“The sales organization is looking for simplicity, ease of use and a one-click solution. They don’t want to become technologists,” Johnson says. “We are going through a process to simplify our technology and applications right now. I have found that too many collaboration tools tends to create noise and frustration,” he says
“Ensuring data quality is another way we support sales and the rest of the organization,” Johnson says. “Data quality is like the blood inside the organization. If the data is corrupted or incomplete, it is difficult to be effective,” he says. Poor data quality means ineffective sales calls, frustrated finance professionals and sub-optimal marketing campaigns. Data quality may not seem like a sales issue at first. On further analysis, it impacts sales and several other parts of the organization.
“Creating a business analytics system is one of the ways we have supported sales. Before we put this system in place, our sales staff had to pull reports and assemble information in Microsoft Excel. That meant less time to focus on customers. Creating systems and processes to streamline work like that helps the sales representatives,” Johnson says.
“We also support the sales staff by providing activity data directly in our implementation of Salesforce. Our sales representatives can see how many transactions and users a given company has. This information also helps our sales team understand if a customer is happy with the product. Providing all of that information in one place makes it easier to prepare for sales meetings and calls,” Johnson says.
Immerse yourself in sales: the Northwestern Mutual approach
Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial services company based in Wisconsin, has a long history. The company was founded in 1857 and has since grown to 5,000-person organization. That growth has come with awards including being named to Fortune’s most admired companies list in 2015. Despite that success, Northwestern continues to innovate.
“My approach to building a relationship with the Northwestern sales organization includes formal processes and informal networking,” says Karl Gouverneur, chief technology officer at Northwestern Mutual. “The formal aspect includes an annual planning process where we take in suggestions and ideas from across the organization – including sales staff – and build our budgets and plans accordingly,” Karl says.
“Informally, I find it very helpful to do a ride along with sales staff to better understand their situation,” he says. “When I travel to different offices to present on technology, I often visit with sales staff and go with them on visits to clients. This first hand exposure gives me rich insight into how IT can help sales,” he says.
Recent innovations at Northwestern have emphasized the phone as a key sales tool. “We improved our IVR (interactive voice response) system so that sales staff can access the menu and service they need in seconds rather than minutes,” Gouverneur says. “We also created a way for our staff to record post-meeting wrap up notes – a key regulatory requirement for our industry – by recording a memo with their phones,” he says. Both of these innovations recognize that the phone remains an essential tool for sales professionals.
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