The best trapeze acts work without a net, and the results can ocassionally be disastrous when plans go wrong. Brands cannot assume their sales teams can work without a net, on pure intuition instead of using a well-documented sales process, without inviting the inevitable disastrous outcomes that result from poor planning. As the economy shifts to on-demand work arrangements, it is more important than ever to give staff a sales roadmap so that they can apply their experience within the brand experience to create even better outcomes.
New distributors need a sales roadmap, even if they plan to find their own shortcuts to success. In the fast-changing, high-churn economy in which sales organizations exist today, every step in the customer’s sales experience should be scripted in order to free salespeople to innovate smartly to deliver personalized experience. That does not mean that every action a sales rep takes should follow the script, rather the script is the grounding that gives smart salespeople the ability to improvise. Direct-selling compounds the consequences of poor planning because distributors often mix multiple jobs to earn a higher income.
“We don’t want to tell our sales reps what to do” are the most dangerous words in sales management. It’s a declaration of surrender to failure. A company without well-documented processes has abandoned its ability to learn and respond to the market. Now that content management systems can be linked to machine intelligence to track sales activity, even in individual customer interactions, a well documented sales process can improve rapidly based on customer feedback. As each distributor tries variations in language and order in which content is presented, the machine learner assesses the results and encourages or discourages that behavior based on sales results.
Change — a constant evolution of marketing messaging, sales process, and customer engagement is essential to achieving personalized experience — is the only constant in business today. Without a documented starting point, companies cannot learn how to improve from the responses customers provide to their collateral, their key sales propositions, and their marketing messages to create more personalized customer experience. The benefits of personalization are clear. It produces higher customer retention, increases conversion rates by more than 400 percent, and drives customer recommendation sharing.
A smart content platform, which blends content management and delivery with machine learning that tracks sales representatives’ experiments with different messages, can automatically test the changes that create improvements. Moreover, AI can spot messaging that fails to engage and cull content to coach salespeople to use new content that performs effectively. But none of these benefits are available without the baseline of a sales plan, against which new results must be compared.
Distributor retention grows on solid selling process
Documenting the sales process is first and foremost an investment in onboarding success. It provides talented teams the confidence to improve every step of the customer engagement. New employees consistently identify the need for clear guidance during onboarding and in daily sales activities. Without that guidance, new distributors are more likely to struggle when closing their first sales and to leave the organization before contributing to the company’s profitability.
Steven W. Martin of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, describes top sales professionals as firmly anchored in their company’s customer interaction strategy. It allows them to “tailor … sales pitch[es] to the customer’s needs” and creating emotional connections with the customer. Marin also points out that the structure of a customer experience allows top-performing salespeople to challenge the customer’s assumptions confidently. These intimate moments happen only in the context of a strong sales engagement, but they can be pivotal to getting a deal closed because the basis for honest feedback flows both ways.
A salesperson working within a known structure knows when to step outside the script. That is the human skill for which you are paying salespeople. When augmented by machine intelligence, a rep can quickly reshape a presentation or make a new offer based on customer feedback — data analysis delivers coaching the distributor in real-time and, as they innovate on the plan, captures the changing customer response to understand whether the improvisation by the seller is effective.
Brands that fail to inculcate their basic values and messaging strategy with distributors during the early steps in their career with the company squander shareholder resources.
If your sales leadership insists that the salesforce doesn’t need a plan, challenge them to provide data that supports their argument. You may surprise those managers by asking, and you will likely not receive a quantitative answer to the question. Intuition is untestable without a documented process against which progress can be measured.
Do not let your brand grope blindly for success without plan-based metrics that allow your team to adjust quickly to changing customer sentiment. Ensure that your marketing department has the data to act on by selecting key conversion events in the sales process, and hold everyone to the facts. Is your sales process documented to support rapid analysis of changing market and customer conditions?