital at scale to drive significant growth within the sales function.
PHASE 2 - STEP 6
Customers regularly use different interaction channels throughout the purchase cycle and two-thirds come away frustrated by inconsistent experiences. Customers now expect “wow” moments that are consistent, seamless and omnichannel in nature. Simply, sales must not only meet but also exceed these needs by offering personalized experiences instead of merely transactional touch points. Click HERE for additional readings on omnichannel synchronization.
- Customer Experience -
SALES TEAM REALLOCATION
PHASE 3 - STEP 7
Today’s buyers are digitally savvy, where even in B2B over 50% of buyers are millennials. Winners are thus those with speed as up to 75% of buyers prefer not meeting F2F but rather desire answers whenever, wherever they like. Reallocating inside and outside sales is essential to maximizing costs and exceeding customer expectations. In addition, to drive personalized customer experiences, 50-60% of sales should be in a support role.
PIPELINE & CRM OPTIMIZATION
PHASE 3 - STEP 8
Sales success begins and ends with its pipeline. Companies must ensure (1) pipeline optimization for sustainable growth, (2) CRM maximization, leveraging both key CRM and pipeline insights, (3) robust segmentation that drives key customer and product insights, and (4) transparency that includes company wide dashboards and frequent goal tracking as a gateway for ensuring focus and alignment.
PHASE 3 - STEP 9
Customer engagement is often the real indicator of health. Simply, sales experiences are industry agnostic with service excellence acting as a key driver for either profit growth or value destruction. Companies across all industries and in both B2C and B2B spaces must keep a constant pulse on its level of personalized service excellence, ensuring high customer engagement, improved loyalty/advocacy, and higher lifetime value. Click HERE to read about customer experience transformations. In addition, click HERE to read more about the "customer experience gap™." Finally, click HERE to read more on pulse keeping with the "customer experience quadrant™."
Sales Journey Recap
As previously noted, in its simplest form, the aforementioned nine-step framework is distilled into three key phases, covering (1) organizational health (including employee engagement, cross-functional collaboration, and capability building), (2) product strategy, platforms, and channels, and (3) customer experience (See Exhibit 4).
Step #1. Org health, culture, and employee engagement
Step #2. Cross-functional collaboration
Step #3. Capability building creation and implementation
Step #4. Product portfolio analysis and GTM strategy
Step #5. Digital capabilities and platforms
Step #6. Channel and channel partner strategy
Step #7. Sales team and sales ops/admin reallocation
Step #8. Pipeline & CRM optimization
Step #9. Customer engagement transformation
By transforming the sales function across the aforementioned three core phases and accompanying nine-steps, companies can close the ever-widening sales gap by exceeding rather than simply meeting customer expectations (See Exhibit 2). Volatility is indeed the new normal in large part driven by digital disruption and more sophisticated customers, both of which are continually pushing sales expectations. To succeed, sales must embrace rather than avoid this newly disrupted landscape. Simply, companies must disrupt themselves and its sales function before the market and its competitors do so for them. With sales units often acting as a company's key revenue driver, enterprises can no longer wait in transforming itself. Indeed, future results will be dictated by the success or failure of an organization's sales function and its accompanying transformation for the digitally evolved landscape.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Seedman is the founder and chairman of PNI Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in global transformations. He has over 20 years of operating and general management experience with expertise in organizational transformations, customer experience, employee engagement, digital transformations, sales & marketing, operational turnarounds, culture/change management, and high-stakes negotiations. His experience includes executive roles within F500 companies, top-tier consulting leadership (McKinsey & Company), over 10 years of global P&L responsibility, and corporate lawyer (Davis Polk & Wardwell). He received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management and his J.D. (cum laude) from Northwestern University School of Law.