The technologies used in sales should give an information advantage. The systematic acquisition and analysis of information from customers, markets and competitors are intended to generate a comparative competitive advantage. A reduction in process complexity is also important. With the help of technologically stringent processes, sales activities can be accelerated and simplified and workload can be reduced. In addition, through the use of digitized technology, the potential for reducing costs can be fully exploited. Thus, digitization provides options for process outsourcing or shortening, the elimination of barriers to market entry and differentiated customer care. Due to these opportunities, small and medium-sized companies are also able to position themselves in international markets, as, for example, the establishment of local sales structures can be bypassed through online shops. Furthermore, digital technologies make it possible to create awareness and optimize the image through strategic communication. The company can position its services in advertising and the high contact frequencies of many digital media generate awareness of the communication policy measures by potential customers in a short time. Ultimately, digital technologies should open up an increase in effectiveness for sales.
Customer identification, analysis, evaluation
With a view of the time before digitization, sales took advantage of trade fairs to enable customers to be identified. Product presentations enabled sales to determine which types of customers were interested in the product. The sales can gain information about interested parties so that a subsequent analysis of the information could be carried out by the internal staff.
Due to the advancement of digitization, from today’s perspective, sales can use Big Data technology to support the collection and analysis of mass data from existing customers and interested parties. The systematic analysis of data makes it easier to identify customers. Examples of this can be found in both online and offline retail. On the one hand, with the help of Big Data technology in online retail, the evaluation of visitor behaviour on websites is analyzed. On the other hand, in offline retail, the technology is used in combination with mobile devices to enable tracking of mobile devices in pedestrian zones so that customer behaviour can then be analyzed.
When using the technologies mentioned, both the benefit of the information advantage over competitors and the increase in effectiveness in addressing customers and selecting the right offer for the customer becomes clear.
Sales only used the instrument of face-to-face conversations before digitization. The back office put together a printed list of how to get there with the addresses of those interested in the product. The risk, however, was that the sales force could not be reached directly in urgent matters or emergencies. It could happen that the customer was contacted by the head office so that they could send information to the respective sales representative.
Nowadays, the familiar tools of the CRM phases are supported by social media in establishing contact and later maintaining contacts. These technologies enable sales to provide customers with the latest information in the form of newsletters, blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts during this phase. The technology of mobile devices enables an improvement in effectiveness due to the faster retrieval of information from the customer. Furthermore, due to the mutual communication, the benefit of the information advantage over the competition is addressed. In addition, the response from the customer (forum posts, recommendations, download behaviour, response clicks) and the ability to react promptly to current events, leads to efficient use of the communication channels. The closer and more personal contact in social media results in a higher probability of perception and increasing credibility, which in extreme cases leads to 1: 1 communication in the form of recommendations.
Before digitization, the field service also took on the function of providing information in this phase by driving specifically to individual customers. Here, too, the office staff printed out route lists for him to inform customers of new products or innovations in a face-to-face conversation.
In the meantime, individually tailored product information can be used to improve effectiveness using the instruments of digitized sales. With the help of webinars, downloads, YouTube videos, virtual reality offers and simulators, more in-depth information can be emotionally charged and conveyed up-to-date. This social media also leads to the creation of awareness and optimization of the image. Furthermore, by analyzing customer behaviour with the help of big data, customer information is processed and communicated in a more specific and individual manner, which consequently leads to a reduction in process complexity and improvement in effectiveness.
In times before the digital influence, individually adapted offers were drawn up manually by the back office for the customer and given to the sales force. The sales presented the offer to the customer personally. Either the customer agreed to the offer or the sales force had to submit the offer to the office staff again for revision. If the customer was satisfied with the offer submitted, the purchase contract was drawn up. The payment was made directly on site.
If reference is made to the current technologies, the customer is shown current, individual product suggestions directly on the mobile devices to support them in their purchase decision. With the help of NFC technology in mobile devices, the payment process is accelerated and automated. For example, the device is presented directly at the checkout and exchanges the customer-relevant data for the purchase of the product with the provider.
With regard to the dispatch of the products, RFID tags and QR codes play a key role. The technologies are used within goods delivery and goods tracking and relocation. Using a shipping partner, the following explains how the delivery of goods and, at the same time, the tracking of goods takes place from the perspective of the customer and the company.
- Transmission of the order data to the shipping partner : The sales department uses the customer’s initially recorded shipping data to generate and print out a shipping slip for the shipping partner. This is where the shipping data is saved for the first time by the shipping partner and linked to a shipment number. The QR code is then created from the shipment number and printed out on the shipping note.
- Collection of the package by the shipping partner : When the parcel is received, the parcel deliverer scans the QR code. From this point in time, both the customer and the client (sales) can track the delivery of the shipment using an app or the shipping partner’s homepage.
- Processing of the shipment within the parcel centres : The shipment is recorded within the parcel centres (start, intermediate, and destination parcel centres) using a QR code and the status of the delivery is updated for the customer and the client.
- Delivery of the shipment : If the parcel is in the destination parcel centre, the customer receives precise information about the day and time the parcel will be delivered. The delivery is completed when the parcel is handed over and the QR code is scanned for the last time by the parcel deliverer. At the same time, the client receives information about the successful delivery.
The process described above makes it clear that the technologies make work easier for sales. This results in both a reduction in process complexity and a reduction in costs.
In the past, customers could only report problems with the product by making a phone call. The field service was instructed to go to the customer and record his problem and, if necessary, solve it directly. However, this procedure was quite time-consuming, as not every field service was on site.
Because of digitization, sales today enable fast service through the technology of cloud computing, in which the relevant information can be accessed directly from any location. Furthermore, mobile devices enable sales to contact the sales force directly and to change their route plan in the shortest possible time. The resulting benefit lies in the improvement in effectiveness.
The sales department is also able to use social media technology to approach customers directly to maintain an information advantage over the competition in the long term. The customer’s response is therefore also important in this phase.
Through FAQ lists, video instructions, remote maintenance systems, cloud connection, online support, mail support, etc., reference is made specifically to the aspect of cost reduction, as the customer is enabled to solve minor problems independently. In contrast to this, the liberal returns policy entails a considerable additional cost block for the returns and processing of the returned goods.