Keep It Slim, Keep It Collaborative: The Secret To Unraveling Sales Complexity

Anthony Leaper

Profitable growth in any economy is always challenging, but today’s buyer journey is making it even more intricate. In an era where ignorance is no longer bliss, customers can readily research and compare products on a whim. Whether they’re looking for a new pair of shoes or procuring machinery for a plant, buyers are becoming a formidable, informed force that most sales organizations underestimate.

The level of complexity facing sales professionals is reaching an all-time high, resulting in deep frustration and missed opportunities. In fact, over 40% of sales, customer care, and marketing executives view their organizations as not effective and agile enough. The sales conversation has shifted from functionality to quantitative business value. Surveys of a few high-level questions have been replaced by 100 detailed, data-driven inquiries. The buyer journey is anything but predictable, taking twists and turns like ever before. But perhaps more concerning to sale executives is the likelihood that customers have already made a purchase decision long before the first sales interaction, after collaborating with stakeholders, peers, and personal friends.

Let’s face it: Our customers know a lot more than what they are credited, and it’s time to revolutionize the way the sales function operates. Success in this area of the business needs to be less about getting data and more about sharing it effortlessly and accessing it immediately in a round-the-clock world of fast-paced, on-the-go schedules.

Sell smarter, faster, and bigger with enterprise collaboration

The more sales executives I meet, the more I see collaboration tools being leveraged within the organization. These digital technologies all come in a variety of formats and focuses, from chat-style interactions to forum-oriented discussion. While I cannot discount the level of efficiency they offer, these solutions are often only implemented and used within the confines of sales-related organizations – rarely pulling from the insights and revelations of back-office operations and even customers. Such siloed thinking and learning may drive more conversation, but it does not increase expertise.

From my perspective, the beauty of enterprise collaboration is its ability to unite front-office operations with back-office functions to gain a different perspective of the customer. But more important, it’s an opportunity to give buyers an experience that is seamless and consistent no matter what time the call or email occurs.

The transformative power of such an advantage became very apparent to me after a recent sales visit. After a 60-minute discussion, my customer’s executive team indicated that a final decision would come soon. Feeling good about the outcome of the meeting, I left the office to immediately catch my flight home – a 15-hour trip. Right after liftoff, that one sales call developed into a customer ready to start the transaction process immediately. But since I was stuck on a plane for 15 hours, I didn’t know that the customer was ready to begin the purchasing process.

For most salespeople, this is a nightmare scenario. Being out of touch for that long could certainly drive a buyer away. Fortunately, I created a group of company-wide collaboration tools that included my customer contacts and my sales team as well as the proper contacts from product development, marketing, service, finance, legal, and human resources.

When the customer sent a message in the tool, everyone in the group received an alert and was able to access the information. Sales submitted the order. Finance immediately ran a credit check and created matching finance terms. Then legal connected all of the dots to deliver appropriate contract terms of agreement that was deemed mutually acceptable by my customer.

But then there was a hiccup: My customer contact requested a consultant with a particular set of expertise who was not yet available. Since I had added a representative from the HR team, a recruiter quickly picked up the note and advised that there was someone she could consider for the position. And as luck would have it, this candidate was available at exactly the time the customer is requesting the service.

And yes, this all unfolded as I sat in my business class seat in a jumbo jet flying back to Heathrow.

Enterprise collaboration: It’s all about exceeding expectations

To make every customer interaction count, sales reps need to have the best resources and expertise at precisely the right time to make a real difference in the buying journey. If done well, customer expectations are exceeded – leading to a new win for the rep and a new client relationship that can be mutually beneficial for everyone involved in the transaction.

In the past, the CRM vision brought the power of the back office into the front office and into the hands of the sales team. But in light of today’s revolution in the customer journey, that’s old-school thinking. Now that modern collaboration platforms are designed with the right controls and security measures at their heart, it is now possible to bring the energy and expertise of your back office into the world of your customers’ front office to develop relationships that are simply game-changing.

Deliver winning customer experiences by unleashing the collecting power of the back office and front office with enterprise collaboration capabilities. Read the “The Total Economic Impact Of SAP Jam Collaboration,” a July 2016 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP.

About Anthony Leaper

Anthony Leaper is senior vice president of the Enterprise Social Software Business Unit at SAP. He is responsible for worldwide business development of SAP Jam social software. Anthony is focused on developing market opportunities for social collaboration platforms that enables SAP customers to connect more with their customers, partners, and employees through digital, socially inspired, interaction models.