Sales Transformation for the Digital Age – Event Recap

Attracting over 350 business, marketing and sales leaders, Blackdot recently ran a thought leadership session exploring one of the most significant challenges facing our clients – how to evolve sales to win in today’s digital, customer-led environment. Taking place in Sydney and Melbourne, the session is the latest in our series of events designed to share our thinking around digital go-to-market transformation. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the main presentation and highlight some of the key takeaways.

Why does sales need to change?

The event began by exploring why it’s so critical for organisations to not only adapt sales but also marketing in order to deliver the relevance today’s customer demands. This adaptation imperative is driven by several shifts, including the fact that conversations customers traditionally had with a salesperson are increasingly taking place online. Therefore without a strong digital presence, organisations face the prospect of being screened out of the sales process. Today’s buyer is also much savvier, which means salespeople must now deliver a much higher level of interaction – one that goes ‘beyond the brochure’ to add more strategic value and help customers solve their business problems. More customer-facing channels and functions, an increase in digital interactions and data, changing competitive dynamics and the pressure to ‘do more with less’ are also redefining today’s buying environment. Given all these shifts, it’s now make or break time to adapt sales for a new customer-led, digital era.
The ‘Rep of the Future’

The presentation then focused on one of the most pressing questions of those in attendance – what will the ‘Rep of the Future’ look like? Many salespeople fear what the future holds, with some uncertain whether their role will still be around. Our view is that the future is extremely bright for salespeople. They will undoubtedly hold a critical place in the future, however they will need to adapt – significantly and quickly. As we see it, the ‘Rep of the Future’ will be much more empowered and enabled. Technology will eliminate many low-value admin tasks and enable more insight into what the customer is doing and thinking about. More time will be spent on high-value problem solving and overall, tomorrow’s salesperson will be more purposeful, effective and productive.

Key shifts required to be ‘Future Fit’

The presentation then focused on how organisations can accelerate sales transformation. Across our transformation work, we’ve observed that there are four critical areas organisations need to consider to successfully transform sales for the digital age:

1. Sales organisational design – how can you enable more relevant and value-adding sales interactions, at lower cost?

  • Evolve the channel mix to optimise effectiveness and cost of sale – in many organisations, a traditional ‘reach and frequency’ based coverage model typically results in static field sales coverage. Organisations must move to a more responsive and efficient targeting of opportunities – one that is dynamic across channels.
  • Establish the digital demand generation engine – sales ‘road warriors’ traditionally self-generated their leads and meetings. Tomorrow’s salesperson will rely on a marketing-generated pipeline of sales-ready leads and will need to support online buyer education and progression across the buyer’s journey.
  • Sales role specialisation – with a broad remit limiting their ability to add value to the customer, the capacity-strained generalist rep of old will need to transform into a customer-focused specialist. Operational demarcation and absolute role & goal clarity will be critical for transformation.    

2. Sales process – how can you integrate workflows and support consistently high quality interactions?

  • Cross-functional planning processes – driven by an internally-focused ‘push’ approach, the traditional linear sales-led process must shift to provide coordinated support of the buyer’s journey. To shift to this customer-focused approach, organisations will need to detail how each function and channel will collaborate across the buyer’s journey.
  • Integrated marketing and sales processes + metrics – formerly competing and independent, marketing and sales workflows must become complementary and interdependent to enable ‘closed-loop’ lead hand-offs and follow up.
  • Additional and different success drivers – to ensure prompt lead follow-up and deliver more insights and value to the customer, input-focused sales ‘quantity’ disciplines must evolve to become more customer and ‘quality’ focused.

3. Technology and data – how can you create sales capacity and optimise effectiveness & efficiency?

  • Deliver value to drive adoption – too often the CRM is geared around data capture, which benefits management, and salespeople aren’t personally enabled. A shift from ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’ adoption and a focus on simplicity and mobility will be key to getting sales on board with new technology.
  • Frontline digitisation and process automation – investing in productivity and effectiveness technology tools can help eliminate low-value admin tasks and create the capacity for salespeople to spend more time with customers.        
  • Enable data-driven selling – by leveraging the customer’s ‘digital footprints’, salespeople can reduce the information advantage held by today’s highly-informed customer. To make this possible, organisations will need to ensure salespeople can easily access the right data, at the right time.

4. Sales Talent and Capabilities – how can you build sophisticated skillsets to exceed the expectations of today’s buyer?

  • Uplift commercial acumen – salespeople will need to be less the need identifying, solution-focused generalist and more the customer-focused problem solver, using their unique expertise to deliver contextual thought leadership and insight.
  • Build digital + data savvy (and buy-in) – expanding the CRM, social media, data and digital skills of salespeople will help them shift to a more precise, intelligence-driven approach that accelerates the customer through the buyer’s journey.
  • Build ‘decision navigation’ skills – salespeople will need to shift from being a relationship manager to a trusted influencer – one with the nuanced skills to influence stakeholders and complex decisions.
Worded by Chris Horn