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British Airways has brought its business-to-business sales effort together globally under the umbrella of Salesforce’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) Sales Cloud. More recently, the airline’s sales staff have benefited from the use of the SaaS provider’s enterprise collaboration platform, Chatter.
Ed Millington-Jones, sales enablement manager at BA, describes how the airline began the move towards Salesforce at the time of the merger of the British flag carrier with the Spanish flag carrier Iberia to form International Airlines Group (IAG) in 2011.
Today, BA and Iberia has a joint sales staff of some 700 people, with Iberia concentrated on the Hispanophone and Lusophone territories in Latin America, as well as Europe.
Millington-Jones says the collaboration capabilities baked into Salesforce with its Chatter software platform are critical to how the sales staff work internationally, in virtual teams.
“They use Chatter an enormous amount for collaboration. We use it for groups focused on business issues, and we use it for virtual teams, where you might have a lead account manager in one territory, say the UK, and other people on that same account in other territories, say the US or Hong Kong or Europe. So, our sales staff find the collaboration in Chatter enormously useful, for prospects and cases as well for accounts,” he says.
BA sales staff also benefit from self-service business intelligence (BI), provided by way of Tableau being integrated into Salesforce, says Millington-Jones. Sales staff also use another SaaS system, Anaplan, for the modelling of financial forecasts.
“As our sales teams are working more flexibly and remotely, collaboration tools become incredibly important,” he says.
Creating a virtual international office
The B2B sales effort for whose selling, systems, metrics and reporting Millington-Jones is responsible is distinct from the business-to-consumer side of British Airways, which sells to individual passengers, under the banner of BA.com.
Millington-Jones’s sales colleagues sell to corporate organisations directly, and to travel management companies and travel agencies.
They have been going through what he describes as a “transformation programme” aimed at establishing a “one-stop shop for our sales teams internationally, a virtual office”.
The sales organisation had been previously siloed in functional areas and geographies. “Different processes existed, different ways of working. We have a global sales team now, including an inside sales team in Dublin, to manage new business. And sales operations are concentrated in one place, Bratislava. They used to sit at a country level, and an area level,” he says.
Sales staff sell jointly with Iberia, who take care of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking territories in Europe and Latin America.
The team chose Salesforce for customer relationship management (CRM) for the new business created by the merger, leaving behind a BA-customised CRM “legacy system” called iSell, originally from Baan in 2014.
“The clinching thing was, we saw Salesforce as best in class for what we were and are trying to do. We like that it is highly configurable,” says Millington-Jones.
The sales staff master all their accounts in Salesforce Sales Cloud, feeding their Teradata data warehouse with customer data. They also like that customers can input their own data, via their Salesforce instance, he says. “That drives efficiencies in terms of speed to market,” he adds.
Another major benefit Millington-Jones reports is that whereas previously account managers had been “wasting time pulling in data from in-house legacy systems”, they now benefit from being embedded within Salesforce. “There is more speed to market” with prospects turned into customers and “speed to [deal] closure”.
Moreover, he says, “we are constantly looking for new solutions for our business with Salesforce”. It has a five-person centre of excellence team focused on how Salesforce can benefit the BA B2B sales effort more, he says, and are using Trailhead, the supplier’s developer education programme, a lot.
The sales team is also looking at how Salesforce’s artificial intelligence software layer, Einstein, could be used to better identify and match sales opportunities to travel agencies and corporate customers, he says.
“When we first adopted Salesforce, we launched with a more limited set of uses cases [than now], but as we have developed, we have integrated other systems, such as Tableau and Chatter, and that has made our sales people’s jobs easier and more streamlined,” says Millington-Jones.
Read more about IT in the airline industry
- CIO interview: Mike Croucher, head of IT architecture and delivery, British Airways.
- Virgin Atlantic’s business-to-business and cargo divisions have found Salesforce CRM to offer a “family feel” beyond the software.
- How Asian airline carriers are counting on personalised services, blockchain-enabled loyalty programmes, automation and predictive maintenance to lower costs and improve passenger experience.