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What banks can learn from tech companies on sales force transformation

The EY team helped a Fintech company remodel its sales operations, uncovering many lessons for banks with sales function inefficiencies.

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The better the question

How can banks drive growth through sales transformation?

Banks can identify transformational operational efficiencies for their sales force by seeking inspiration from other sectors.

The ongoing impact of COVID-19, combined with shifting customer expectations and vigorous competition from (and enabled by) FinTechs, means that sales force effectiveness is currently a key priority for corporate, commercial and SME (CCSB) banks’ short-term operational transformation and long-term business success. These banks need to think carefully about how their sales teams are structured and how they sell to clients, as well as engage to create long-term value.

Redefining a CCSB bank’s sales model – and how it is enabled by people processes and technology – is not an easy undertaking. One way to identify potential new ways of working is to look past the banking sector to seek inspiration from others with a track record of implementing effective operational transformations.

Given its nimble nature, the technology sector has historically been quick to adapt to change. It offers a myriad of examples in how to pivot fast to drive transformation and accelerate change within an organization. Yet, similarly to banks, tech organizations can also encounter problems with their sales force and inefficiencies in their pipelines.

Our recent work in helping a large FinTech company improve its sales teams’ effectiveness offers a number of lessons for CCSB banks considering how best to reorient their existing sales structures.

Having grown through acquisition, the FinTech in question was experiencing a number of challenges around its sales processes and operations. The EY team was charged with identifying and implementing improvements to sales operations that could drive end-to-end transformation across the full spectrum of the enterprise. Working together with leaders from across different business lines, the EY team set about identifying the right paths to effective change at both a strategic and functional level.

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The better the answer

Breaking down silos through dynamic processes

Solutions-based selling and pipeline management are crucial for banks in rethinking their end-to-end sales force transformation.

The lack of proper integration of acquisitions resulted in product silos and fragmented solution offerings via multiple sales channels. It also led to multiple sales systems that operated inefficiently, ultimately impacting overall sales forecast transparency and leading to revenue challenges. The company was not capitalizing on the opportunity to bring solutions together to provide a more comprehensive offering to clients.

The company was not capitalizing on the opportunity to bring solutions together to provide a more comprehensive offering to clients.

Phase I: Process by design

With a number of pressing issues facing the sales leadership team, the company had decided to revise its sales structure. However, it quickly realized that a better structure could not exist without improved processes. Rebuilding the entire sales process, with the aim of moving from siloed product-to-solution-based sales offerings, therefore became our primary objective.

Over a period of eight weeks, the EY team worked with the client in a series of wavespace™ sessions, bringing together numerous stakeholder groups to reimagine and reshape every element of the organization’s sales processes. In gathering together stakeholders in a workshop environment where they collaborated and redesigned a joint process, everyone understood each other’s challenges.

The end result was a single, fully aligned sales approach, with a consistent process at its core. Crucially, this was underpinned by technology that brought together all of the organization’ sales channels, creating a more streamlined customer experience.

Gathering together stakeholders in a workshop where they collaborated and redesigned a joint process meant that everyone understood each other’s challenges. They realized they had more in common than differences.

Phase II: Pipeline management and value creation

With a robust sales process in place, the EY team started to assess the issues facing the company’s sales pipeline. The crux of the problem appeared to be that the organization was consistently missing its revenue forecasts because of limited visibility into or confidence over the accuracy of its pipeline.

Because of the siloed, product-centric composition of the company’s sales teams, we first needed to reframe how the sales force thought through its forecasting approach. We replaced their qualitative approach with a data-driven model, which provided the team with a clear idea of future opportunities in the pipeline.

To identify and tackle each issue efficiently, we applied key elements from our sales transformation framework to fully assess the challenges facing the sales team across three distinct categories: people, process and technology. As a result, we were able to map out both how the organization tracked its sales opportunities, and how it connected with sales teams in the field to record real-time sales activity.

This supported us to design a series of dashboards to more effectively track and manage the sales force’s activities. In addition, the EY team also worked side by side with the organization’s salespeople to train them on how to improve the effectiveness of their sales calls by changing their tone and cadence. As a result, we replaced their qualitative approach with a data-driven model, which provided the team with a clear idea of future opportunities in the pipeline.

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The better the world works

A more effective sales force is the foundation of stronger growth

Every sales force faces similar problems. Organizations that learn from each other will achieve greater competitive advantage.

With more productive and effective processes and tools in place, along with an improved pipeline, the sales team had more visibility, clarity and transparency as to the status of each sales opportunity than ever before.

By building on this via an issue-based account planning framework, the EY team supported the sales team to work to a solution-based selling approach. This encouraged them to devise a catalog of value propositions and solutions, which supported them to quickly react and dynamically adjust as opportunities arose.

In turn, this generated a significant cultural shift across the firm – with the changed tone and energy of the sales team positively impacting the entire organization.

Lessons for banks

Similarly, to the challenges encountered by the EY FinTech client, a CCSB bank’s sales force can often be product-centric and siloed, and lack the right technologies to create coherent, sophisticated sales processes that will work for its people.

There is little point in automating inefficient processes and allowing inefficiencies to flourish and siloes to remain.

To help their sales teams operate more effectively, these banks must develop more dynamic capabilities for sales pipeline management, rethink how their solutions can address changing customer expectations, and refine their sales models to grapple with “the new normal” of constantly changing customer needs. By combining data-driven insights, analytics and research to develop tailored solutions designed to meet unique client needs, this banking segment can accelerate growth and drive transformation across their organizations.

Increased sales force effectiveness can also serve as a prompt for CCSB banks to adopt a more customer-centric approach – something that is becoming more relevant each day, particularly as banks emerge from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

With the right sales processes and approach in place, banks that are eagerly searching for new sources of growth and opportunity will have much better visibility at a time in which decisions are increasingly being made in precarious market conditions. To come through the final round of the current crisis intact, banks will need their sales force to shape their growth agenda, to rebuild and seize the opportunities of tomorrow.

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