The Digital era has transformed our lives in ways we could not have imagined even a decade ago. Like every other business discipline, sales, too, hasn't remained untouched by digital disruption. As Marc Beinhoff, founder of salesforce says in a recent book on sales growth, "Today, sales reps are not lugging around briefcases full of product brochures with features and price lists-they are closing deals on their smartphones in real time."
Digital-savvy companies create one-to-one journeys for their customers that traverse sales, service and marketing. And, every part of the selling process is more intelligent, data-rich and quantifiable, allowing sales teams to connect with their customers in entirely new ways.
Digital Selling is still in its infancy. There is a sheer lack of awareness about it among many businesses, big or small, whereas everyone has heard of Digital Marketing. The two are not the same. Given the critical value of sales this is both alarming and yet a great opportunity for companies to be a step ahead of competition.
Technology helps sales leaders in arming their teams with killer insights and customer intelligence- two critical factors influencing buyer response. Forward thinking companies understand the benefits, and they focus on acquiring the right tools and skills so that technology delivers the high returns it promises. Such companies want to be cutting-edge with their digital strategy. They test and tweak constantly to get digital platforms right. And, when they do get it right, they see sales figures and conversion rates skyrocket.
The sales technology landscape is crowded with over 800 tools and platforms that addresses every facet of sales management from client engagement to sales productivity to sales intelligence to sales pipeline analytics to sales performance and coaching.
Ever wondered why it is increasingly getting harder for your sales team to bring qualified leads into the sales pipeline. And when they do trickle in, why they rarely convert into wins. If you have aggressive sales growth goals, you expect your marketing and demand generation folks to keep open the floodgates to tens of leads every quarter, but that too more often than not falls short of expectations.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, then you are not alone. It is time to get serious about the digital disruption in sales. Buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase decision. They no longer depend on salespeople for information and education. Hence, in today's digital era, salespeople do not control the sales process anymore.
The key to success in the digital age is to recognize that buyers are influenced by content prior to becoming a recognized lead in the sales process. That is why they say "content is currency".
84% of CEOs and SVPs use social media to make purchasing decisions.
Ever wondered what happens to a lead before it appears in your sales pipeline. Unqualified leads are like seeds to be nurtured till they sprout into opportunities. Most CRM systems do not address this phase of the buyer's journey and hence, it is not surprising that most sales leaders have no clue how their precious marketing and sales dollars are being spent. They are simply not paying attention to this important detail, let alone measuring it.
If you are staring at the poor hygiene of your sales pipeline and wondering what you could have done ten quarters ago, then you also know where the problem is. Studies show that in high value product or services selling, it takes about ten quarters of sustained sales efforts to convert a buyer who is a stranger to you and your products, from a suspect to a qualified lead.
As a sales leader, you need to pay attention to the early stages of the buyer's journey in the sales process as you would during negotiating or closing a deal in the later stages.
Insights from economic, technological and behavioral mega-trends translate into opportunities at the front line. The best sales leaders invest ahead of emerging demand and cultivate demand for products or services that won't be available for many months. Peering into future and harnessing tomorrow's trends is a job of sales leaders and not just visionary CEOs.
It takes a sales person on an average seven or eight touches over ten quarters for a buyer to become a qualified lead in the sales process.