“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”
— Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Setting a strategic course for a company’s product or service by aligning marketing assets and frontline staff in a particular direction is critical, but it won’t alone yield success. Competitive forces will quickly change the market landscape and alter the trajectory of a valuable product or service, and without a commitment to vigilantly monitor and adjust strategy, inertia can carry a company’s product or service far from its stated goals. Two characteristics of that commitment are ensuring that your frontline is equipped with 1) the latest information and 2) the right tools to convey that information.
Dropped Calls and Crossed Wires
With constantly changing promotional plans, new products, and ever-improving networks, telecom is one of the most competitive industries in the US today. Executive leadership at each of the big telecom companies (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) have grown adept at regularly adjusting their marketing strategy around the four “Ps” of marketing to retain and win customers.
However, the decisions made in the boardroom don’t always make it to those frontline staffers who connect directly with customers. It’s not enough for a company to simply make a strategic decision and expect that decision to be fully implemented at every level of the company. Regular auditing and curating of the assets and approach used by the frontline will help ensure that the company is always presenting its most current and competitive offering in the market.
For example, Sprint uses a cloud-based, digital database of training and promotional assets called F.A.S.T. (Frontline Assist Sales Tool), developed by Weber Associates, to help ensure that its sales force has access to the latest in training and product content. This database is curated daily and has eliminated the arduous task of manually updating and distributing promotional content to the sales team. F.A.S.T. does just what its acronym implies; it enables the sales team to confidently present their offerings in the market at any time, anywhere.
The Right Bells and Whistles
In addition to ensuring that a company’s frontline has the right information, it’s also important to know which tools help the frontline most effectively communicate your message to the market.
In 2013, a $10B pharmaceutical company introduced a tablet-based, interactive version of its traditional, 40-page sales brochure to its field sales force. The older paper format was too cumbersome for the typical, rushed 5-minute meetings reps had with doctors. An interactive tool where specific, relevant information could be accessed seemed like the obvious choice, and so the company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and deploying the platform, only to see it go almost entirely unused by the frontline sales force.
Why? It turns out the frontline sales force felt the tablet tool’s reporting capabilities gave the company too much oversight of a rep’s personally cultivated relationship with a physician. “Big Brother” was now watching, and it stripped the sales force of their desired autonomy.
Prior to spending money creating an app or updating a call center sales script, strategic companies audit their frontline assets to know which tools are working, and which are not, and flow investment and time into those that both deliver results and are readily adopted by the frontline.
From telecom to pharmaceuticals, any market that delivers real value to buyers has or will quickly gain competitors. Good companies ensure their frontline staff is always prepared for the competition with the right information, and the right tools to draw closer to realizing their goals.