(In)efficiency through (in)transparency: ensuring exchange of information in sales

Sharing of information in sales is essential for effective customer management. New technologies and sales automation provide companies with new opportunities to facilitate internal exchange of information for integrated sales work. The advantages of data-supported customer management are obvious. Studies show that mobile CRM access increases the productivity of sales employees by 15%, for example. However, a different picture often emerges in reality. In many companies, customer information is hardly shared or only shared in part, and around 22% of employees are dissatisfied with knowledge management in their organization. Why do companies accept inefficiencies in the sales process? And what are the starting points for ensuring exchange of information within the sales organization?

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Stumbling blocks for an effective exchange of information

Poor information exchange in sales has a variety of reasons, many of which depend on factors specific to the company and the individuals involved:

  • Interacting instead of documenting: Sales employees want to use their scarce resources as efficiently as possible and often regard documenting information as unnecessary effort. Instead of updating the CRM system by recording the insights they gained from the most recent customer meeting, they prefer to invest their time in what they believe to be a more productive use of their time, namely additional interaction with the customer.
  • A confusing flood of information: In the age of digitalization, a wide variety of data is generated each time a supplier comes in contact with a customer. The challenge is to distinguish between important and unimportant information and to store information in the existing systems in such a way that it can be accessed and found by others when they need it.
  • Lack of information skills: In many B2B companies, data-supported customer management is still in its infancy. In many cases businesses lack the necessary systems or only have solutions that exist in isolation from the other systems. At the same time, sales employees who have been on staff for a long time are less skilled in using the various tools when compared to their younger counterparts and are actually quite skeptical about the whole endeavor.
  • Knowledge is power: Sales employees who have exclusive customer information or insights can set themselves apart from the rest of the sales team and increase their internal market value. Systems for awarding commissions reinforce this effect and slow down the exchange of information, as individuals do not want to give up the advantages they enjoy.

Starting points for a culture of sharing

To ensure that a culture of exchange of knowledge and experience in sales is established on a lasting basis, the following points can serve as guidelines:

  • Focus on the right technology: Businesses are now using a variety of IT systems and tools (such as SharePoint) to promote the exchange of information among employees. In order to refer employees directly to the responsible experts in the company, larger enterprises rely on self-learning know-how networks. In order to increase the acceptance of new tools in sales, it is critical to clearly and transparently demonstrate the advantages of their use and train employees on how to effectively use them.
  • Encourage face-to-face contact among employees: Personal distance can lead to misunderstandings or even conflicts. Particularly when sales employees travel a lot and are often on site at the customer premises, it is important to strengthen the internal network of relationships in sales and with other departments. A lively e-mail exchange often does not have the same weight as joint projects or intensive, personal contact.
  • Reinforce a sense of community: Strong competitive thinking among sales employees can be counteracted through the establishment of a corporate culture based on cooperation. In the best-case scenario, such a team-selling approach also promotes efficiency in sales, as joint achievement of shared goals takes center stage. This requires that common goals and successes are defined.

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