In our last article, we addressed the question of what a salesperson can do to become an exceptional knowledge professional and
increase revenues. Our focus was on becoming a sales knowledge professional. In this article, we will focus on how this professional can generate
When was the last time you made a decision using little or no data or research? What was the outcome of that decision? In most cases, when we don’t
prepare and take the time to analyze a situation, we end up making a decision we regret in the long run. This holds true in sales. If the information
salespeople have about a prospect or customer is inaccurate or incomplete, business problems and proper solutions are difficult to clearly define.
Wrong or poor customer information results in a poor relationship with little or no sales. It’s as simple as that.
Or what about the last time a salesperson tried to sell you something with information that wasn’t even relevant to you and your situation?
How did that make you feel? What was your experience like? If you think back on your personal or business relationships, you will find that the
best ones are those where relevant and accurate knowledge is shared and used to build the relationship. The bottom line is that a great customer
experience is usually accompanied with a strong knowledge foundation. And you can’t increase sales if experiences are mediocre at best.
One way to generate more revenues is to incorporate knowledge management (KM) into the basic sales activities. Regardless of the industry
or customer, there are basic core processes for sales, some shown below:
- Managing opportunities
- Managing leads
- Developing account relationships
- Forecasting sales
- Generating proposals
As you drill down into each of these processes, you will find that each industry and company tailors the activities to their situations. For example,
in a business-to-business market, the core process ‘managing opportunities’ can be expanded to include many tasks: 1) contact and time
management; 2) lead or opportunity generation; 3) market research; 4) price quoting and order configuration; 5) follow-up management; and 6) analysis
and reporting. So let’s take contact management and see how can KM be integrated into it?
Using CRM or sales force automation software, a salesperson captures information about a prospect. KM means that salespeople will need to record
the information in the software and share it with others. Most sales people are protective of their customers and will normally be reluctant to
share information with the whole company. In order to make customer experiences great, salespeople must facilitate access to customer knowledge
for employees that have interaction with customers. If everyone in the company is on the same page, the customer experience will be consistent –
conversations pick up where the last person left of.
Salespeople also need to expand their customer information to include knowledge from other sources, such market, competitive and consumer research.
Don’t just limit your knowledge sharing to data or information collected on the customer. Take it to the next level by including your insights
on the customer’s industry or market. If you are working with an existing customer and trying to upsell or cross-sell other products and services,
use analytical CRM to give you insights on previous product performance, response rates, operational issues, and other CRM metrics. Use what you
have available to you to become a proactive salesperson. Beat the customer to their needs and anticipate their requests.
So here are some general tips for increasing revenues using KM:
- Start documenting the sales process. Sales people tend to do their own thing and resist formal sales processes. The objective, however,
is to ensure that knowledge management processes are part of your every day sales activities. Be patient because it’ll take time to define
current processes (which are going to be a little different for each sales person), design new ones, and define the associated business rules.
- Include all types of knowledge in your KM processes. You’ll need to incorporate market, competitive and consumer research into
- Get rid of knowledge hoarding. Salespeople tend to be are protective of their customers. But it’s their job to make sure that every person
who will interact with customers has the right information at the right time.
- Become a problem solver, not just a salesperson. You need to hone in on your analytical skills and become a resource for your customers
and prospects. KM can help you build that reputation.
- Leverage the use of technology to share knowledge. Whenever new knowledge is created, be sure to capture it right away and provide it
to those that need it. Recording it into CRM software two weeks later may not do any good. It has to be real-time, online.
What are the payoffs of KM in sales? Even though you may initially experience a slightly longer sales cycle, the results will exceed any delays
through improved customer retention, better customer experiences and more word of mouth referrals, better solutions and consequently higher profit
margins, and stronger reputation and relationships.
Dr. Nancy Rauseo is on the faculty of Florida International University’s College of Business Administration where she teaches marketing
and CRM. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and an M.B.A and Ph.D. from Nova Southeastern University.
Prior to her teaching career, she held various senior management positions for over 20 years in the areas of sales, marketing and technology implementation.