Authors: Professor George John, Professor of Marketing, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota and Professor Madhu Viswanathan, Assistant Professor, Indian School of Business (ISB)

Date of Webinar: May 14, 2020

“What’s interesting about Digitization is that the fundamentals of selling haven’t changed. We just have faster, more detailed, more data-rich ways to answer those questions,” is how Jeffery K. Schomburger, Global Sales officer, P&G describes the giant leaps that have accrued because of the advent of Digitization of sales.

Over the last few decades, businesses have witnessed an emergence of technology-based selling activities that previously were performed by salespeople. Digitization started with an investment in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Management Information Systems (MIS) to make the selling process more transparent. With these systems in place, organisations today can monitor the performances of their sales teams in real-time and know where they stand on the sales funnel. This has significantly improved the overall performance of the organisations that deploy these tools.

This digital era and Digitization of sales have been happening for a while now, although these trends were more common in the B2C situations initially. These have now become equally important in B2B space as well.

Digitization is a combination of strategy and technology:

An organization looking to drive sales has a wide array of digital technologies to choose from to improve the performance of its sales function. However, merely applying and using these tools is not enough. Organisations need to have a clear strategy that is driven by a top-down approach, which alone can lead to success:
• It is imperative to have a clear use case. All the stakeholders involved in the process should know the outcome, how the results were achieved, and what they intend to do to scale up.
• It is crucial to have the needs of sales representatives at the center of this drive, as the Digitization of sales focuses on improving the salespeople’s performance. Moreover, since ultimately, information about the customers and the market is provided primarily by salespeople mainly, it is essential to get their full support and enroll them in the Digitization drive.
• Organisations should have an agile development process for Digitization of sales. They need to have continuous wins that have emanated from Digitization. Such successes must be showcased to enhance. organisational learning. and keep showcasing how this has happened for future learning
• It is also essential to identify the impact that is expected from Digitization, appropriate actions to be taken, as well as the data and technologies required to achieve the same.

How Digitization is transforming the sales processes:

Before the era of Digitization of sales, companies had designed separate sales channels that have made switching from one to the other difficult, if not impossible. But in today’s sales approach, there is a considerable amount of overlap. The transition from one channel to another has become seamless. Digitization has put an additional layer on the sales channels, where inbound and web sales ensure that organisations are aware of customer needs at all times. Organisations now have an omnichannel sales approach.

Customers expect to be able to access information about products and services at any time through all the channels. Research shows that 57% of customers know what they are looking for before they contact a salesperson. 61% of customers think that LinkedIn is a good source of information; Facebook follows closely with the corresponding figure of around 60%.

It is essential for an organisation to identify what the customers know and to identify what kind of customers they are. Digitization has made a lot of insights available. By following a prospective client on social media, it is relatively easy for an organisation to know about its customer’s interests and purchase plans. Organizations can glean information that could help them in designing and implementing customized sales approaches to these prospective customers.

At the same time, organisations can also figure out what the moves being made and contemplated by competition by tracking competitors’ social media and digital presence. In a nutshell, there are significant insights that an organization can garner due to the power unleashed by the Digitization of sales.

To summarize, Digitization has helped sales in the following ways:

• Seamlessly integrating with marketing
• Making transactions between the customer and the firm frictionless
• By deploying CRM technology, it is possible to know what kind of questions that were asked in the previous sales calls, and thus be proactive in preparing for the forthcoming meetings
• Being well-prepared for meetings of the salespersons with the customer
• Presenting products in which the customers are likely to be interested
• Demonstrating how various offerings of the supplier firm are integrated into a comprehensive solution that solves the customer firm’s problems
• Providing customized pricing for the supplier firm’s offerings

Future of Digitization:
In the digital era, speed is of the essence. Organisations are using the attribution models to figure out what kind of channels work best, what kind of leads are likely to fructify into sales, what are the best approaches for each customer, and deciding which customers to target.

Salesforce training can be empowered digitally using video coaching, showcasing how to communicate and highlighting value proposition to salespeople digitally.

Spilling from the B2C domain is Gamification and visualization analytics. Coaching salespeople on what they should be doing and which customers to approach to maximize the return on their effort is possible through recent advances being made in the Digitization of sales.

Compiled by: Ms. Minal Agarwal, Manager, Centre for Business Markets at Indian School of Business (ISB-CBM)