How to Accelerate Sales Productivity for Financial Services
Today’s post is by Joseph D. Kringdon, Principal, Kringdon & Associates/HMC. Joe spent several decades in the Wealth and Asset Management business, managing and leading both Advisors and Wholesaler Investment Consultants.
Most C-level executives, facing limited budgets, must scrutinize and vet expenditures to measure tangible value or return on investment. Choosing the right tools is one way to boost productivity, cut expenses, and recover costs in the short- and long-term.
Investing in Organizational Effectiveness
Budgets, in their simplest form, typically break out into two categories: fixed and discretionary. Fixed expenses are necessary to keep the lights on, the business on-going and its personnel engaged with the proper infrastructure to serve end markets and bring in revenue. The broad line items in this area are real estate (leases, utilities, etc), communications (IT and telecom) and compensation (salaries and benefits).
Variable or discretionary expenses are those that can change over time in size and application. These include travel and entertainment, internal and external meetings and planning. This type requires deliberate decision-making that potentially impacts organizational growth and productivity.
Senior management, often influenced by client-facing teams, make the calculations that these outlays will either assist in implementing a strategy or support the desired results of a specific effort and outcome. The determining factor behind these selections is that such expenditures will either make their products, services and people more relevant to their end markets or make their overall efforts more effective in growing baseline revenue.
There is an implied or specific metric of measurement that will justify this expenditure. It is not considered an expense, per se, but an investment. The capital traded for this good or service today will reap future increased revenues beyond the initial outlay in the future. This is a positive return on investment (ROI).
ROI can be expressed in many different ways. The expenditure is justified by either greater returns than the outlay, by increased productivity, or by savings. If you achieve your intended goal of greater productivity and increased growth, then you have made a wise investment. On the other hand, if you spend and don’t achieve a marked improvement in these areas, then the outlay is overhead and an expense. Organizations are celebrated for the former and excoriated for the latter.
From the Field: Aligning Messaging and Improving Productivity
On two separate occasions, I was brought into an asset management organization to run retail sales/distribution in the United States. For many coaches who assume leadership roles over a new team, rarely are you brought into a situation where you are taking command of a highly functioning and successful organization.
Of course, there are elements of the culture, the team and the products that offer the hope of success, but your very hiring suggests that there needs to be, at a minimum, tweaks or perhaps an entirely different approach, and this was the case for me.
In both cases, my team and I had to find ways to make an impact and create alignment behind a strategy without the benefit of a surplus of budget. Add to this mix the stress of scrutiny of the new team and their new initiatives and you can see how one might be sensitive to delivering greater value, growth and productivity measured against the expenditure needed to get there.
The Situation: Lack of Alignment on Messaging
In both cases, I walked into organizations that had competitive capabilities and somewhat distinct offerings. But when I asked ten of my client-facing people to tell me what made us different, unique or compelling, I got eight different answers. None of them wrong, per se, but none of them the same. We were unable to achieve ‘surround sound’ in our messaging.
The lack of consistent sales messaging was there from our marketing efforts all the way through to the point of sale.The ability to create resonance in the marketplace with who we were as an organization and to have our strategies stand-out and become ‘bedtime stories’ among our clients was lost in a very crowded field of competitors.
What I have observed in my career is that successful asset managers, advisors and financial service firms, in general, have achieved some level of harmonization among their people as it relates to positioning their firm, their products and capabilities. They have created, rehearsed and delivered their own “National Anthem” from their home offices’ marketing collateral to their point of sale interactions from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon.
This messaging encapsulates the value that their intended audience receives from the use of their products or services. Its repetition makes the message more relatable and relevant, enabling the end-client to hear it and consume it more easily.
A sales organization that is geographically dispersed and diverse in its caliber of talent and tenure presents a unique challenge for getting everyone together on communications and messaging. Typically, you have one major National Sales Meeting, a few regional meetings, and a host of conference calls to accomplish many goals among your client-facing teams, including getting them to memorize and deliver the “National Anthem”.
This is where, and why, my team and I had to make a case for an expenditure that would accelerate this process, and pay for itself in growth, productivity and savings.
The Solution: Sales Readiness Platform Allego
We chose a sales readiness platform, Allego, that allowed us to align on messaging and to model for our client-facing teams how to deliver the “National Anthem” to our intended audience. This short-form video capture tool allowed us to teach and train our people using the mobile devices, iPads, and laptops they already owned. We were able to create an environment that let our team capture and share content individually and throughout our organization rather than using separate tools or heading to YouTube.
Our teams could consume the content at their leisure, search for video and other assets that were relevant to them, and practice on their own time. The interactivity feature allowed both individualized coaching and broad messaging. We, as an organization, could collaborate and create a message of value that would then be seen, rehearsed and delivered by our teams to our intended audience. Individually and collectively, we created a ‘surround sound’ that allowed our client to join in the chorus.
In addition, the tool allowed individual leaders of groups and/or channels to customize the messaging to incorporate the nuances that suited their end clients. The “National Anthem” could be sung to a pop, hip hop, blues or easy listening beat depending on the audience—with the same lyrics—imparting a consistent message to each.
Proving the ROI of Sales Training
I could justify the budget commitment to Allego because of the benefits outlined above. However, I was also able to prove ROI because of positive change in two distinct areas: savings and productivity.
1. Travel and Expense Savings
Our traditional approach to training and encouraging idea sharing meant pulling our teams out of production to attend a meeting at a central location or attend several regional meetings throughout the country. This added travel and lodging expenses to the cost of lost sales from having them out of the field.
Using Allego, our sales, marketing, and product leadership created the agenda for idea-sharing and dispersed it virtually via the tool to facilitate collaboration and learning. Imagine that you introduce a new product and need to educate your teams on a distinct feature. Using Allego, you can certify them as they learn on their own, eliminating travel expense and keeping them productively in the field and not in some conference room near an airport. While we did not eliminate all central gatherings, we did cut back on the number we hosted and the need (and expense) for several conference calls.
2. Productivity Gains
If you have a myriad of voices singing different lyrics to the same tune, you run the risk of cacophony. None of your intended audience is likely to join in your chorus. However, using Allego, we had the benefit of agreeing on the lyrics, aligning on the tune and rehearsing the song, individually and collectively, before we marched into the marketplace singing our “National Anthem”.
At both of the sales organizations I led, we were able to agree on how we communicated our brand and which attributes best highlighted our relevant capabilities. Using Allego, we saw improved confidence among our client-facing teams when delivering the message. As a result, we were able to see a marked increase in sales and market share where we had put a stake in the ground around messaging. When good ideas needed to be created, shared or rehearsed, we said, “We should Allego that!”.
Prioritizing Investments in Long-Term Success
Success has many parents, while failure is often an orphan. While I can say that our increases in productivity and market share came shortly after deploying Allego, it was one of many initiatives within these organizations to improve effectiveness. While Allego was not the sole answer to growth and productivity, it was a major contributor to accelerating communication and adoption of our messaging.
In a world where resources are constrained, business leaders must be deliberate when prioritizing expenditures. They must choose tools that maximize value and ensure that results aren’t viewed solely as an expense, but as an investment with a discernible short and long-term impact. This is where I would put my experience with Allego.
To learn more about evaluating your sales readiness, download our ebook Six Vital Questions for Evaluating Sales Learning Success.