Onboarding to Machine Learning: Mapping Sales Processes

Improving a sales process with machine learning starts with a straightforward assessment of the existing content, including video, audio, text, graphics, and training, a company uses to onboard a new distributor to its policies and practices. These first steps, which set the stage for confident selling by new distributors, are essential to improving sales success during the first two weeks with a new direct selling company. People who close their first sales within 14 days earn an average of 71 percent more than a distributor who takes just four weeks to complete a sale.

Sales and marketing leadership tackling machine learning for the first time need to break their existing onboarding practices and initial selling activities into steps, then organize those steps into collections that are expected to produce a specific result that can be measured. We recommend assembling a map of the onboarding, training, and sales support experience for new distributors, as their immediate success will produce immediate improvement in revenue and profitability results. Tier your product content in terms of 1.) Company overview and welcome programs and content; 2.) Selling materials and programming for distributor use; 3.) Deep product information, such as sales sheets or detailed product knowledge videos.

Break down the first month of distributor experience into:

  • Onboarding: Introduction to the company, its mission, and selling process at the overview level — what you most want your new enrollees to know on Day One and to have internalized by the end of Week One.
  • Prospect Development: This is the first, most important step for a successful sales enablement tool. Rather than explain how to use the contact management tools, get the distributor to work immediately on adding prospects and following up.
  • Product Knowledge Development: Ongoing and frequently updated, product knowledge and product-specific training.
  • Sales Skills Improvement: If there is sales training content that is not product-specific, such as coaching on how to follow up or present at a meeting, these programs will be useful throughout the entire distributor lifetime, not just as they become familiar with the company.

We suggest beginning with a list of all existing content. Write the title of each asset on a sticky note and, on a second note, the goal for the asset, such as “Create a sense of welcoming support” or “Establish product- and lifestyle-claims policy.” Place the two sticky notes, asset and goal for the asset side by side. Examine all the content related to onboarding to see if there are multiple assets seeking to achieve the same outcome.

As common goals are identified, cluster the content assets by the expected outcome. It is likely there will be several assets that drive to the same distributor goal, and these variations are natural places for a machine learning content system to start testing to see which content assets are most effective.

Introductory content, such as a generic welcome message and overviews of the company, should be separated from practical how-to content related to using tools and services offered by the company to refine distributor sales skills. The latter training content will distract distributors from mission-centric learning. For example, most direct selling systems begin with a series of introductory videos about the company, its products, and how the distributor can start to work its selling process. These videos set the stage for future training, but they have a narrow set of goals: To build confidence in the distributor that they’ve made the right choice of product or service to sell, that the company is reliable and supportive of their success. This is essential for winning younger distributors’ loyalty.

With mission- and policy-centric content organized into the first category, the next step is to organize each of your sales task workflows for use by the machine learning platform.

Each days’ distributor training activities during the first two weeks must have a goal, such as confirmation that the new distributor understands the basic value proposition and mission of the company or that they enter and start communicating with prospects. And each day’s activities should contribute to the next day’s goals — if on Day One, the distributor enters five contacts, Day Two should include follow-up activities and content that help convert those leads to a call, presentation, or online meeting.

Look for multi-day processes, such as prospect development and determine whether multiple assets address the same steps and issues. These are convenient reference points when thinking about how to shorten and improve onboarding programming, which can produce immediate improvements in distributor success. Sales process steps in a “What’s Next” machine learning tool allow the distributor to focus on doing sales work instead of learning how to use tools.

Once the Welcome and Onboarding workflows are complete and redundant content identified for testing, the organization of product knowledge and sales skills coaching content if there is any in the current asset library. These are content categories that can be populated over time, as well as licensed from training providers for integration with sales coaching machine learners, which can target sales training based on the distributor’s sales challenges. For instance, if they consistently add contacts, get meetings, but don’t close, the tool can direct the distributor to training videos about closing, getting commitments, and handling objections.

With a smart platform in place, a variety of training programs can be added to address your network’s training needs and to address individual distributor challenges. In the next installment, we’ll explore attribution modeling for machine optimization of each step in the sales process.

LifeVantage: Machine Learning In Direct Selling

Seeing is believing for Sandy, Utah-based LifeVantage. CEO Darren Jensen presented the sales results of LifeVantage’s early implementation of machine learning at the 2018 Direct Selling Association Conference in San Diego, reporting that distributor retention is up 34 percent overall in its 2018 fiscal year, which ends this month. The reason is improved visibility into the state of the business with the ability to intervene with new content and messaging to the individual distributor.

