Top sales innovators are embedding data and technology throughout their organizations to reimagine sales

Sales has always been a “sensing” organization, attuned to changes in customer sentiment, shifts in demand, and the requirements of different buying stages. But those senses are being flooded as customers shift to digital engagement, leaving sellers with more channels to cover and more interactions to manage.

The pandemic has amplified these challenges, exposing weaknesses in existing sales models and gaps in digital readiness. In many ways, this data revolution in sales matches what happened to marketing departments three to five years ago, when they were forced to reorient their functions to be more analytically driven. With more data flowing in from nontraditional sources such as video calls and webinars—few of which are captured by current sales processes—understanding which customers to focus on, what they care about, and how they want to engage can often feel like a guessing game.

However, some sales organizations have reduced that guesswork. They are bringing science to sales and are harnessing data in ways that deliver double-digit gains in return-on-investment (ROI). These organizations start with centralizing commercial operations and generating insights from internal and external data sources, including web and email scrapes, information from virtual calls and pitches, and other analyses. These improved insights allow sales organizations to be more agile in aligning their resources and adapting their operating model. To hardwire these capabilities, smarter automated processes are built into a new operating models. Performance metrics and coaching are then tailored to the needs of the company and the requirements of the individual salesperson.

Centralize commercial ops and generate actionable insights

Many sales organizations face significant challenges in guiding teams dispersed across large territories. This limits the ability of sales reps to share best practices, access valuable customer insights, and expedite sales processes that can make a meaningful difference to their bookings. To make the most of the abundance of data and draw the right insights, forward-thinking sales leaders have centralized commercial operations functions and created “commercial hubs” that distribute better and more targeted insights as well as drive more agility in the organization.

Enable an agile go-to-market model

With the insights generated by the hub, sales leaders can use advanced intelligence to better align sales reps to the right sales opportunities, pulling the right people in at the right stage of a deal, assembling teams with the necessary skills to innovate and design products and services that customers want, and providing insights that help close opportunities.

For example, instead of simply assigning larger accounts to field reps and smaller ones to inside sales, a global telecommunications company now lets the type of transaction—what is being sold to whom and when—determine the go-to-market approach. Simple transactions are handled by inside sales or digital channels, while field reps (after an initial lead-nurturing stage by the inside sales team) cover more complex purchasing. In the past, when a prospective customer initiated a query on the company’s website, the digital-sales team referred it to an inbound call center that had basic technical and selling capabilities but was unable to convert complex transactions.

Design smarter, automated sales processes

With a centralized commercial hub generating insights and an agile operating model redefining how sellers work, sales organizations can trigger the next level of value by redesigning their core sales processes to make them more “intelligent.”

In the average company, for example, reps spend only about 16 percent of their day in front of the customer, virtually or in person. By contrast, best performing reps in the spend 40 to 50 percent of their time in front of the customer. The difference? The top organizations redesign their sales processes and thoughtfully automate whatever they can. Research shows that up to 30% of tasks can be automated.

Empower and reskill the front line

In many organizations, capability building and sales training are undifferentiated. Centralized commercial hubs, smart processes, and responsive go-to-market structures can help sales reps significantly improve both their performance and job satisfaction, as long as they understand how best to adapt to the new operating model and leverage the insights to which they have access. To deliver on that opportunity, organizations need to update not just what they teach their sales reps but also how, by establishing tailored learning journeys.

Published by Raffaele Felaco

I am an enthusiastic leader with strong background in direct and indirect sales with an exten- sive experience in both retail and wholesale business. I have been fortunate to have worked alongside teams in structured environments both in Italy and abroad over the last 20 years, en- abling me to develop strong leadership skills, a natural approach in effective communication, the ability of positively influencing others and master complex business negotiations.

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