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Contactless Selling in the Post-Covid World

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

With organizations planning their response to the ‘new normal’ in the post-Covid world, one clear theme can be seen. Corporate leaders are fast executing on their plans for a contactless future – for their business as well as support teams. As the last few months have demonstrated, it is indeed possible for most corporate teams to function effectively from the safety of their homes. Yes, the human contact that a fully functional workspace requires will be compromised in the medium term. However, when the tradeoff option is an extremely contagious disease that threatens the lives of employees and their families, the prudent thing to do is to keep contact as low as possible.

So what happens to the ultimate human-factor job – sales? Working in sales is the virtual antithesis to the socially distanced world we live in today. There’s travel using public forms of transportation, presentations to meeting rooms full of people, exchange of business cards, constant contact with buyers and influencers to uncover buyers’ stated and intrinsic needs and of course – the handshake. How can sales teams – across banking and financial services, consumer goods, insurance and other industries – function in the world we live in today?

The answer, as I’m sure the reader has anticipated by now, is technology. And yes, it’s a mix of data, artificial intelligence, analytics and collaboration software. 

Uncovering Customer Needs – The Algorithm Layer

Any sales process begins with the customer. A good amount of time is spent sitting across the table from the customer and understanding their business, the prospects’ role in their business, their product/service needs and their commercial expectations for satisfying said need. How do we replicate that in today’s world, and better anticipate a customer’s requirement?

A good proxy for that can be provided through data and artificial intelligence. Today, artificial intelligence algorithms use historical customer data, blend it with data from similar customer cohorts to provide a pretty accurate estimation of a suggested order value, itemized by products from your portfolio. Furthermore, by bringing together interaction data from your CRM, AI models can also suggest what might be the optimal time and channel (phone / email) to reach out to your customer with your offer. Customer Genomics is an example of such an algorithmic suite provided by Fractal that helps create a 360-degree view of your customer behavior, needs and interactions. These models learn over time and can adjust dynamically to how the consumption pattern changes to modifications to price – sort of creating a price elasticity graph for each individual customer.

Taking this algorithmic approach can help build a fair approximation of who are your top customers for the day, what they are most likely to buy, how they are most likely to respond to your outreach and at what price you can push maximum quantity of your product.

Informing your Actions and Performance – The Augmented Analytics Layer

Your algorithms generate the customer intelligence that your sales reps need. However, algorithmic output can be confounding to the non-technical sales rep. The output of a model can often extend to reams of excel sheets, and the needle of key insight can often go unnoticed or be hard to find in the haystack of data. This is where getting an intuitive, easy-to-use analytics layer becomes important. In this remote working world, it is imperative that we decentralize access to information and make business teams self-reliant in how they receive and use data to make decisions.

An augmented analytics application bridges the gap between non-technical users and their data. Your daily sales beat – formulated by the algorithms described above – can be sent over through the analytics application on each day through alerts. Further, sales reps can be alerted on underperforming customers / customers where your share-of-wallet is declining immediately through anomaly and outlier detection algorithms. Natural-Language based querying capability can help sales reps get the 360-degree customer information that they need prior to their sales calls. On the other hand, self-service analytics can benefit sales managers as well – tracking activity allotment, completion, target achievements – enabling them to guide the sales reps better. At Cuddle AI, we have seen that delivering actionable insights through an intuitively designed, mobile-first application leads to sky-rocketing levels of adoption and value realization for analytics. At a sales leadership level, these insights translate into actions around pushing successful and deprecating unsuccessful products, arriving at winning pricing models and uncovering territory whitespaces that you didn’t know existed. 

So while algorithms serve as the basis to identify insights, the analytics layer makes them actionable and measurable – at every level of the sales organization. 

Delivering the Pitch – The Collaboration and Communication Layer

Full-suite collaboration and conferencing solutions are the bread and butter of the remote working world. Teams by Microsoft is an example of a software that seems almost purpose-built for our time. Beyond providing the capability to video-conference with customers, Teams also provides the capability to maintain a constant channel of communication and share documents and proposals – both internally with your team and externally with your customers. You can also set up bots that remind you or can be your source of key information.

The communication layer is a critical piece in the puzzle to simulate a “normal” sales environment in the new normal.

The tools and technologies that we have in our arsenal today can help regain some semblance of normalcy in this post-Covid 19 new normal. It is all about the ingenuity with which you can deploy these solutions together that will define your organizations’ success. The possibilities that can be uncovered through a combination of data, algorithms, artificial intelligence and collaboration are endless and this is just one example of what can be accomplished. Let us know how your organization is adapting to changes in the world around us! 

Arjun Kulkarni