“We can now see if people are getting stuck at any of the [steps in the sales journey],” Jensen said during the presentation. The company, a leading seller of nutriceuticals and beauty products, is Gig Economy Group’s first commercial customer. Although its machine learning tools have been available only for a few months, LifeVantage’s pre-launch analysis of the sales process resulted in rapid improvements in novice distributors’ time-to-first-sale and, by extension, retention rates and average revenue per distributor.

Instead of looking at the whole process “once a year” based on annual sales results, Jensen said LifeVantage now relies on leading indicators, such as the number of contacts being added by distributors as well as meetings and calls presented by distributors. “Now we can see deep into our funnel,” he added.

LifeVantage CEO Darren Jensen speaks at DSA 2018.

Planning for machine learning in its business brought LifeVantage management face-to-face with each step of its sales process, raising new questions about how to achieve the highest revenue and revising the company’s basic assumptions about where to invest. LifeVantage’s comprehensive review of its sales methods and marketing content has recast management activity to focus on tactical changes to messaging and selling process that have delivered continued improving results.

“GEG sat down with us to devise systems and technology to answer and resolve the sales issues we have,” Jensen said. The process, which involved quantitative analysis of almost a decade’s worth of sales data, revealed three key principles that govern decision-making:

  1. Accelerating the first dollar earned by a distributor is the most effective investment LifeVantage can make in retention.
  2. It is equally valuable to sign a new customer or distributor. Because 66 percent of distributors begin as customers, LifeVantage deemphasized the traditional focus on having new enrollees recruit new distributors. LifeVantage also found that customers stayed longer and spent more money than unengaged distributors.
  3. The speed to the first sale by a new distributor is critical to their long-term success. LifeVantage found that if a distributor makes their first sale within two weeks of enrollment, after a year they earn an average of 71 percent more than someone who takes just another two weeks longer to close a sale.

Taking the next step

Direct selling is poised to evolve, adopting greater transparency and digital tools to treat distributors as key partners in success, according to Jensen. As retail and e-commerce companies, notably Amazon, press to gain access to the home, direct sellers enjoy a unique, temporary opportunity to take a greater share of U.S. and global consumer revenue. Shaping each customer experience to address personal concerns and values is mission critical.

The addition of machine learning lets the company “deploy technology to be sure people are closing in the right way to establish a trusted relationship,” Jensen said.

An Action Card: The distributor has just shared a product video with a prospect and will be reminded to follow-up when the video is played.

For example, LifeVantage now focuses intense effort on getting a new distributor to close their first sale. Simply winning their first dollar in revenue increases distributor retention by 44 percent over the lifetime of the enrollee (see LIfeVantage image above, which shows the likelihood of a distributor placing a monthly order based on how much they earn cumulatively). To accomplish this, LifeVantage provides each distributor a free machine learning-enabled app that begins training and sales activity on their first day with the company.

The app, which runs on the Gig Economy Group platform, reminds distributors what they’ve shared with prospects and how to follow up through a customized set of “action cards” delivered to each distributor. Action cards can display training content, product knowledge programming, sales guidance, and relationship management tools so that the distributor is always ready to do What’s Next to succeed.

“The first network marketing company I signed up for was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been part of,” Gig Economy Group Senior Vice President of Business Development Yak Gertmenian, who spoke with Jensen on-stage. “Two weeks later it started to wane because I couldn’t find anyone to help me. I got stuck in the What’s Next trap. I didn’t know what to do.”

In addition to training, action cards provide suggested content to share with prospects, recommended messaging ideas, and follow-up reminders. These cards sent by the GEG platform to each distributor based on their sales skills, communication habits, and, importantly, customized messaging flows for engaging each prospect based on their expressed interests and feedback from the distributor.

Existential questions

Direct selling now competes for distributors with many more options for side income, a challenge LifeVantage sees as life-or-death.

“The next economy is here,” Jensen said. “We are at a tipping point where [direct selling] can become a leading industry or become irrelevant.” He recounted a seeing a recent Facebook add for Shopify, the online commerce tool, that claimed to provide “the best side hustle” to make extra income. As the gig economy evolves, 30 percent of Americans have embraced added income sources, ranging from Uber to selling.

“We are competing for the “side hustler” with multiple industries,” Jensen said. He told his direct selling colleagues: “We need to compete with all these companies at a higher level.”

By embracing machine learning, LifeVantage has learned to customize the onboarding and training experience, helping to increase success when it matters most. The results have been rewarding. In 2015, only 26 percent of new LifeVantage distributors completed a sale during their first two weeks with the company. By 2018, sales in the first two weeks after enrollment reached 36 percent, a 38 percent increase overall.

Interestingly, the sales lift extends past two weeks, even though attrition soars after the first month. LifeVantage also reports that sales in the first month after enrollment has increased from 55 percent in 2015 to 67 percent.

