Are your sales future-ready? That is, are you meeting the needs of your prospects and customers by constantly capturing and sharing market insights and applying those to adapt your sales strategy?

Our objective has been to help companies reinvent the way they build relationships with their customers. A big part of that has been helping large companies like Cisco extend to new markets and segments such as small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). For some time, many of the larger enterprise software companies like Cisco have focused on big clients, often struggling to engage with SMBs. But now, with the help of technology and data, these smaller prospects represent a new and massive opportunity.

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New approaches to data and digital are supercharging new markets … and the companies whose sales are future-ready will succeed.

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But how to best seize the opportunity?

The answer is future-ready sales. For SMB, this means adopting a mindset that the relationship with the SMB customer is continuously evolving (as is that market).

Set a Vision

A key prerequisite for future-ready sales is setting an executive-level vision of what’s possible, accompanied executive buy-in and commitment. That vision is one of delivering an amazing end experience to the SMB customer – increasing business value through the mindset shift mentioned above and enabling intelligent operations. To do that requires seamless and efficient operations.

Accenture research backs this up. One survey of over 1,100 executives shows that companies that have a vision and think about sales this way perform better: They’re almost two times more efficient and three times more profitable.

But what comes after the vision?

I recently appeared at a forum with my longtime client and friend at Cisco, Ignacio “Nacho” Castroverde, who leads Cisco’s sales acceleration efforts for the global SMB segment. During our discussion, Nacho presented his “Five Focus Areas” for building future-ready sales.

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Nacho’s five focus areas

Once your organization has set the vision and named its commitment to future-ready sales, what are the five focus areas to make that a reality?

  • Know your customers – This goes beyond understanding personas and general buyer needs - deep listening is key here. For Cisco, research into potential SMB customers showed their needs and concerns are much different from those of the larger companies the company had traditionally focused on – and often much different from each other.
  • Know your portfolio – Knowing your customers is only half the equation – you also need to know which offerings in your portfolio will appeal to which customers. Beyond that, what are the gaps different customers are facing that can help inform your own business development efforts?
  • Serve your customers through digital channels – Cisco has millions of customers, so how do its salespeople prioritize outreach to individual ones? This is particularly challenging in the SMB market where there are many more customers than the large company market. Building a scalable way to connect with them is possible through building the right digital experiences. At the same time, sometimes what your particular customer needs at a given moment is a personal phone call from a rep. Knowing when to pull these digital and non-digital levers is essential.
  • Ensure an amazing customer experience – With these first three pieces in place, what’s left is the most important part of the equation – offering a superior customer experience through all channels, including digital.
  • Make it success frictionless – The key to success on these first four focus areas is making sure everything happens seamlessly and effortlessly on the customer side, as well as the sales side. While a hedge fund in NYC and a bakery in Bangalore might have different IT needs, they both require a frictionless way to understand and purchase your products or services.

At the end of the day, new approaches to data and digital are supercharging new markets, like the SMB one for Cisco, and the companies whose sales are future-ready will succeed. While the emphasis seems to be on new technology, the human element is more important than ever. Being future-ready means having the right tech and information in place but also ensuring that your salespeople know how to work with it. This is the sweet spot where tech and human ingenuity meet. Finding it helps you drive value in new markets, including SMB, by constantly evolving in step with your customers.

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Shannon Copeland

Managing Director – Accenture Operations, Digital Inside Sales Innovation Lead

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