Market Watch: Guided Selling Tools Boost Sales Results

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As companies attempt to drive additional revenue without expanding their sales teams, there has been increasing interest in guided selling tools. Guided selling solutions are designed to help sales associates offer the right products to customers, increase close rates, reduce cycle time, and increase revenue through upsell and cross-sell opportunities. "For sales organizations looking to deploy technology, guided selling tools can provide a large impact in a short time frame," says Joe Galvin, vice president and research director for CRM strategy at Gartner. "It is a good tactical move, since you can easily measure returns and increase sales immediately." According to Laura Preslan, research director at AMR, in the past salespeople had to know every product nuance or had to search multiple systems to obtain the product information they needed. Often this information was not available during the customer interaction. But, she says, guided selling tools are starting to streamline this process. Guided selling tools can also help reduce customer churn, and can allow salespeople to adapt to customer lifestyle changes that may affect a sale in real time, says Duane Cologne, senior director of marketing development, analytics, at Siebel Systems. "If an insurance agent is on the phone with a client and learns that he has just gotten married or had a child, guided selling capabilities can help him be proactive and make that customer an offer for a new policy that fits his criteria instantly." Like analytics, guided selling tools have been gaining traction in both point-solution form and as part of an end-to-end CRM suite. Companies like Active Decisions, Blue Martini, Metreo, Firepond, Selectica, and WhisperWire focus mainly on guided selling and upsell/cross-sell capabilities. Major CRM players like PeopleSoft and Siebel have added substantial tools as well. PeopleSoft's Predictive Analytics capabilities include many guided selling features, while Siebel has its Intelligent Interaction Manager built into its CRM suite. Midmarket players like E.piphany, with its Interaction Advisor, and hosted CRM provider Salesnet also offer strong guided selling functionality, according to Gartner's Galvin. The latest trend may be the use of guided selling in self-service scenarios to provide customers with the information needed to purchase the right products for their specific requirements, according to AMR's Preslan. "But while companies have implemented such tools for customers, they haven't provided internal salespeople with similar tools," Preslan says. ChartTop Guided Selling Tools
CRM magazine asked a group of analysts to rate the top vendors of guided selling point solutions, as well as the suite vendors that offer guided selling functionality. The ratings (right) are based on a five-point system, which judged each product in terms of both functionality and customer satisfaction. CDS Guides its Reps to Success When CDS Fulfillment, a fulfillment outsourcer for the magazine industry, needed a better way to handle cross-sell and upsell opportunities, it added E.piphany's Interaction Advisor to its call center operations. The result has been a huge rise in revenue for its publishing house clients. According to Marc Francisco, product manager of customer service systems at CDS, its call center handles nearly 9 million calls annually, and the customer service representatives may handle 1,200 cross-sell and upsell offers at one time. "Our publishers wanted our representatives to pitch very specific offers," he says. "Cross-selling was difficult since the service representatives answer the phone for any of the magazines our clients publish." E.piphany's Interaction Advisor allows CSRs to suggest specialized offers to callers, like special gift subscription rates and renewal incentives, Francisco says. And once the caller says yes to an offer, the sale is completed with the push of a button. The ability to instantly match an offer to the right customer has accounted for more than 100,000 accepted upsell and cross-sell offers for its clients this past year, Francisco says. "And we can also provide metrics back to the publisher outlining exactly who accepted each offer," he adds, noting that the demographics can then be used to better market to each publisher's customer base. In addition to an average upsell rate of 7.3 percent, Francisco says Interaction Advisor also gives publishers greater ability to test new offers. "Some publishers now come to us with offers that they are not ready to put into a direct mail, so we test it out on a few thousand callers," Francisco explains. He adds that CDS can also pitch new ideas for magazines and report back to the publishers with a gauge of the interest level, as well as demographic data about the interested parties. --M.S.
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