Working from well-aligned principles, LifeVantage and GEG developed a sales process that has allowed LifeVantage to weather the dismissal of a third of the company’s sales force due to unauthorized overseas sales without a decline in revenue.

“Technology can you extremely resilient as well as position you for greater success in the future,” Jensen concluded. As machine learning runs daily, LifeVantage’s insight into their funnel is propelling ongoing content and messaging changes to improve conversion success.

In our next installment, we’ll explore how Gig Economy Group translates client business processes into measurable sales workflows ready for machine optimization.

 

 

 

DSA 2018: Direct Selling Recruitment & Retention with Sylvina Consulting

The Gig Economy Group talks with Jay Leisner, President of  compensation planning and direct selling advisory company Sylvina Consulting. Part of our exploration of the future of direct selling, Leisner explains the role of residual value in differentiating the direct-selling business from emerging gig options that may attract distributors. Leisner also co-produces the Direct Selling Edge Conference in Salt Lake City this July, as well as other cities around the U.S.

LifeVantage and Gig Economy Group Partner to Transform Sales Through Artificial Intelligence

New sales enablement technology changes the way companies and associations can engage and support sales teams and members in a time of digital transformation

Gig Economy Group June 21, 2018 11:29

SAN MATEO, Calif, June 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — (GEG), a Business Process Management (BPM) Platform and LifeVantage Corporation (Nasdaq:LFVN), a pioneer in Nutrigenomics, today announced a strategic partnership designed to enable direct sales businesses and membership organizations to create and support a more informed and successful sales force and to significantly increase revenue by leveraging machine learning. The collaboration is transforming sales support by proactively delivering personalized training, content and suggested actions at the moment of impact. The GEG engine provides automated intelligence by tracking what content and actions are most successful, analyzing sales outcomes, and delivering updated best-practices in real-time across the organization.

“The GEG platform has fundamentally changed our training and support for all LifeVantage consultants, providing confidence and increasing revenue for everyone,” stated Darren Jensen, CEO, LifeVantage. “Additionally, it has provided us unprecedented visibility into our business which allows us to pivot faster versus waiting for revenue numbers to indicate momentum shifts. Lastly, it has replaced three separate applications, therefore making everyone’s life simple and more efficient.”

Yak Gertmenian, SVP of Sales at Gig Economy Group, joins LifeVantage CEO Darren Jensen on stage at DSA 2018

Machine learning and a unique approach to AI enables GEG to harness the power of human knowledge and experience to proactively surface and present the most appropriate content or action for each individual user in every situation that they face. GEG uses this technology to help address the uniquely human and personal challenges of onboarding, building momentum and confidence, and moving successfully toward business goals. This value enables sales, service and marketing teams to work more effectively to grow their pipelines, collaborate more effectively, move deals through the sales process faster, and increase win rates.

LifeVantage sought capabilities that were beyond the reach of existing sales enablement platform. GEG’s features and functionality set it apart from the competition in providing a training and content engine that learns in real-time how to better inform management and salespeople on an ongoing basis. By isolating each action between seller, product and customer, GEG’s machine learning platform tests and identifies actions that work best for every seller and situation, and automatically delivers the training and content at the precise time the seller needs to take the next step.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with LifeVantage to enable GEG’s proprietary technology to deliver the right content to the customer at the right moment, with the right messaging to help their sales teams determine what to do next in the sales process to increase revenue generation,” said Dave Toole, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Gig Economy Group. “By determining which attributes will drive larger deal sizes, longer-term lifetime value and greater loyalty will change how LifeVantage assigns territories, prioritizes prospects and drives customer success management for its customers. This is precisely why we developed the GEG platform.”

For more information about the GEG platform, please visit our website at: www.gigeconomygroup.com or request a demo by emailing us at support@gigeconomygroup.com.  Stay updated on GEG’s developments and news by visiting our social channels at: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

About Gig Economy Group:

Gig Economy Group’s Business Process Management (BPM) Platform enables direct sales businesses (and membership organizations) to create and support a more informed and successful independent sales force.

The company’s software proactively delivers the customer content and sales training information that individual reps require at the moment they need it at any point in the sales cycle. To determine what content, coaching, and recommended next steps to present, GEG uses data-driven insights, machine learning, and ‘augmented emotional intelligence’ to harness an organization’s own collective human intelligence and experience. Through use of the Gig Economy Group platform, reps become more confident, productive, and successful, while companies experience faster onboarding, greater retention, increased overall performance, and growth in sales revenue.

For more information please contact Gig Economy Group at www.gigeconomygroup.com

Media contact:

Beth Trier
Trier and Company for GEG
beth@triercompany.com
415-285-6147

DSA 2018: Direct Selling Trends with Avalara inc.

