We live in a world with unprecedented access to information and data. The challenge for sales is the prospect is self-educating way before the sales person begins to engage. Then once the real dialogue starts, there is the challenge of ensuring the sales team is on point and compliant with current product and service definitions. This convoluted scenario is common and the stakes are high.
For instance, sales professionals in regulated industries could disseminate outdated information generating hefty fines. A software account executive, aware of an eminent major update, may sometimes be guilty of “over sharing” information ahead of the launch, causing disappointment or negatively impacting revenues for the company. Regardless of the situation, companies must balance the provision of information with compliance and control.
Mind the gap
So how do companies support this across a geographically dispersed, mobile sales team? Sure, they can email the latest company messaging and corporate content out to teams, but there’s no guarantee everyone will open, read, retain and refer to that information. The reality is that bridging the gap between marketing information and the sales teams in the field, depends on a combination of the right company culture, processes and supporting systems/tools. Here are 10 proven best practices to bridge the divide:
1. On-Board consistently – have everything in one place for new recruits to ensure they are ‘on message’ will accelerate the on-boarding process. Of course, it doesn’t replace training, but it’s a great supplement to ensure teams ‘speak company’ quickly.
2. Mitigate risk and project credibility – ensure everyone has centralised access to current, accurate content not only reduces exposure to litigation, it also helps to protect the company’s credibility, (I’m sure many of us have been in the situation of realising different colleagues are citing different statistics, such as number of customers, partners and employees).
3. Keep confidential content within four walls – when employees are about to leave the company, re-set their permission levels so they have limited access to sensitive information (for instance, viewing mode only). Also, watch out for suspiciously high volumes of downloads.
4. Expire content across the board – when a product is discontinued, make sure you have a system to retire associated content universally. This eliminates the risk of employees being able to access and download redundant material.
5. Make stuff easy to find - sounds obvious, but people will only use systems that are easy to use. In other words, if you have a centralised system, make it more appealing to access and download content as needed. Reduce the temptation for employees to create their little local repositories of content (which quickly become outdated). Also, design the centralised system around the market and its needs, not the product (for instance, segment by types of customer, as opposed to just a list of part numbers).
6. Too much is too much - make sure sales teams are not overwhelmed by too much content: present the three most relevant documents vs. a long list. Use a system that points them to the information at ‘point of need’, helping them to have an informed conversation without having to become a subject matter expert.
7. Access to flexible content on the fly – give sales teams the ability and agility to adapt the conversation and content in real-time. Thought that the customer was interested in red mugs, but discover he wants red glasses? Provide remote content to content that can support dynamic sales engagement. This creates sales reps who don’t have to be subject matter experts on all items simultaneously.
8. Think about self-service – open up access for potential customers to search for and download content to provide a convenient way to track who is accessing what, when and where. For instance, pointing people who registered – but did not attend – a webinar towards a download link to the recording helps identify who is genuinely interested in that content. This also helps sales staff concentrate on other aspects of their jobs, rather than being overwhelmed with administrative tasks.
9. Forecast smartly – the best sales processes are those that not only identify what part of the sales cycle the customer is in, but triggers the right information to prompt the next step. For example, if they’ve exceeded the 50% likely to purchase’ threshold, it might be the time for a prompt to send over the T&C document. Using an online automated portal helps to remove human error, while reducing sales administrative tasks.
10. To DAM or not to DAM – many of the previous points depend on having a centralised system for sharing content. There are various ways that companies try to achieve this – with various degrees of success – but an increasing number are turning to digital asset management (DAM) systems as the answer. DAM is the foundation to ensure the correct and approved versions of all documents are being used. It can potentially replace the need for internal webinars and training sessions with ‘self-access’ that is maintained in a controlled way.
Providing sales teams with the tools they need, in the way they prefer to consume them – whether it be via web, tablet, smart phone, or email – provides a clear competitive edge in today’s marketplace. As an added bonus, customers are in turn being provided with access to the right information, helping to influence their decisions and encourage faster sales decisions.
By Craig Solberg, Chief Revenue Officer, North Plains. For almost two decades, North Plains Systems has helped companies to: streamline the creative development process of content; improve workflow; ensure asset and rights protection; improve brand equity, use and re-use assets more effectively.