No guts, no glory
In B2B, it is not Marketing alone that needs to transform digitally – the shift should involve Sales just as much. Besides marketing, Sales is closely connected to practically all vital processes: IT, product/service development, business development and finance. Most B2B companies are experiencing firsthand how digitisation has changed customer and prospect behaviour. Pre-purchase interactions with customers and prospects are predominantly digital while the sales process in many B2B organisations has remained firmly in the analogue world. They often lack both digital champions and the basic skills needed to move forward. All faith has been put on the lead generation miracles of the digitally savvy marketing organisation.
Not only do outdated sales processes have a detrimental impact on sales efficiency and growth, but they also position a company in the backwaters as customers expect the same levels of digital service they receive as consumers.
You can only achieve sales excellence and top performance if you couple great salespeople with great digital sales tools. The initiative for digital sales transformation belongs to sales management – but so far the volunteers in the world of B2B marketing seem to be few and far apart. Sales organisations are still famed for inertia and reluctance to change.
Lionhearted leadership wanted
Unfortunately for the old school managers, claims that “our business model and offering is too complex” or “every customer is different”, are no longer valid arguments. Most likely, customers face the same challenges, but it’s the innovativeness in solving the challenges that makes the difference.
There is something in digital customer encounters, where the salesperson is not directly involved, that is hard to stomach for many managers.
True sales transformation requires cultural/behavioural change and new ways of working. Sales managers need to ask different questions, such as “how should our sales organisation be structured to meet digital needs?”, and “What competencies do we have today and what will we need in the future?”.
The trick is to initiate new behaviours in sales that produce the results, rather than solely focus on new targets. The sales manager who focuses on things that drive the change and switches his or her approach from “manager” to “coach” will most likely be successful. A lionhearted and pragmatic leadership is needed to build a fundamentally new sales organisation.
Putting technology and analytics at the heart of your sales culture
A sales process that solely relies on unique customer engagement with sales teams, without the support of automatisation and advanced sales analytics, is no longer competitive. The best personal sales talent in the world cannot make a difference.
Technology allows salespeople to focus on the human element of sales. Creating a winning sales organisation requires re-designing sales process. Many tasks, ranging from the customer purchasing cycle to monitoring complex behavioural analytics can be handled by machines, while creative customer problem solving should be led by humans.
How do you choose the right tools? – Start with deciding what you want to do.
Data and analytics will give sales representatives a deeper understanding of customer needs, the decision making phase and engagement level before a sales call. Managers will get a better understanding of winning sales strategies and opportunities. The quality of decisions about sales and account development, resourcing and staffing will improve.
Marketing is Sales’ BFF
B2B marketing, in fact, is early and mid-stage revenue management. Sales management should, therefore, work hand in hand with marketing to create a seamless end-to-end revenue process. The handover between marketing and sales during a customer journey is when data suggests that a suspect is becoming a prospect, and willing to interact with sales.
Successful sales managers collaborate closely with marketing peers. Less successful ones tend to think of marketing as one internal service unit for sales. In many B2B organisations, traditional marketing has been understaffed and under-budgeted. Newly digitally transformed marketeers too often try to please sales at any cost, as they frequently rely on the senior sales director for future funding.
If Sales only obsesses on responsibilities, lead quality and other marketing performance metrics, without engaging with or contributing to the marketing process, Sales will not get what it is ultimately looking for. Sales should also learn not to ask only for campaigns from marketing, but rather understand that modern marketing is an ongoing process that supports sales at all times. True marketing and sales alignment mean close collaboration to serve the customer.
Here is the sales transformation win-win formula: Customers are supported throughout the purchasing process and are also better equipped to ponder alternative solutions to his/her problem. Marketing will be able to account for the higher return on marketing investments. But the real hero will be sales – by just doing a hell of a better job.
And the company will ultimately improve its performance.
How to move forward?
- Decide how your digitally transformed B2B sales need to look
- What is your current maturity level? (strategy and objectives, process & tools and technology?)
- Which parts should be replaced and automated?
- Which parts do you need to augment?
- What is the business case? How much is there to gain on the top and bottom line benefits?
- Which skills, processes, tools and organisation design will you need?