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Patrick Maes: Disruptive Selling, A new strategic approach to sales, marketing and customer service

Successful disruptive selling concepts will be based on the right combination of a series of factors. These include understanding of what motivates your customers, a corresponding value proposition, appropriate organizational structure and processes and the right culture. Traditional ways of selling will become the exception. The role of marketing will switch from branding to the generation of qualified leads and the development of brand ambassadors. Customer service will become the hub of relationship management.

Modern customer decides what is valuable and when it is valuable. Value creation for the customer in today’s market means creating value from the moment a potential lead first indicates interest in a possible purchase. And it continuous until long after the sale has completed. Lower costs, better results and happier customers: this is enticing paradox of disruptive selling. This is new sales approach in which customer takes the lead in a sales process that is largely automated. It means that sales process of company uses every available technology resource to respond as effectively as possible to customer needs. It is self-reinforcing process.

Marketing automations is a technology that makes it possible to follow the activities of your customers in real time, 24/7. It is collecting information about customer from every contact that customer makes with company. Even the ones that customer is not aware of. Some information can lead to some automatic Reponses.

CRM is one of the tools that can help sales getting proper insight. Companies should look for CRM tools that give best value to sales, not the ones with best reporting capabilities. CRM started as IT project and was developed from relationship database, but today it is much more than this. Other tools company can use to improve development of their sales are social listening tools and internal communication tools. Company can also use good organizational and management concept tools such as Objectives and Key Results (OKR).

Selling is changing. CPI (author company) is calling new approach “selping” – a combination of selling and helping. It is about inspiring, enchanting and sustaining.

Modern business models take no account of the artificial division between B2C and B2B. Each customer wants transparent information available 24/7. Consumer will want the same experience they have in their private life also in their professional situations.

Your products need to deliver what it promises. But that will be done by competition too. So more and more it is total experience customers will get, that will decide who will win a deal. In order to provide transparent consumer experience companies should rely to triple-A rule: accountability, authentic and agility. Take a balance approach to putting the customer at the center, an approach that takes account of the interests of both the customer and the company.

When looking for strategic partnership with your suppliers on side and you customers on the other, you can make some estimations based on Peter Kraljic matrix that defines four guadrant of product based on their financial impact to customer from low to high and their delivery (supply) risk from low to high. Those categories are: routine products (low financial, low supply), bottleneck products (low financial, high supply), leverage products (low supply, high financial), strategic products (high financial, high supply). So, suppliers need to be careful about where they are in correlation to purchaser on this matrix and adjust value proposition based on that. Plus, they should be ready to adjust this value proposition if necessary. The relationship with a customer is joined journey.

In traditional sales major focus of sales is on initial transactional and afterwards company is putting trust in loyalty of customer to do next transactions with it. It is a sales approach lead by sales and usual customer situation development is defined with stages from suspect, prospect, addressee, negotiate, closing and order. But in today’s sales process lead by customers, this is not anymore straight path, but a winding one, with quite some detours. The customer journey started when awareness is created. Then it can jump from consideration, first purchase, repeated purchase, upselling and cross-selling all those coupled with advocacy and detraction. Main phases are consideration, evaluation, closing (purchase), using (post-purchase). It is all about getting customers and growing them. Getting them through activation and acquiring and growing them through upsell, cross-sell, next sell, referrals. Both activities gave feedbacks that are included into viral loop.

New approach is also connected with new segmentation of customers, that goes beyond standard categories like man, woman, age, location. New approach defines customer profiles like personae and is based on how customers react to products and services offered. The personae must remain realistic and usable for everyone in the company.

The average person finds it hard to concentrate on something for longer than eight seconds. 17% of web pages are viewed for less than four seconds. Only four percent are viewed more than couple of minutes. It is in active evaluation phase when customers are spending long time in order to check all options. And there are a lot of information out there, so it is important for marketing departments to develop proper activities and content. One of the strongest messages about your brand is customer feedback. The power of publicity you earn (the comments of satisfied customers or the opinions of independent trendsetters) is much greater than the publicity you own (your website or social media channels) or the publicity you pay for (advertisements, banners, sponsored content, etc.)

After the purchase is made, customer will check if product or service delivers what was promised. Customer will become loyal if customer experience will match their expectations. Those loyal customers can become company best ambassadors. In order for company to catch all information about it, that can be positive or negative, they should use social trackers for social media. Products like Obi4Wan or Radion6.

With changes of landscape, contact strategy is changing. It is important for companies to understand customers preference for contact moments. Like relevance and expectations of every contact moment. The aggressive tactics that were once used on customers to achieve targets are no longer compatible with the prevailing customer culture. Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi developed a rule 4-1-1- of social selling. It means that you should only start promoting your own offer after you have first re-tweeted one relevant tweet and, more importantly, shared four pieces of relevant content written by others.

