[This is the first in a series called Voice of the Manager, featuring guest posts from member practitioners. This post is authored by Nicholas Kontopoulos, Director Global Marketing at SAP. -ed.]
I am passionate about fusing innovative business processes with technology. I have to be: that’s the only way the sales warriors of the 21st century can win.
Think about it: Sales has become a very complex activity in the 21st?century. More competitors, both local and foreign, are battling for the same deals. Buying centers are enlarging; decision makers and influencers are spread across geographies. Increasingly, your sales teams are pitching an ever-expanding range of products and services to a customer base that is more well-informed than at any time in history.
All this complexity translates into huge volumes of information that your sales representatives need to consume about products, about customer needs, about the strengths and weaknesses of competitive offerings, and more. There’s information on LinkedIn, in notes on a smartphone, in a CRM system halfway around the world, in half a dozen blogs, and more. Always more.
Assuming you want your sales warriors to have a life outside of work (or, at least, to sleep), how can you empower them to win in this environment?
From my point of view, which is that of a sales executive who started in sales back when we used to rely on this stuff called paper (maybe you’ve heard of it), the answer has two parts:
One: the sales warrior who expects to go it alone and succeed solely on personal connections will win big deals with decreasing frequency. That’s simply no longer a model for success. There’s too much information and too little time. You need a team of warriors, a team that can interact in complementary ways to meet the customer’s needs faster, better, and more effectively than the other teams that are trying to do the same thing.
Two: you need to fuse innovative business processes with technology to give your teams a competitive advantage. They need ways to distill these huge volumes of information, access the critical bits quickly, collaborate effectively, and move with agility to create the impact that will make the difference. Poorly designed business processes that interact with a patchwork of poorly integrated CRM systems, sales methodologies, and enablement tools just won’t cut it. Sales teams need business processes that are well designed and innovative, that deliver an integrated view of the customer and align with a unified sales management strategy.
Is this easy? No. But it can be done, and it must be done if you want to win in the 21st century. You just need to know how to do it or to know who to call who can help you.
Enabling Competitive Advantage in the 21st Century
The point of fusing business processes and technology is to create competitive advantage in four key areas. Today, I m just going to summarize these. Over the next few weeks, though, I’ll be writing more detailed posts about each area. So don’t despair that I don’t say more today. Stay tuned instead.
Insight. Who are your most profitable customers? What is the most profitable deal in your pipeline? In my experience, few sales executives can answer either question instantly. You and your sales teams need a greater understanding of your customers and the industry trends that affect them. It can help your sales teams craft a compelling story about how your products and services can resolve your customer’s most important business challenges.
Collaboration. As noted, there’s too much information and too little time for a sales warrior to do battle alone. Today, sales representatives need to work together. And to help them work effectively, you need to understand what kinds of knowledge and information from inside and outside the company they need share. You also need to understand how that knowledge and information is created, captured, stored, and manipulated. Business processes and technologies that can increase the effectiveness of everyone they touch are key to meeting a customer’s needs more effectively.
Agility. Today, the idea of working exclusively from an office or exclusively during business hours? is as antiquated as the printed business directories I used in the 90s. Business hours are whenever you do business; the office is wherever you happen to be. While smartphones or wireless tablets can keep us connected wherever we are, agility requires more than mere connectivity. Agility requires the ability to work more effectively at any time and from any place. Sales representatives need innovative applications and up-to-date information at their fingertips. They need tools that can that can help them compete with better information and better responses, delivered with better timing.
Impact. Unless your sales teams deliver an experience that wows your customers, they will not stand out from the crowd. They need tools that can foster agility, collaboration, and insight; they also need to understand a customer’s past, current, and future needs. CRM tools are critical here, but to be most effective they need to be fused with the tools that foster insight, collaboration, and agility. That combination can maximize the customer experience and help you win the field.
Fusing business processes with technologies to enable insight, collaboration, agility, and impact is the key to empowering the sales warriors of the 21st century. Your teams become more productive and effective. They can achieve their sales goals and have time to celebrate those successes with their families at the end of the day.