Many companies are beginning to experience incredible results as they enrich, engage and simplify how independent contractors are running their businesses through the use of technology. Aligning cross-generational buying habits with effective sales and marketing strategies offers multiple experiences that specifically cater to individuals by personalizing those interactions.
At Next Wave, we continue to see incredible growth in mobile and social strategies and how they are impacting our industry. We’ve also become keenly aware of the importance of the “user experience” and how design and usability now start with the smallest common denominator—a finger—and regardless of device the experience must be optimized.
Aligning cross-generational buying habits with effective sales and marketing strategies offers multiple experiences that specifically cater to individuals by personalizing those interactions.
A recent article in Forbes highlights the various types of online experiences based on three of the most well-respected companies—Amazon, Google and Apple—showcasing the differing approaches they have taken in how they have grown their businesses. Amazon’s approach offers the ability to react to a customer’s engagement with personalized attention to increase overall satisfaction; in other words, buy a product/service during the month of May and you will get free shipping. Google’s approach offers the ability to draw customers in through the power of a positive experience; in other words, they offer multiple views, images, videos and pictures when using their search engine. Apple’s approach offers the ability to turn customers into raging evangelists; in other words, the iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and iTunes have arguably innovated the most flexible, simple-to-use and fluid experiences on personal devices.
One contributing factor to these companies’ success is the extraordinary experience they offer. While somewhat different in nature, direct sellers need to embrace all of these methods in order to compete at the highest level. My goal with this article is not to focus on technology so much as the idea of offering a remarkable experience through software design.
Good software design impacts the daily experiences of visitors, customers, sales reps, hostesses, guests and corporate users. The software design and engineering process should start with assessing the possible growth areas of the business, and the onboarding process for a new recruit is one of those critical areas.
Creating an Integrated Onboarding Process
One of the greatest challenges for any sales rep is recruiting new participants. Companies often assist sales reps with lead-generation tools and ways to effectively recruit and build their businesses. Sales reps work hard to educate and engage new prospects, investing significant time, energy and effort in the process. In almost every case they leave a positive impression, and new recruits are fired up and excited about their new opportunity.
So what happens after someone has made the commitment to participate in the business? Research shows there are some breakdowns in the onboarding process that a sale rep experiences, particularly in getting the digital aspects of their business up and running. Most companies provide excellent training and access to coaching and instill good support programs for their up-line leaders, but the problem is they can be at the mercy of their software, which can create barriers in launching sales reps’ businesses. As a result, these barriers can sometimes leave a negative impression with the new recruit that this business may be more difficult than they initially thought.
Consider some of the following technology tools that can be embedded into the onboarding process to create an integrated, simplified experience so new participants can quickly get their businesses up and running in four easy steps. The entire process below is benchmarked to be completed in 30 minutes or less.
Step 1: Enrollment Made Easy
- The enrollment process should be device-independent, so whatever the device—a mobile phone, laptop or tablet—using a finger or mouse someone can easily sign up as a sales rep or customer with quick and easy credit card capture.
- Based on personal interests or characteristics, suggestions for the type of kit or sample product should be automatically recommended. As an example, a skincare company could ask during the enrollment process for the applicant’s skin type: dry, oily, normal, etc., and the samples that get included in the kit are based on this personalization.
- From start to finish the enrollment process should take less than five minutes, including capturing necessary demographic and personal data.
Step 2: Bringing Personal Marketing Site to Life
- Once enrolled, it is important to quickly get the new participant’s online marketing site and business hub going. This can be done by streamlining the creation of the online marketing site setup by having scripts, suggestions and access to website templates available for guiding them through the process.
- Offer some personalization, like uploading a photo, but keep personalization to a minimum so they don’t get sidetracked with too many options. A really convenient feature is one that offers a preview of the online marketing site as the user is creating it, which shows them what it will look like before the site is actually published. That way they can see their layout and design in motion.
- Each sales rep’s online marketing site should have a personal URL for their individual site, suggesting a site name so they don’t have to figure it out. The personal URL has huge benefits related to posting promotional messages on social sites. If a “friend” clicks on a post from their wall they are automatically driven right back to the sales rep’s online marketing site to purchase, sign up, host an event, or browse and shop. A personal URL makes certain that social networks are directly connected to the sales rep’s online marketing site. The challenge is some systems offer the ability to log into a shared portal without a personal URL, and when a social media post occurs it drives the individual to the company’s corporate site and not the sales rep’s online marketing site. This can cause the sales rep to lose confidence in their ability to utilize their social media outlets to their advantage.
- The entire online marketing site creation should take only a few minutes.
Step 3: Integrated CRM Marketing and Communications
- Once the sales rep’s online marketing site is published, it’s time to communicate to their network of contacts. The challenge is most people have contacts stored with multiple providers, and CRM becomes an arduous process for managing and communicating to those contacts. Well-designed software provides tools that can fully automate this process for importing friends, family and colleagues pulled from multiple providers like Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail and others, eliminating rekeying names, phone numbers and email addresses. The end result creates a centralized contact address book within minutes. These contacts can then be grouped by various categories, like potential recruit, hostess and customer, so online promotional campaigns can be targeted to those individual groups. Effective CRM tools and communications increase relevancy, ensuring better relationships.
Step 4: Digital Marketing Campaign Tools (Game-Changer)
- The final step in the integrated onboarding process is the impression a new sales rep makes by effectively communicating to their network of contacts (now located in the centralized contact address book), reaching as many potential buyers as possible and maintaining those relationships through effective communications. The challenge is that salesforces are often lacking effective integrated marketing and communications tools. By equipping your salesforce with an online promotion tool, the ability to quickly execute cost-effective communications using corporate-branded content is just a few clicks away.
- The promotion tool should offer a sales rep the ability to select from a gallery of various types of campaign templates for introducing the company, the product line, a company newsletter, hostess specials and more. After selecting the campaign template, sales reps optionally can create a personal message to their targeted audience. Personalization offers the ability to build deep brand relationships tailored to their contacts and makes online communication relevant to the interests of the targeted audience.
- Once the contacts are selected from the address book based on the type of campaign, the online promotion is sent. The entire process for creating and sending out the online promotional campaign should take less than a minute. Facebook and other social sites can also be informed of the online promotion based on campaign relevancy.
- Each individual sales rep can then track the effectiveness of their online promotional campaigns by monitoring who opened it, who forwarded it to a friend, who responded directly to their marketing site and what interested them.
Having an excellent onboarding experience for the new sales rep is vitally important to ensuring greater salesforce activation and engagement and reaching higher rates of retention. Attrition is costly and can become a momentum killer for any company. The above steps may seem fairly obvious, but the secret sauce is “packaging” them in a fully integrated system, making it streamlined, efficient and easy. The goal with this entire four-step onboarding process is to keep accelerating and carrying momentum from the excitement gained during the recruiting process and getting sales reps activated through having an extraordinary experience. The end result is ultimately getting a sales rep’s business up and running quickly so they can get focused on sales revenue-generating activities.
Greg Fink is Vice President of Sales at Next Wave Logistics, a provider of web-based software and services for the direct selling industry.