Selling smarter in a world of smarter buyers

Linda Crawford, executive vice president and general manager of Salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud, talks with McKinsey partner Hugo Sarrazin about what a modern sales leader needs to do to sell better.

Video

(Note: Click play to watch a selected video from the series. You can also watch the complete chaptered interview on our YouTube channel).

Highlights from the interview:

Where the rubber meets the road between sales and marketing

Top-performing sales leaders today focus on the very important relationship between themselves and the CMO. Companies need to get past fighting about leads versus closed deals and start focusing on the pipeline because that’s where the rubber meets the road between sales and marketing. Having strategic discussions between the sales leadership and the CMO about the way the pipeline gets built, how to turn great leads turn into an effective pipeline and a great pipeline into business is very important. The people who are nailing that are taking the lion’s share of business these days.

Reading customers’ signals

What happens between the first interest demonstrated by a perspective buyer and that engagement with the seller? That’s where marketing comes into play. Prospective buyers are sending you signals. They are hitting your website. They may be attending a webinar. The salesperson and the marketer need to get together to say, ‘How is that happening and where do we want to be in order to find those people earlier in the sales process?’ Because then if you can connect a salesperson to the right moment in the process, you have a better chance of differentiating your product and getting a higher price.

Another critical area is around tools. Companies can use marketing-automation tools to track these interactions, recording when buyers come to the website and what they do there. If you then can infuse intelligence into that journey, you can attract the customer to your products and services. Gone are the days when sales leaders might go off on their own, buying CRM tools and doing it themselves. Some of our customers, and a lot of our prospects, want a return to having one global CRM system. People are saying "We want one face to our customer. We want to sell across divisions." So the automation application needs to be integrated into the fabric of the company.

Selling is a “knowing” skill today

Most of the prospects salespeople encounter today are pretty well educated on the products and services the sellers are providing. They're getting a lot of information from company websites, and they expect the brand to have a great website where they can self-educate. They also are joining communities or leveraging their referral network in order to understand services and products that they're interested in.

The role of the seller has to evolve to address these smarter buyers. Buyers expect sellers to come knowing the business and having a solution, not to discover a solution. When salespeople are presenting a solution, more often than not it's a product wrapped in services or a service with other types of services intertwined that may not even be from your company.

Sales leaders as community organizers

I often think the role of a sales leader today is to be a community manager, orchestrating everybody in a company and partner community as well as anyone who might have expertise to help a buyer understand the unique services and products being pitched. Once you've turned a prospect into a customer, the way you get that customer to buy more from you, long term, is to leverage everybody around the customer. In this way, the best salespeople help create new and innovative solutions and help companies co-innovate.

Cloud technologies allow platforms to emerge, so you don't have to go to one vendor for everything anymore. At Salesforce, we have something called the App Exchange, which allows other companies to seamlessly integrate multiple technologies with our platform and our core sales application. We can innovate much faster using cloud technologies, and this is helping companies get a lot more value out of their sales-automation tools. In the cloud, you literally give somebody a tool that’s usable right out of the gate.

Put the rep first, and go mobile

Our customers who are successful in their salesforce automation journey put the rep first—and if you put the rep first you're going to drive towards thinking mobile first. We're all reaching for our phones 20 to 30 times a day. How do you turn that phone into a sales machine? And that means giving your salespeople everything they need to know about the customer—competitive information, company news—at their fingertips. You're going to try to simplify and you're going to try to focus on productivity.

I see sometimes some fantastic sales-operations people highly aligned with their head of sales who then is highly aligned with their CIO, and they're bringing really interesting new applications to tablets and to phones, which are making their salespeople a lot more effective.

Use your data

Call reports are a good example. Previously, some reps would just store up everything that they'd done. They wrote it down on a notepad, then on Friday spent the whole afternoon transcribing their notes. Today, when a rep gets 10 feet out the door after a call, or at the end of the day, you send a quick little notification: 'Tap in your notes here.’ In the moment, when it’s top of the mind, a salesperson can input the most important takeaways from that call.

More importantly, why do you do call reports? In the old days it was just to check the box, to make sure that people weren't out, maybe playing golf. But today it's ‘What does the company need to know about that interaction between the sales rep and the customer so that we can serve the customer better?’

At the end of the day, the people who win here are those who can get the field team, the inside team—everybody—using the system to input more data. Then you can apply big data analysis to support salespeople and boost business.

Salesforce.com, with more than 12,000 employees worldwide, is a leading developer of social and mobile cloud technologies, including sales and CRM applications.

More on Marketing & Sales
Article

The next-generation operating model for the digital world

Article - McKinsey Quarterly

What makes a CEO ‘exceptional’?

Article - McKinsey Quarterly

Three game changers for energy

Article - McKinsey Quarterly

How functional leaders become CEOs