Photo credit: Andrey Popov
If you worked at Microsoft in the 1990s, you had a bird’s-eye view of Silicon Valley. Things were good. You were on top of the world.
Then came the year 2000. Microsoft’s momentum stuttered and slowed. During that decade, the company released flashier products. Yet, their stock value flat-lined. Why?
The computer giant was stuck in “status quo thinking.” They released newer versions of the same products, like Windows, Office, and Xbox. But, they lost their focus. While Apple, Facebook, and Google were creating momentum for change, Microsoft fell behind.
Sales support is facing a similar juncture. For decades, sales support was pretty simple. The status quo required staff, tools, and documents to maximize selling time.
However, this status quo has become ineffective under the weight of change. Budget pressures have gone up, and businesses need to do more with less. Demands from buyers have also grown. No longer satisfied with the same old product, the consumer wants something new, innovative, and personalized.
You can achieve this ideal by checking your mindset toward sales support. In this article, we’ll look at the historical value of sales support, the current status quo problem, and solutions for the future.
The historical value of sales support
Sales support has always been one of the most important constituents of any sales floor. Support staff, tools, and systems free up salespeople to do what they do best: make deals.
What happens when your sales support is inadequate? Without support, sellers waste a lot of valuable sales time on other tasks. Up to 70 percent of their time can go to administrative and back-of-office work, including:
- Customer service
- Background research
- Lead generation
- Product guides and how-tos
- New sales rep training
Without enough sales support, your stellar salesperson is stuck doing busywork. Your best seller is not out making calls and signing contracts. Marketing isn’t supporting their efforts. The two departments are out of alignment, and your sales numbers aren’t where they should be.
If the current state of sales support is looking as dismal as Microsoft’s stock in the 2000s, why is it so hard to change?
The status quo is resistant to change
Why is it so hard to change the status quo in sales support?
Many sales directors, CMOs, and CEOs will say it’s because they don’t have the time or money. They claim their company is too young, unique, or unprepared. Plus, staff may be comfortable with the status quo and reluctant to try something different.
Another reason is the “invisible status quo.” The status quo is so pervasive that many companies stop trying to fix it. It goes unnoticed even while revenue slumps. Meanwhile, marketing continues to churn out tons of content without consultation. Salespeople keep struggling with content overload. The result? Today, at least 60 percent of B2B marketing content never reaches the consumer.
Limiting your business to the status quo has a real cost. As Microsoft found out, everything seems wonderful when you’re on top. The real test comes when you look around at what the competition is doing. Most businesses don’t think of themselves as poor competitors, but are you willing to look beyond the status quo? Hanging on to a rigid mentality can sacrifice future profits, all for the sake of feeling secure in the present.
Once you’ve accepted that you need to change, where should change begin?
Gather resources for change
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First, organize your budget toward the goal of aligning your departments.
Think about where you need more support. For example, do you focus your support on a few star performers? Or, do you spread extra support to the bottom 80 percent of your sales reps? What’s the best option? What if there was a third way to scale up and spread more sales support to everyone?
Software platforms have emerged as a cost-effective way to get more gains in your lower 80 percent of sellers. Customer relationship management systems, sales enablement, and other tech solutions are now fundamental to unearthing efficiencies. But, you can do more to enable sellers to be their best. One way is adding transparency and searchability to content and knowledge databases.
Once you have your resources earmarked, you need to get everyone onboard.
Collect buy-in from staff and buyers
Your sales reps need a voice on how the sales process works. After all, they are the closest contact to customers. They become empowered through tech solutions. Tech solutions make their lives easier and improve their business.
So, start with your sales reps. Get their wish list. At the top should be “stop wasting time with ineffective, misguided content.” Recent research shows top companies, compared with underperformers, are twice as likely to align materials to important stages of the sales funnel.
Keep in mind that sellers frustrated with a lack of support can go rogue by creating their own content. Rogue content doesn’t possess the broader perspectives available to the marketing department. It also endangers brand consistency and can cause major mistakes. For example, in healthcare, there are serious penalties for compliance breaches. Just one serious mistake could cost several millions of dollars.
After your salespeople, look to your buyers. Finding out what they want will be essential to any strategy. Increasingly, buyers are in a complex, omnichannel world. Advertising bombards them at every turn. Your goal is to cut through the noise, personalize messages, and gain real empathy with your customer.
With resources and staff backing, you’re ready to make a change.
Sales support is changing. Will your business adapt?
For the record, Microsoft has made a comeback in recent years. Now, its business is doing well in corporate, cloud, and artificial intelligence. Though there were difficult times along the way, they had to change.
Likewise, your business must be prepared to adapt to change. All it takes is some added attention to what your staff and buyers really want.
While some legacy systems will remain, sales support is changing. Its traditional roles of maximizing time and sourcing content have expanded. Now, sales support also has to reach buyers with pinpoint accuracy. To do this, the right message must get to the right person at the right time. Tech platforms can assist in this effort by providing the analytics you need to refine your targeting.