Technology is impacting sales in a way never seen before as evidenced by Salesforce's massive integration of artificial intelligence into all of their various clouds and products. At the Salesforce Dreamforce event much of the discussion is about how technology is changing the sales landscape requiring salespeople to adapt or fail.
There are so many trends really impacting sales right now," says Tim Clarke, Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce. "You can't lead with products anymore, as Brent Adamson of CEB said, 57% of the buying process is completed before they engage the salesperson. We know that with a lot of the purchasing decisions that we make we'll just do our research online, so the professional sales person now needs to truly add value."
He noted what we all know, that the most effective sales strategy relies on having the right conversation at the right time, at the right place and on the right channel. However, it's really more than that, it's about standing out knowing everything there is to know. "We've probably all received those prospecting emails which are just generic, and then you get the second one saying, I didn't hear from you and then the third one asking, did you get hit by a car?" said Clarke. "Clearly, prospecting and sales development is really an exciting area right now and there's so much technology that really can support sales professionals to be successful."
Salespeople Must Stand Out From the Herd
An extreme depth of knowledge about the customer is becoming more important. "First, the customer is obviously much more educated today than they were even 5 or 10 years ago," said Will Anastas, SVP of Enterprise Corporate Sales at Salesforce. "The proliferation of technology that enables customers to be smart is also at our disposal as well in sales."
He noted that it is key for salespeople to "stand out from the herd of salespeople" that literally have the same information as we do. "So how do we change our perspective and how do we do discovery so that we can show up literally like your customers customer?" Anastas asks. "By providing that point of view that is authentic, genuine and empathetic that will help you break through and separate yourself from really everyone that is trying to sell to this individual. I think it's a challenging time, but I think it is full of opportunity."
Try Different Things to Get in Front of Your Prospects
"We launched a project with a company called Somersault Innovation which is led by Ashley Welch and her co-founder Justin Jones," said Anastas. "What they did was take the principals of design thinking and applied it to a sales process, a sales discovery methodology. There were 3 main components of it, empathy, customer centricity and curiosity."
Salesforce rolled out their program internally in order to improve their own sales. "What I've noticed is that as we've rolled out this training to our salespeople they have found themselves in situations that they didn't expect to find themselves in," noted Anastas. "For instance, one of my executives has Greyhound as a prospect account and we been trying to get into Greyhound for years, doing the same thing over and over again, looking at LinkedIn and looking at the available information on the web.
"Finally, after we did this training, our account executive just went and got on a bus," he said. "Instead of flying to LA for the weekend, he took a Greyhound from San Francisco to LA, he talked to a bunch of people at Greyhound and he figured out a bunch of insights that he would never have gotten by sitting at his desk and looking at the web."
Later, Anastas said that when the salesperson phoned up Greyhound he was able to talk about his personal experience of the bus ride and as their customer. "That warm, empathetic intro has taken him all the way to the office of the CEO at Greyhound in a very short period of time."
"So to me, it's really about separating yourself out and trying different things to get you in front of your prospects faster."
The Personal Connection is Also Important
The CEO of CCI Global Holdings, Walter Rogers, says that technology has become available that really allows a seller to become much more knowledgable about their buyer, their buyers customers, their buyers needs, both personal and professional. However, he says making a personal connection with these individuals and leveraging all of this information enables the salesperson to make an "impact" on the potential customer.
"We talked a lot about the impact of technology on sales," he said. "I want to sidestep and talk about the personal connection with a human being. That's something that I personally experienced working in partnership with Amazon Web Services. I've actually gone deep into their sales cycles as they try to convince customers to move from on premises to a cloud based infrastructure."
"There was one customer that we were working with that just did not want to move," Rogers said. "They were very efficient in how they were running their operation and they felt they would not save any money. However, when we dug really really deep, his personal motivator was impacting the public education system."
He said that showing the customer that moving their data from to the cloud, would allow them to correlate information across many other databases and build out a predictive analytics model. "This let them spot students before they got in trouble, by looking at various trends, such as did the parents just go on welfare, those types of things," says Rogers. "Because we are able to make that human personal connection, this company is beginning to make a migration across the AWS infrastructure."
"We can't ever overlook the impact of the human connection," he said. "You'd be amazed at what a difference it can make in getting email response when you take the words me, I and we out of your emails completely and focus them all on the word you and what's important to the other person. The response rates will go up about 50%."