We sat down with DSA attendee Colt Passey, Strategic Alliances Manager for Direct Selling at Avalara Inc. to talk about the trends reshaping direct selling. The sales tax processing vendor handles domestic and trans-national sales taxes for many of the largest direct selling companies at the show.

DSA 2018: Mapping The Future Together

Gig Economy Group present at the Direct Selling Association’s annual conference. Please join us to discuss the future of in-home and local sales enabled by brand content and smart sales coaching. We’re also conducting interviews with direct sales company leadership, vendors, and advisors to lay out the challenges facing the industry in pursuit of its biggest opportunities.

Join Darren Jensen, President and CEO of LifeVantage, and Gig Economy Group Senior Vice President of Business Development Yak Gertmenian for Improving Distributor Success with Artificial Intelligence Tools, at 3:30 PM on Monday, June 18 in Grand Ballroom 4. We will be recording the presentation and collect your ideas in interviews after the session.

We built the Gig Economy Group platform to allow anyone to sell anything using the right branded content and brand sales processes to ensure a comprehensive and satisfying customer experience. Our analysis of the e-commerce and retail world made clear that person-to-person relationships will endure and become more essential, not less, as the economy shifts toward care and service-centric customer experience. Empowering people will more information will ignite new intimate sales opportunities.

Would you join us to talk for 15 to 20 minutes for our podcasts and research program? If you’d like a demo of the Gig platform, we can share that, too. Schedule your session here.

Our demo and recording station will be set up in Marriott Suite #1871.

We look forward to meeting you at DSA 2018.

International Opportunity: Scaling Revenue Globally With Smart Platforms

While it may not always feel like it in the United States, the world is becoming middle-class and people are adopting healthy, prosperous lifestyles that will reshape decades of established market behavior. As digital technology proliferates, global expansion is the greatest revenue opportunity for established and new direct selling companies, which could even grab market share from retailers struggling to bring customers into stores around the world.

Growth outside the U.S. has accelerated, beating domestic economic gains by 44 percent over the past couple years, according to the International Monetary Fund. China’s embrace of direct selling, which generated $33.9 billion in 2016 sales, just behind the U.S. total of $35.5 billion, is representative of the explosion in international opportunity. Direct selling must adapt to different regulatory and cultural settings to step into the void between modern retail, which has not penetrated many regions nor the in-home market, before new consumer behaviors consolidate. Once set, these habits will be long-lasting.

Are companies in the United States ready to adapt to the global marketplace? They’ll need smart tools that assist in identifying market-appropriate content and sales messaging in each international market. Brand content libraries will swell with variations on existing programming, as well as market-specific training for distributors, who must blend brand and local culture to create great customer experience. The same tools that personalize a U.S. sales relationship will provide support for localization of services globally.

The “Metail” Opportunity Goes Worldwide

The direct selling model may be more suited to delivery of goods and services in many countries where mobile phones and wireless infrastructure were the first digital infrastructure available. In these regions, consumers are already used to ecommerce, but more complex sales and services are challenging to deliver without a personal relationship. Retailers face massive capital and marketing investments in each territory they enter. Global consumers, like younger Americans, want a “metail” experience in which products and services align with their personal preferences and they have a human contact  with which to meet and exchange ideas and feedback — online or in-person.

It’s notable that direct selling is growing faster on an annual basis than retail across the world. Euromonitor International found that direct selling has seen higher annual growth than retail since 2012. While direct selling accounted for only 0.06 percent of global retail as of 2016, the industry has an opportunity to carve out one or more percentage points of retail sales by focusing on home-based relationships in emerging markets. That would more than double the size of the direct selling market.

Coresight Research adds a compelling idea: Using local influencers as  hubs of direct-selling networks who market products fulfilled by distributors: “In the digital age, the rise of influencers, or key opinion leaders (KOL) as they are called in China, has been dramatic. Influencers gain popularity on social media, which they monetize by advertising and selling products.” It is not necessary that everyone in the network be a closer. Adjusting compensation models to enable influencer marketing is another unique opportunity, which may be captured by direct sellers, ecommerce, or, even, retailers who solve the problem of compensation. But direct selling’s business model is the most prepared for virtual-physical hybrid selling.

Brands, too, may be more open to direct selling relationships in overseas markets. They can be the first in regions that have never heard of their competition, establishing brand beachheads through personal relationships.

For instance, Lenovo, the Chinese-owned computer maker, pioneered small-store distribution in China in the ’00s by giving shopkeepers in rural communities an ordering app to quickly replace each computer sold. The on-demand approach minimized the shop-keepers’ inventory risk while giving Lenovo virtually real-time access to consumer data in China. Even a shack without a paved floor could carry Lenovo products this way, and it lead to widespread adoption by Chinese consumers of a PC originally made by IBM.

