By Chuck Leddy
How does an enterprise organization go about scaling adoption of its new Eloqua-driven automated email renewal solution with its sales team? In this post, we explore how Naylor’s leadership team did just that, how it addressed strong initial objections from the sales teams, and how sales reps who had once been early objectors to automation eventually became passionate advocates for the technology. In a second post, we’ll take a deeper dive into Naylor’s solution itself.
Naylor Association Solutions, with corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, works with trade associations across the nation, including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), and many more, helping them maximize membership engagement and generate more revenues. Naylor’s services and business units include member communication (creating various publications for associations), event management, and association management.
Naylor helps its association members develop various publications, including magazines, newsletters, and member directories. Naylor’s sales team also sells advertising space in these same publications to companies interested in engaging the association’s membership. So, hypothetically speaking, a medical device manufacturer might want to buy advertising space in a newsletter or directory from the American Medical Association. Naylor would develop the publication, working with the association, and then sell ad space to generate revenues.
Naylor’s automated solution runs into initial skepticism
Utter the word “automation” in almost any workplace today, and the people impacted start to get nervous about their jobs. Fears of robots stealing our jobs aren’t just fodder for science fiction, but represent a visceral concern for workers all across the global economy – especially as technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to improve.
As Naylor rolled out its automated renewal email solution to its existing advertisers, using that automation to quickly generate renewals and cash flow without the involvement of any sales reps, getting the sales team on board became an obvious challenge. Naylor’s Kent Agramonte, then Marketing and Research Manager, was tasked with getting sales rep buy-in for the change initiative. “There was early pushback from the reps,” explained Agramonte, “they felt threatened that automation was taking away parts of their jobs and commissions. They also feared we were ‘dehumanizing’ our customer service approach.”
Agramonte carefully explained that “seeking renewals were taking a lot of time away from sales reps, and if they spent less time seeking renewals from existing clients (advertisers), they could spend more time upselling and seeking new clients, thus gaining higher commissions.” Many reps, understandably, took a wait-and-see stance.
3 keys to scaling adoption
- Sales Reps soon recognized their liberation from routine, manual tasks. Agramonte’s message was clear and consistent. The automated, scalable email renewal solution would give Naylor’s sales reps the gift of more time to perform higher-value tasks, like upselling existing clients and finding new clients, tasks that would actually help reps generate more leads and higher commissions. In addition, sales reps received training on how the automated application worked so they could effectively perform their follow-up roles, such as when customers opened an email but didn’t respond. Reps began performing more higher-value tasks.
- Rolling the solution out slowly. The culture of any sales team can be a fragile thing. Naylor anticipated some objections from sales reps, and Agramonte rolled out the automated solution gradually, gaining buy-in from sales reps project-by-project, almost rep-by-rep. As the team observed success in these projects, they became more open to the blended “human + machine” solution.
- Answering the “dehumanization” objection. Sales reps were justifiably proud of the high level of service they were providing to customers, but they soon realized two things: (1) customers quickly grew accustomed to the automated approach, much like shopping online at Amazon, and (2) sales reps continued to be involved in higher-level follow up and upselling activities that drove superior customer experiences and higher sales commissions.
“We explained to our reps that the automation would help them service clients more effectively,” said Agramonte, “while making it easier for them to go after new customers. We found that many customers actually preferred communication through the automated, DIY email approach managed by Eloqua.”
Sales Reps move from objectors to advocates
On average, it was taking our reps three calls to renew a client and after launching our automated renewals program we renewed 583 clients without a phone call. This saved our reps 1,749 phone calls since launching the program.
The sales reps recognized that the automated email renewal campaigns were achieving the results promised, and then some. As promised, the reps were indeed spending more time upselling and pursuing new customer leads, as well as generating more commission. “Sales reps who were initially against the automated solutions are now all for it,” said Agramonte.
One of our projects reached a renewal rate of 78.6% – this was a 17% increase from last year. We also oversold our new sales target on this project by 7%.
In one of the early projects, a sales rep saw that the renewals gained through the automated approach were massive, and he strongly questioned the system’s ability to accurately track results. “I carefully explained to him how the tracking worked,” said Agramonte, “and once the sales rep realized how accurate our tracking was, he quickly became an advocate for the automated email renewal.”
One of our initially hesitant adopter’s has seen a 16% increase in new sales YTD over this same period last year. She attributes this increase to the time saved not having to call her renewal advertisers.
In a telling adoption story, Agramonte explains that they’d planned to exclude the automated renewal email approach from a particular project. The sales rep associated with the project, who had earlier opposed the automation, “quite vocally demanded that we use the automation for it,” Agramonte chuckled.
Nothing scales success like success
What’s clear is that Naylor did a great job not only working collaboratively with IT, marketing, sales, and other departments to develop the automated solution, but they also did a brilliant job scaling adoption with their initially-skeptical sales reps. In the end, the solution worked: sales reps who started out as passionate skeptics of the automated approach ultimately became its strongest advocates and ambassadors.
Stay tuned for our follow-up post where we look at what Naylor decided to do in terms of changing the way it emailed and interacted with its ad customers, leveraging the marketing automation power of Eloqua to work smarter in getting renewals and upselling via email. The solution was a blended approach where technology was enabled and deployed to do what it does best while sales reps were enabled and deployed to do higher-level activities they do best.
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