The Office of National Statistics recently reported that productivity in the UK has failed to increase since 2007. Other reports agree and claim that Britain has a dismal record in innovation and embracing technological change, which has had a detrimental effect on productivity.
But the business community doesnt appear to be worried. A BlueWolf study among customers of Salesforce found that 84 per cent of businesses felt that customer engagement would replace productivity as the primary driver of growth and McKinsey agrees citing that 56 per cent of respondents to a survey on what is top of mind for companies find customer engagement in the top ten. Businesses, it would seem are more interested in getting closer to their customers and finding new systems of engagement.
Forget big data, analytics and productivity improvements, which should be automatic, the priority for corporate digital strategies is engaging effectively with customers. Sales people will say they are engaged, but when buyers are asked about their meetings with vendor sales teams or individuals, they report that 80 per cent of the agenda is about the sales person and over a third of sellers just listen for a keyword or two before launching into a prepared pitch. I wouldnt call that effective engagement.
Read more about customer engagement:
- How (not) to lose friends and alienate people – key rules of customer engagement
- Britain’s rocky relationship with Ryanair shows what kind of consumers we’ve become
- Battle royal: Fight to reduce customer friction
Now is the time for true personalised engagement with customers. Sales people can access CRM databases, including Salesforce, and record customer data which can be used in order to be more productive. They can also derive valuable insights from the Internet about companies and their activities. Although this can be challenging to do at scale, sales engagement software can dramatically simplify this by giving sellers a platform to open the door to approach customers.
Cold calling, which was never popular, is now no longer even effective and buyers are most likely to engage if someone talks to them about something relevant. This is increasingly being enabled by “social selling”.
Social sellers use tools that “listen” to online data and news from across the Internet and social media to establish who to target, what they are looking for, and listen for the triggers for the right time to connect, in order to have the most impact. Then, when it comes to making that call, the sales person will be more informed and therefore “warm” and this will make them “value add” to the buyer. By using this approach they are given permission to engage and are then free to establish their credibility and create a meaningful relationship.
This is not just a way to open doors. Social selling is already providing measurable benefits. According to the Aberdeen Group social sellers achieve 31 per cent higher quota attainment.
As sales people shift the emphasis from themselves, their company and their products and instead start listening to and learning from the online conversation about prospects and customers, they will undoubtedly become better informed, more insightful and ultimately more engaged in the buying process, from the start.
Andrew Yates is CEO of Artesian Solutions.