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Co-bots not robots: The future of sales

No handshake, no deal. Life has been tough for sales people raised on face to face meetings and networking.

Yet while some have railed against the lack of personal contact over the past 18 months, digitally empowered individuals have gone from strength to strength, tapping into deep online data and fast video access to prospects to transform the sales process.

Digital tools, including AI, have changed the nature of sales for good. They are supporting sales people by identifying the most likely deals with more accuracy, reducing wasted time and improving conversion. They are defining the most successful approach for each prospect engagement, allowing individuals to move away from a standard, restrictive, sales methodology.

Tools are not replacing sales people – they are empowering them to take an intelligent, tailored approach to every single engagement, and, As Andy McDonald, CEO, Cloudapps, explains, combining the art and science of selling to reach a completely new level.

Maximising a Captive Audience

There is a new generation of sales team top performers – and they are unlikely to be the same people who smashed their targets pre-COVID. Without the face to face meetings, conferences and events that have underpinned traditional relationship building, many sales people have found the last 18 months incredibly challenging. From the difficulty of reaching out to prospects to having to pitch via a screen, the familiar ways of interacting have vanished. Plus, of course, the team vibe has gone when everyone is working remotely. Where is the fun in winning a deal when there is no one to celebrate with? Who can commiserate when a deal is lost?

Yet at the same time, there are a growing number of digitally savvy sales experts relishing the new opportunities. Not only are homeworking prospects and customers now a captive audience, but digital tools provide an amazing depth of pre-sales information that can transform the entire engagement process.

With prospects no longer protected by a gatekeeper and face to face meetings replaced by video calls, there are no time consuming diary management issues to resolve. With no need to travel, productivity has soared – and effective, digitally confident sales people are booking back to back calls throughout the day. They have more time and far more information to support prospecting activity; and are enjoying the personal contact created by shared homeworking experiences to create a new level of engagement.

These new digital top performers are unlocking and closing more opportunities than ever.

Information Driven Sales

Deep, accurate and immediate digital information is transforming the end to end sales cycle. It has inspired the creation of Sales Development Representatives dedicated to outbound prospecting and setting up meetings for the enterprise team. It is enabling individuals to create in-depth insight about prospects, including the multiple personas involved in the decision making process, and gain far more confidence in the best approach to each sales opportunity.

This is just the start. In depth information is allowing companies to qualify out prospects more quickly, reducing wasted time. It is helping to close deals more quickly, and more cost effectively. The explosion in data – and a commitment to using that data effectively – is creating high performing sales forces. Businesses falling behind are patently failing to recognise and take advantage of the digitally savvy sales force.

So how can more companies move the dial? How can businesses support sales teams that have struggled to make the transition and embrace the power of digitally enabled sales processes? Critically, how can companies identify the new successful behaviours and motivate the entire sales team to change?

Bringing CRM to Life

The value of information to improve the sales process has, of course, been the driving force behind CRM for decades. But sales people view updating the CRM as a chore, not a benefit – and a tool for tracking and managing their performance rather than adding value. That attitude has to change, fast. Training can help – at a cost; and its impact lessens over time. Companies need to change behaviour for good – and that is where gamification can be transformational.

From awarding points for inputting information to using leader boards, gamifying behavioural change adds value to even the least exciting tasks. Making it fun and competitive works – especially for a driven group of sales people. Activities become habit forming, while gamification also provides a way to interact with team mates – providing that vital contact, especially at times of both success and failure.

Bringing the CRM to life with a new depth of data also enables a business to take quick, targeted actions that make a tangible difference. Identifying the specific steps taken by the top performers provides a best practice model that can be shared across the business. Data analysis can also highlight those individuals who are making their numbers, despite doing the wrong things, potentially making bad deals just to hit targets. It can identify the medium performers who are doing ok, despite failing to take the same steps as the top tier. Armed with this insight, managers can take a personal approach to coaching and guide people in the right direction.

Achieving Immediate ROI

Even more valuable, combining this data with deep learning AI will identify sales patterns that humans simply can never see. It can provide far more accurate predictions of likely deal closure or the actions that have worked on similar deals in the past – insight that sales people can use to prioritise the best opportunities, take the right actions at the right times, and increase revenue and commission.

Digital tools have initiated an entirely new sales model. There is no longer any need for a single sales methodology, and there should be no set stages through which every engagement must flow. Every deal is different; from requirements to constraints, goals to timelines, each customer demands a unique response. AI led insight can curate the ideal approach to each individual deal; it can empower a sales person to take the right step at the right moment; and succeed more often.

It is those individuals who embrace digital tools, the sales co-bots, who are now topping the rankings. And it is those companies that actively embrace and embed these new, successful behaviours across the business that will move the dial and create a sales team that can gain and sustain a winning edge over the competition. No handshake required.

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