Customers know more than your sales team

I was recently looking for current statistics on what I call the “info-gap between sales and customers” and I came across some pretty stunning numbers (thanks to Motorola for sponsoring this Dec 2012 research):

3 out of 5 sales managers believe users are better
connected to information than their sales associates.

4 out of 5 sales associates believe improving communication
with managers would have a positive effect on shopper satisfaction.

I’ve been talking about this information gap for a while, and felt the numbers would be impressive, but even I thought these numbers are high.  Remember the classic family game The Game of Life?  If this were The Game of Sales then the customer would drive a Prius while the average sales associate feels they drive a Chevette.  Not a fair match-up, is it?

Customers have instant access to information
To see what’s happening here we have to go back to 1995.  Before 1995, customers looking to make a purchase would rely on magazines, professional reviewers, perhaps a colleague or two, and of course – the sales associate.  Those were the days when the sales team knew *everything* and what they didn’t know they made up because the customer had limited access to information. 

So what happened in 1995?  A young startup called Netscape brought on Jim Barksdale as CEO and the internet took off – companies started investing in web sites and money flowed into technology companies that focused on a simple problem: helping users connect with information, a trend that continues today. 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

As you can see, in the last 15-20 years technology has clearly improved the customer’s access to information as well as their ability to manage and manipulate it.  Today we check email on the go, resolve arguments over dinner and (of course) research and shop for products using our phones. The mobile phone has become a doorway to information, search engines, tools and more.

Not so for sales teams
You would think that in the same 15-20 years the sales force also received greater access to information, mobile solutions and more - unfortunately that’s not what actually happened. 

It all started out well enough with the deployment of intranets circa 1997.  The marketing and sales teams were promised a beautiful world with information that was tagged, indexed and easily accessible.  Unfortunately the reality ended up being quite different – intranets became overburdened with thousands of documents and outdated information, tagging and indexing did not deliver the ease they promised, and search engines for intranets are nowhere near as good as those for the internet.  I’m sure if you asked most sales associates about their company intranet they would not have great things to say about it.

Then there are CRM products – another lofty vision whose reality turned out very different.  While the original intent was to help improve the sales force’s relationship (remember the R in CRM?) with the customer the end-result hasn’t panned out that way.  The introduction of automation, and in particular the sales funnel, has transformed the average customer into a number – a widget on a virtual conveyor belt moving from phase to phase via automated emails and outsourced telesales solutions. 

So while twenty years of technology have provided customers with increasingly relevant information and mobile device access, the same twenty years have pushed sales teams to think in terms of pipelines and funnels and to sift through thousands of intranet documents. 

Mobile Sales Enablement redefined
The result is a world where your sales team (4 out of 5!) feels that they are at a disadvantage and they believe they are unable to do their job effectively.  Remember that sales people love to close but if we don’t give them the tools they need we get ineffective sales execution, missed opportunities, and lost sales.

The answer - fight technology with technology.  If the customer gets a personalized, targeted information source then let’s give the same to the sales team. 

Here’s the type of content that customers can find on the internet about products:

This is the kind of material your customers see before they ever talk to your sales team.  In our team we are pushing a new mantra: “Know what the customer knows.  See what the customer sees.  Read what the customer reads.”

Here is a simplified view of how to get Mobile Sales Enablement up and running that's driven by that mantra:

  • Choose the best 3-5 customer-facing documents for each product
  • Choose the best 3-5 customer-facing videos for each product 
  • Choose the best 3-5 social messages you push out every couple of weeks
  • Put them together in an easy to use application that is accessible via web or mobile 
  • Make it configurable by your team to reflect their own likes and preferences

Give that to your sales team, share the new mantra with them, and listen to what they tell you they need to succeed.  Although we know there’s a lot more you can do with a mobile sales portal - this is how you get started down the right path.

p.s. if you’d like to see how our Mobile Sales Enablement solution can power a next-generation Mobile Sales Portal then drop us a note on our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed.   We’d love to chat!