this blog is spored BY reflex Eco Group
VENTURES AFRICA – One of the clients with which I work has a sales force that is underperforming, the team’s sales falling way behind target. Said sales team has put in a request for iPads (among other things), though there’s no allocation for this in the company’s current budget. The team is complaining that competition is stiff. You see, the competition has fancy branding, iPads and interactive videos, and they are wooing customers. To top it all off, they are undercutting my client on pricing. So, in addition to having great accessories and branding, the competition seems to have lower operating costs too.
All of this got me thinking – does the sales team really need iPads to be better salespeople or is this another case of poor tradesmen blaming their tools?
My client has a far superior product and everyone knows this, even the customers who are buying from the competition. But with austerity measures in most of the Europe, governments are cutting back on spending and if a supposed less superior product does the job they will switch to it, saving some Euros. The specifics of my client’s industry are not salient to my point. What is relevant is that my client didn’t see this coming. Instead, said client was ‘navel-gazing’ during which time the competition leapt ahead with iPads, enhanced branding and gimmicks in a cost-effective way, stealing market share. We now have to rejig the client’s budget to find a way to get the sales team the tools and skills they need to deliver against a new plan. Every Euro spent will need to show its return, daily.
We are all at risk of complacent self-absorption, particularly when we believe our product is superior to others. Indeed, several companies have fallen victim to this unhelpful pre-occupation that makes the company lose sight of its customers’ needs and the competition’s activities.
A topic currently on the minds of many large corporates is ‘big data’, which has been discussed ad nauseam but which few people know the meaning of in business terms. In its simplest form, it means that we can now analyse information that can predict the customer’s future behaviour and the competition’s next moves, among other influencing trends, before they fully develop. This capability is not confined to online or tech-heavy businesses alone. With mobile technology, it permeates all aspects of our lives.
Initially, my client’s sales team’s request for iPads to show snazzy videos of the products and procedures to clients seemed superfluous, until it became clear that this was not only the new normal but also a powerful tool that could provide a unique view into sales activities and customer behaviour. With iPads, we are able to track the response of the customer being pitched to and also ensure that the sales team is providing a certain standard of care to the customer. When properly analysed, this information is critical for improving one’s sales game but also for staying ahead of the competition.
I recently took my mother to see an eye specialist for surgery to correct her astigmatism. To put my mother at ease about the coming surgery, the doctor handed us an iPad on which we could interact with a tool that answered most of our questions, demonstrated the surgical procedure and explained the recovery process. Even I, who interacts with iPads and other tablets all the time, was impressed. I was sold. This doctor would definitely handle my mother’s surgery as well as any treatments I might need in the future.
I relay this anecdote to highlight the fact that the bar has moved. Not only are iPads the new standard of care but the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created daily (according to IBM) through digital videos, pictures, tweets, transactional records and plenty other sources, need to be put to good use – and quickly. Not using this information could be detrimental to a company. After all, you don’t want to be the last one to realise that with future changing habits, the extra 30 cents you spent on a certain feature or service for your customer was a waste and that your competitor, rather than spend those same 30 cents, choose instead to utilise tablet technology and to sell their products cheaper than yours.
Not only has the bar moved but with all the data available these days, it is moving much faster than in the past. Where market research and data collecting and collating once took months, it now takes mere minutes. In light of this, it is worthwhile rethinking the outdated annual corporate budgeting cycle, particularly in fast-moving products and services industries, and rebudgeting or re-forecasting flexibly, using the information readily available, and hopefully achieving the desired increased sales.