A sustainable customer relationship means having respect for the customer but also implies that your own shareholders can have respect for your commercial approach. If customers take lead in the sales process, if they get exactly what they want at every step of the customer journey, if they can count on your understanding and your willingness to listen, if your input into their journey is both efficient and inspirational, then it is reasonable to assume that they will be happy. Happy customers mean profits. More importantly, happiness is also the key to developing loyal customers, who in turn can become ambassadors. And ambassadors are worth their weight in gold in modern markets.

Delivering on promised service or product is crucial for customer loyalty. In order to do that, companies need strong internal communication so that everybody is on the same page. Main reasons for possible customer dissatisfaction are:

  • Promise too much, deliver less
  • Fail to proactively communicate
  • Service provision is not on current standard level
  • Missed customer signals from channels that company does not monitor
  • You don’t leave choices to customer, instead you make decisions for them

Customers are defining value by importance and satisfaction. Companies should have clear understanding of how important and what kind of satisfaction their products and services are bringing to their customers. And they should work on high satisfaction and high importance and try to develop low satisfaction and high importance. This helps companies to clearly define their value propositions.

Under-promise and over-delivery is also bad approach. Since this approach doesn’t have lasting effect, since very soon this kind of situation becomes standard and customers expectation are based on over-delivery and not actual promise.

Development of sales started in 1960 when mass production created sales persons going around customers equipped with marketing materials that were prepared by marketing departments. This was Sales 1.0. knowledge about customers was in salespersons heads and they have a lot of freedom. With rise of technology and organizational improvement, first CRM systems were introduced. Sales evolved from black box selling to a model where information was shared throughout the organization. With introduction of mobile technology and instant access to information, this Sales 2.0 ensured that internal services become more important and that marketing departments took over sales lead creation jobs and sales was focusing on closing. Moving to on-line communication and information sharing and another big leap in mobile technology development, Sales 3.0 was introduced. Automation of customer communication and marketing activities moved sales focus from face-to-face sales. But disruptive sales goes beyond that. In disruptive sales environment it is the task of everyone in the company to take good care of customer relationship.

Sales 3.0 model from CPI-consulting has 5 categories that included

  • Departments
    • Marketing – generates leads, takes care of managing customer journey before, during and after the sale.
    • Sales – ensures closing, works via different channels and use all communication channels.
    • Customer service – is the hub of relational management, offers proactive support, works on up-sell and cross-sell.
  • Digital and social relevance
    • Relevant content and accessibility through all devices. Quick responses and a position of trusted advisor. Presence on social media and internet is the basis of every sales strategy.
  • Innovation
    • It is created in collaboration with customers. Relates to products and services. It is based on smart partnership.
  • Technology
    • It is an enabler. Marketing automation and business intelligence make difference in customer engagement. Smart collaborative tools replace email and reduce meetings.
  • Management and control
    • Management is carried out based on objectives. It should be inspiring, enabling, enthusing and empowering for employees.

New approach is based on three-A

  • Authenticity – is about always being there for your customers. This is possible if you use all information to improve individualization of your customers. By achieving this, you are able to better predict their demand and even potential problems.
  • Accountability – is necessary to give your staff the opportunity to develop their own potential, by showing what they can do. Control and command approach is not working any more, people generally want more freedom and responsibility and because of that accountability is even more important today.
  • Agility – as an attitude of both the staff and overall culture of organization.

There are many goal-oriented managements approaches. Drucker introduced MBO (Management of objectives), in 1980’s SMART objectives and KPI were popular. OKR (objectives and key results) was originated by Andy Grove at Intel and popularized by John Doerr at Google in 1999. The model has many layers, but the goal is to connect ambitious objective of organization as a whole to objectives of every employee by braking it down into a series of small but equally ambitious team and personal objectives and key results.

Biggest change is happening in the field of marketing. Marketing is becoming revenue driver and controller of customer journey, taking on a role of sales. Supported by development of digital infrastructure, with main investments going in omnichannel communication and data analysis, marketing will be judged by income generation capabilities. Marketing managers will become experience managers. They should be able to prepare proper valuable content not only in lead-generation activities but also in sales process and after sales process.  There is no value in having more leads if they offer no prospect of a later sale. Bad leads only cost money. Modern marketing metrics measure returns on different marketing channels. They measure how many sales-qualifies leads they can generate.

Sales will need to adapt to those changes. Sales will still happen. But we need to take a broader view of the sales experience. Second important trend is growing awareness of need for social and digital relevance. Innovations will keep you in the game, so that you can adjust business models and customer approaches. Impact of technology will grow. And whit marketing taking sales generation role, sales will move into sales development role. Standard sales approach will hardly work anymore. You need to be really good to compete for customer attention against all the other spam and noise that is floating around. This changes in sales will demand different management of sales. Still focusing on results, but not in a control way. A modern sales organization now needs to work with self-steering teams. On top of revenue targets, other metrics will be introduced that will measure customer involvement.

LinkedIn is one of social networking tools that can also be used as sales tool. They believe that in era of flat organization – self-authorizing agile teams, open iterative decision making and distributed governance – the one-to-one sales approach is quickly becoming obsolete, reflecting times of vertical organizations and corresponding hierarchy. Sales professionals have to go deeper into the buying team’s structure, creating and building many relationships.

