Transforming Sales: Buyers are Telling us What They Expect and That Will Continue

In this series, we ask Sales Tech Executives to describe how their solution can transform sales in a significant way.

This week I interview Melody Astley, VP of Sales for Finlistics Solutions.

NANCY: WHAT ARE THE TOP AREAS OF FOCUS IN THE NEXT 12-24 MONTHS FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT WANT TO TRANSFORM THEIR SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

MELODY: “97 percent of Executives don’t believe that sellers understand their business” – Accenture. “Death of the B2B salesperson” – Forrester. “The buyer-seller mismatch” – FinListics

There’s so much research out there now which points us to some key areas of change, and the companies that don’t respond to them will fall behind. The good news is that buyers are telling us what they expect and will continue to. So, one of the key transformational trends that we see sales organizations taking on is totally overhauling their sales processes to account for how the buyers actually buy rather than how sellers sell. This is no simple task, changing the mindset and behaviors of a sales team, but the dividends are huge.

Another technology that’s transforming organizations is artificial intelligence. Just a few years ago, AI was another buzzword, but now there are practical applications popping up AI’s capabilities have moved into CRM – now we can more accurately predict closure rates, prescribe the next best action, and determine the profile of the sellers. This allows for better pipeline and talent management. When you visit a website, how often are you greeted by a virtual agent there to help you with any questions (and to qualify/ disqualify you from a sales perspective)? That’s all AI. Organizations will need to embrace AI as part of their qualification process and pipeline management at a minimum because the use cases are becoming endless.

It’s worth mentioning that at FinListics, we’re building our new ClientIQ 2.0 platform and the technology lends itself to machine learning. What this means for our users is that they will receive an even more customized, prescriptive experience to sell higher and more.

Closer alignment with marketing. Because buyers engage with sales later in the cycle, top of the funnel activities are more important than ever to nurture leads to qualification. Does the marketing message match with what the sales teams are talking about, and vice versa?  Has the organization agreed on the ideal client profile, and is the messaging tailored to the individual buyer? Organizations that take steps for closer sales and marketing alignment see an increase of 30% in qualified leads and a reduction in sales cycle by 20%. This adds up to significant revenue opportunities for a company.

NANCY: HOW SHOULD COMPANIES DECIDE WHICH APPROACHES TO SALES TRANSFORMATION ARE RIGHT FOR THEM?

MELODY: Just because it’s a trend doesn’t mean that it needs to be adopted. We’ve seen the pendulum swing back from automating everything and depersonalizing the customer experience, to Account Based Marketing and customizing for individual targets. So, how do you decide which transformational projects you want to begin?

It sounds simple but is so often overlooked – focus on clients first. We discussed that buyers are smarter than ever, and by the time they interact with a seller they are further down the buying journey than you might realize. How does the transformation impact the client in a positive way? If you can’t articulate the value that the transformation brings, then you might want to prioritize one that more clearly aligns with client needs.

How does the project align with the company’s 3-5 year plan? A transformational project doesn’t happen overnight and takes time. How will this project help the company to achieve the plan faster or smarter? What’s the risk profile for the project – what obstacles do you see? Did you establish a change management plan?

Once you’ve slated your transformational projects – stick with them! Change doesn’t happen overnight, so measure your successes and celebrate wins along the way.

NANCY: WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR ENSURING THAT TECHNOLOGIES CONTRIBUTE TO SALES TRANSFORMATION IN A MEASURABLE AND IMPACTFUL WAY?

MELODY: Even while our flagship product, ClientIQ, is a sales tool, we are very quick to say that “tools don’t sell – people sell.” Over the years, we identified best practices as well as things to avoid as organizations rollout ClientIQ or any other sales enablement tool for that matter. Here are just a few:

  1. Do – understand that there’s no silver bullet for a tool – if you think revenues will skyrocket just because the organization invested in a tool, then you will face disappointment. Plan ahead before investing in a tool.
  2. Don’t – confuse value brought to the organization by the adoption rate or “compliance.” When clients start counting and tracking individual users versus the value that the technology brings, it makes the technology seem like another thing they have to use rather than something that will help them be successful. One or two deals closed with the new technology pays for it, so track the pipeline metrics rather than compliance.
  3. Do – engage the key stakeholders. Let them know what’s in it for them and their teams. Integrate it with the sales process and share with them the value stakes you will be measuring. Find internal champions for the technology and bring them along on the journey.
  4. Don’t – forget to measure results! The success metrics will vary depending on what function your tool serves. For our clients, we look early on to establish what we call “value stakes” that we can measure along the journey, and so when renewal time comes the value is so clear to the customer that they renew. Some common value stakes that we put in place are: pipeline growth/identification of new opportunities, wallet share growth in existing clients, internal NPS, and ROI.

NANCY: HOW IS YOUR SOLUTION TRANSFORMING YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

MELODY: Our clients tell us that when they commit to Insight-led selling practices and roll out ClientIQ at scale, that they realize between 300-900% ROI. We measure everything as much as possible – we believe if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

One of our longest standing clients that has been on this journey for several years actually took the time to baseline the effectiveness of their program and ClientIQ by comparing the effectiveness of the sales teams who used ClientIQ and took the training to those that didn’t. The team that used ClientIQ reported:

  • Eliminating the competition 2:1
  • 96% improvement in their confidence in speaking with executives
  • 30% increase in new pipeline with the same clients
  • An NPS of 95

In addition to this baseline, the client measured a 907% ROI on their ClientIQ investment. Fantastic results – so much so that this organization was awarded with the ATD excellence in practice award for their outstanding execution and commitment to the program.