By Swati Sinha
Does your company suffer from siloed teams? Disconnected applications? Information scattered across business processes? All these problems can obstruct your ability to respond to ever-changing customer and market needs.
Today’s buyers are sophisticated and in control, and they want a combination of products and services customized to meet their individual needs, available on their preferred channel, and on perceived price point.
Lead-to-cash: Transform Your Buyers’ Journey
To deliver an exceptional customer experience in this new landscape, all customer-focused business units – from marketing to sales to fulfillment to billing – must join forces. To achieve this, you need a solution that fully integrates internal and external data and processes, and that becomes the one source of truth across the organization.
Lead-to-cash is arguably the most important customer-centric process in an organization – starting with the customer’s intention to buy and ending with revenue recognition. Utilizing artificial intelligence and in-depth integration of data, you can make your processes inherently intelligent, thus guiding sales to be proactive, rather than reactive, to changing customer needs.
AI and Integration Can Transform Sales Leads
With an integrated solution, marketing can effectively hand off lead information to sales. Research by the Aberdeen Group suggests that companies optimizing the sales and marketing relationship see 32 percent faster growth in revenue, 90 percent higher growth in brand awareness, and a huge increase in average deal size, sales acceptance of marketing-generated leads, attainment of team quota, and percent of sales-forecasted pipeline generated by marketing.
Opportunity Knocks: Is This What Your Customer Wants?
Deals and opportunities are the foundation of your sales cycle. To pursue an opportunity, salespeople spend extensive time searching for customer information. Unfortunately, this information is typically spread throughout a disparate system – so they instead end up going with their “gut feel” or personal network to pursue it. This can result in fragmented conversations and even loss of deal.
With the help of artificial intelligence and real-time access to holistic internal and external customer information, sales professionals can engage effectively – focusing their time on the best deals and taking recommended actions to convert prospects to customers.
This intelligent approach eliminates clutter from the pipeline and increases forecast accuracy.
Proposal: Trusted Advisor
A report by Forrester suggests that 79 percent of B2B buyers say it’s critical for them to interact with a sales rep who can be a trusted advisor – which means not only meeting expressed needs, but having the ability to foresee and support future customer goals. For this, sales reps need to listen and surface customer pain, identify needs, and proactively recommend an ideal solution.
Products are constantly changing to match customer expectation of customization and options – generating thousands of SKUs. As catalogs grow, sales reps are placed in a difficult spot: They have to be trusted advisors with in-depth knowledge about their products; however, with the complexity of products, they don’t have a grasp on the entire product line and possible customizations.
Lacking intelligent solutions, the rep sells based on limited knowledge – which may or may not be the best choice for the customer, or the most profitable for the organization. Guided selling simplifies this process by recommending products based on various attributes such as the type of sale, past customer behavior of similar customers, etc.
Intelligent Pricing Generates Revenue
Correct pricing is critical in determining the revenue of an organization. Pricing influences the behavior of not only the customer, but the sales rep.
Sales reps want to price a solution that is lucrative to customers, and might end up applying discounts that cut into the overall margin – especially in complex, bundled sales. Intelligent pricing helps sales reps price the solution that is competitive, and optimizes their commission without impacting the profitability of the deal.
It allows them to build in rules to prevent discounts that dip below a certain level of margin, contingent on the products included in the deal. It also helps in identifying up/cross sell of add-ons, options, and special promotions to increase deal size.
Putting It together: Effective Quotes Are Crucial to Sales
Effective quoting requires both speed and accuracy, and is an integral part of the sales cycle. While an accurate quote can help close a deal fast, a delayed and error-filled quote can frustrate the customer – and may even cause the loss of the deal.
Automated and streamlined approval processes help protect margin throughout any negotiations, introducing quality control. Triggers can be set for an approval of special quotes, such as exceeding discount or gross margin thresholds, or non-standard terms.
Since sales reps have real-time visibility into margins, delays in non-standard discounts and negotiations are minimized. Quotes with no special terms are automatically approved to speed up quote delivery.
Deliver on Your Promises
After the contract is signed, the fulfillment center ensures that the right products – including add-on items, etc. – are delivered to the customer on time.
An integrated and streamlined process provides the visibility needed to stay attuned should any “change in order” arise – thus avoiding any surprises upon deal closure. Sales solutions should also be able to move order details from the quote to the contract to ERP, and, on the other hand, have the ability to add details to the CRM to enable fast and intelligent renewals.
Integrated Billing Solutions: Flexible and Insightful
Monetization strategies continue to evolve as companies look for new ways to sell their products. Billing solutions should be flexible enough to customize subscription models for various levels of services, allowing for upgrades or one-time charges.
Integrated billing solutions should be able to consolidate even complicated B2B products and service packages into a single bill, and personalize it before sending to the customer. With integrated billing solutions, sales has visibility into purchase and transaction history, and can create personalized offers for existing customer bases – thereby increasing revenue by lowering the cost of customer acquisition.
So, with an integrated and intelligent lead-to-cash solution, organizations can accelerate sales velocity and time to revenue, have margin-protecting guardrails and price optimization, increase cross and upsell opportunities, avoid revenue leakage at various points, and help an organization transform its customer buying journey.
Swati is a senior director of global solution marketing at SAP for Sales Cloud. A seasoned enterprise software professional with varied experience in product marketing, product management, and engineering, she has worked with organizations both large and small. She is a technologist at heart and empathetic by nature, which gives her the ability to understand customer needs and tell a story about how technology can solve their business problem. She has an MBA and a master’s degree in computer applications. In her free time she likes to connect with her community and support charities.