Downsizing a sales force happens for a multitude of reasons. For example, recently Merck laid off 1,800 representatives due to shifting market dynamics while Microsoft cut as many as 4,000 sales and marketing jobs to shift the company’s focus to a new direction. As outlined in a recent article in Harvard Business Review, regardless of the reasons for downsizing, it can go sideways if the efforts are are not well executed. The article outlines the five most critical downsizing errors, which include:
- Saving costs while ignoring revenue impact.
- Downsizing through multiple waves of layoffs.
- Cutting jobs without rethinking the strategy.
- Allowing downsizing to divert salespeople’s attention away from the customer.
- Underinvesting in salespeople’s continued success.
Fortunately, the good news is that your organization can avoid these pitfalls and also improve customer experience. Humach CEO, Tim Houlne, provides insights on methods senior executives can deploy that will both maximize your sales force and improve your customer experience.
“In our work with a client, we have provided approximately 15 percent year over year revenue growth utilizing the same methods outlined here,” says Houlne. “This model will work for many and provide an alternative to simply downsizing while improving customer experience.”
The largest, oldest U.S. healthcare provider engaged Humach to assist with revenue generation. Humach has provided year over year improvement in the area of customer experience for this client through programs that enable technology and refine account management practices. In addition to increased revenue, Humach was able to increase customer retention rates and average order size. Examples of the client’s results are included in the methods outlined below.
Increase Revenue Without Decreasing Team Members
While there are valid reasons to decrease a sales team, it does not have to be the first tactic you try. According to Houlne, there is room for improvement that allow you to redeploy the focus of the team.
“Often the sales team is in a silo. By centralizing sales support so that the tactical aspects of the sales process are covered, you maximize your team,” says Houlne. “Using sales reports, customer win-back programs, follow-up campaigns and lead generation tactics, your sales team is empowered to focus on the important aspects of the process.”
By increasing expectations of sales force automation usage and driving toward higher compliance, Humach’s healthcare client created a system that produces year over year. As part of deployment, it is important to ensure the process includes a complete picture of the customer journey to create better visibility and understanding of key elements.
Make CX Part of the Sales Strategy
Customer experience impacts every aspect of an organization. Incorporating a strategy across the organization will improve CX and unify the company. It is important that sales teams include all aspects of the customer experience in their processes. It begins with pre-sales qualification, through the sale and into the support function.
“Exceptional customer experience at every touch point improves customer retention,” says Houlne. “It also opens the door for additional product or service sales in the customer lifecycle.”
By utilizing a true team approach to sales, Humach’s healthcare client was able to better incorporate an understanding of how to include CX as part of the sales cycle.
Know Your Customer’s Journey
Before considering any type of adjustment, whether it’s downsizing sales staff, adding technology or changing support models, it’s important to have the customer journey thoroughly documented. It start’s with pre-sales, through the sales process, into support and beyond.
“Every work process, system, and tool that is needed for any customer interaction should be reviewed as part of a customer journey,” says Houlne. “Organizations must know how easy, or difficult, it is for a customer to do business with your brand.”
Customers interact with organizations through self-service options, websites, portals, telephones, and in-person. Every department within an organization will have some role to support positive CX, whether it’s pre-sales or shipping. Therefore, having an overall CX strategy and centralizing your sales team will definitely make a positive impact.
“Centralizing does not minimize the workload, but it does streamline processes providing a more efficient workflow,” says Houlne. “This leads to better data compliance and understanding of customer interactions. Driving toward improved analytics gives crucial insights into the business and the true state of the customer journey.”
Humach’s healthcare client received comprehensive insights through customizable reports, transformative customer lifecycle management strategies and true omnichannel customer experiences. This was achieved through improving analytics and understanding the customer journey.
Keep the CX in Your Revenue Focus
Revenue has to be the number one goal for the sales team. If downsizing becomes a necessity, it’s crucial that revenue not be impacted by the downsizing efforts.
“The overall sales strategy is key, so rethinking work prcesses and work flow as well as the tools required to achieve success are critical components of any adjustment to a sales team,” says Houlne.
Humach’s healthcare client embarked upon retraining and coaching for the sales team that occur in real-time. This ensures that a focus on the customer experience to improve revenue opportunities always occurs, so that there is a good balance between creating long-term customers with customer acquisition.
CX Will Make or Break Your Sales Process
It’s all about the customer, who will not give much consideration to organizational changes, market adjustments, or business challenges. They simply wish to be served in the manner they desire, with a focus on their needs.
“It’s important to keep customer communication relevant,” says Houlne. “Utilizing CRM compliance to document where customers are in the lifecycle allows for rapid reassignment and purposeful communication to ensure a positive experience.”
The Humach approach to supporting CX and centralizing sales for their healthcare client included a systematic HR process for identifying, recruiting and hiring the right candidates while providing better career paths. It also included a focus on CX so that the sales team became part of the CX solution.
“It’s important to remember that your sales team has specific market details not in any training curriculum. To find and then incent the right people to be top performers early in the process is crucial,” says Houlne. “Identify those people who will be part of the positive change in delivering customer experience, and find a way to retain them. You then have key supporters across the customer journey to propel your business forward from both a customer experience and revenue perspective.”