In an increasingly technology enabled B2B selling environment, the value of digital selling has long been a promise to drive success. Companies have invested in technology to support this promise with the belief that “if they buy it the digital sales vision will be realized.”
Yet, while technology has a hugely important role in digital selling, the maniacal focus on technology as the panacea is getting in the way of progress in connecting buyers and sellers effectively.
This paradox is seen across industries, where business processes and practices are being digitized and there’s a glut of new entrants in the sales tech stack supplier space to solve problems companies didn’t even know they had. However, we’re increasingly seeing B2B companies taking a closer look at their technology stack and utilization only to realize negative ROI from a huge percentage of those investments.
Evolving some of the fundamental misconceptions around digital selling is paramount to achieving business goals. Where companies have gone wrong with selling in a digital era, comes down to a somewhat backward approach to the challenge. Typically, businesses have started with execution in mind, built a technology stack around that, enabled their sellers to with training and tools, then worried about data, and finally included considerations for the customer. Reversing engineering this approach, practically step-by-step, would have a lot more benefit in shaping how businesses think about digital selling.
In looking at the facts, buyers are ever more comfortable engaging with sellers digitally. According to McKinsey, 35% of B2B buyers will even spend up to $500,000 through a purely digital channel and over 60% would opt for digital over in-person interactions – and this preference for digital is only going to increase on the buy side. Here is the right approach to grow revenue by optimizing the experience of the buyer (first), while achieving more productivity with sellers.
Start with Customer Experience
Sellers sell to customers, and customers are the ultimate audience of any digital sales effort. It seems completely obvious to state this, but it is a forgotten art of selling in digital. When the sole focus is on executing as much as possible to a given audience, digital can be a productive tool to driving that reach. What is often missing is that value is greater than volume.
Customers need to be the centerpiece of sales strategies. While personas and segments are good tools for broad reach tactics, when an interaction becomes one to one, sellers are the ultimate tool in driving customer experience for an enterprise. Customer experience (CX) should be the lens that every consideration around digital selling is examined through and optimized around. In an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape, the value of the seller interaction cannot be over-stated. As more of the functions of selling move digital, interactions between human customers and human sellers, no matter the means of contact, will be critical in B2B selling environments.
Drive Insights from Data and Analytics
It is no exaggeration to say that data powers business, and specifically the modern enterprise sales organization. But data alone does not successful digital selling make. Analysis and moreover insights from that that analysis are the important ingredients in a digital selling strategy.
A recent survey by IDC found that less that 5% of enterprise sales data was analyzed. Punctuating the issues around successful digital selling implementation and practice, are the gaps between what is measurable, what is measured and what measures matter. Organizations must have a concrete data strategy that is aligned to business goals to power the organization. They must also ensure effective analysis of the data and ensure the ability to generate insights, and most importantly, hand these insights to sales to act.
Build a Tool Set Around Seller Needs
There is no shortage of tools to help sellers better manage digital relationships. In fact, organizations are discovering the have far too many tools and this growing realization has been a long time coming. Between 2015 and 2020, we saw something like 2,000 digital selling applications and tools come to market.
According to a recent MarketBridge survey, enterprise organizations have an average of over 20 digital tools to enable their sellers, yet, they leverage only three with more than 75% of the time. Organizations, and sellers, don’t need more tools. They need the right tools to do their jobs better, and they must be enabled to use them if organizations expect to realize value and drive seller habituation.
Drive Programmatic Success
Executing on a digital selling strategy happens best when the organization is designed around the customer and sellers are enabled with data and technology that are additive to the customer relationship and CX.
Execution of digital selling is also a bit of a misnomer in this case because it really should not be considered as a separate motion from an overall selling strategy. Rather sales, marketing and all the support resources of an organization must be oriented to the same, aligned approach – engaging audiences and delivering value. Programs much be coordinated across the organizations, orientated around shared goals, and drive the performance of the entire enterprise. This alignment is truly where the value of digital and leveraging data can make organizations successful with their selling strategies.
Too often, we hear of digital selling as an add-on or in addition to traditional sales approaches and strategies. It is not. Thinking about digital selling separate from selling will lead to digital being leverage as a tactic and its success (or failure) judged in a vacuum among other tactics.
Earlier this year, Gartner predicted that 65% of all B2B sales organizations, will shift to a digital, data-driven, technology-enabled selling approaches. This punctuates the need to rethink how an enterprise goes to market and how to enable sales leaders and sales teams to best drive interactions that add value, build relationship and drive revenue.
As buyer preferences and needs evolve, sellers – digital, remote, face-to-face or otherwise – must be equipped. Orienting around customer insights and data is the foundation to building successful engagements with the business and its sellers through whichever channels the buyer elects.