Obstacles Salespeople Face when Trying to be Customer-Centric

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Obstacles salespeople face when trying to be customer-centric

When developed and used properly, buyer personas can help marketers and salespeople win more business. By talking to clients, leads, and prospects, your team can implement highly effective communications that drive new and retained assets. When a company develops effective communications, it leaves buyers thinking, “This firm really gets me.” On the road to creating the most effective materials, there are many obstacles salespeople face when trying to be customer-centric.

In order to stay relevant to our audience, I routinely talk to sales managers and salespeople at investment management companies to understand:

  • What challenges are salespeople facing today?
  • What current marketing and sales processes are in place (status quo)?
  • Is the status quo working?
  • What stands in the way of salespeople achieving their goals?

Through my research, I’ve found sales organizations often feel under-supported by current marketing and compliance processes.

Ineffective processes cause asset management firms to lose sales, meaning assets are being allocated to their competitors. In one of my recent buyer persona interviews, a Product Manager reported his firm lost billions in sales opportunities last year due to ineffective marketing execution. That’s a big problem.

When the sales organization has a need, it is usually addressed right away. Sales is the life-blood of the organization, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to give them the resources they need to be successful. One department head said to me, “We’re giving them monstrous quotas, so we’d better give them the tools needed to meet their goals.”

From my perspective, the following are the three biggest obstacles salespeople face at investment management companies today. Investment companies that commit to addressing them will lose less and win more business.

Obstacle 1: Sales doesn’t have the right content available when they need it

This one has been discussed in the marketing community ad nauseam, but the problem persists at many firms. Here are some comments from salespeople during our interviews:

  • “It took way too long to get a sales idea approved, like over a week. I thought, ‘What are you doing?’ Can’t you just read this and tell if it’s compliant or not and let me know if I can use it?”
  • “We didn’t get the materials to give to advisors until a week into the product launch. It’s hard to put a number on the impact that caused in our sales, but we definitely feel like it hindered our ability to go out there and sell it or have those advisors discuss with their clients because they didn’t have any material to really talk to them about. Then you have communication problems.”
  • “I’ll ask, ‘Can we get this approved?’ Then go to the marketing department who says, ’No, that’s not compliant.’ They won’t let us. I won’t delve into why it’s not working, because I just don’t have the time to figure out why. It just doesn’t seem to be an issue that we can get through.”

Salespeople struggle to get the right communications to the right person at the right time, due to ineffective marketing and compliance processes. In a world where investors and their advisors expect information at their fingertips, firms lose to competitors who are faster. Asset managers are learning that they can’t compete solely on performance; they must provide added value to differentiate themselves. One way is to provide value is through timely communications.

What experts have to say about it:

I recently conducted an interview with Andrew Corn, CEO of E5A Integrating Marketing. In our interview, he talks about professionalism as a strategic asset. “The more professional you run your business, the more it is a strategic advantage. If all things are equal on performance, I’m going to allocate to the firm that communicates the best and handles me in the most professional manner. Believe me, getting marketing materials out quickly — three days versus 10 business days — that’s a no-brainer advantage. The firm that is seven days faster is far more professional than the other. We’re at the point where you can tap on your smartphone and summon a car, get a price, and track your trip every step of the way. That kind of ‘Uberization’ is showing up in every facet of our life, including investing. Getting information in real-time is the expectation.”

Getting communications updated and distributed quickly is a challenge for many asset managers.

How successful firms overcome it:

Successful investment companies are tackling the speed-to-market issue at its root cause: data processes. We’ve blogged extensively about how a firm’s data process dictate the timeliness of their communications. In fact, one of our most successful investment management clients tackled their data problem in tandem with a factsheet automation solution. By doing so, they were able to save their analyst 2,000 hours a year, scale their marketing output, and minimize risk. Firms who market a variety of products on different publishing schedules find that an integrated data and marketing automation solution provides them with a key strategic advantage. The faster the data is ready in a quality format, the faster it can be put to use to produce marketing materials for any channel (factsheets, presentations, emails, websites, etc.) for the sales team’s immediate use.

The takeaway here is that a firm’s data process lies at the heart of its communication strategy. Good processes are the foundation. Good processes combined with the right technology solution yields timely communications and professionalism, and that is a key strategic advantage.

>>Related: The Quality Data Management Imperative


Obstacle 2: Sales doesn’t have the ability to quickly customize marketing materials

This is an extension of obstacle #1: Salespeople report they don’t have the right content available when they need it, in the right format.

In other words: Sales materials lack relevancy.

