Fear of change. Discomfort over breaking old habits. Reluctance to question what your company takes for granted. These barriers to change will kill a generation of companies as artificial intelligence enables salespeople who use mobile tools to deliver a personalized customer experience that connects brands to people in long-term trusted relationships.
We’ve all heard that no company can monopolize talent, so where can your organization turn for answers about sales and marketing strategy in a time of rapid and revolutionary change? Ask your customers. They know what they want. At a minimum, they know what they like and will explain how your company can satisfy their needs.
Tap into customer interest and intention with a smart content platform that reshapes sales messaging based on individual feedback. Based on early experience with our tools, analyzing and targeting content using customer feedback can make a sales rep as much as 44 percent more productive over their career with an organization.
Clayton Christensen, the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, points out that 94 percent of corporate executives polled in 2016 were dissatisfied with their companies’ innovation performance because their marketing teams focus on identifying correlations in data instead of deepening their understanding of individual customers. By listening to customers’ feedback about their progress toward personal or professional goals, Christensen argues, the customer journey will be transformed from a trendline in data into specific related actions toward the customer’s success. The process requires interaction with customer’s needs and must reach into the circumstances in which they are making a purchase decision.
Detailed personal feedback can be applied throughout an organization to tune more than the sales pipeline, it can be used to recast the supply-chain, fulfillment processes, product designs, and the brand’s market interface, where discovery and selling take place.
The Sears gap
But fear gets in the way. Executives fall back on what has worked in the past. They resist training others to try new processes because they don’t want to change their daily management tasks. Too often, they wait until their company is mortally wounded before breaking out of established practices.
Sears, the Amazon of the horse-drawn era, stumbled along without successfully engaging its customers for decades before it went bankrupt this week. If Sears had been listening, its customers would have told the company how they wanted to interact with the “everything store” and what products they would buy. Fear, in the end, prevented Sears from turning around, even when a billionaire-savior CEO took over.
“While we have made progress,” Sears CEO Eddie Lampert told CNN,” the plan has yet to deliver the results we have desired.” What’s missing from that statement? The customer’s desire. If Sears had had a structured listening program in place that bridged its online, retail, and service centers, it may have learned what customers would buy and why. However, Sears focussed on its needs instead of its customers’ desires. That is what killed the company that connected mainstream consumers to mass-produced goods.
Ironically, Sears knew better 110 years ago. “We solicit honest criticism more than orders,” the 1908 Sears Catalog proclaimed. Why did it fail to keep listening? It did not move with its customers into new product segments while continuing largely impersonal, but inexpensive, retail practices.
Breaking out of your comfort zone
Listening is more than recording customer feedback. It requires intimate social and data science skills across many teams. A personalized experience is lean, it is built by carving away non-relevant messages to get to exactly what the customer wants, why they want it, and what they are willing to spend. Personal feedback from customers must be applied to every interaction to eliminate unneeded information from brand messaging.
As companies build larger content libraries, they must not be tempted to flood the customer with information. Internet-based e-commerce allowed marketers and sales teams became more focused on having plenty of collateral materials, which often stands in for personal interaction because it is comprehensive. If you can answer every customer question with a document or short video, why talk with and record the motives of a customer? With the rise of mobile technology and machine learning platforms that can process individual interaction data to help salespeople refine their message, the content library will continue to play an important part, but it will be broken down into smaller pieces and recombined to answer questions with a personal touch.
Artificial intelligence, which has been adopted by 47 percent of advertisers to target advertising content; 42 percent of respondents to the same eConsultancy survey reported using AI to generate dynamic creative content — combining different assets to make more personalized messages for customers.
Get out in front of demand
Unlike Sears, successful sales leaders tap into an almost infinite source of feedback from customers. A smart content platform uses feedback to coach a salesperson to ask more questions of customers during calls to refine the next engagement, too. Marketers are able to test content with test audiences on the fly before presenting it to all customers. A smart platform can alert sales management to changes in the expected response to each message, allowing for rapid identification of market changes. All these interactions are funneled through mobile apps, but only a salesperson can ask the spontaneous question that catalyzes buying intentions. By programming an initial set of sales steps, companies can monitor, target, and recast smaller content investments to serve more personalized interaction.
For instance, the Gig Econ0my Group (GEG) platform can track a series of messages between a sales rep and her customers, suggesting new content to share in response to a prospect’s expressed interests. GEG’s action card interface, which presents the “What’s Next” step to the salesperson after each interaction, can suggest a video or other asset to share with a customer based on: 1.) A change in interest level; 2.) An answer to a scripted question, such as “What are your goals with my product?”; 3.) Changes in messaging content and tone, which can spawn a response to an objection that includes a personalized video. These are only a few of the simple triggers an AI platform should be able to generate from an existing sales process.
Sears failed to invest in its future so many times that no business book will successfully capture its failure. (We recommend Audible CEO Don Katz’s The Big Store for a look at how, once, Sears managed to roar back.) Don’t let the fear of change prevent your company from investigating how to change for greater profitability. There’s a reason some companies survive through all ups and downs: A solid customer relationship that allows forward-looking brands to evolve with their customer’s needs.
If artificial intelligence sounds intimidating, don’t wait to find out what falling behind an AI-supported competitor feels like. A solid AI platform will take your existing sales process and optimize it. As it learns, you will learn more about how to leverage the insights generated by customer feedback. If you are afraid of the implications of AI, give us a call. We’ll do more than listen.