Really great sales people have a skill set the rest of us do not natively possess; if you did have those skills, you would weigh your career options differently and probably make a lot more money.
This is not to surmise then that sales people can be replaced. But, smart organizations are just now beginning to see a new and improved sales force consisting of their employees. This is a place where your employees are now empowered, enabled, and encouraged to help your brand reach your customers.
It is easy to make the argument that this goes beyond just sales, and should include your marketing organization as well. However, this idea of enabling your employees to supplement your existing sales and marketing organizations only recently became scalable because of changes in technology, and changes in both your customer’s and employee’s expectations.
Technology Allows It
We have heard this mantra of “sales is everyone’s responsibility” for at least my lifetime. The sentiment made sense, but the practical realities never allowed for it. An employee may have only had access to 100 or so people within their local community (school, church, club, neighborhood, etc.). You can build brand and name that way, but selling seemed elusive for most people.
Now, technology allows us to connect – seamlessly and rapidly – with people of similar interest and ideas around the globe. It is now commonplace for most people to be able to communicate and share ideas with a few thousand like-interested individuals.
Tactic: Encourage employees to join communities, blogs, and forums where they discuss the problems your brand can solve. Start in “listen-only” mode for a while and then move to furthering the discussion by offering your opinions and insights.
Your Employees Are Already Doing It
Most of your employees are in their roles now because they have a passion for what they do and are already engaged in forums or communities. They are doing this without any guidance and may not be even communicating your brand’s value for fear that this behavior is not supported by management.
Tactic: Tap into their natural zeal and encourage them to commit to these groups. As they build trust and a relationship with these audiences, they can talk more and more about what your brand does that is special. Coca-Cola is a great example of a company that builds these brand ambassadors; they encourage the spark that is already there in their employees.
Your Customers Expect It
Your customers and your prospects all have something in common. They have common issues – some problem that needs solving. You hire smart people who know the answers to these questions, even if that knowledge doesn’t translate to their job title. Your customers and prospects want you to help them address the issues, provide guidance, and truly empathize with their plight.
Tactic: Don’t jump in and start branding or using your brand as the answer to every question. That will backfire on you. What you need is empathy to understand what their issue is and how you can help them think through the process of solving it. Eventually, it will lead to your organization, but they have to come to that conclusion - instead of you forcing it upon them.
It Is More Powerful Than What You Do Now
Supplementing your sales and marketing organization with smart, engaged employees as “brand ambassadors” will take each organization on a different journey. Some may see a direct connection from these conversations to revenue; others will see a different upside. At SAP for instance, we have seen – amidst other things – the pleasant surprise of a more engaged and informed customer. This directly translates into a reduced sales cycle and allows our sales people to have a deeper relationship with our customers much earlier.
The direction this is heading is to allow your employees to evolve to do some of what your sales and marketing organization does today. It doesn’t mean you will be getting rid of those groups any time soon; You will just move them into more effective and more specialized roles to help engage and close your customers faster. By allowing everyone to have a great role in the process, you will not only serve your customers better, but have a much more passionate and enthusiastic workforce.