How to diagnose and cure an ineffective sales support process.Posted on August 26th, 2019 by Mark Stecker
Sales support is an important, yet often undervalued, component within a sales organization. Companies place heavy emphasis on the sales division, but support teams frequently lack the resources to keep up. The result? Sales support is inadequate or unevenly distributed.
What does this mean for your business? It means money lost. There’s a clear correlation between adequate sales support and higher ROI. McKinsey & Company found that companies with the highest ROI have “a 30 percent higher level of sales support” than those with the lowest ROI.
Moreover, when sales support is deficient, reps may start customizing their own content. Not only does this waste time but it also leads to brand inconsistency — a costly mistake. Organizations with an inconsistent brand identity suffer a 23 percent drop in revenue on average.
For these reasons, it pays to know the signs of an ineffective sales support process and how to fix it.
Symptoms of ineffective sales support
To diagnose an ineffective sales support structure, you must first recognize the symptoms. Here are four common signs of ineffective sales support:
Sales and marketing are misaligned
When marketing and sales are siloed, they often struggle to communicate and lack data transparency. Poor communication leads marketing to create content without input from sales. Sales doesn’t share the data and analytics that show which content is successful. Both teams are flying blind in the creation and use of sales materials.
Marketing is busy with ad hoc requests
Marketing teams bogged down with ad hoc tasks can't focus on strategy and creative brainstorming. Their role shifts from innovation to administration. Sales materials are no longer developed continuously, and the quality stagnates. This leads to a gradual erosion of the material effectiveness.
Top reps get all the support
The support infrastructure can't provide every rep with the same level of service. In many companies, the top reps receive a large majority of sales support's attention. This creates a self-fulling prophecy of performance. Leading reps, who get enhanced support, always come out on top. The disparity can hurt morale within the organization and hinder your bottom line.
Reps create their own materials
If sales support isn't giving reps the option to use personalized content, they may take matters into their own hands. When staying on brand and adhering to design and compliance standards is critical, reps may miss the mark if they do it themselves. Your business could face hefty fines for compliance violations in regulated industries.
If you're feeling the symptoms of ineffective sales support, the first step towards change is identifying your problem areas.
Identifying problem areas in your sales support
To fix problems with sales support, you need a clear understanding of your issues. Examine the current state of sales support, as well as any associated challenges. How are reps incorporating content into their process? Are they experiencing any issues with the available resources and materials? Since communication is the foundation of a sales-marketing alignment, bring your teams together for this discussion.
Analyzing CRM data is another way to gain insight into the sales support process. Pay close attention to response times. If sales reps aren’t responding to prospects quickly, they may not have adequate materials available. Valuable sales time is also lost if reps are too focused on creating their own content.
CRMs aren’t the only source for data. With the right tools, organizations can now measure how often sales content pieces are used. This data can reveal which content is most effective and which isn’t effective at all. Knowing the effectiveness of your current materials can guide improvements to the content library. You'll see where to drill deeper and where to make cuts.
Curing the problems in your sales support process
“When sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.” — HubSpot.
You've seen the symptoms and identified the problems. Now, it's time to cure the issues in your sales support process.
Keep in mind that change doesn't happen overnight. Taking an incremental approach to your issues is often the best route. Below are three areas to focus on during the initial stages of a sales support transformation:
- Understand customer personas and journeys. You need clear customer personas. Without them, your sales content runs the risk of being unfocused and irrelevant to the target audience. Not mapping out customer journeys can also lead to content being delivered at the wrong time in the sales cycle. Having well-defined personas and journeys ensures your content is relevant, on-target, and timely.
- Promote open communication. There should be an open channel between sales and marketing, and sales should be able to share feedback with ease. You also need a system in place to analyze the content being used. Run audits and collect data on the use of sales materials. Armed with feedback and data, you can generate well-informed content and continuous improvement.
- Educate your sales team. Great sales support is useless if the sales team doesn't know how to take advantage of it. Educate sales reps on how to use the content, resources, and tech available to them. An ongoing sales-training program will keep reps up to speed and empower them to be more successful.
Sales support and tech: What's next?
Technology has had an obvious impact on sales organizations. Sales was revolutionized by the rise of modern CRM software. Today's CRM platforms provide a great deal of insight into customer relationships and conversion pathways. However, they can fall short when it comes to enabling consultative selling.
In an era of personalization and custom pitches, solutions are more important than ever. Sales platforms offer features enabling reps to adapt to their prospects’ needs. While technology and automation give you an advantage, they aren't everything. What else do you need?
Strong fundamentals are still vital. The fundamentals you need are sales-marketing alignment, buyer personas, and sales training. With a healthy sales support process, your business will be better positioned to succeed.