Why Personalization Has Become Critical to the Sales Process

If you look at the agenda for Dreamforce 2015, you will see dozens of sessions and keynotes addressing the issue of "personalization." Speakers and panels are exploring the value of in-context service, building a 1:1 customer experience, and cultivating more direct, personal customer interaction.

Why has personalization become such a critical issue for sales, and what is driving it? 

With billions of connected devices enabling instant access to huge volumes of data, the buying process has changed. Research shows that by 2020 there will be 33 billion Internet connected devices on the planet—that's 4.3 devices per person. With connectivity available at their fingertips, buyers no longer need to rely solely on vendors to get information about their products and services. 

To stand out in this connected age, companies need to differentiate themselves and personalize the customer experience. At the same time, self-informed buyers make delivering a more personalized experience more challenging.

To gain the insights for delivering a more personalized experience, sales organizations have started to leverage new technologies to help teams engage with their customers in a sales world where face-to-face meetings are declining. In the report "Engage, Personalize, Analyze, Win … Repeat," Aberdeen Group says that by using sales tools for content personalization at the sales rep level, best-in-class organizations are achieving up to a 21 percent stronger lead acceptance rate and a 36 percent higher conversion average. 

Aberdeen adds that companies using sales automation and engagement analytics are speeding up the purchasing cycle, more quickly qualifying and responding to leads, and automating and building repeatable sales processes.

Sales Acceleration Tools Provide Context for Personalization

In today's competitive selling environment, sales teams need to quickly gauge the interest level of the buyer so they can stay ahead of the competition. They must have a comprehensive understanding about the buyer's needs, and how they can help move the process forward. 

Sales acceleration tools give teams the context to increase personalization, supplying knowledge about the following:

  • Real-time buyer-side behaviors
  • Messaging that resonates the most with customers
  • Customers' decision-making processes
  • Insight into reps' customer engagement activity

Analytics Provide Real-Time Customer Insights

Leveraging powerful analytics, sales acceleration tools can uncover buyers' interests and interest levels—letting salespeople send the right messages to the right people at the right time.

By providing real-time insights into buyer-side behaviors, sales acceleration tools show how prospects engage—or don't engage—with sales emails and content, so sales teams can prioritize connections based on the most engaged prospects. By filtering out unqualified leads, sales teams can focus efforts where they get the biggest return.

These real-time engagement insights also show a prospect's biggest hot buttons. If a sales rep sees a prospect repeatedly viewing a page about one product feature, for example, he can reach out with content or a use case specific to that feature.

Automation Combined with Analytics Can Help Build Repeatable Processes

According to Aberdeen Group's research, companies using analytics have a better understanding about which messaging is getting the best response rates. With engagement analytics that show reps' activities, sales leaders can also see where reps are in the selling process—as well as get insight into which reps have the highest response rates, or which email messages get the most replies. Using that knowledge, they can implement the practices that have proved most successful more broadly across the team.

With insight into best practices, teams can strengthen processes, quickly modify their messaging, and personalize their customer engagement.

When sales teams begin to grow, ramping up a rep, to make him or her fully productive, can take two to three months. With insight into best practices, that ramp time can be significantly reduced. 

Sales Acceleration Tools Strengthen Marketing-Sales Alignment

When marketing has insight about buyer interests, it can support sales with more accurate and personalized messaging and can continue to align marketing messages with sales conversations. With a better understanding about how customers engage with sales in a 1:1 fashion, marketing can also fine-tune its messaging in emails and sales collateral. 

Deep Engagement Tracking Can Peer into Customer Decision Making

How long does a prospect's purchase process take? Is there something that you can do to speed the process? Research shows that there can be 5.4 people involved in the B2B decision-making process. Have you identified all of them? These are key questions that sales organizations need to answer to align themselves with the buyer journey.

With deep engagement tracking analytics, sales acceleration tools can show when a proposal is forwarded and provide profile data for the recipient, so sales organizations can spot key stakeholders or influencers to help move the deal forward.

Personalization Drives a More Client-Driven Organization

With customers able to educate themselves about products and services online, B2B buyers are behaving more and more like B2C buyers. As a consequence, sales organizations must establish stronger relationships and relevance early in the buyer journey. 

With more insights, salespeople can understand where the customer is in the buying process, respond to customers at the moment of interest, and build repeatable processes.

Micheline Nijmeh is the CMO for LiveHive, Inc., whose award-winning sales acceleration platform provides engagement analytics to understand buyers' interests and improve sales follow-up. A seasoned Silicon Valley executive, Nijmeh has served as senior director, Integrated Global Campaigns, at Salesforce.com, where she led the market launch of Salesforce's Chatter and Force platform.

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