A focus on seller needs and salesperson empowerment is what sets the best sales force automation (SFA) tools apart from the rest. That’s one of the key takeaways from the most recent Forrester Wave for Sales Force Automation Solutions, Q2 2017.
“Enhancing seller productivity”
Legacy SFA solutions are often criticized for being administrative tools that serve the needs of managers rather than the needs of front-line employees engaging with prospects. Stuck with the wrong SFA tool, salespeople find themselves spending a disproportionate amount of their time doing manual entry—taking them away from valuable customer selling and nurturing time. According to Forrester, successful SFA tools “offer capabilities to meet sellers where they are, whether on their mobile device or in the context of familiar applications such as their email or calendar.” In other words, why not move sales applications as close to the rep and customer as possible, no matter where they are?
It was for this reason that UnitedHealth Group (UHG)—a US managed health care company that is 6th on the Fortune 500—decided to create a mobile enrollment application for its independent agents. Because UHG brokers don’t receive their commission until a health insurance application is approved through UHG’s onboarding systems, any glitch could result in a negative experience for the seller. And since UHG brokers are not captive, it was imperative that the lead-to-sales enrollment experience be seamless for the agent so they would not recommend a competitor’s product over UHG’s.
UHG’s new mobile sales application not only allows brokers to use a smartphone or tablet during the sales process, whether online or off. While working offline is not ideal, it is a common occurrence for agents who serve customers in rural areas with limited broadband or cellular access. With UHG’s new app, brokers get real-time feedback on whether the data entered is valid, and can later sync to UHG’s central systems when they get to an area with better internet or cell access. No more filling out paper forms and then typing them up on a computer, and no more questions as to whether or not the application will be rejected due to data errors.
Speaking at a panel, John Treichel, the UHG director in charge of the mobile application project, said that brokers were excited for more flexibility in the onboarding process: “Now they can have their tablets, and ditch the PCs—and hopefully ditch the paper, more importantly.”
“Using AI and machine learning to guide selling actions”
Sales automation and CRM systems are able to capture lots of customer data—phone calls, complaints, buying patterns, etc. But until now, sellers were not really able to do anything useful with that information. According to Forrester, “very few organizations have been able to understand the insights, and even fewer have been able to drive actionable recommendations against them.”
AIG Japan recently decided to use AI and guided selling to take a client-first approach to selling insurance. As an insurance company that serves millions of customers across four business units, it has plenty of data points about individual customers at its disposal. The company knows something as mundane as whether or not a customer has a pet, to something as granular as the route that an individual takes to work in the morning.
AIG Japan could have simply used this information to do what all insurers do—develop risk models to determine the price of a policy. But the insurance giant went one step further. Using the data captured during the sales cycle, AIG Japan’s more than 200,000 independent agents can now provide personalized recommendations to each customer about how he or she can reduce risk. For example, taking a different route to work or regularly exercising with a pet that could lead to a less-expensive insurance policy.
Using AI to understand context and make small impacts sounds a bit odd, but being an effective salesperson isn’t just about transactions, right? It’s about building a trusting relationship with the buyer and showing that you’ve got their best interests in mind.