The Modern Customer and Sales Strategies
Table of Contents
Over the course of history as technology has allowed information to become more accessible, the role of a sales person has evolved and changed. Before the age of “information at the customer’s fingertips” customers went into stores and a successful salesman had to persuade. Salesmen provided the information, established a relationship, persuaded and had to close the deals. They were the expert that had all the answers to a consumer’s questions. Now when consumers interact with salesmen it’s a lot later in the buying process. They have researched and become “experts” on the product by the time they come in contact with the company. Tom Champion, a senior analyst at Forrester, stated in an interview, “Customers who have never been more informed…They can very quickly check for themselves if what this organization is promising is true. They can look at review sites, who are very sophisticated now at aggregating reviews, providing numbers, providing more qualitative comments, helping customers engage with each other about a service.” (Forrester, 2017) According to the report by Nielson Global Trust in Advertising, “buyers trust in traditional advertising has dropped meanwhile buyer to buyer and peer to peer trust has increased dramatically.” (Nielson, 2017) Not only do customers have access to self-educate themselves on products and services but markets are saturated with similar products. If you can do it then so can your competitor. In the world of today, companies must structure an efficient and value inducing strategy that the sales force can follow through and implement.
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When product parity occurs and consumers no longer completely trust advertising the question of perceived value come into play. In a saturated market perceived value can make or break a sale. In many cases products are replicable or very similar to a competitor with the same function. Even if the customer is informed or educated on the product, the last leg of the race to drive the perceived value home for customers are the sales team.
In the past, the sales force where sent to cold calls, sales demos and qualifying leads. Sales has since shifted from demonstrations to convincing and nurturing the information that the consumer has on the product to the follow through to the end. This can be due to many factors that we can examine.
We can look towards 4 macro drivers that are causing this shift in the change of consumer behavior. The biggest driver is that there is a new generation of millenniums that have become the technology users who are now the decision makers in the sales process. This different wave also has a different customer life cycle. This is a result of an increase in buyer’s bargaining power. Consumers are demanding higher quality products, better customer service and lower prices. these technological advances change the way marketing and sales strategies have to be implemented.
Some of these changes include social, processing big data, cloud technology and artificial intelligence. Social media has increased connectivity not only between customers but also businesses with customers. This bridge has become a two-way route for customers to reach businesses such as twitter and Instagram while businesses can utilize information posted on review sites and forums. This leads to the salesman needing to play a more strategic role in pinpointing where the customer is in the customer life cycle. Many consumers that turn to websites like yelp, reddit, blogsites and review forums self-educate themselves. By self-educating themselves it pushes them further into the customer life cycle than traditionally seen. For businesses to keep up, marketing needs to play a bigger or smarter role with capturing the customer. a successful business will utilize this opportunity to grasp the targeted segment and groom them to be a customer. By the time a customer is ready to buy the sales team can help finalize and hopefully solidify the relationship between the customer and the business. Using analytics and big data software to improve marketing and sales decisions. According to a McKinsey analysis business can improve their marketing ROI by 15- 20 percent if data is used as the center for marketing and sales decisions. (McKinsey, 2014) A software that can interpret the data for the company can track all that information allowing the business to benefit exponentially. Cloud technology help create continuity for customers but for businesses it can help restructure how a business can work more efficiently. Specifically, CRM systems that utilize cloud-based technology would be extremely easy to access the information and insights for sales teams. AI on the other hand has been introduced but we can definitely expect it to be incorporated further into the sales process. AI specifically used by company to automate certain processes such as receiving information and insights can help marketing be more personalized for customers. Automation combined with insights and customer information does not replace the salesforce, as of yet, but can predict and effectively deliver the individualization and personalization that customers crave. (https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2018/09/how-technological-changes-will-shape-the-sales-cycle.html)
The second driver is that there are alternative routes to information now. As mentioned before, consumers can utilize the internet in the snap of a finger to find out more information. This another huge driver. Google is the holy grail for every inquery a consumer can have about a business, product or service. According to a survey done by Local Search Association with over 2,000 participants, about 65% was highly likely to use search engines when in search of a product. Following search engines is the company website at 50% and another mobile search at 35%. A study conducted by PWC further supports evidence this evidence. The question of “what online media do you regularly use to find inspiration for your purchases?” was asked with a base of 22,481 participants. Social networks lead the analysis with 37%, individual retailer websites were second at 34% and then multi-brand at 21%. Consumer has a plethora of information in front of them before they even know what they want. This puts marketing in the front and on their toes to keep ahead with capturing the customers attention for their product/ service.
The third driver are the roles and duties that are performed within the company. Sales team must be able to be thought leaders in their positions. they are the front line and can be the differentiator when it comes to closing the sale. Even though this may be true, everyone in the company should have “selling the product/service” a part of their duty. A sales team within a company can make up a very small percentage of the actual company but all employees have the ability to sell the product. This is because of the drivers mentioned above. All employees have access to social media and has family, friends and other loved ones that can easily access their accounts. They do not necessarily need to constantly promote the product/service to the point of annoyance but being a well-informed point of reference for that product or service can help lead their close ones to purchase from the company. The sales team does not need to be the only one trained about the products/service. By equipping all departments and/or employees with sufficiently knowledge about the company and product/service businesses can benefit from word of mouth referencing or personal referrals which are seen as more trustworthy than traditional marketing.
