Keeping Pace with the Connected Customer

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Today's customers are more demanding and less loyal than ever. As a result, enterprise growth depends largely on providing a differentiated and consistent customer experience across sales, marketing, and customer service. But despite significant changes in customer expectations, some companies continue to operate with siloed and static front offices, preventing them from responding effectively.

Customers are constantly moving, always connected, and more informed than ever. By the time customers meet a salesperson for the first time, they are usually more than halfway through the buying process. To keep pace, companies must revise their marketing, sales, and service operating models and take advantage of the many ways customers want to interact with their organization to meet growth objectives.

An agile selling approach—employing all enterprise assets and channels toward the customer—will help differentiate sales. Agile selling revolves around three principles:

  • using connected customer insights to differentiate the buying process;
  • providing a consistent customer experience across all channels; and
  • using social, mobile, analytics, and cloud capabilities to reduce time to market and meet customers where they want to transact.

Based on the annual study of sales performance optimization by CSO Insights in collaboration with Accenture, we recommend five tactics companies can employ to form a clear plan for boosting sales effectiveness.

Enhance integration of marketing, sales, and service. The first tactic is about improving the link among sales, marketing, and service to provide a customer-centric, unified experience. Start by integrating internal processes and handoff points among the three functions.

Making this happen can include aligning marketing, sales, and customer service leaders around the same objectives and award bonuses. Immediate areas of opportunity are around lead management and cross-sell/upsell. Leading companies have also created a chief customer officer role to maintain customer centricity.

Improve the customer experience at each touch point. Accenture's research has found that enterprises thrive by revolving around customers rather than their internal processes. Smart companies gain a 360-degree understanding of their customers by synthesizing internal data and customer-reported external data (e.g., from social channels). They also apply analytics on customer profiles to infer new opportunities. They then present all of this to sellers in a meaningful and consumable manner. Asking customers how they want to do business with you, and developing a customer treatment model that matches preferred buying behaviors, is another leading practice.

Strengthen immature sales methodologies and processes. Strongly performing sales organizations effectively balance the art of selling with the science of structured processes and methodologies. That means picking one sales methodology and applying it consistently to maximize value and drive successful sales behavior.

Higher performing companies optimize the end-to-end sales processes and plan for flexibility as market conditions change. They ensure that the methodology and processes add value to sales representatives and managers, and re-evaluate if they are not improving productivity or sales performance.

Apply more science to sales talent acquisition, development, and retention. Building the right talent strategies, competencies, learning models, and analytics capabilities will help generate agility, speed, and integration inside and outside the organization. This process requires understanding the DNA of high-performing sales representatives, developing more targeted recruiting and effective onboarding processes, and improving sales representative retention through more targeted practices. It requires the courage to remove or repurpose sales resources that are incapable of success in today's sales paradigm.

Drive better outcomes from sales technology. Social media, mobility, analytics, and the cloud are critical to support sales technology enablement investments. Leverage these technologies to follow, sense, and guide customers; listen, filter, and curate content (via social media); and optimize services and experiences through context-based cloud services and experience-as-a-service solutions.

Agile selling requires companies to operate at dramatically different execution speeds and levels of collaboration. It can help provide the flexibility, accountability, and responsiveness to capitalize on growth opportunities in today's economic environment.

Yusuf Tayob is a managing director in Accenture's sales and customer services practice, specializing in transformative business in sales and marketing. Bryan Berumen is a senior manager in the practice, focused on sales operations transformation and field sales enablement.

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