I have three nephews who work in sales in the social media software, telecommunications, and medical products industries. When I compare what they are asked to do today to what I did when I started my sales career at IBM, what strikes me most is how much harder their jobs are. The main factor behind this seems to be that, today, they are literally bombarded by change.
Regardless of what marketplace reps are selling, they are witnessing increasing customer expectations, shifts in the economic and political climates, changes in the competitive landscape, and more on a daily basis. Add into the equation all the changes their own companies introduce, in the form of existing product enhancements, new product introductions, and mergers and acquisitions. Without help, we can’t expect salespeople to keep pace with all these changes in order to effectively engage, sell to, and service clients.
So what can companies do to make that easier? They can make the right types of investments in sales collaboration CRM solutions.
Sales collaboration today comes mainly in three flavors. The most common of these is live collaboration, utilizing Web-based meeting support. Leveraging tools like GoToMeeting, WebEx, Connect, and Live Meeting allow sales reps to bring subject matter experts (SMEs) into sales calls. Now the best talent from marketing, development, F&A, and customer service can directly help out with various tasks in the sales process.
With the support of these SMEs, salespeople don’t need to be experts on everything; they just need to know the right people to ask to help out. These systems are now being enhanced to support live video feeds, so you can not only share documents on your screen, but see the other meeting attendees as well, making the experience more personal.
The second type of collaboration is social. We are seeing more firms implement solutions like Chatter, Savo, and Jive, which let salespeople network virtually with their peers and other SMEs. In the past, reps often had to rely on sending out the infamous “Hail Mary” email across the company to get help on an issue. In a social enterprise, reps can use sales collaboration to present problems or issues that others can work on with them to solve. The information is then retained in the system, available to other reps who may have similar issues down the road. This allows the company to harness and leverage the tribal wisdom of selling, and share it worldwide.
The third class of sales collaboration is virtual sales support. Using tools like Brainshark, Mobilepoint, and RO|Innovation, sales reps can use videos created by SMEs as needed during the sales process. Using this method, a rep could leverage a video of the VP of development presenting the future direction of the product line, a customer discussing how his company uses the product, or a services manager talking about the problem resolution process to ensure a comprehensive and consistent message is presented to the prospect.
If anything, the rate of change will continue to accelerate going forward. The investments you make in sales collaboration technology today will ensure that reps can stay effective tomorrow.
Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.