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The forth driver we can look at is the economy, the economy is in a slowing down. The real GDP growth in the third quarter of 2018 is 4.1 percent. According to NY Fed’s nowcasts, from the slowdown in the housing market to exports falling and imports rising everything is pointing toward the gradual slowdown of the economy. An economic downturn translates to a decrease in demand which effects how selling is approached. If there is not enough demand it will have to be created. This goes back to the old sales model of demos and qualifying leads when salesmen were trained to capture demand. It has gradually shifted to a new sales model that consist of social networks, educating and engaging. Salesmen have to take part in creating the demand. Value needs to be created and delivered in order to reel in customers and close sales at the end of the day. Value after all is the relationship of perceived benefits related to the costs.
The constant variable in these drivers is the customers. Knowledge of who the customer that will derive the most value from the product/service is key. There must be a clear target customer which will help will drive sales. By knowing who the customer is it is then possible to get into the heads of the consumer and define who the key customers are that will drive the target segment. As sales and marketing objectives should align in order to create a successful implementation strategy, we must remember that marketing is where the customer is defined not sales. If done correctly, marketing can be acknowledged as the direction in which sales can implement the strategy and sell the customer on their value proposition.
For the consumer, price is important when it comes to purchasing but value is what makes the difference. Sales teams are on the front line and should sell customers on value not price. With technology and access to information, businesses must have a clear definition of their value proposition that marketing can convey, and sales can sell. This is because customers will buy value that they perceive will benefit them the most after the sale. By focusing on the value and benefits that the customers will receive then price can become less and less important. To the customer, increased perceived benefits translate to increased perceived value for which the customer will be more likely to purchase. With increased knowledge of a product these modern technology users can be guided by the sales force to make that purchase. However, the salesforce must convey to the customer how much the product will help and benefit the customer. 
Along with conveying the benefits to the customer the sales strategy should also encompass metrics and KPI. If the sales team is the implementation end of the overall strategy, then sales metrics and KPIs are the guiding light to ensure that the sales team can stay focused on results. There are many different types of KPI’s and Metrics, some include:
- Monthly Sales Growth- by analyzing the monthly sales growth companies can track the increase or decrease in trends and sales revenue.
- Monthly Sales Bookings
- Sales Opportunities – tracking this KPI can enable insight into what customer the sales force can go for and how much of a prospect they are.
- Sales Target – by measuring the sales target, sales teams can measure sales performance. By tracking sales performance, future goals can be set.
- Quote to Close Ratio – this KPI consist of how many sales the were closed compared to how many presentations are made or quotes.
- Average Purchase Value – noting the average of how much a customer will pay helps place a measurable value for the sales force to adhere by. (in the service arena prices can vary as opposed to industries such as retail.)
- Sales Per Rep – this KPI can help the managers track how many sales were closed by each rep. this can be used to establish the strongest and weakest link on the sales team.
- Product Performance- just as the name indicates this KPI helps track product performance. Tracking performance of product can help highlight a variety of reasons as to why sights are needed to see why the product is doing good or bad.
- Sales by Contact Method- monitoring sales by contact method
- Lead-to-Sale % – this KPI helps management to determine the percentage of leads to sales which can offer insight into how well marketing and sales are ending on the consumer end.
These last KPIs are major factors in gaining customer insight for the overall business:
- Retention and Churn Rates- measuring the retention rate of customers for the salesforce can have an exponential effect on profits. Sometimes the slightest increased retention can cause up to 25 percent increased profits. Supporting that is the studies such as the Huify article indicates that the likelihood of converting existing customers into returning customers is up to 70 percent instead of new leads. (salesforce, 2018)
- NPS – This KPI is a measurement of how likely the customer would recommend the product. As mentioned before customers show a decrease in trust for advertisements however, Nielsen’s Report also show that 83% trust family and friend recommendations more than advertisements. The Net promoter score can be broken down into 3 categories that identifies how from 0-10 the customer is satisfied. These include, promoters, passives and detractors. Understanding what category, a customer falls into helps to pinpoint who could be a loyal customer. (Bernazzi, 2018)
- Customer Lifetime Value – Measuring a customer’s lifetime value is necessary for every business especially if the purchase starts a returning customer relationship. The customer life time value can be used in conjunction with acquiring cost. If a customer acquiring cost is high than their lifetime value, then it may be better to spend the time and money on other customers.
Key fact for all business aspects to consider is the customer. As customers are changing they are beginning to expect more from products and services. Businesses must create a strategy centered around the target customer, so sales can implement and follow through with customers. At the end of the day, the salesforce has to be equipped to handle the customer in a part of their purchase journey. As perception guides the customer the sales team can identify what the customer wants and what they are willing to pay.
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