It was the year 2015 and Coca-Cola was sitting on a goldmine of an ever-growing customer database. The roadmap ahead was clear – to boost the consumption of their existing line of products through sales transformation. Because we are talking about one of the most recognizable brands in the world, this was no easy feat. With a thirst-quenching range of 500+ beverages, over 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola products are consumed every day!
As expected of any global brand, they led a graceful response. They placed data at the heart of their sales transformation journey by listening to customer opinions over the phone, email, and social media. The next step was to curate targeted content for different audiences that aligned with their passions. The result? Consumers are 4 times more likely to click on their digital adverts (according to Bernard Marr & Co.).
If there is one idiom that can accurately sum up the entire digital age, it is this – using data to learn about customer behaviors and point them towards relevant conversions.
That’s what every innovation on the planet is about – to be a relevant building block towards making the ultimate sale. And as it turns out, data has always been the missing ingredient when it comes to Sales Transformation in the digital era.
What is Sales Transformation?
Sales transformation is the process of aligning every cog in the wheel of driving the growth of an organization. At its core, sales transformation is about implementing big ideas and the shift in sales focus that is required to deliver the target results. It is as much about the “change” in sales techniques and skills as it is about making that change stick. With that being said, the end goal of sales transformation is to make the change in behavior, skills and results measurable.
For instance, let’s say that a business is targeting to close more deals this quarter than the last. As the leader, your goal would be to revamp the current operations and processes of the sales team and provide them with the required tools and frameworks to meet the new sales targets.
Importance of Strategic Sales in Key Account Management
There is no denying the fact that growth in Key Account Management is closely tied to the ability to drive the execution of sales strategies. This is a deciding factor that can make or break the reputation of organizations, and even sales leaders.
Richardson reports that the average tenure of a sales leader lies between just 18 to 24 months! This is an alarming statistic and only accentuates the importance of a coherent sales transformation strategy.
In Key Account Management, the criticality is at another level altogether. Not only do sales leaders need to meet short-term business objectives, but they also need to ensure the long-term viability of the entire business development vertical. For instance, if an organization is launching a line of key services to capture a bigger piece of the market share from their competitors, the value of stakeholders can only be driven in the long term if the sales strategy is updated and redefined according to the new targets.
Looking Past Traditional Account Management Strategies
As a sales leader, being adept at new-age account management strategies would make you realize that traditional account management can cause more harm than good. To meet the growth targets in today’s digital landscape, account teams need to pinpoint, hand-hold, develop, execute, and deliver on every growth opportunity. This is especially the case if such opportunities are the side-effect of a well-defined Land and Expand ideology.
With a traditional backdrop, account management channels tend to perform much below their full potential with cross-selling and upselling initiatives falling short of the intended growth targets. This is backed by key reports from Gartner.
Source – Gartner.com
Therefore, there is direct and clear potential for cross-selling and portfolio expansion. This is primarily due to the evolving nature of the job of account managers who are now expected, more than ever, to deliver services, resolve issues, and maximize ROI while also driving the exposure and conversions of new services or products.
Driving sales growth now requires a rather fundamental shift in skill sets and on-the-job attitude.
And this is exactly where the need to explore new models of account growth comes into the picture with ‘customer improvement’ at the helm.
Source – Gartner.com
Such a shift would involve leaving behind product success and service and instead implement tactics such as:
- Finding and simplifying the process of identifying opportunities for customer improvement within key accounts.
- Measuring the effectiveness of sales strategies and tracking the potential of key account growth.
- Delivering customer improvement via growth-oriented account teams.
- Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of every team member.
Key Elements of Sales Transformation
To drive effective sales transformation, you need to relook at your key accounts as solutions, rather than mere transactions. To implement this, 6 key ingredients can function as perfect fodder:
- Employee engagement: Focusing on boosting employee engagement and retention to create a strong internal team and culture that is hell-bent on driving customer success. With a team of better-motivated employees, the path to sales excellence becomes easier and shorter to achieve.
- Cross-functional collaboration: Key account management teams that work closely together even when assigned to different roles or cases. With dedicated cross-functional KPIs that are tied to each other, personalized support can be driven for every use case of cross-selling/up-selling.
- Capability building: Regularly helping the sales teams to up-skill themselves to create employees that are highly engaged and in-tune with experiential and war-room sales strategies can be a trigger for sales acceleration. The end goal is to create a motivated sales team that can deliver impeccable and memorable customer experiences.
