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Digital disruption: How to 'Uber-ise' your sales process

Digital disruption has transformed many aspects of our personal and professional lives, with new technologies opening the floodgates for innovation.

The ride-sharing company Uber offers the most famous example from recent years, taking advantage of changes in technology and customer attitudes to turn the transportation industry inside out. By cutting overhead costs and creating a better overall experience for consumers through software-driven utilisation of drivers to match consumer demand, Uber quickly transformed the way many of us get around.

Over the past several decades, the structure of sales organisations has remained largely the same. The structure of a sales role primarily fell into two categories: outside field sales and inside sales. However, the traditional sales structure is changing and shifting to an inside sales focused model. This has allowed the sales landscape to experience many of the same changes that Uber capitalised on, and there’s a lot that Uber’s success can teach us about how to excel in the new digital economy. Breaking it down further, consider these three ways you can 'Uber-ise' your sales team:

Combat underutilisation and eliminate inefficiencies

Uber found an opportunity in one of our most underutilised assets – our cars – which are driven only 4 per cent of the time they’re available each year, according to Morgan Stanley Research.

In the same way, sales organisations need to find ways to combat the underutilisation of a sales reps’ time. Sales reps typically devote just 35 per cent of their day to selling activities, according to a productivity study by Sibson Consulting — the rest of their time is spent on administrative footwork that doesn’t end up actually driving any more revenue. However, as sales organisations shift from a field-dominated approach to focus more resources on inside sales, new opportunities for efficiency have emerged. Sales reps can spend less time traveling and doing manual data entry, and spend more time actually focusing on selling.

With the physical locations of sales reps becoming less relevant, businesses now have more flexibility around how to respond to potential buyers. An inside sales model enables sales reps to respond faster or assign leads based on which sales rep is best suited to meet the prospect’s needs. While it may seem far-fetched that territories could go away for good, we’re already seeing proof of territory erosion. In fact, the number of sales organisations deploying 'no territory' or 'round robin' assignments has nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015, according to research from The Bridge Group, Inc. This approach is possible because of advanced automated distribution solutions that assign new opportunities based on the sales rep best able to meet the customer’s needs, instead of traditional territory-based distribution. Leads get contacted and responded to more quickly and salespeople waste less time chasing opportunities that they’re not the best suited to work with.

Inside sales organisations are also adopting more specialised sales roles to better serve prospects. These roles include sales development reps that focus on the front end of the sales pipeline, to closing sales executives and customer managers, focused on revenue generating activity. Some organisations are assigning leads based on performance, so that the highest performing reps get the highest quality leads. Like Uber’s five star ranking system for drivers, giving priority to the best sellers incentivises salespeople to achieve more, while also ensuring that the deals with the highest odds of closing get the most attention — a much more efficient and effective system than the antiquated sales territory.

Give the buyer control and convenience

Uber remains laser-focused on the customer experience, giving riders complete control throughout the buying process and the ultimate convenience of meeting them at the time and place of their choosing. Here, the lesson from Uber is that when buyers are ready, sellers need to be available quickly and let the buyer choose the terms of engagement.

Sales teams need to adopt the same outward focus on the customer, especially in today’s environment where self-educated buyers have more independent access to information and increasingly expect sellers to engage with them on their own terms.

The first step towards achieving immediate availability for important prospects is establishing a guided selling process that includes automated activity prioritisation. When reps don’t have to sort through contact lists to find out who to engage with next, response times become much shorter and conversion rates go up accordingly (with an average increase of 97 per cent, according to a study on the effects of automatic prioritisation).

And in the same way that Uber offers an array of options for riders (Pool, uberX, UberBLACK, etc.), the increasingly popular hybrid sales model that blends remote sales and field sales gives buyers the opportunity to choose how sales reps engage with them.

Share data to make everyone smarter

Uber has pushed the boundaries of data utilisation, finding innovative ways to uncover more efficient processes and create better customer experiences based on internally shared data. The effect has been so powerful that Uber recently entered a partnership with the City of Boston to share data that will help the municipality reduce congestion and guide urban planning.

Organisations have a similar opportunity to gain greater insight and optimise processes by sharing real-time data between sales and marketing departments.

Instead of the wall that has traditionally existed between the two teams, sales and marketing need to establish a mutual feedback loop. Sales needs to provide marketing with more visibility into the types of prospects that reach different stages of conversion so marketing can cultivate more of the right type of prospects for sales. On the other hand, marketing needs to provide sales with more customer information gathered through marketing automation technology before first contact.

Taking advantage of changes in the transportation landscape, Uber quickly gained widespread adoption and turned an industry on its head.

We are witnessing a similar shift in the sales landscape. Buyer expectations are rapidly changing, as customers are becoming increasingly savvy and have greater access to information. Technology has completely altered the buying process, allowing customers to research competitor products and pricing at the click of a button. Now more than ever, sales teams need to adapt to meet the new demand and do so more effectively than their competition. As we move further into the digital age, organisations need to 'Uber-ise' their sales structure using new data, technologies, and processes in order to avoid the fate of the yellow cab.

Josh Evans, SVP of Sales, Velocify