Boosting Sales without Spending More


Background

Revenue growth seems to be in short supply these days. Sales competition is fierce in many sectors and there are other nasty trends such as re-intermediation (brokers and others being a necessary avenue for sales) and websites that allow customers to compare and contrast. So when companies do have a sales opportunity or a service opportunity, where the circumstances are right for a sale, they have to take them. Yet, we often see many opportunities left on the table. Sometimes the sales skills of the frontline staff seem sorely lacking, while in other cases the process has become so complex that prospects need stamina and fortitude just to reach the end of the process. It is almost as if we want to prevent sales rather than encourage them. Then there are cases where the sales team seem to be dependent on giving away margin to make sales, as customers have become discount dependent.

In the following cases we explore three examples of companies addressing these issues and getting great uplifts in sales as a result.

Case 1: Services to Sales

A large utility asked for our assistance because they wanted to:

  • free up capacity in their contact centres where handle times had never returned to their former levels after a major system change; and

  • improve sale and cross sale performance and defend their market share which was under assault from new entrants and intermediaries.

We completed a 3000 call sample across their three sites, recommending a tiered call centre structure built around complexity, rather than their siloed skill model and improvements to all processes including, the inherently poor sales process.

Within ten weeks we created Best Practice Procedures for all call types to streamline the calls and bake in sales and specific credit outcomes. We created an enhanced operations framework for team leaders including; revised coaching processes, a real time desk, and daily scrums and operations meetings.

The results of streaming, managing well and baking in the new sales and credit approaches, were nothing short of breathtaking. With 20% fewer staff ($7 million saving), the key sales outcomes improved by 38% on a Monday and 44% for each other day of the week. Better practices and matching work has created enormous value for the company. This programme of creation to roll out across the network took 12 months with bene ts emanating from the pilot groups in under 4 months. Amazingly fast for a large Australian utility!

Case 2: Turning Sales Upside Down

We had an interesting assignment a few years ago for an insurance company wondering why the abandon rate in their sales centre was over 20% and why conversion rates were low. After listening to calls for a few days it became clear that marketing or compliance must have “kidnapped” the sales process by evolution over a few years. The standard process for a prospect was long and drawn out and seemed aimed at providing customers with quotations rather than trying to close the sale. Inevitably, the high effort would drive many car insurance prospects away.

Our favourite example of poor sales practice design comes from this company. The car insurance sales process insisted on asking the customer 14 questions prior to giving the price – and our favourite 13th question was “What is the VIN or Chassis number of the car?” You could hear most customers staring blankly over the phone or putting the phone down to go outside and pop the hood. Also there were no bene t statements and consultants routinely “down sold” on any customer objection. Amazing!

Needless to say, applying our Best Practice Process to re-engineer the sales process turned the process upside down and inside out. The objective of the initial process was to get to a price for a prospect really quickly, embed the bene ts in that discussion and concentrate on closing the sale through product adjustment, rather than collecting compliance data.

Agents could then use their sales skills to analyse additional needs and up-sell the bells and whistles on the product. Agents were really excited about selling in this new way and through training we implemented the new process. There were no changes to systems or anything else that took time, so we put this new way live within a few weeks. The results increased the conversion rate by 40% and the downstream effort of producing quotations was reduced to a small percentage of customers who wanted them. Handle times also fell on all calls so the agents converted more and could handle more leads. The results were so stunning that the call centre manager was asked to present to the board on these successes.

Case 3: Changing the Focus of the Branch

In this case the Director of Service knew the branches were not performing as best as they could and wanted a clear strategy. A short diagnostic showed some key things; irrelevant foot traffic, belief in branches to service rather than sell, poor sales process with fear to close, using paper to sell - despite significant investment in a sales system and very low promotion of online systems for service. All in all it felt defensive and stuck in old style paradigms.

We worked with an enthusiastic group of frontline consultants to envision a totally different branch operation. For starters, we did away with the ticket machine and suggested a human “queue” concierge. What a cultural battle! We integrated promotion of online and closing the sale with the new sales system. We completely restructured the way the sale worked. Very challenging, but finally all the workshop rebrands realised this would be amazing if it could be implemented.

The new model was piloted in several branches in each state that represented different footprints to ensure no one in the network could say “It won’t work here”.

Wow - the results were astonishing; six stores in each state with similar pilot results: New Sales increases on the online system, satisfaction increases and much higher promotion of online. Most surprising was the concierge function that removed up to 30% of foot traffic from the branches, so the teams could concentrate on sales and value added transactions.

Ultimately, this programme spearheaded a cultural transformation for a 100 branch national network, which moved the entire network to a sales and value added integrated channel organisation. The results we have shown in the chart speak for themselves.

Conclusion:

We know it’s not easy to get all the moving parts right in a fast paced sales business; nding great sales people, tip toeing through compliance and navigating the product streams. Setting KPIs and managing the team, picking the right balance of sales and service and defending the budget, seem to be the key priorities. We would add to that chorus, to be careful of unintended evolution of processes and structure, often imposed by those outside the operation, in product or marketing, for example. We have found that keeping a clear head and thinking through the sales practices that you want, the resources you need, the optimal incentives the best structure and key management processes, will have you running a fantastic sales site in no time. Please contact us if you want to hear more about the PRISM methodology and how it could accelerate your business.

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