Who knew that Coca-Cola, perhaps the world’s most famous beverage, was originally invented as an alternative to morphine addiction, as well as to treat headaches and relieve anxiety?
It’s sometimes hard to believe the original application of popular and successful products. Although not as extreme of an example, CRM, like Coca-Cola, has shifted from its original application. Customer relationship management tools were invented to drive businesses closer to the customer and enable the user. Yet today, many companies have deviated from this charter and envision CRM more as a management reporting tool.
Companies need to put the relationship back in CRM. Consider an advocacy-based sales strategy. It’s called peer-to-peer selling and involves enabling sellers to leverage happy customers to drive revenue. More than ever, B2B purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by peers. In fact, recent studies by IDC, Gartner and Sirius Decisions point to this peer influence phenomenon.
So what’s changed?
The Internet has empowered customers with more access to information. The role of the sales representative is no longer to deliver features and benefit brochures. Core buyer information gathering is over before most salespeople are ever engaged. Yet companies are doubling or tripling their content marketing. Today, there are literally 2 million new blog posts, daily!The result is B2B buyers feel overwhelmed, skeptical, and catatonic.
In addition to this content shock, the purchasing process has added a second complicating factor: large buying committees. Last year’s data from CEB shows that the average B2B buying group has increased from 5.4 individuals to 6.8. Larger buying committees mean more agendas and new group dynamics. The central effect of these committees is a propensity for risk aversion.
To cut through this content shock and risk-aversion mind-set, buyers are turning to their peers for answers—peers whom they trust. Peers who have vetted shortlists. Peers who can speak to outcomes and customer experiences. Peers who also could be customers.
The opportunity is to create visibility, access, and control of advocates, inside the CRM system. Activating the right peer to drive pipeline opportunities is a powerful revenue-accelerating strategy. Buyers’ peers are the ultimate trusted advisers (a.k.a. the “happy customers”) and the key differentiator in the 2017 purchasing process. Marketers need to enable the use of customer advocate activity for sellers within CRM systems. This is P2P Selling.
So, now what?
Start thinking differently and consider implementing the following peer-to-peer strategies for revenue acceleration:
Connect the dots between CRM, sales, and marketing. For faster revenue growth, sales and marketing leaders need to align on strategy, technology, and tactics. Rather than asking reps to email other salespeople for customer-specific information, companies need to systematize the process through a centralized database and serve up tailored peer-to-peer information and access inside the CRM process. Marketers need to meet sales inside the sales funnel.
Focus on peer-based content. Buyers want to hear from companies and peers that have solved similar business problems; the voice of the happy customer helps cut through the content clutter. Peers telling their stories, business outcomes, and customer experiences are the most valued content. Emphasize the stories of happy customers, and make it easily accessible through the CRM opportunity level.
Build trust through video testimonials and reviews. Peers guide other peers, and they crave community consensus and validation. Use the Internet to showcase successful customer relationships.
Invest in growth, as opposed to efficiency. Dedicate people, technology, and budgets to help build world-class systems around referrals and references, to better manage vital customer relationships and win sales. Do not fall into the content arms race. Centralize customer advocacy activity and then enable it for sales. Activate the voice that closes deals.
Bottom line, enable advocacy, so happy customers become effective sales assets inside the CRM. It is time to commit to peer-to-peer selling strategies. Advocacy assets belong in the CRM.
After all, at the center of a true CRM solution is the voice of a happy customer. Peer activation is the best and easiest way to activate the right voice, content, and customer references for the right opportunity at the right time.
Ian Levine is chief sales officer and board member of RO Innovation, a SaaS content solution that activates the voice of the customer for sales. Levine has 30 years of industry experience and has held roles in sales, marketing, product development, and sales operations. Follow him on Twitter @Salesbyian or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting www.roinnovation.com.