The New Sales Coverage Model – Using Digital & Data to Drive Productivity

In an earlier blog post I discussed an emerging trend we are seeing when we engage with sales and marketing leaders to discuss how their businesses are changing in order to align to new customer buying behaviors.

This new trend is a shift in the coverage model from traditional sales resources to digital platforms.

As customers move their buying process away from direct and inside sales reps and towards digital, web-based channels, organizations are finding that they must do the same. However, there is also a significant benefit in this shift; compared to the cost of direct and inside sales coverage, engaging customers via web-enabled channels is dramatically lower. It also aligns to how customers want to buy, with 67% of the buying decision conducted via online or web-enabled channels (via Sirius Decisions).

So how should organizations address this challenge? The best-in-class firms employ a “Shift and Lift” strategy.

1. “SHIFT” Prospects Who Are Not Ready to Buy to Digital Nurturing

The most efficient inside sales channels utilize investments in customer analytics to identify the long tail of prospects who are in the funnel but who are yet ready to buy. They then “shift” the coverage of these prospects from the call list of their inside or field sales staff to digital nurturing and engagement tactics.

Whether with simple lead nurturing campaigns or via content-rich communities, they are ensuring the realization of the latent value of the “leads” who are not ready to buy (but who will be ready in the future).

By digitally engaging these prospects, they are able to nurture them via low cost, web-enabled channels (email drip campaigns, content marketing, social media, mobile apps, online communities, etc.) until they give signals that they are ready to buy. At that point, they can be handed off to the appropriate sales resource to advance the sales process and ultimately to close.

2. “LIFT” Sales Rep Productivity by Focusing on only High Potential Opportunities

Sales organizations that invest heavily in customer analytics (propensity to buy, potential value, buying preferences, digital engagement footprints, etc.) can also proactively and prescriptively match higher cost with live sales resources to the best prospects when they are ready to buy. In many cases, analytics can identify up to 40% of the lowest value activities that a sales rep engages in and shift those resources to digital channels. The result is that sales reps spend much more time focused on the highest value activities and prospects. This has a powerful impact on increasing individual rep productivity.

These firms (and their Sales leadership) use models which include not only traditional data (including historical transactions, segmentation data, and publicly available data) but now also includes marketing automation generated information on buying patterns and social media profile data to run algorithms that better predict customers who represent a higher opportunity to convert within the next 60 days. They are then focusing sales resources (direct and indirect) on these customers more prescriptively in order to improve revenue per rep, conversion rates, and sales productivity.

Combining “Shift and Lift”

The benefits of this two-prong Shift and Lift strategy are clear. Not only are you driving greater sales productivity by focusing sales resources on prospects who are ready to buy. Additionally, you are also driving improved ROI on your top-of-funnel marketing efforts by nurturing leads via a lower cost channel in an automated way (which drives a higher conversion rate then handing them straight to sales).

The place where some firms go wrong when they attempt to implement this approach is that they focus on one without the other. In fact, one large enterprise business services company estimated that they lost $300M in sales by focusing strictly on better data analytics and the reassignment of sales resources (and in so doing, lost the long tail of revenues associated with customers who were not yet ready to buy).

How are you using digital engagement and customer data to drive sales productivity? We would love to hear your stories.