Syncing Up Sales Teams with the Digital Transformation

While Moore’s Law has been a reliable rule-of-thumb for the past half-century, technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace that provides amazing opportunities for businesses who manage to keep up. Just as technology revolutionized the email marketing landscape in the not-too-distant past, all signs point toward a sales industry that’s not merely technology driven, but technology-infused. What, then, does a winning sales team look like in an age of artificial intelligence, automated emails, and online interaction?

Jill Rowley, Board Member at Affinio, describes this phenomenon as the digital transformation and suggests that future top performing teams will be those who adopt these types of tools into their workflows. We sat down with Jill to discuss the digital transformation, the future of the sales room, and how things might be changing over the next few years.

The digital transformation has its sights on sales

During her time at Salesforce and Eloqua, Jill coined the term “social selling” to describe how salespeople interact with their customers in the online age. As more customers were taking work and personal lives to social media, she noticed a platform that allowed for non-intrusive touch points that enhanced the traditional sales cycle. This idea of being wherever the customers are, at all times, is the core of social selling. But over the last few years, Jill observed that social selling was actually a part of a larger story that was quickly taking shape:

The simplest definition of the digital transformation is: a new way to think and a new way to work. The new way to think is collaboration and the new way to work is in real-time and in-the-moment.

The most recent wave of technological advancements is enabling different teams and departments within—and across—companies to interact and collaborate like never before. Jill says, “The new way to think is putting more pieces of the puzzle together to create a better outcome, versus doing things in isolation.” As the digital transformation continues, sales, marketing, and customer support teams need to become increasingly interconnected, sharing relevant information to better compete for today’s customers. Make no mistake, the C-Suite is paying attention to this trend. And even though Deloitte found that 55% of companies don’t understand this type of collaboration, interest in it is nonetheless growing quickly.

As for the new way to work? Jill thanks the digital transformation for the increase in remote workforces that we’re seeing lately, “Distributed workforces are all about being in the moment. You no longer have to literally be in front of your customers in their office to meet with them.” For example, she sees more value in reaching out to prospective customers and connecting with them on a digital channel such as LinkedIn or Twitter than the traditional golf course business trip. Sure, in 2017 this sounds like standard practice, but the rapid change in the sales landscape shows how much different things were just 3 or 4 years ago. Before the digital transformation, a meaningful level of personal information wasn’t readily available to salespeople, but now using connected social tools is just the starting point:

The new way of working in sales is looking at [the deal] through the eyes of the buyer: how does the buyer want to buy? This new data-driven approach is really important.

Looking at how fast social media integrated itself into the sales cycle, just try to imagine what the sales landscape will look like in 10 years. The digital transformation means more technology, more data, and more collaboration, but the sales process can’t—at this point—be done by a bunch of robots. In fact, as the digital transformation unfolds, the need for the human touch in the sales process has never been more important.

The new landscape of sales training

To succeed in the context of this ongoing transformation, today’s sales teams need some serious preparation. Learning and training on new tools, ideas, and sales tactics is critically important to building buy-in amongst sales teams. Whenever the next idea like social selling comes along, sales teams need to be ready to adapt, but Jill has noticed a larger problem beginning at the top of most organizations:

If sales leaders don’t get [the digital transformation], they’re not gonna change the way they train. That’s where we’re at now. Overall, [leaders are] struggling with the idea of training people in-the-moment and in a more fluid environment.

Referring back to her social selling days, Jill says that some sales leaders feel reps are wasting time by responding or reaching out to prospects on Twitter, even though social media has proven to be an incredibly effective channel for sales.

“It’s really a cultural change. From top-down,” Jill says of learning in the age of the digital transformation. Only after a company’s leadership commits to providing their sales team with new tools can the sales team truly begin to understand how to best apply them to their daily sales process. And sales managers can now expand the tactics they encourage their reps to use. Instead of only reviewing recorded prospect phone calls, managers need to ask more questions, “Did you see if that person was on Twitter? LinkedIn? Did you see if they’ve done any interviews?” Jill says. “These are the new coaching opportunities that the digital transformation gives us.” Not recognizing these new aspects of the sales landscape might not sink a company, but sales team performance won’t be at its full potential without them.

In the end, Jill suggests that the companies who “get it” are going to naturally build a learning culture that sustains their teams through the digital transformation. “Learning can’t be relegated to an annual sales meeting. It can’t be one-and-done. Training isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle.”

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