That early presence in villages outside Chinese cities gave Lenovo an overwhelming advantage in the PC market as it gained footing in the country. By 2010, Lenovo held a 28.8 percent market share, with Dell trailing in a distant second place at 10 percent. It was constructed on person-to-person relationships augmented by digital tools.

First-movers With Smart Tools

Applying this approach to direct selling, a brand can be represented by an individual distributor even in the most difficult economic circumstances. Distributors are in a position to hold inventory briefly, deliver personal service that establishes a customer relationship that increases likelihood of follow-on purchase, and provide feedback that can be used to better target products.

Being first, whether to offer wellness products, beauty products, or technology in a market is an undeniable advantage. Much of the world is waiting for better consumer products and experience. With half the planet using mobile phones, 4.93 billion people in 2018, according to eMarketer, there are many new distributors and customers waiting for opportunities to earn, learn, and enjoy products introduced by friends, family, and local entrepreneurs using direct selling tools.

Great tools also create engaged distributors. Mobile and personalized training and sales coaching, especially in emerging economies, will establish strong distributor networks in new markets. Once engaged and earning, these workers will be far less likely to leave the organization, because it may represent their first middle-class work. As the world settles into greater overall prosperity, the first work relationships people have may be, like the fading notion of a career, permanent for generations.

Smart platforms that analyze the distributor’s behavior, the customer’s buying signs or objections (recorded by the distributor), and adjust sales programming and steps appropriately, are the foundation of a new distributed approach to sales. The technology-enabled customer-centric approach to direct sales counters the weak trust relationships of ecommerce without the overhead of retail.

The era of customers flocking to stores isn’t over, but that model no longer exists in isolation from ecommerce and direct selling competition. The question remains to be decided: Will U.S. and other direct selling companies step into these uncharted sales environments with confidence? They can with tools that help them learn from every interaction and tune their established communications and sales rhythms to newly opened markets.

 

 

Can Direct-Selling Compete With The Gig Economy?

The times they are-a changin’, especially in the world of work. “Gig” roles now make up a significant portion of young and old workers’ time, though many still retain traditional jobs. Younger workers seek work that aligns with their life mission, generally to make the world a better place. The notion that multiple revenue streams are necessary to be prosperous, or even to take a vacation, has become a standard part of career planning. Gig platforms are emerging as the easiest way to establish additional revenue sources in the emerging economy.

Will direct-selling companies be ready to compete for part-time and full-time distributors in this new job market? There are several challenges facing any firm that wants to win and keep gig workers, and e-commerce and retail companies are investing heavily to be compete for sales and support staff who can bring the sales relationship into the home:

It is a plain fact that part-time work is on the rise. Although the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the traditional job market is still alive and well as of May 2018, the agency’s count did not include part-time work in its count of employment arrangements. The DOL suggests that only 3.8 percent of workers are in “alternative or contingent” work arrangements as their primary employment.

During the same month Labor issued its reassuring report, the Federal Reserve found a very different total by counting all work arrangements, not just workers’ primary employment. According to The Fed, 30 percent of adults are working on side jobs to raise their income. The gig today is viewed as necessary to making a sufficient living, consequently the gigs that fit most conveniently in a worker’s life are preferred by potential hires.

People are driving for Uber and Lyft, doing side jobs on TaskRabbit and, critically, many small and medium-sized businesses are turning to online marketplaces to find customers. Intuit reported 34 percent of U.S. workers were working side jobs in 2017 and projects the share of gig workers will rise to 43 percent by 2020. Today’s “hustlers” are choosing software-enabled work opportunities.

Put yourself in the distributor’s shoes

Direct sales opportunities may appear riskier than the typical gig job that promise lower but consistent income. Workers are willing to take the lower pay in lieu of higher income that isn’t certain, according to the Fed: “Three-fifths of workers would prefer a hypothetical job with stable pay over one with varying but somewhat higher pay.”

This is the lens direct sales recruitment must use when assessing its pitch to prospective enrollees. The worker has many choices for a side-income and, if they are going to engage in direct selling full-time need a successful program with world-class onboarding for distributors as well as better tools for selling than competitors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggested in a 2007 study that flexibility and a sense of being in control of one’s time and choices are key motivators for workers, across all generations. That’s an implicit endorsement of the benefits offered by direct selling. As the labor market has tightened, prospective direct sellers are able to measure their options and pick selectively based on social feedback about companies, how distributors are treated, and the tools provided to help them achieve success.

Just as pre-sales determines which sales program will be most successful, distributor recruitment today requires early engagement of prospects with targeted video and audio content, sales messaging delivered through the tools the prospect will use to sell, and a stellar onboarding process to keep them moving toward early success.

