As I sat with my feet up watching Bond’s Skyfall on television this Christmas, it struck me that, as salespeople, we’re actually in a very similar business. Granted, few of us drive Aston Martins, but we’re all in the intelligence game. Whether you’re Bond, Bourne or a sales pro, winning depends on the quality of your intelligence and insight.
We even have our own arsenal of sophisticated gadgetry ─ including cutting edge data solutions ─ to understand our customers and engage effectively.
Research suggests, however, that many businesses are going to market with huge gaps in their intelligence. Customer research from Corporate Visions, for example, suggests that 88% of sales reps know their own products, but only 24% show they understand their customers’ business challenges.
So how can you ensure you have the intelligence and insight you need? Psst! I’ll let you in on a secret ─ it’s something that I call PSST.
Planning is mission critical. If you react first and fastest to significant business events, such as executive changes, product launches or funding announcements, you’re much more likely to make a sale. You need to know when it’s the best time to make contact and get in before your competitors. Before an email is sent or a number dialled, you should understand everything there is to know ─ about the company, sector, sales cycle and the individual.
This knowledge gives you the power to identify your ideal customers, where they are, what stage of the buying process they’re at and the issues they are most interested in. Now you can prioritise and focus your time and effort on the prospects that are most likely to buy at precisely the right moment.
And you’ll want to be at the heart of the action and out in the field. So you’ll need a data solution that automates the process and delivers ‘pitch-ready’ reports at the push of a button ─ whether in the office or on the road.
Think about the sales calls you take. You’re far more likely to engage with someone who’s bothered to research your business than someone who’s simply pushing product. And you’ll have far more trust in their ability to deliver on their promises. So why should your customers be any different?
You need to maintain insight throughout the sales process (not just at the first point of contact). Buyers make choices based on your intelligence too. Demonstrating this intelligence calls for a data solution that constantly updates in real time to help you build trust to progress rapidly from first contact to final contract.
Sophisticated organisations understand that the sale is just the first step in building a profitable relationship. Your next moves will rely on data to deliver highly effective account management and increased retention. And retention is worth it: Bain & Company suggests that increasing retention by just 5% boosts profits by 25%-95%, while the probability of selling to existing customers (60%-70%) dwarfs that for new (5%- 20%).
The insight provided by an effective data solution allows you to know what customers want and when they want it so you can truly tailor solutions to your customers’ business objectives. It also opens up the potential for cross and up-sell within companies and groups ─ turning prospects into customers through positive referrals. Data makes you ‘sticky’ ─ as decisions about contract renewal are based as much on the added value of your relationship as they are on the performance of your products.
You stop being a supplier and start becoming a partner.
An effective data solution has the power to transform your sales approaches ─ giving the right targets at the right times, with the right insight to make that all-important first impression count. Beyond that first contact, you can rapidly establish trust to seal the deal faster AND forge ever stronger relationships. By always giving customers what they want, you lock your products and services into their business ─ for lasting retention.
Transformation can go much further, with the intelligent application of insight informing everything from marketing approaches to product development and even strategic business planning.
By Rob Eaton, international director of sales at Avention
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