The Customer is changing how they buy! Have you changed how you sell to them?
It should come as no great surprise; technology has changed almost everything in our lives, and it has dramatically changed how our customers buy from us. Today, our customers have a tremendous amount of second and third-party buying information available to them through various websites, social media sites and third-party consultants. Buyers are using this information to frequently dis-intermediate your sales team. If a product evaluation and buying decision can be made without professional sales intervention, buyers will likely choose that path. Today’s most common scenario: your expensive sales professional is engaging the buyer much later in the buying cycle. This change in the customer buying behavior cannot be ignored. Engage your customer with your 20 year old selling strategy and you risk missing revenue opportunities, and wasting sales expense dollars.
Today’s tools for CRM have created an excellent opportunity for you to change how and when you engage your customer, and to transform outdated sales processes. How you embrace the new customer engagement process today will be directly reflected in how well you generate revenue tomorrow.
Lessons learned from Revenue Performance Management
The most basic principle of Revenue Performance Management (RPM) is that all corporate communication, marketing efforts, and sales activities must be planned and executed together as a single process for winning new customers. Sales and marketing must work together to create a cohesive buying experience for the customer. Many very good companies, with strong sales cultures, tend to focus only on the sales cycle and view marketing as a separate lead generation activity. However, in a world where the buyer is waiting much longer to engage sales, primarily because they don’t need them for information any longer, marketing must take more responsibility for prospect communication and engagement.
Today’s most successful companies are managing their revenue generation process in measureable stages, and tracking movement through those stages over time. If you have a single integrated revenue cycle as a foundation block of your management framework then you can embark upon meaningful, continuous process improvement to obtain both greater revenue and profit. This may require management to rethink how your company is organized, and how various stakeholders are compensated and evaluated.
How this affects your future CRM strategy
While CRM was created in the 90’s it must continue to play catch up to the Web 2.0 World. If your buyer lives in an instantaneous and interconnected world, so must your CRM processes and supporting technology. With the acceptance of CRM as a software service platform, you will need to accelerate your leverage of social media, mobile location and global availability to fully benefit from it. Web 2.0 dynamics create new requirements for managing, and facilitating buyer and customer interactions. Self-service strategies will need to gain more prominence as you attempt to engage buyers earlier, and for longer periods, before they are handed off to your sales force.
You may want to consider utilizing technology to facilitate cross-communication among buyers and customers. Online social networks provide companies with a wealth of information about how their buyers think, act and feel. They provide fertile ground for Lead Generation and offer additional points of contact to interact and strengthen relationships with customers in an informal environment. Going forward, your social media strategy needs to be compatible with your CRM strategy and technology. Only then will you fully understand what your customers think of you, and what your buyer’s preferences and behaviors are.
How to tackle this kind of transformation
You can start by conducting a Revenue Performance Audit. A Revenue Performance Audit (RPA) is designed to determine the current state of your sales and marketing performance, and its effectiveness. Audit the fundamental areas crucial to your success including, but not limited to, Personnel, Processes, Products, Measurement and Leadership. Gather knowledge about your team’s critical job functions. Interview key team members, analyze the processes related to your sales and marketing efforts, review your customer lifecycle paradigm, collect all relevant data, and map the behaviors and functions of your revenue lifecycle team members. The resulting findings about your organization’s revenue lifecycle should be detailed with clear suggestions for improvements and actionable next steps. You should now be able to answer two key questions for your company’s future success: How do our customers want to buy from us? And how are we engaging them in the selling process?
About the Author
Vince Sheeran (vsheeran@BeyondRevenue.com) is the managing partner of Beyond Revenue Partners, a Sales Performance Management consultancy focused on a sales team’s total revenue performance. Beyond Revenue provides sales leadership and the application of technology, methods and processes used in the daily activity of producing revenue.