Sales has always been a relationship game, with success usually determined by people rather than systems and technology. But in the era of remote and hybrid work, sales teams must change how they plan and execute their work to succeed in this new environment.
In the last decade, we have seen hundreds of new technology-driven tools emerge to support sales teams at every step of the sales process and beyond, including sales force development and management. Because sales is an increasingly digital practice, these tools are being adopted rapidly, making the sales team increasingly dependent on technology to drive topline growth. Companies that effectively integrate these tools into their existing workflows become garner a significant advantage over their competition.
Many of these tools leverage artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) to help sales leaders move past the Monday morning quarterbacking session usually supported by more traditional analytics and into the realm of insight and foresight offered by predictive and prescriptive analytics. But this area is still evolving, and most businesses have a lot of work to do to improve data quality to the point where it pays real dividends.
While sales teams won’t be replaced by robots anytime soon, the increasing utility of this technology is an exciting advancement as the new and improved human-machine interface is already driving some notable results. We talk through a few examples below.
Enhancing Account Scoring & Targeting
An over-the-counter pharmaceutical company’s sales organization was using two teams to promote products to different specialist and generalist physician audiences, splitting their time and diluting their overall effectiveness. The sales target plan had the unintended effect of encouraging sales representatives to devote time and effort to easy-access, low-volume health care providers. The team needed to maximize sales impact to drive business for core products without altering the current size or alignment of the salesforce.
The team combined data from enterprise sales systems with invoicing and communications data to make the connection between sales team deployment by account and higher sales and margins. This shift allowed us to better balance sales territories, emphasizing healthcare providers with the highest potential impact. Increased focus on accounts that matter resulted in outreach to twice as many patients while reducing the number of providers on active contact lists.
Enabling Better Tactical Pricing Decisions
A global chemicals company traditionally used a highly manual process to set prices for non-contracted customers. Company leadership recognized they were leaving money on the table, and they knew intuitively that robust data resources could be leveraged to make faster and better pricing decisions.
Next, we coded a fully functional pricing model and automated most of the data inputs by connecting directly to the client’s enterprise systems. We also created a user interface that provided pricing suggestions and rationale, updated daily with the latest data including detailed documentation and user guides for future refinements to the model. Once deployment was complete, we were providing daily pricing recommendations for over 20,000 combinations of product type, customer country and delivery periods, and quantifying the estimated revenue impact of suggested pricing changes to allow the company to prioritize its pricing moves.
More importantly, we eliminated a high degree of manual analysis and set the stage for further decentralization of pricing decisions by giving regional sales leaders the data, capabilities and rationale to make their own recommendations.
Moving Rapidly To Digital
The relationship between sales, marketing and technology is increasingly integrated and will soon be the dominant mode of operation across most B2B sales teams. High-performing sales teams are figuring out how to better integrate technology as part of an overall system that augments the characteristics that define a great sales professional, while reducing company dependence on a few superstars.
Getting the approach right is all about building the right ecosystem that fits your culture, market and where you are currently in the evolution and adoption of digital solutions. As sales operations teams become increasingly digital — and customers do the same — the mix of capabilities required to achieve success are shifting from people and processes toward technology. It’s an exciting advancement, and those not actively tapping into these new tools and techniques will find it increasingly challenging to win share in a competitive market.
Donncha Carroll is a Co-founder and Partner at Lotis Blue Consulting, an advisory firm that helps organizations transform and grow through a combination of applied data and behavioral science. Tom Hill is a partner at sales effectiveness consultancy RevenueShift.