- Digital transformation: With the ever-changing digital landscape, customer expectations are constantly evolving with a never-ending work of bridging the gap between their wants and the ground reality of implementation. Effectively managing such expectations with a bull’s eye digital transformation strategy is the next ingredient.
- Sales team reallocation: Reallocation of both internal and external sales resources in a manner that is better suited to the transforming needs of tech-hungry customers. This might include dedicated sales toolkits, avenues of deeper personalization, and better customer solutions.
- Customer engagement: An indicator of an organization’s health, customer engagement can either create value or destroy it overnight. By keeping a tab on how personalized service excellence is, sales leaders can ensure better customer loyalty and higher CLV.
Role of Digital in Powering Growth in Key Account Management
Imagine receiving a small request from one of your clients and flying out to their office to deliver an over-the-top treatment. This is the premise on which Key Account Management long operated on – individualized experiences delivered in person, no matter the short-term cost.
But thanks to digital and advanced analytics, such strategies can be shunned right out the window. With the right ecosystem that is equipped with the requisite support, personalization, and tools, leaders can rest assured on a time-bomb of value and growth.
In the digital age, customers are no longer yearning for face-to-face interactions all the time. With a plethora of digital information at their disposal through comparison websites and peer reviews, your customers have evolved quicker than you might realize. Consider the following survey from McKinsey that drives the point home:
Source – Mckinsey.com
The reason for the falling desire for in-person treatment is simple. Not all products or services that are sold today (especially digitally) are complex enough to warrant such exemplary treatment.
For less resource-intensive, and albeit critical resources, personalization through content can do the trick. Enter – Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Under this, key account managers leverage customized content to engage a target set of accounts on the right social platforms.
But there is a catch. Key accounts are often large in scale and are difficult to manage. They pose challenges such as multiple decision-makers or engagement with a myriad of services/products. If there is one management tool that can help to navigate through the complexities of such a system, it would be Accessibility. Armed with the right account management tool, managers can digitize key account templates and make them accessible to every stakeholder within the organization. Such visibility and accessibility will not only help to align the sophistication of key accounts but can also integrate right into other key tools such as a CRM or ERP.
Best Practices to Drive Sales Transformation in Key Account Management
So you have bought the idea, the premise is set, and you are aching to transform your sales towards fruition. A successful sales transformation strategy involves near-perfect management of many moving parts. Let’s look at some of the best practices that you can leverage to help you do so:
1. Identify and Communicate the Need for Change in Current Sales Processes
It may be that your sales process has been consistent for years, making your salespeople ignorant to discomfort. Chances are that they would not be open to change, especially if they believe in the current sales process.
To combat such friction, you should sell the need to change before pitching the solution. This would mean taking voluntary buy-ins into the strategy by sales leaders, executives, and key account managers by making them understand why the ‘change’ is necessary and guide them through any internal ambiguity or doubts.
2. Identifying Key Areas That Warrant Change
Do you have your current sales process officially mapped out and documented? By looking at and analyzing key reports and data sets, you can pinpoint gaps and identify areas of opportunities.
This is a crucial step since such gaps might make it difficult for you to introduce new strategies to transform your sales process for the better. At the same time, it is also important to appreciate the nuance that the entire sales process may not be overhauled from the ground up. The change should ideally happen by identifying the barriers to success and overhauling the existing strategies that might require attention.
3. Track Progress with the Right KPIs and OKRs
The first step of progress tracking is to define the right Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and understand what leaders need to achieve the goals. By breaking down the objectives into smaller, more attainable goals, it can become easier for salespeople to implement the said changes.
At the same time, continuous mapping of progress is driven by objective and holistic KPIs that monitor the success of your sales transformation journey. A major benefit of KPI tracking is that it brings early successes into the limelight and motivates the team to perform better.
4. Have a Coherent Sales Enablement Strategy in Place
Sales enablement involves setting up and leveraging the necessary technology, initiatives, content, and frameworks that the sales department requires to ‘win’ the transformation journey.
The process involves defining the goals that you want to achieve, identifying the roles and responsibilities that would become the bedrock of the ensuing roadmap, and putting the customers at the heart of every conversation.
Sales Transformation would always be an uphill battle if sales leaders are unable to devise a strategy that would help the entire team to contribute in one form or another.
The goal should be to receive buy-ins from every team member to the point that it penetrates organizational culture. This is the only way to ensure long-term sales transformation success to the point of no return!