In an environment where conditions are getting tougher (with increased number of local/global players, elevated customer expectations, new technologies which makes product and service comparison easier than ever, the economic downturn, etc.) the pressure on sales channels are increasing, as is the importance. Companies need to support and uplift their sales channel with the right tools to increase their competitive advantage.
Sales representatives (including dealer / office employees, call center agents, etc.) are the last point to touch customers while closing a sales deal. This fact implies the importance of the human factor for successful sales. Companies that are aware of this create systems to enable the effective flow of information about products/services to the front line and try to enhance the capabilities of their sales representatives on an ongoing basis. Nowadays, with product life cycles decreasing and the variety of the product lines increasing, the need for a practical and effective tool to increase sales conversions is greater than ever.
Changes in customers' behaviors are also expediting the need for such tools. In today's world, customers can easily get information about different products, compare competitors, search for prices, check out user experiences and more in just a couple of minutes on the internet. A customer who makes an enquiry at a sales point is more informed (right or wrong) about their alternative choices than ever before. Understanding their needs and preferences easily, being competent about your products' rivals including their strengths and weaknesses and developing a good-fit value proposition are the capabilities that all companies dream of for their sales channels.
An effective and practical tool to satisfy such needs is a Sales Battle Card. Sales Cards that are developed for products and/or product groups enable companies to direct their sales forces in a standardized manner, and bring the focus on to sales and customer-centric practices.
These cards, which can be utilized in almost all sectors (regardless of retail presence or not), are made up of 9 sections...
1. Marketplace Conditions
In this section, general facts about the marketplace are listed. The size of the market, product penetration rates, estimated market demand, and other relevant data are given here. The main aim is to enable all sales staff to have a base level of understanding about the marketplace that they are operating and trying to sell in.
2. Target Customer Segments and Opportunities
This section contains information about the specific customer segments that should be targeted with the given product or service in question. The information about the customer segment(s) must go beyond just demographics, however. Additional information around needs & behavior of the customer segment will help the sales force more effectively sell the product in question. For example, stating that the product is ideal for those who like to travel is not enough - information around how the battery life is ideal for long-distance travelers, how it automatically synchronizes itself based on changing time zones, and how it has a built-in language converter are types of tips that should be highlighted. It's relation to other products should also be highlighted as well (for example, that the product is compatible with other specific products in the store), in order to generate the most number of cross-sell opportunities as possible.
3. Product Features and Promotions
In this section, details about the product specifics are provided, in a language that can then be easily conveyed to the potential customer. This section is especially important for ensuring the same features are highlighted and discussed by sales reps across the company, and across all sales points. Additional information about promotions can be included in this section as well, and, accordingly, must be updated on a relatively frequent basis to ensure the latest information is available.
4. Competitor Analysis
Intelligence regarding competitor offerings in and around the same product group is provided in this section. Particularly, the strengths and weaknesses of the competitor's products in relation to one's own product should be detailed - how does one's own product surpass the competitor's offering, and, what is its weakness in relation. Other details to highlight include pricing, warranty differences, and any other which can give one's own product a competitive advantage during the sales conversation.
5. Customer Segment-specific Propositions
Based on the target customer segments and competitor analysis, the main proposition for why the product should be accepted by the target customers needs to be developed and provided in this section. Features that set the product aside and possibly relate to its branding (i.e. unmatchable warranty, best after-sales service, compatibility with other products, etc.) are sample propositions that can be highlighted here. The proposition should be simple, clear to understand, and easy to convey.
6. Possible Customer Issues with Product
Based on feedback compiled from customers through various sources regarding the product in question, responses to give to customers who come into the sales conversation with similar points should be listed here. The product may have certain features that have created poor word-of-mouth; the sales rep should be ready to address inquiries regarding such features.
7. Golden Questions
In this section, questions that can precipitate a sale of the product should be provided. These questions can range from trying to understand the budget the customer has allocated to make a purchase to understanding how they intend to use the product in terms of frequency. Most important, the questions should trigger the sales rep to make the best possible product match possible to the customer. These questions also are critical in conveying to the customer that the rep is looking out for his or her best interest.
8. Sample Benefits and Success Stories
Benefits that the product provides the end user should be highlighted here. The more specific the benefit, the more effective the sales pitch (i.e. customers who switch to this tariff usually get a savings of around 30% on their monthly bill). The highlighted benefit should be tailored to the customer segment in question (for customers who are not price sensitive, for example, the above scenario would add little value to the proposition). In cases where more is known about actual realized benefits (particularly on the corporate side), further information should then be provided (company X is able to communicate real-time with their sales force across the country with this product - something they were unable to do before).
9. Additional Information
Information about how the sales reps could obtain additional details regarding the product(s) can be provided here as an example. This could range from directing the employee to an intranet, or to a dedicated call center rep who is an expert on the subject.
One very important note about sales cards is their usability. These sales cards should be restricted to a couple of pages at most. They are, after all, not product brochures. Details that will not aid in the sales process should be excluded, filler serves no purpose here. Also, the language should be kept simple, avoiding use of technical words that once conveyed to the customer will lose their meaning is critical.
These cards will serve a second purpose for companies that do choose to utilize them - not only do they help to increase sales, but they serve as tools to help expedite the acclimation phase of new employees. In essence, they become an additional training mechanism.
During the preparation of these cards (which should be owned by the Sales Department of a company), input should be obtained from several different sources. Some of these include Marketing (particularly Product and Segment Managers), Training, HR, Call Center Representatives and front-line sales representatives.
It is important to update these cards on a relatively frequent basis - the decision on how often is driven by how often promotions around the product change, as well as competitor offerings. To make this process as easy as possible, the cards should be managed and distributed in an electronic manner - posting on an intranet or sending as an e-mail are examples.
Well prepared sales cards can ultimately play an important role in empowering your sales force, better preparing them to succeed in the dozens of potential customer engagements they take part in on a daily basis. These cards can result in significant financial benefits for companies that do choose to produce them, and are a quick win that should seriously be considered during this time of economic downturn.