Conversations among sales leaders and speakers at recent Sales 2.0 Conference events in London and San Francisco indicate a preoccupation with how best to leverage technology solutions to drive customer engagement.
"I think the Silicon Valley crowd was further along in the conversation than the UK," says Seth Patton, Senior Director of Marketing at Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Patton attended the April 2012 Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco and was a speaker at the June 2012 Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in London. "But I would say everyone is immersed in this conversation about how to transform or change the way we interact with prospects and customers given the fact that they're so much more empowered than ever before."
Patton, who speaks frequently at industry events, keeps tabs on what's top of mind in B2B selling, in part by checking in routinely with various groups he's joined on LinkedIn. "There are a lot of changes that organizations and individuals are grappling with," he says. "When sales professionals get together and share their trials and tribulations, they're asking, 'Is the cold call dead? Is the sales profession itself still relevant? How can marketing and sales work better together?"
In his presentation at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, Patton identified the following four characteristics of dynamic sales teams.
Be prepared and insightful. "It's not good enough anymore to show up to a prospect conversation or telesales call without already having a lot of real-time information about that company and that person," says Patton. "Sales professionals need to take information that's publically available via online search and social networks, along with what they know from their CRM system, and use that as a bridge to a first conversation. This is the way to establish rapport and a relationship, because you already understand a good portion of that person's problems. There are a number of different technologies, such as social media to social BI and big data, that you can use to differentiate yourself and your organization in this way."
Be collaborative and connected. "The days of the individual salesperson as hunter, slaying the big whale deals, are fewer and fewer," says Patton. "Increasingly, it's more about how you're able to work together via your virtual teams. For example, include customers as part of your journey across sales, operations, service, and marketing so that you can come up with solutions that will create significant value for them. We need to work as a team and explore the opportunities offered by new technologies, like integrated Web conferencing, instant messaging, and social collaboration."
Be quick and mobile. "It's not good enough to say, 'Hey, I'll wait until I get back to the office to get or share the latest information,'" says Patton. "CRM applications on mobile devices are becoming indispensable selling tools. Five minutes before going into an appointment, reps need real-time information about what's happening with prospects. I need to know what conversations are going on about those prospects. And I need additional market data and news feeds. Did the prospect recently go through an acquisition? Is there an existing service issue with this customer that you might not know about? You can get that kind of real-time information on your mobile device."
Be highly productive. "Salespeople and sales organizations need to optimize every moment in terms of reducing the time salespeople spend doing administrative work," says Patton. "Any time spent not delivering value to the company or their customers is time wasted. For example, CRM systems often fail to help because they're not adopted well by sales professionals, or they are too cumbersome to use. Sales leaders need to provide their teams with easy-to-use tools, along with information and content that's relevant to where they are in the sales cycle. When those tools are simple and familiar, they can help keep reps from getting lost in busywork."
Today, empowered customers are driving change. New technologies – from mobile devices and applications, to Cloud-based solutions, to social analytics – can help sales teams engage with prospects and customers in meaningful ways.
"In terms of our own customers, there is a shift in thinking about CRM systems and how to use them," says Patton. "In the past, they were used mostly for status tracking and reporting. Now CRM and applications are being viewed as indispensable selling tools that help you deliver the right information to your sales teams at the right time so that they can engage effectively with customers. And there is still a lot of opportunity for CRM systems to evolve to create dynamic sales teams of the future. It's a very exciting time."