By Nancy Selig
Vice President, Interactive Platforms Services
The sales process can involve a lot of manual, time-consuming steps.
That’s where automation comes in.
Interactive tools can help to automate the sales process, guide the sales conversation, and bring to light only that information which is most relevant to a particular stakeholder. In the last year, IDC has talked to over 100 salespeople, and we have learned three things.
One, all assets must be designed for sales enablement.
When we’ve talked to sales reps, they use whatever they can get their hands on that’s going to help them close business. Typically, these assetsrun the gamut from case studies to business value white papers. All such assets should be designed with sales enablement in mind.
Two, salespeople know they need to change the level of their conversation and they’re eager for something to help them do this.
And three, salespeople have a fairly low opinion of many of the tools made available to them because traditional sales tools are Excel-based, complex, and they often create more questions rather than provide answers.
Interactive sales tools that can truly help salespeople should include key elements. For starters, salespeople should have their own workspace for creating, editing, accessing, and sharing assessments and reports. Ideally, assessments are persona-based since there are different types of buyers who have different requirements. For example, CEOs are focused on agility, innovation, and customer experience – all things that impact revenue. An IT buyer on the other hand, is focused on cost, performance, and scalability – essential concepts for an efficient IT operation. An interactive tool gives salespeople the ability to customize the assessment based on these roles, but it doesn’t stop there. You can customize an assessment based on business priorities and vertical market. Sales tools should also consider the persona of your sales team. Which of your sales teams are going to use these tools? Will it be a sales specialist? A technical specialist? Or will it be a generalist? One group of salespeople may only engage in 30-minute conversations. Another group of salespeople may regularly sit down in all-day intensive workshops. Any tool should be designed to handle these different personas.
Another important element is the use of calculators throughout the assessment. We’re all familiar with those legacy tools that keep asking questions – between 20 to 40 questions without any interaction. The end result of this exercise are numbers which neither the salesperson or the customer really understands where they came from. By having calculators throughout the assessment, the tool i facilitates interactive, engaging conversations backed up by numbers that are understandable and relevant. These tools are designed to help salespeople ask a few questions, provide the results, and introduce some research that reinforces the results. For the customer, these tools are important in that they allow modification of variables to fit a specific case. Customers can see the benefits and cost savings in real time as they go through the assessment. At the end, both the customer and the salesperson are comfortable in knowing where all the numbers came from.
Reports generated from sales tools are usually designed to be a business case, and thus they offer a lot of information. While the reports can be anywhere from 20 to 40 pages long, salespeople can also customize views, quickly producing an easy-to-read summary of the value that they deliver. In effect, automation can help sales certainly be more efficient – which in turn will help them close business.
Randy Perry is vice president of IDC’s Business Value Strategy Practice, and Nancy Selig is research vice president of IDC’s Interactive Platform Services.