Customers have taken over the sales process. In response, sales reps need to radically change their approach and start selling the way customers want to buy. The shifting position of sales The death knell of old-school sales started to sound back in 2011, when the Sales Executive Council published research that found customers were completing 57 percent of their buying journey before even making contact with a sales rep. That figure now stands at 65 percent, and is predicted to jump to 69 percent by the end of 2014. Customers are constantly connected, via mobile devices, to reviews, websites, social recommendations and price comparisons. They no longer need sales reps to give them information or pitch them a product: but they do still need help. ‘Today’s distracted consumers, bombarded with information and options, often struggle to find the products or services that will best meet their needs,’ says the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Sales reps need to understand their customers and help them solve their particular problems. This means listening, learning and making more time for relationship building. Get connected to hit your quota With this shift in mind, we’re giving you seven top tips and technologies to help transition and become a more productive sales team in the process. 1. Go mobile. Seventy-six percent of CSOs perceive that mobile CRM improves sales team performance, and yet less than half are currently providing access to critical sales and customer information on mobile devices. Giving sales reps access to customer histories and targeted collateral on the go with tools like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office 365, not only helps them build tailored relationships with prospects, but also gives them more face-to-face time in the field. 2. Prioritise integration and intuition. ‘For most sales teams, the value and benefit of a great sales tool can be negated (or worse) if the sales team has to take precious time to operate multiple tools at once without integration,’ says Heinz Marketing. Sales reps will find Microsoft tools have a familiar and easy-to-use interface and since Dynamics CRM, Power BI and Office 365 are built to work together integration is intuitive and seamless. 3. Automate. As far back as 1989, the HBR stated that marketing and sales automation ‘holds tremendous potential for productivity improvements’ and it still holds true. CSOs identify the ability to incubate promising leads for the future as the most common area in need of improvement in their sales process. Marketing automation can ensure these leads continue to receive relevant content and are nurtured through automatic workflows, while sales reps spend their time talking to ready, qualified leads. Similarly, tools like Microsoft Social Listening, can automate the tedious and time-consuming parts of social selling. ‘Every day, there are buying signals and trigger events among your prospects and customers worth following up on,’ says Heinz Marketing. Reps can receive notification of keywords, company mentions or even complaints about competitors (which suggest a prospect is ready for a new vendor) from across the web, all in one easily digestible report. 4. Gather and analyse. B2B buyers cite that when a seller’s marketing content is not relevant the chance of closing a sale is cut by 45 percent. The amount of data we can now collect about customers - whether it’s click patterns, demographics or psychographics – means sales reps have no excuse for not giving a buyer what they want, when they want it. Powerful analytics tools like Microsoft Power BI let you not only visualise your own data, but also pull in third party data, such as that from social networks, so you can drill down and better understand your customers. This in turn allows you to create highly customised buyer personas and sales workflows. 5. Develop a methodology. ‘In firms that don't have a sales process, much relies on “then a miracle happens”,’ says Kevin Avery of SBI. Automated marketing lets leads pre-qualify themselves, cutting the length of the sales cycle, but beyond that sales and marketing also need to agree on what defines a qualified lead, what the handover process is and how many leads sales will follow up with. Storing all information gathered about a lead during the nurturing process in Microsoft Dynamics CRM also lets you use Power BI to dig down and figure out which leads create the best revenue and who is most likely to convert so that you can better design the rest of the sales process. Sales Benchmark Index recommend developing ‘buying process maps’, where you consider buying phases, key buyer actions and the context of those actions. This helps sales reps get involved earlier in the buying process by identifying when and where a prospect might be open to an approach. 6. Get friendly with marketing and services. Accenture’s recent report on improving sales effectiveness states that the shift in power in the sales cycle towards the customer ‘demands a tailored and integrated customer experience – from touch points initiated by marketing, to promises made by sales, to customer service and support’. This is not only significant for customer acquisition but retention too: the same report found that almost half of CSOs say they need to improve their organisation’s performance in cross- and upselling. It’s no surprise they want to tap into that market: it costs six times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an old one. Sales, marketing and services all need to work together and they need access to the same, up-to-date customer information. Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be updated by anyone, from anywhere. It can include social media, email, telephone and other interactions with customers, allowing you to map their full journey and give every team the ability to convert, delight and convert again. 7. Coach on specifics. ‘Too many managers fall back on … "spreadsheet coaching," where the focus is on whether the sales staff is hitting its numbers,’ argues Tim Donnelly. Being able to store and analyse entire sales cycles lets you spot specific strengths or weaknesses of an individual sales rep. This in turn supports tailored, individual coaching and the promotion, through social and collaboration tools like Yammer, of top performers’ common behaviours. This is what Daniel Korten of SBI calls sales enablement. While sales training is a one-off, one-to-all event, enablement is a continuous ‘function’, which is built into the daily lives of sales reps through social and mobile tools. No more ‘one and done’ To boost productivity, sales teams need to do more than just pitch the hard sell to sales-ready customers. They need to get involved in the conversation earlier, working with marketing to nurture and educate leads and continue that conversation after conversion in order to delight and cross- and up-sell to happy customers. To do this, sales teams need tools that can collect, store, analyse and share a wide range of customer data in an intuitive and accessible way. Microsoft’s combination of Dynamics CRM, Power BI and Office 365 helps you zero in, win faster and sell more.