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.