Turn the prospective enrollee’s view on your companies offerings: Are the tool mobile and designed to provide training that converts sales rapidly? Are marketing and sales messages reinforcing the importance of distributor success at every step? Has your content library developed to support personalization of sales experience, and does that include helping new distributors embrace and make your sales process their own? Without complete distributor engagement, customers will quickly come to doubt the marketing message overall.

The Brookings Institute reported in 2016 that gig work is thriving in cities, which direct sellers need to target with increasingly diverse personalized messaging. Brookings found that 81 percent of four-year net growth in non-employer firms took place in cities, where huge groups of transient workers are mixing, networking, and making life-long connections that direct sellers can leverage to build revenue. The gig wave will reach the suburbs and rural communities in the next five years.

The next generation of self-starters are entrepreneurial by nature. Millennials, Gen-Z and the newly born Gen-A have grown up in a world where information tools give them extraordinary powers of choice. They also tend to think in terms of building service relationships with customers, a natural fit with direct selling that, without the right tools, quickly leads to frustration and distributor attrition.

The first wave of gig work made commodity labor delivery more efficient. But the sales challenge in the 2020s will revolve around deep customer relationships facilitated by smart content platforms. This gives direct sales an advantage, because the industry has focused on one-to-one relationship for decades. Without the right tools and a clear socially responsible message expressed daily through sales training content, customer messaging, and within the sales network, direct selling will face declines in recruitment.

Even as retail and ecommerce companies launch campaigns to get a foothold in direct selling’s traditional stronghold, the home, potential direct salespeople are juggling more options than at any time in history. Is your direct-selling network ready to engage and support the next generation of self-starters who are willing to work hard for a profitable business and satisfying lifestyle?

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.

Delivering Actionable Sales Process Analytics

Sales managers must interpret and act on more data than ever. Since the appearance of the PC in the enterprise, the burden carried by sales management in every industry has grown heavier. Support roles, from the administrative assistant to accounting staff who helped with various aspects of reporting, have vanished from many organizations. Those jobs were taken over by software, starting with the spreadsheet, leaving managers with fewer people with which to consult and share ideas when making sales process decisions.

Personalization of the direct sales process was impossible in the traditional data reporting environment, but there is a change afoot. If your team is not listening to its market every day, it is falling behind competitors who do and as a result can deploy new targeted content to appeal to changing consumer preferences. Intelligent content management and sales coaching platforms provide coaching to sales managers, summarizing vast amounts of activity to identify patterns that can be applied to existing content and training libraries to deliver personalized customer journeys at scale.

After many years of growing data burdens, leadership can spend less time exploring data and more on refining the details of the customer journey. If an organization has mapped its sales process for machine analysis, each step a distributor takes with a customer becomes actionable data that signals to management how to adjust content and messaging for success. Intelligent content platforms look at past patterns, compares that history to current activity, and applies probabilistic analysis to the data to catch significant changes in customer sentiment early. Machine learning-enabled tools will also assist management with distributor training, engagement, and retention with insight into which salespeople are struggling and excelling, even before the close.

For example, a video shared early in the customer engagement may begin to perform poorly because the because market attitudes have shifted — even a phrase that has become a negative meme in social networks can change the perceived meaning of a corporate message if left unaddressed. The signal a machine learner sends focuses on the conversion expectations for the video. If customers start to express lower purchasing intent after viewing the video, the tool alerts management. It is not necessary to wait to see whether the prospect becomes a customer. The system can point out emerging misalignment of messages with a high degree of certainty and determine whether a change is significant rather than temporary. There is no need to hunt for what changed, the conversion data makes the emerging problem clear.

Sales and marketing teams can quickly review the asset to identify what changes are needed, produce a new video and release it immediately. Today, the signal is also much less noisy than in the spreadsheet era when outliers often stood out without context, leading to false urgency and unneeded content production expenses.

Personalization, without the noise

The rise of highly targeted customer messaging could drown an organization in data without machine learning to assist with separating meaningful changes in content performance from normal variations in a marketplace. Because personalization delivers stronger results, it can make heroes of sales leaders who anticipate and respond to changing market conditions.

Direct sales companies, which have typically relied on quarterly outcomes, not daily insights, to recognize which marketing and sales messaging work and which are misdirected, are used to building intimate customer relationships. If your company is ahead of that curve, it is better prepared to compete in the on-demand marketplace emerging today. If not, take a look at the retailers seeking to step into one-to-one in-home sales relationships with consumers.

Direct sellers that ignore the opportunity to personalize the one-to-one sales experience using media and targeted messages could lose customers to retailers aiming to deliver everything a consumer might want within hours. Amazon even has a key to many customers’ door.

