What Sales Tools Give Reps Insights Into Customer Need?

Russ Chadinha

Whether your sales rep is dealing with an existing customer or a prospect (someone you’re not doing business with today), they need insights from data analytics to win business and increase deal sizes.

While some solutions tout that it’s simple and easy, it takes accurate and actionable insights from proven analytics tools to greatly increase sales effectiveness.

Here’s how these data insights improve three key activities in your sales process:

Stage No. 1: Hunting

For this activity, the sales rep is talking with prospects and needs to prove that your products and services are worthy of consideration. As reps provide prospects with information on how your organization, products and services are relevant and able to help, a key is demonstrating relevant expertise at each step in the sales process.

Demonstrating relevant expertise can take the form of sharing what your company has done for similar prospects and the results of those solutions. That requires the ability to aggregate your existing customer experience data and quickly filter it to extract the topics most important to your prospect.

Armed with that information, reps are able to build credibility by communicating these successes to the prospect. By using examples, reps are able to share best practices, similar customer stories and business outcomes. Now the rep has started to build credibility and position themselves and your company as worthy of consideration.

Most sales organizations are equipped to identify where a prospect is in the buying process. But not many equip their sales reps with the right tools to use at each step, using market information, product information and service information to drive the sales conversation forward.

For example, it may be helpful to use these tools to blend a small amount of risk awareness into the sales conversation, talking about the prospect’s competitors and how the level of competition is accelerating. For this approach geared at injecting practical paranoia and addressing complacency to work, reps need fast access to market information and reliable numbers that allow them to offer factual, data-driven insights into risk and competition.

Stage No. 2: Farming

“Farming” is when you try to increase the amount of business you’re doing with an existing customer. In this stage, reps are working with a list of existing customers, and doing whatever possible to retain and grow that customer base.

This stage is often underappreciated, especially when the sales organization emphasizes growth. It is easy for acquisition of new customers to become the rallying cry and get all the attention. There isn’t a shortage of information about why it’s important to stay focused on the installed base, but most organizations don’t invest enough time and resources to maintain and build relationships to expand their footprint with existing customers.

Additionally, while retention is important, the goal should also be to capture the largest possible share of a customer’s needs. Obvious, but the special sauce is in how. To identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, your reps need insights that help them identify the relevant products and services. Those insights should come from analytics illuminating buying behavior and trends in transaction data. Combining the analytics with sales configuration tools will enhance the reps’ abilities to present relevant products and services from across your entire portfolio.

Stage No. 3: Planning

At this stage, your sales organization needs an account planning process to ensure that reps are investing time and resources in a systematic way as they move through acquisition, development and retention.

The account plan is like a proper meal plan as part of training and game readiness. Without the proper fuel, training and game performance are less than optimal. The goal of the account plan is to be that fuel underpinning optimal performance. Training includes making time for reviewing the information on customer behavior, margins, strategic initiates and directions. When sales reps have insight into each account, they’re better able to create relevant plans and invest their time and efforts appropriately. And since an account could be in all stages of the sales funnel at once, reps need a holistic view.

In this stage, using numbers and data in quarterly business reviews is helpful with ensuring the account plan is on track. It allows reps to have discussions around purchasing and performance to quality and SLA targets, review current solutions and roadmaps for alignment with future requirements, and balance the discussion between what happened (past) and what will happen (future). Ideally, the balance between past and present should be roughly 40/60. Not easy to do as there tends to be inertia to looking at “the numbers” so everyone has a common understanding of what happened, but what happened can’t be changed. It is information that should be used to drive what’s next, which can be shaped.

In the end, using data to understand and meet your customers’ needs is key to improving sales effectiveness and thinking more strategically about complementary uses for products and services.

If you think in overly narrow terms, your reps may not be having effective dialogues with your customers or prospects. Once you change the direction of your thinking, you must align your business with that new strategy.

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