At the core of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage learn and grow. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 12-16, EO is hosting EO24/7, a five-day, free virtual learning event aimed at empowering entrepreneurs with skills and strategies to reach new levels of leadership.
Tim Hamilton, an EO member in Austin, is founder of Praxent, a custom software and web app development firm that has been named for two consecutive years to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the US, most recently as #3,607 on the 2018 list. We asked Tim about new opportunities for legacy industries that haven't yet gone digital. Here's what he shared:
One thing that's clear in today's marketplace: Consumers want fast, user-friendly, convenient and customized service--and if your company isn't offering it, they'll go somewhere else to find it, fast.
According to IDG's 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation, 89 percent of organizations plan to adopt a digital-first business strategy to enhance customer experience and drive revenue, but only 44 percent have actually followed through.
While there are exceptions, businesses in legacy industries--think insurance, real estate, construction and lending--still primarily rely on manual processes to carry out complicated sales processes.
Why so complicated?
It's clear that digital technology is changing the way the world buys everything. Customers experience frustration from aspects of complicated sales including time-consuming processes, complex financial offerings, relational friction, anxiety, stress, fear and mistrust.
Complex sales are the norm in a variety of industries, in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer settings. Why? Well, sometimes, a more straightforward way to serve customers and make money doesn't yet exist. Other times, complexity evolves as organizations add layers of people and processes to their operations.
Following are some of the factors that amplify the complexity of sales processes:
- Large transactions involving long sales cycles and weighty decision-making
- Multiple buyers in different roles, from decision-makers to influencers
- Legal contracts with variable terms
- Negotiable prices, based on supply, demand or customer negotiation
- Tiered pricing, based on customer lifetime value, deal size or other variables
- Bundling of products and services to provide comprehensive solutions
- Ongoing customer service and invoicing, such as for insurance policies
- Customization of products and services based on specific customer needs
- Intermediaries, such as brokers, agents, affiliates, referral partners and distributors, that facilitate a sale on behalf of another organization
- The need to educate consumers about the product or service they're buying.
Sales that don't scale
To navigate the nuances of a complex sale, businesses have traditionally relied on manual processes and human intervention: Large sales teams pursue and filter prospects from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel.
However, when growth is entirely in the hands of sales personnel, it becomes unpredictable. Large sales teams running on manual processes make it difficult to scale an organization.
One way the human factor impacts growth is the varying performance of each salesperson in conveying a company's unique value proposition, configuring solutions, negotiating deal terms and executing agreements that protect the company's interests.
Another reason sales personnel slow growth is that recruitment, onboarding and training require significant time and investment, limiting how quickly a company can expand.
Finally, turnover costs are a factor. Other businesses are continually recruiting and cherry-picking your top sales professionals. Companies can't scale efficiently when relying on a constantly shifting team of professionals.
Automated sales benefit both customers and businesses
In addition to inhibiting an organization's scalability, by modern standards, manual sales methods feel clunky and slow to customers.
How can businesses engaged in complex sales simultaneously make buying easier for customers, while scaling operations? (Hint: Go digital!)
Here are four ways organizations can leverage technology to scale while reducing hassle for customers:
1. Self-service quotes and automated orders
No meetings, no scheduling--customers can digitally submit orders and get self-service quotes at their convenience.
2. Digitally generated proposals
Well-built applications can automatically generate accurate and compelling proposals, so you're not relying on a few sales experts for the bulk of your sales--and potential buyers don't have to wait.
Real estate, insurance, lending and investment professionals are using websites and apps to bypass traditional agents, brokers and affiliates. Their customers enjoy lower rates.
4. Become the go-to platform for sales affiliates
Some sales processes involve multiple agents or affiliates--as in real estate or insurance transactions. What makes sales agents choose to sell one carrier's product over another? Carriers that provide agents with digital tools to make daily tasks incomparably easier will stand out as the most desirable partner for agents within their industry.
Ready or not, digital is here to stay
There was a time when technology was incapable of automating complex sales. Sure, you could buy a t-shirt or a coffee mug online, but you couldn't close on a home or get an instant quote on car insurance. Today, Bungalo and Progressive offer those once-impossible online services.
Like almost everything else in the world, the future of sales in legacy industries is digital. Businesses challenged by complex sales factors now face an incredible opportunity. It's time to make the switch: Adopt a digital strategy--or face extinction.