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Selling with 360-degree Visibility: Dream or Reality?

Clip_image002Today's blog post is by Louis Tetu, CEO of Coveo, a company that digs insight out of the many corporate data repositories to help salespeople look smart when they deal with customers.


 A sales professional’s greatest asset is knowledge. The more you know about a prospect, the more relevant you are to your prospect and the easier it is to close a deal – and then a bigger deal. But faced with information fragmentation and a proliferation of information clutter, sales teams often fail to effectively and efficiently mine the knowledge they need to make better selling decisions; instead, they constantly reinvent the wheel. The long-promised, 360-degree view of the customer was never quite delivered, mainly because there is no such a thing as “the” 360-degree view that can be captured in a single system.

The “cloud” fuels this problem of fragmented information. When salesforce.com brought cloud computing to the forefront of selling professionals’ minds, it was – and still is – a revolutionary tool due to its scalability, flexibility, and freedom to collect and track sales activities and house many parts of an account. But the proliferation of cloud-based applications and their ease of adoption also add systems of knowledge to an already crowded picture of applications, databases, and online resources – other systems where knowledge can be lost. Cloud platforms such as Salesforce are themselves scattered a bit, requiring users to look in many different areas – and click and scroll a lot – to see the information they need. Then they have to remember it while they look for more information.

In sales, power equals relevance to prospects’ or customers’ exact needs and situations and an ability to challenge their views, if necessary. For sales executives to be highly relevant and credible challengers and perceived as bringing added value, it takes real-time and comprehensive intelligence. It starts with understanding the prospect’s context – and that context is multifaceted, with information about it stored anywhere and everywhere – certainly far beyond the scope of CRM systems. Add to the equation all of the tools your company has created to ensure that your sales executives can be effective. Where does all of this information reside, and how does sales discern which content is most appropriate and relevant for each prospect?

Information about your prospects and customers plus all sales tools and customer/prospect interaction reside in a multitude of systems and formats: social media, CRM, financial systems, engineering, service, communities, email, call transcripts, Websites, and more. Add to that examples of similar customers and their products and history, the right presentations, product literature, blogs, and all customer/prospect communications and interaction. Then add knowledge from colleagues and even former colleagues – people who have expertise about that prospect or customer or about the applicability of your products to that prospect. Next add other sales execs who may be selling into the same company at the same time across the world.  Don’t forget products from your company the customer may already own and his or her experiences with them.

How can a single sales executive know all of that for each customer during each encounter? Until recently, one of the biggest pain points that sales agents faced was having to leave a CRM such as salesforce.com to access information from multiple other systems, in addition to running around the company to reach people who possess the right information.

Advanced indexing technology is the way forward. In this model, fragments of information are assembled on demand and served up to users. Take a look at how Google and Yahoo! have transformed the consumer world in aggregating, consolidating, and unifying into one index information from the world’s Websites. Now think about the same paradigm but across the enterprise IT clutter.

Advanced indexing technology can perform securely in the same manner within the vast variety of systems – email, databases, CRM, ERP, social media, documents. The technology is available to securely index those sources, unify that information in a central index, normalize the information, then perform mash-ups on demand. Think of a world in which every document a sales executive needs on any platform is instantly organized, indexed, and recommended at the right time and for the right prospect or customer. Think of a world where every sales executive gets the complete and best contextually relevant information for the prospect’s needs and situation. 

Sales and CRM teams around the world have used this technology to their advantage:

  • CA Technologies is a global software company with 400 products and 13 million documents relevant to its sales and CRM teams. CA is able to index, correlate, and utilize relevant information from these systems instantaneously, allowing its marketing teams to solve cases 15 percent faster.
  • Tokyo Electron is a global manufacturer of high-tech semiconductor products. When its field service teams need to solve a complex case, they’re able to index information across multiple systems instantaneously. They increased their post-sales revenue without any additional travel or personnel costs.
  • L’Oreal equips its sales and customer service agents in the field with the ability to index customer information across millions of documents. As a result, they’re able to see all relevant information about a customer or prospect, allowing them to close deals faster and keep customers happy.

While many technologists still chase the impossible dream of integration, we are leading the way with a federation of information through advanced indexing technology so that we can help salespeople benefit from 360-degree, instantaneous visibility of all relevant data. 

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