Improved distributor coaching and resource allocation within a sales network in the mobile-first environment transforms the customer relationship. Personalization makes the customer the star of their own show, concentrating all of a brand’s resources of communicating consumer expectations back to headquarter and translating that into improved products and experience. A company’s response to customer feedback is essential to building customer trust and establishing shared values.

The same kind of coaching delivered to reps in the field through an app can provide sales managers insight in real-time into how their expectations and actual sales performance align or diverge. It is a practice every company is preparing to embrace, and the companies that succeed first will retain long-term advantages over competitors.

Once made, in-home relationships are tough to break, as direct sellers well know. Retailers understand this too after seeing foot traffic decline as ecommerce nears 10 percent of the total market.

Smart content now or, perhaps, never

The level of feedback available today enables individual communication with distributors based on their personal skills, personality, and product knowledge. Sales management can take a systematic approach to coaching, sending videos, training, or product collateral to distributors, and following the results conversion data the same day. After sharing a video about a product the distributor has not sold effectively, the platform can tell if their presentation improved based on customer feedback captured during the presentation. If distributors consistently over-estimate their chance of closing, the platform can also provide coaching and report to management that additional attention may be needed.

Intelligent content delivery is a window into every sales engagement. Gig Economy Group’s What’s Next approach to sales coaching tracks each interaction, suggesting content to share and analyzing messaging for terms and phrases that ignite customer interest. Positive changes can be propagated through the entire sales organization rapidly, with each new customer exchange testing the underlying assumptions of the management team to confirm strategic alignment and efficacy.

By matching distributor strengths to customer’s expectations captured through distributor feedback in a mobile app even the individual sales relationship can be tuned for improvements. As the data set available to a machine learning system grows, more sophisticated insights become available. For instance, an introverted rep could be coached to share more with an extroverted prospect or remain quiet and ask questions of another introvert.

In direct selling, content programming and messaging guidance has been considered less important than the one-to-one encounter between distributors and prospects. Rightly so, in the past, but that is changing as online becomes the primary venue for brand discovery by shoppers. With in-home selling investments by retail reaching record levels, direct sellers must study how content, salespeople, and customers interact.

The insights available at each step in the sales process can convert a prospect into a lifetime customer, right in their living room, where direct sellers already have the advantage over retail and ecommerce competitors. The alternative is giving up the home field advantage direct selling brings to the game.

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.

What’s Next Is Personalization

Personalization of customer experience requires two investments: machine learning-based targeting technology, and; human intelligence to interpret customer moods and feedback, as well as curate the media and messages served up for sales use. One without the other will create an inhuman and untrustworthy customer experience that feels to both worker and customer like following rules instead of exercising their passion and fulfilling their needs.

No one wants to be automated, subjected to rigid rules that cannot change, but anyone dealing with lots of information can appreciate being helped by automation. The choice to be assisted by your company’s automation is the critical offer every future employee, contractor, and a customer will consider. The future will be decided outside your organization, by those who can make it a success. These are the personalization-readiness questions to answer in 2018:

  • Is your company’s sales team ready to change based on measurable feedback?
  • Are sales and marketing teams equipped with content and tools, including mobile apps and social network integrations, that help capture feedback that crafts a personalized experience?
  • Is your company organized around constant progress towards distributor and customer personalization?

“Digital technology makes the customer the star,” according to ZEITGUIDE, an influential trend-watcher in New York, and while stars need technology it is the audience they need most to achieve stardom. The What’s Next model, which serves the right content to a salesperson at the appropriate moment to close or move a sale forward, can be extended to provide unparalleled post-sales engagement.

Human interaction is the basis for turning each customer into a star influencer on behalf of the brand – these person-to-person interactions are where creativity and variations on machine rules invented by a human create the surprising experiences that customers remember and share.

Here is the essential shift of context necessary to achieve personalization with limited resources: Think of your marketing, sales, and support teams as the customer’s audience. Companies have tended to think of the relationship the other way, treating the customer as the audience. The brand’s job is to deeply understand the customer, reflect the customer’s desires through the organization, and deliver the fulfillment of those needs as “star treatment.”

Think of your marketing, sales, and support teams as the customer’s audience. The brand’s job is to deeply understand the customer, reflect the customer’s desires through the organization, and deliver the fulfillment of those needs as “star treatment.”

The star experience is based on a series of actions, literally what the expected next step in the marketing and sales funnel, laid out by company leadership and tested through interaction with distributors and customers. A rigid and unresponsive customer experience will always fail because every customer and all the sales and marketing people who interact with them brings different criteria for success. Every star is unique and wants to be treated as their own end, not simply the means to revenue.