While this obstacle is tightly associated with the first, it deserves its own attention. In the intro to this post, I touched on relevancy. In addition to timeliness, relevancy is key to delivering value that can differentiate your firm. Relevancy is achieved when the investor or advisor says, “This firm really gets me.”

Salespeople at investment management firms are actually very good at delivering highly relevant communications, tailored to each individual sales opportunity. That’s not the problem. The problem is they don’t have the means to do so. The marketing and/or compliance process in place doesn’t enable the salesperson to tailor the “generic”, already-approved materials for their client or prospect.

For example, instead of sending individual factsheets, the salesperson knows it’s a much better client experience to send a one-sheeter summary on the five products he’s presenting. Then, follow-up with the fact sheets later if the client is interested. Or, instead of using the company’s generic presentation template, the salesperson wants to add a compelling video or some sector rotation models to convey a memorable and compelling story. If the marketing or compliance process doesn’t allow salespeople to tailor their materials for each sales opportunity, the customer experience suffers and sales don’t close.

Additionally, there’s always the issue of compliance. If salespeople are “going rogue” and presenting materials that haven’t been approved, there is an increased risk to the firm.

How successful firms overcome it:

One of the first things that really smart asset managers are doing is addressing each of their audiences individually. Effective asset management firms are enabling their sales teams. By providing a platform with pre-approved marketing materials, salespeople are enabled to create their own customer-centric materials.

Imagine a salesperson having the ability to run data points from an approved data source and display data however they want.  This can be as of the end of the quarter, end of the month, or close of the market yesterday.  Then, they can use it in a sales presentation along with pieces of approved copy and associated disclosure. In this scenario, the firm has provided its clean, approved data and content in a central location that can be accessed in a user-friendly manner. This data is used to render a variety of marketing assets that can be accessed and used by a salesperson to create highly targeted communications. By tying-in additional data sources like CRM, the customer experience becomes highly relevant to the buyer’s needs and goals. This type of customer-centric selling is what differentiates the great firms from the mediocre.

Obstacle 3: Sales isn’t given the insight (data) to drive sales productivity

In my interview with Andrew Corn, he made another very important point: “The marketing team needs to be able to deliver high-quality leads with the associated behavior. For a salesperson, it’s the difference between shooting fish in a barrel versus having the prospect. This is highly used when selling things like software, but very underutilized in financial services.”

Effective marketers are collaborating with sales teams to improve sales effectiveness. Marketing should be delivering the highest-value leads and providing data that allows the salespeople to optimize their productivity. Does this web visitor match our ideal lead profile? What is their lead score? How does their behavior dictate our next move? What types of financial advisors or investors are the highest value prospect for us? Marketers often fail to use data to inform sales decisions.

How successful firms overcome it:

The most effective investment marketers are doing two things to improve sales productivity.  First, marketers are getting analytics around the use of marketing materials to identify the highest value content and tie it back to sales.

  • Which materials are being utilized most often?
  • Is content being customized?
  • What content is getting the most engagement?
  • What content is driving leads? Sales?

These insights help marketers identify where to spend their time which drives both marketing and sales productivity.

Second, marketers are using web analytics to evaluate web visitor behavior. The insights from marketing automation systems, Google Analytics, and other data analysis tools help marketers deliver high quality leads. This insight allows sales managers to prioritize where they spend their time and maximize sales opportunities. It also provides insight into investor and advisor needs. Many times, what a prospect says and what they do don’t align. So, the addition of quantitative data helps sales teams decide what information to present and how. The result: Customer-centric sales presentations and shorter sales cycles.


Conclusion: Get out of your own way

Successful investment managers give their sales teams the tools they need to be successful. Yes, this requires a solid marketing plan with a sales enablement component. But don’t underestimate IT and compliance as key players in your overall business strategy. Key decision-makers from marketing, sales, IT, and compliance must come together to create a unified plan that achieves timeliness, relevancy, and productivity. Industry experts who can help your firm get on the right track with good processes, best practices, and proven technology solutions. Fact sheet, pitchbook, and investment data automation are becoming commonplace at investment companies today. The key to implementing an effective solution is having the right strategy. Carefully consider your options to ensure you’re accomplishing your goals and maximizing ROI. With the right approach, your firm can gain a true competitive advantage and deliver value that benefits customers and drives AUM.

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Emilie is Chief Marketing Officer at Synthesis. She brings over 15 years of integrated sales and marketing experience working with financial services, SaaS, and health and wellness companies. Her passion is architecting holistic marketing strategies that align with each business function to achieve client experience, employee advocacy, and revenue goals. When she isn't marketing, you can find her rehabbing her home in the Chicago suburbs, practicing yoga, or spending time with her family.


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