New activities based on online presence, marketing automation and use of new technologies can be defined as lead nurturing. Meaning feeding leads with small chunks of added value. Based on positive feedbacks or not, you can then define scores that can lead to better qualification and ultimately conversion. It is not only if your customers react, but also to what they react, that is important to make better judgments about where customer is in sales cycle. Companies should systematically listen to voice of the customer.

The integration of CRM and marketing automation provides both sales and marketing with access to information generated at the start of the customer journey. Marketing automation provides automatically and continuously updated information throughout the remainder of the journey. The digital footprint left by the customer makes it possible to develop a sales approach tailor-made to that particular customer. Good CRM is built on user expectations and linked with ERP and marketing automation.

Marketing automation tools usually offer five basic functionalities:

  • Monitoring of online behavior.
  • Built-in email marketing function.
  • Enable customer relationship and contact management.
  • Automate routine functions.
  • Give access to a selection of lead-nurturing and analysis tools.

Some of the tools are SALESManago, HubSpot, Click-Dimensions, SIlverPop, Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua.

When talking about areas that marketing automation can cover on top of basic functionalities dynamic communication is also very important. Ability to adjust certain features to different customer profiles is a must in today’s markets. Lead scoring is an essential concept in marketing automation. It can be use in next phase of process and that is automatic marketing generations. In addition to the opportunity to scale up highly efficient personalized marketing campaigns for requirements of larger groups of (potential) customers, marketing automation yields another significant advantage, it provides companies with a tool to analyze in depth the online behavior of (potential) customers and their reaction to company opening value proposition. This tool can create reports and show key parameters. One tool that can also increase revenue is predictive intelligence. Predictive intelligence enhances the customer’s profile in real time, capitalizing on actual customer behavior at that moment.

There are a lot of marketing automation tools and some of them are quite affordable. To check comparison, you can use Scott Brinker’s technology map. Solutions are devised into six categories:

  • Advertising and promotion
  • Content and experience
  • Social and relationship
  • Commerce and sales
  • Data
  • Management

New era is bringing end of talking and the rise of texting. Of those aged between 18-24 who are given a choice between only being able to text or only being able to call, around 75 per cent choose texting. When using texting as a medium, all of the information that needs to be analyzed is readily available. So, using chatbot is a good approach. When choosing technology for marketing automation it makes sense to spend little more time to check that systems are proper for customer environment, that they are compatible with existing CRM and other systems. Technology can help with execution of brilliant ideas, but you still need creative people inside marketing departments.

Added value that marketing technology can bring:

  • Identification of customers on website. Defining their importance and checking their behavior.
  • Sub-pages checking of customers behavior.
  • Insights are created for every company that visit website, so that sales can create individual response.
  • You can build extensive knowledge of customer without even meeting them.
  • You can compile tailor-made newsletter, based on interest shown by customer.
  • Automation of dispatch and time proposals for communication.
  • Monitoring emails.
  • After the website visit automatic follow up.
  • Ability to provide dynamic content on website for each customer preference (intrests).
  • Scoring customers.
  • Automatic segmentation.
  • Automatic marketing campaign and leading customer through their journey.
  • The profile of customer is automatically updated with every contact and information.
  • Re-targeting technology allows anonymous reach of visitor with adverts or on social media.
  • Monitoring customer behavior through sales cycles.
  • Leads are automatically assessed and approached.
  • Recommendation of sales contacts.

One of new technology is also Augmented Reality, that retailers and others can use to improve customer experience. Retail company Yihaodian is creating all virtual stores.

Development of technology is also seen in IoT. It can be divided into three separate components:

  • the smart devices that record and transmit data,
  • supplier’s data warehouse, where the data is processed,
  • the analytical software robots, which evaluate the data and automatically generate responses.

The IoT will have a huge influence on the way the selling process is organized in future. Customer satisfaction can now be measured more precisely and not be based on gut feeling alone. Today you need to know precisely what you are doing, when you are doing it, for whom you are doing it, how are you doing it and even whether you might be better doing it later on. The combination of IoT, marketing automation and CRM offers you golden opportunity to improve the customer experience.

AI with use of robots and chatbots are next step in evolution of working models. With an AI powered bot, business have 24/7 salesperson on hand that can interact with customers on a one-to-many basis.

Sales is changing and that change is driven by four factors, factors that mutually influence and reinforce other:

  • Marketing technology – allows deeper insight into consumer needs and can create better tailor-made responses on a one-to-many scale.
  • The consumer – they want to find in B2B what they have in B2C. They want to lead sales process and expect support on their journey.
  • The employee – people today want to avoid repetitive jobs, they expect meaning and satisfaction. This means different approach to the concept of responsibility. It demands more transparency, agility and accountability.
  • The organization – the company and personnel will need to commit to lifelong learning.

If you want to be successful in using new technologies and adjust sales models to new realities, you need to have clear implementation plan, work on change management, create trusted environment and constantly working on communication.

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