The star treatment is a form of mass customization. Applying available content to telling a personalized story based on targeting factors. The next step in the evolution of on-demand markets will require breaking down content, processes, and the measurement of success into micro-steps that can be personalized more efficiently.

Rise of the Augmented Worker

The rise of the machine intelligence is widely seen as a threat to human employment. We see a new challenge for human workers, an increased focus on service and care, which will extend far beyond familiar caregiver roles, such as assisted-living for seniors and physicians’ assistants using AI to replace doctors in many clinics. Doctors are now freed up to spend more time with emergent and chronic care patients – they are not disappearing, just moving to a different level of caregiving.

The next generation of care-delivery roles will be the interface between highly efficient supply chains and customers. Market research firm IDC projects that the combination of customer data and artificial intelligence will create 471,819 new jobs this year, as people augmented by machine learning fan out to improve customer experience in novels niches, adding $1.1 Trillion in new revenue top the economy by 2021.

The business of caring will include marketing, which must understand and anticipate customers’ needs during pre-sales engagements, sales staff that modulate the delivery of marketing content and personal messages to the customer, and a wide range of post-sales services. For example, many direct-selling distributors provide personal training services along with the products they sell. Markets are fusing products, services, and human functions into a continuous customer experience in which the salespeople play essential supporting roles for the organization and customer.

Winning and keeping customers, not just conversions is will be the defining challenge in sales during the 2020s. Every company will need a process that preserves its brand and policies while supporting the flexibility required by customer-centric personalization.

Brand Consistent, Human Creative

How can a branded organization interact with a constantly changing cast of human contributors to their sales and service experience? Since the commercial World Wide Web was introduced in 1993, the rigidity of corporate boundaries has been under assault and C-level executives have agonized over finding and keeping the best talent engaged in a sea of mobile workers.

We suggest “What’s Next.” The idea is simple: Use the brand’s existing marketing content and sales processes to analyze what is effective and racking the variations introduced by individual salespeople during their interactions with customers. A machine learning platform trained to understand the process and measure how variations impact sales outcomes watches all marketing and sales activity to find the most effective variations. Successful variations on the steps are rolled into organization-wide best practices delivered through the brand’s marketing content and sales processes.

It is not necessary to throw away the playbook your company operates with today. By launching a new level of customer-centric care using existing marketing content and sales processes, an organization can minimize upfront investments to free more resources that can be applied to filling content gaps, upgrading and expanding sales communication channels – leading toward an omnichannel customer experience – and find the optimal sales/support-to-customer ratio to maximize average revenue per customer. The challenge is deciding to change from a long feedback cycle to a short one, a finger on the pulse of your market every day.

What’s Next can be applied from the first encounter with a prospective distributor by a direct selling company, extending the onboarding process into the pre-enrollment. For example, LifeVantage, which recently launched a new Gig Economy Group platform-based app for distributors, engages prospects through an app and, at enrollment, sponsors help download and install it on the new distributor’s phone.

LifeVantage is optimizing its sales interface through the app to address every prospect, customer, and distributor touch individually, based on its existing best practices. Incorporating distributor choices about which message to use with a customer at a specific part of the funnel provides the company with guidance about where to invest in new content, improve training programs, and increase revenue.

Start Before Day One

The most successful training programs begin before the employee’s first day and last months after many companies consider their hires fully onboard. At LifeVantage, the app allows training programs take over from the sales experience through the same tool the enrollee experienced as a prospect. Depending on their experience level, the new distributor can start with more or less brand and product training – it’s their option to skip ahead to the core work the app does, to manage the customer relationship. That feedback informs training program development.

On Day One, the LifeVantage enrollee enters and starts communicating with up to 10 prospects, substantially increasing the probability of a sales in the first few weeks. As those customer interactions become more specific, such as focused on a particular product, the LifeVantage app suggests additional product knowledge training to ensure distributor success.

Throughout the onboarding, the machine learning platform observes the distributor’s sales activity and compares it to the brand’s established processes. If the distributor ignored product training that, because of customer interest is becoming a gap in their sales ability, the platform suggests additional training.

The platform also helps to compose successful text and email messages based on phrases and words that convert well for other distributors in the network.

Sponsors and management can receive alerts about changes in one distributor’s progress, which they can address through one-to-one conversations, or to performance changes across the entire network. Working from a simple dashboard, marketing, and sales leaders can create new content and messaging suggestions, testing them in real-time and receiving feedback from the field within hours.

The outcome is a comprehensive, well-aligned worker-customer experience. The two roles, worker and customer, have tended to be treated as separate experiences, but in the era of personalization, when every participant can observe and comment on the values they expect to be realized by a company, worker and customer’s experience will shape the brand’s reputation.

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.