B2B Sales Digitalization - Recap of breakfast event on March 17th

On a windy but sunny spring morning, we organized our first event. 10 minutes before the start, the video projector we’d been promised was nowhere to be seen, we didn’t have an adapter to hook our laptops to the TV, and one of our two speakers had just informed us that he wouldn’t make it. At all. Ah, the joys of events

Luckily, our second speaker, Rauli Oikarinen, was happy to use the extra time and go deep into the sales digitalization endeavor he’s been heading at Fennia since 2014: implementing the PACE tool. And he didn't let us, or the audience, down. Rauli's presentation was full of pragmatic and honest insight into the successes and challenges of getting people to see things in a new light. Below is a small handful of the jewels.

Speed of access to information is important

Salespeople are busy. Customers are busy. It doesn’t matter how much data you have in your CRM: if it takes 30 minutes to find it, salespeople won’t bother and customers won’t wait. Information has to be available, quickly, through a tool that is simple to operate. So that when a customer asks something, or an opportunity for cross-selling arises, the salesperson can find the relevant information, and maybe even close the deal then and there. When all the relevant information of the organization is at their fingertips, it’s a lot easier for salespeople to play the role of “valued advisor” – as opposed to just pushing the few products they have memorized.

Don’t try to force change

It’s one thing to get people to understand the benefits of doing something differently. It’s quite another to get someone to go see a customer she’s known for 10 years and tell that customer: “you know, I’ve been selling you the wrong package all these years, and here’s my proposal for what you should really buy”. When change involves the risk of losing face with long-term colleagues, customers, even friends, the stakes are very high, and the results of an ill-timed push potentially catastrophic. Fennia has approached change slowly, ensuring positive user experience in the beginning, thus turning early active users into internal change agents.  

One day the most stubbornly averse salesguy called and nonchalantly asked about a technical issue. After the call I checked PACE, and noticed he had already planned a dozen meetings into the tool. Quietly, he had changed his mind.
— Rauli Oikarinen, Fennia

Don’t skimp on training

When trying to adopt a new tool and with it a new approach to customer relations, and with the stakes so high as explained above, be prepared to invest more in training than the technology itself. It is crucial that everyone understand the tool and the reason for adopting it, and that support is available. Moreover, trainings and coaching should not be limited to a one-time push: new ways of working sink in slowly, and if momentum is released too early, they might not take root.

It’s easier if there’s something in it for them, too

Many IT projects are rammed through an organization with messages of “management needs this”, “controllers need this”, or “this is in your best interests”. Rauli pointed out, that while Fennia’s salespeople understood the corporate-level benefits of the new system very well, adoption jumped to another level when first experiences showed that the new tool made it easier to sell a wider product selection, and thereby verifiably increased sales (and sales commissions).

Focus on what you can change

There are arguably dozens of variables that have an impact on sales. Some of them are easier to change than others. When Fennia analyzed their sales process, they realized that a typical successful sale took 24 hours of work, 16 hours of which was spent on internal routines, filling forms, calculating offers, and so on, using 11 different software tools. By adopting PACE as their core sales tool, they’ve been able to cut the work from 24 hours to 6 hours, and the number of software tools used in the process from 11 to 2.

I’ve been in the insurance business for over 10 years, and I’m just now starting to feel like it’s a wonderful business to be in. And it’s all thanks to digitalization.
— Rauli Oikarinen, Fennia

You might find surprising benefits

While saving 5-6 hours per week per salesperson might not be an industry-disrupting innovation, the time saved from process has verifiably led to more time spent with customers, and 12% higher sales year-on-year for active users of PACE. One benefit that Fennia wasn’t expecting, though, is that job satisfaction has increased: turns out that five hours per week can have a big impact when it’s cut from work that nobody wants to do in the first place.  

Rauli’s closing conclusions on experiences from PACE platform thus far

  • Lower no-show rate and higher hit rate for sales meetings
  • 30% higher product coverage
  • 50,000 hours saved from juggling internal software systems
  • €4m+ claims avoided by intelligent recommended measures generated by PACE
  • 10x more intelligent customer surveys per year

Thanks once more to all of you who made the time to come and see us, and thanks to Rauli for a superb and sincere presentation!