Companies have been talking about sales enablement for some time now, but in many ways the definition still remains open for interpretation. To some, it still may be nothing more than a portfolio of PowerPoint decks, while, to others, it’s support from marketing or other areas of the company in order to have the knowledge to deliver the message a sales person thinks the customer wants. In my mind, the true definition of sales enablement is giving sales everything possible to effectively solve their customers’ challenges. It may sound simple, but it isn’t. Today, enhancing and accelerating the sales process requires a new level of engagement and access to knowledge between the organization and its field agents, and more importantly, between the agent and the customer.

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Achieving true sales enablement ensures that an agent has everything needed to optimize the interaction with the customer. First, then, it requires a true “excavation” prior to the sales process. That involves a great deal of investigating, digging and understanding of a prospective customer’s needs in order to weave the right KPIs and metrics into your presentation. However, it also requires having to perform that type of excavation in real time to keep the conversation going in the direction the prospective customer wants it to go and connect your content directly to their goals.

Because time kills all deals

In this online world, potential customers have easy access to basic information about insurers and insurance products. In fact, most people are farther along in the sales process before they buy than we think. As a result, their questions will gravitate toward information that is not accessible on a company website. Having the ability to answer these questions on the spot requires having real-time access to data housed in corporate systems and making that information actionable on demand. There is technology on the market today that delivers interactive sales experiences of this kind, ensuring an agent in the field can access critical information instantly and avoid losing the momentum by promising to gather the necessary information and follow up at a later date. Technology of this type offers sales enablement in its true definition, in that it makes a real-time response possible as well as adds additional value with the ability to track the results of sales calls and automatically update an organization’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

More often than not, and no matter how graphically pleasing, those infamous static PowerPoint decks (that we all have used) actually inhibit sales enablement. Trying to customize the information being shared based on an evolving customer conversation is a cumbersome process, or simply not possible with a PowerPoint deck. It may require skipping slides or scrolling back and forth through a presentation to answer questions or address the particular interests of the customer. Conversely, with a customized sales app, you have the ability to edit an agenda in real time as needed during a presentation and access information from back-office or external systems, including pulling videos and other support materials that respond to customer questions or help validate selling points. Field agents can also be given ready access to past success stories and case studies to reinforce the strongest industry or use case pain points and solutions. And it all happens while you have that interested prospect right in front of you.

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In addition to better technology for telling the story that a potential customer really wants to hear, everyone in sales needs the ability to customize follow-up correspondence to enhance the impact of the call and send it to the customer’s preferred device. Applications exist that can even provide a notification to a rep when a customer accesses specific information in a communication, which will help the rep tailor future correspondence to align with the customer’s areas of interest.

Keeping management in the loop

Gaining access to real-time information is not just essential for the sales team; it’s just as important for management. Having the ability to immediately collect and send valuable sales and customer information (including leads captured from any source) to CRM software will enhance collaboration and help every sales manager know and track what is selling, what leads are in the pipeline, how leads are being assigned and how sales personnel are performing. Real-time sales and customer information also ensures that management has the needed insight to determine which materials and tactics are working and which aren’t, so they can continually revise content and activities to improve results.

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Moreover, management should be able to pre-populate a sales enablement tool with guided selling tools, presentations and FAQs that are consistent with a company’s key message points to help train new agents and help representatives address tough questions with the company’s support and guidance, as well as increase consistency and effectiveness in the field.

Who doesn’t want a shorter sales cycle?

With the technology available today, there is no reason to risk losing a customer’s interest by not being able to react with immediacy. In our “I want it now” world, having the ability to instantly create and deliver requested information, including pricing, contracts, marketing collateral and other information that is customizable and meets corporate guidelines is crucial. A successful sales pitch today requires that the information requested is as close as the agent’s fingertips, including the ability to do ROI calculations for customers on the fly. Having the ability to produce a well-crafted story with real-time information that responds to specific customer needs and questions will help ensure that it is a story that keeps them engaged and moving toward a purchase decision.

Chances are there is room for improvement within every organization when it comes to sales enablement. Automating access to the wealth of customer and sales support information a company owns and creates will go a long way toward improving sales team performance and shortening the sales cycle. Getting that information to the field “to the right person at the right time and in the right place” will achieve the ultimate goal of enabling agents to do what they do best—sell.

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Neal Gottsacker is president and CEO of airSpring Software. He can be reached at ngottsacker@airspringsoftware.com.