Putting digital at the heart of your sales process – part 1

I have been fortunate enough to sit on both sides of the ‘digital’ fence. I now work for a media planning and buying shop in London. Previously however I was Head of Internet for 14 years for Investec Asset Management. During that time I was fortunate enough to attend a number of kasina roundtables – both in the UK and US. The kasina roundtable events were excellent opportunities for digital professionals from asset managers to get together and exchange ideas and experiences with each other – often very openly. I think that on occassion we even felt that we had more in common with each other than our own colleagues. Simply put many of the obstacles we faced internally were, when we compared notes, very similar in nature.

One of the topics that always cropped up during these roundtables was how do you get buy-in from your colleagues. You are after all asking them to change what they consider are tried and tested processes to something new and unproven (at least in their eyes). A good example I guess might be something as simple as asking the Sales Team to trust you to regularly send out the latest fund manager comments to their list of key contacts.

I have to confess I was always left slightly exasperated by these sessions. To explain, for me, digital media is one of if not THE most transparent marketing medium that exists today. I simply couldn’t understand why many of my colleagues were apparently finding it difficult getting buy-in internally. Couldn’t they just use the inherent transparency that digital media brings to show show how effective the medium can be?

With hindsight I now realise that it isn’t as simple as that. Having had plenty of time to think this through I thought I would spend a few posts looking at how I was able to achieve such buy-in throughout the organisation.

The approach that I (often unconconsciously) followed goes something along the following lines:

At a high level

  • Ensure that everything I did was focused around achieving business unit goals and objectives for the year:
    • Making sure that I pushed / tried to retain the same funds / capabilities as the sales team
    • Coordinating sales activity in conjunction with the sales team
  • I often met with individual sales managers on a regular basis. It is important to be aware of what’s going on in the market, with their peers and importantly competitors. By knowing what the sales managers are doing and how they are successfully positioning products you can transform your digital marketing to directly support them.
  • I constantly read trade publications / followed fund performance (both our own and competitors). Again being aware of the environment is extremely important. Some campaigns, particularly using email, can be sent out at short notice and allow you to capitalise on events in ‘realtime’.
  • I avoided sales targets as far as I could. A number of my managers over the years tried to set me my own sales targets. I avoided these like the plague. The reality is that in the UK the majority of mutual fund business is written by financial advisers (for some of our clients up to 95% of their business is intermediated). I saw the possibility of having my own targets as largely self defeating. I realised that all I would end up doing is taking credit for sales away from the Sales Team. NOT the most constructive approach to working with your colleagues you rely on for success!
  • I looked for problems within the organisation that I could help solve by utilising digital media:
    • One of the Sales Managers I worked with in the Strategic Alliances area had to ‘service’ 15,000 advisers on his own. These advisers are typically based all over the UK. Due to their large number there was no way he could have ‘face to face’ relationships with many of them. The solution, I worked with the Sales Manager to set up a program of communication utilising conference calls and email. As we communicated with the advisers via email I would supply him with details of who was interacting with the emails / registering for events. These ‘warm’ leads were then there for him to follow up. This proved highly effective in raising assets. Rather than him trying to cold call advisers he could carefully target his efforts on the basis of potential interest.
  • I Avoided falling into the ‘field of dreams’ mentality. This is an approach I will be writing a seperate post on very soon…

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