Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
May 5, 2017  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-Inside Sales Teams Drive Excellent Customer Experience-Distributors in the Digital Era #14

Your inside sales team offers unique and powerful ways to align your customer services and solutions with the new ways your customers are operating in today’s highly competitive markets. In part, this is because inside sales teams, by their nature, work through digitally-enabled and virtual processes that are very much in line with customer expectations for help that is fast, efficient, value-heavy and on demand. Inside sales teams can achieve very high-quality results for your customers, and even better, they can set new standards and methods for your company to adopt. Distributors that fail to leverage inside sales as an essential tool for delivering customer excellence risk earning a reputation of being out of touch with evolving customer needs and how digital tools are used.

 

Let me share three key findings related to excellent customer experience that I uncovered during discussions I had at the Leadership Summit of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals.

1. Interact on your customer’s terms, not yours. It is common knowledge that customers go online to search for solutions, prices and brands before they reach out to a salesperson. In part, this reality has to do with customer comfort with online and digital technology. It also goes to a deeper truth: Buyers are busy and their employers demand results. Inside salespeople are uniquely positioned to be available on a customer’s terms, meaning short interactions, which deliver specific value, though conversations that are often initiated by the customer. This creates an advantage over services provided by a field sales team. The high cost of face-to-face customer visits motivates salespeople to get the most from every call, often leading to pushing customers to commit more time and attention than they prefer to.

2. Match your account management cycle to the customer’s business cycle. I know of a distributor that works with its best customers to complete an innovation potential assessment timed to conclude just before the customer’s traditional annual business planning process. The distributor-driven innovation process is professional, disciplined and not about selling. Over time, the firm identifies one-off solutions for specific customers that are developed as programs and offered for all. I know of another distributor that has implemented a similar process led by its inside salespeople. The process works because the company’s inside salespeople gained deep knowledge into the customer’s operations and developed a high level of trust. They worked across the customer’s organization with a light touch, meaning without requiring task teams and project meetings. Rather, they leverage video calls, chat tools and tracking through a modified CRM tool. This approach combines the commitment to innovation of the first distributor I mentioned with a “virtual execution” approach of the second distributor that is in line with today’s digital ways of doing business.

3. Create a “customer success team” to drive solutions and satisfaction. Functional silos are built to organize people with a common base of knowledge around a specialized set of tasks. Working in this way, functional teams, including sales, marketing and operations, achieve high levels of quality and productivity. However, it can also mean that they work against each other, because functional silos create a kind of corporate tribalism—internal competition and infighting build on poor communications and understanding of the value created by other functions. To combat this, modern business organizations are often creating “customer success teams” that include representatives from all functions, customer-facing and not. Their role is to identify and prioritize customer needs and then work with customers to find the most powerful solution possible, one that draws upon all functions working together. This trend is not specifically driven by inside sales, but the best companies are including inside sales representation, because they understand customers as well as field sales teams and often they offer unique perspectives about solutions due to the virtual nature of the work they do with customers.

I’ll share more about the value of inside sales for distributors in upcoming blog posts. Take a look at my five overall key findings on inside sales in the article Inside Sales Teams Improve Profits and Grow Sales and inside sales as part of the trend toward digital sales in the article Digital Sales Builds on Inside Sales Expertise.

Have you downloaded the Pocket Guide about this important study yet? Click on the image to receive some valuable excerpts from the full study.

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Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer founded the Network for Business Innovation to drive awareness, advocacy and excellence for B2B innovation, and to enable an exchange of ideas between leaders on business transformation, technology adoption, social impact and community engagement. For more than 30 years, Mark has worked with leading companies to achieve go-to-market excellence across a wide range of industries in developed and emerging markets.

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