What defines a successful sales strategy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Profile picture for user alawson By Andrew Lawson August 14, 2017
It’s vital to make sure your sales strategy is deliberate and developed with your customer at the center of all you do, says Salesforce's Andrew Lawson.

Andrew Lawson

One of the great things about my job is being able to meet with so many industry-leading  sales teams around Europe - not only within Salesforce, but also those within our well-respected customers. At our World Tour event in London I was fortunate enough to sit down with several of the most successful European sales leaders from companies including Centrica Connected Home, Swinton Insurance and Anglian Water. Speaking with them really underscored how similar the sales challenges we all face are, and the principles we are applying to address these challenges.

The effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are beginning to be felt in companies across Europe. As a result we’re operating in a time when sales organisations are being impacted by big changes in technology growth, strategy evolution, and customer-centricity. We need to take these into account when planning and delivering sales strategies as they represent a huge opportunity to those businesses that are able to take advantage of them. Here’s my take on a few of them.

Customer experience is the sales KPI

Mobile apps and social media have made immediate engagement, transparency and choice possible. These days customers won’t settle for less and their expectations are rising all the time. Consequently, sales success is constantly being redefined to better match an increasingly customer-driven market. It’s now the quality of the customer experience that’s setting sales teams apart.

I believe the only way to embrace this is to make customer experience the number one priority for the sales organization. Echoing this, the most recent Salesforce State of Sales report, which surveyed over 3,100 global sales professionals, found that customer experience has become the top KPI used by high-performing sales organisations.

Cross-team collaboration

Putting the customer experience at the heart of your sales strategy shines a light on the customer journey itself. When you look at the modern customer journey you can see just how many parts of the organisation it touches - from sales and marketing to customer service, maintenance, product development, and even the CEO’s office. This means that cross-team collaboration is essential to achieving a high-quality, seamless customer experience; a connected sales process pulls together many different elements to drive success. At Salesforce, for example, we bring in sales, marketing, service, engineering, customer success and partner strategy into every journey.

This type of collaborative selling also has a significant impact on the productivity of sales teams. For example, polling and messaging app Meetoo is using Salesforce to integrate its sales and marketing information to better understand its prospective customers. The resulting improvements in lead qualification, along with instant notifications, helped Meetoo account managers increase the sales conversion rate by 24% between June and December 2016. For organisations that are used to operating in silos, the challenge is to shift to this collaborative approach.

The power of predictive technology

Over the years the power of technology-based sales tools has increased to a point where sales strategies are intertwined with technology.  These days, successful sales teams rely on technology to do their jobs. So what will technology bring to enhance the experience next?

Smart sales organisations are constantly looking at innovations that deliver the greatest competitive advantage. Sales directors in businesses as diverse as Coca-Cola Enterprises and Centrica Connected Home are looking to more intuitive selling processes. Why? Because embracing the new wave of intelligent technologies early can give their teams a real competitive advantage. These technologies use signals in sales data to make recommendations on how teams can prioritise their work and advise on the best next steps to close a deal. Essentially they’re about actively using the customer and prospect information available, both in the database and in other connected systems, to learn what works and find the patterns salespeople might otherwise miss.

What’s more, according to our State of Sales report, triple-digit growth is expected for sales teams’ adoption of artificial intelligence and predictive intelligence over the next three years. 

Make it personal

There’s nothing worse for a customer than being made to feel like another number on a spreadsheet or a means to hit a quota. Everyone today wants to be a VIP, and expects the companies they engage with to understand their challenges, vision and goals and work alongside them to realise success. For sales teams, this means taking into account all of the insights to consistently demonstrate an understanding of your customer’s business.

Here too technology can help. Whether it’s flagging a big piece of industry news or getting a prompt on when and how is best to follow up once a customer’s service issue is fixed, machine learning tools can be serve as an assistant to help sales teams be more proactive and demonstrate an understanding of the customer. Sales teams taking advantage of these tools can continue to scale - and still deliver that personal touch.

Embrace change

Probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt in more than  25 years as a sales professional is that the sales process is continually evolving. Market conditions change, new competitors emerge that disrupt the market, new sales tools are created, and buyers come and go. Keeping up with these evolutions and not being afraid of them is one of the defining characteristics of successful sales organisations.

Today this is more pertinent than ever as many industries face digital disruption, but if you look at traditional British brands like Aston Martin and John Lewis, you can see how innovating their sales strategies has enabled them to keep up with new disruptors. John Lewis addressed a common customer behaviour with its ‘Kitchen Drawer’ feature on its loyalty app. Aston Martin took a very personalized approach to its sales with its ‘Q’ service to build a strong emotional connection with the customer. In each case, these brands considered how they could think differently about their business to innovate and change their process to better serve their customer. Examples like these clearly show how responding to change today enables your team to deliver success tomorrow.

The success of the sales strategy is a driver for the success of the entire organization. After all, without new business coming in, any company will eventually fail. Whether you’re a large enterprise company or a growing start-up, it’s vital to make sure your sales strategy is deliberate and developed with your customer at the center of all you do.