Next Generation Selling: The Digital Transformation of Sales
Bryan was followed on Tuesday by Zilliant Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Duran, who offered valuable insights on how distributor and supplier operations can embrace the “science of B2B sales” to remain not only competitive and profitable but thrive in a digital sales environment.
Citing a 2020 study by McKinsey & Company, Duran says companies that have embraced the science of B2B sales have already started to pull ahead of their peers in terms of revenue growth (registering 2.3 times industry average revenue growth), profitability, (3 to 5 percent additional return on sales) and shareholder value (8 percent higher total return to shareholders than the industry average).
How are they doing it? Duran says the most important steps toward cultivating a digital sales mindset are gaining employee buy-in and learning to master available digital resources.
Regarding employee engagement, Duran acknowledges how challenging it can be to train a longtime outside salesperson to shift their relationship selling practices from face-to-face engagement to a more virtual, remote setting. She says in and industry like trucking — where relationship selling has long been preferred by suppliers and customers alike — transitioning employees should not be done hastily. The goal shouldn’t be to remove face-to-face relationships at all, but to shift a salesperson’s priorities in a way that enables them to maintain a personal relationship with customers who become digitally engaged.
Duran suggests having salespeople work to cultivate new customers and assist when customers are making first-time or custom orders, but then to also enable customers to make repeat and stock orders without salesperson engagement.
And it’s here where Duran mentions the importance of capitalizing on available resources. She says robust websites and e-commerce portals with built-in customer service tools and enable self-service customer ordering already exist and can be implemented. She adds McKinsey’s study indicates 66 percent of customers who buy online say self-service is more important than sales interaction, so there’s data to support transitioning your sales efforts elsewhere.
Duran also notes how important it is to use the data within your business to sell smarter. She says reducing a salesperson’s interactions with a customer can reduce the former’s knowledge of the latter’s purchasing trends, but she says that doesn’t need to be the case. Salespeople should still have access to a customer’s purchasing history and be given the freedom to engage when it appears a customer’s purchasing needs are shifting.
But Duran also acknowledges the inherit difficulty of shifting the tactics of a veteran sales team. She says change management planning is essential in making a sales team’s shift to digital a success. Employees and managers must be engaged, processes must be clear and progress must be measured.
“Your traditional and digital channel strategies need to align to make a cohesive customer experience,” she says.