A preview of new, very cogent, research from Altimeter, a Prophet Company. One of my top 10 digital content and thought leadership inspiration sources.
While “social selling” is a key idea that has emerged over the past few years, it is clear that something larger is afoot. Keeping up with fast-moving and well-informed customers requires sales departments to focus less on the hard sell and more on adding value to the experience and relationship via digital channels. Moreover, selling must become seamless, bridging traditional department silos like Marketing, Sales, and Service to meet customers wherever they may engage an organization.
This report examines the transformation of selling in complex transactions, such as those typically done in business-to-business (B2B) sales or high- consideration consumer sales. Three types of transitions drive the digital transformation process: Platform Integration, Organization, and Culture.
Notably, while digital technologies may drive the transformation, the strategic focus for sales teams must include changing organization and culture such that customers become the core of the selling process.
INTEGRATION OF DATA, INSIGHTS, AND CONTENT PLATFORMS LAYS THE FOUNDATION.
On the surface, integration appears to revolve around technology platforms. But Jerome Thiebaud, Director of Global Digital Workplace Marketing at Avanade, pointed out a subtle difference, saying, “It’s not because you have technology that you are going to be successful in the marketplace. It’s because you have technology that allows you to focus more on the customer, and on the human interaction.” Most companies have an overabundance of technology but lack the integration between those platforms to keep customers at the center.
Maureen Blandford, CMO of Software Improvement Group, affirms, “Integration is the new black. We’re trying to build as small a technology stack as possible, with optimal integration.” Here are some of the top integration efforts organizations should prioritize to transform selling.
PUT THE POWER OF DIGITAL DATA AND CONTENT IN THE HANDS OF EMPLOYEES TO ENGAGE PARTNERS AND CLIENTS.
At the most basic level, digitizing Sales means more than getting them equipment and loading them up with software and content — it’s about making sure that these enabling technologies are tuned to drive better engagement with customers. At CBRE, one of
the world’s largest commercial real estate firms, a key goal was to enable salespeople to demonstrate their deep understanding of their clients’ businesses by using digital to establish and scale thought leadership and thus trust. CBRE took all of the paper materials its salespeople used to hand out to clients and put them on iPads. They built a proprietary iOS app called Engaged, enabling corporate, 400 local offices and 75,000 employees to quickly access relevant assets digitally. The app enables salespeople to add interactive and engaging content, like video, to their presentations and pitches on
the fly, without having to go back to IT for help. At the same time, CBRE recognized that social media was becoming a more important force.
“If you’re looking for [real estate] space, you’re not going to be looking on Twitter,” acknowledges CBRE’s Trey Tubbs. “But our clients, prospective clients, and people in our industry follow us on social media. An article will go out and be well-received by people we never expected to be interested.”
LEVERAGE EXISTING TOOLS RATHER THAN SEEKING OUT NEW ONES.
Rather than try to select, install, and adopt a new technology, sometimes it’s faster and easier to tap an established one and modify existing processes instead.
At Intel, the Marketing group leveraged the existing Brand IQ platform, rather than create a new tool, to create a content aggregator, which became a one-stop shop for anyone to post and share content. Different Sales roles would share different types of content that they found helpful.
Danielle Miller, Global Social Business Strategist and Manager at Intel, recalls, “We were finding that everybody likes the bright shiny tool. ‘Let’s just get a tool!’ But there needs to be recognition that we look at the internal processes so that it serves as a solid foundation for the future, because we knew there was a limit to how many tools a salesperson can manage.”
DISTRIBUTE CUSTOMER DATA AND LISTENING THROUGHOUT THE ORGANIZATION. DATA IS A GREAT WAY TO OPEN WINDOWS BETWEEN SILOS.
The avowed goal of many digital transformation efforts is to have a perfect, 360-degree view of everything a customer does, on and off your site. The reality is that this will take years, and you can’t afford to wait. Several organizations we spoke with described how they took a first basic step of integrating operational and social media data about customers into their CRM profiles.
At thyssenkrupp Elevator Asia Pacific, digital was the way to open windows between the silos, enabling the organization to look at its customers through the same customer data lens. The company has diverse customers ranging from sophisticated building managers in Singapore to first time developers in China, altogether using 250,000 elevators, escalators, and moving walkways throughout Asia Pacific. The first step was to put all sales brochures and materials on tablets so that relevant assets were easy for teams to access and for Marketing to update. In addition, the tablets gave thyssenkrupp’s teams direct access to data on equipment breakdowns and on how quickly service issues were addressed. They could then create customer-specific presentations to demonstrate the value of their products and services.
Similarly, thyssenkrupp sources data from social listening that identifies problems at customer sites before they become major problems. That data flows into various CRM systems and can proactively trigger a visit by thyssenkrupp to the customer.
“We’re generating leads from what we can observe in the public social space,” explained Kelly Truax, VP of Service Support at thyssenkrupp Elevator Asia Pacific. “We have full- time people in place who monitor social channels, looking for our competitors’ unhappy customers, but also watching out for any of our own customers who may need assistance before they approach us.”
TAP INTO ANALYTICS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO IMPROVE CONTENT CREATION AND ENGAGEMENT.
Given the rising digital sophistication of buyers, Marketing can’t get away with creating “one-size-fits-all” collateral anymore. The problem with most content isn’t that there isn’t enough, but rather that there’s too much of the wrong kind. A study by Docurated found that a third of a sales rep’s time is spent searching for or creating content — time that could have been spent engaging in sales conversations. To address this, organizations are using marketing technology to support the content needs of salespeople. For example, Dun & Bradstreet uses digital intelligence to perform lookalike modeling that identifies the next best action and then programmatically creates and delivers relevant content — either to the salesperson or directly to the customer. On larger accounts, Marketing works closely with Sales to deploy the right set of tactics — such as architecting workshops, creating custom content, or designing events.
Machine learning can also provide context, discerning and anticipating what customers are looking for. IBM uses artificial intelligence to answer basic questions or offer free trials based on interactions with customers. When the conversation gets to the point where the customer is using buying language or asking deep technical questions, the program will engage the appropriate sales or technical rep.
“A tool like this can nurture thousands of prospects all at once who are all driving towards the same goal,” explains Jeannette Browning, worldwide manager of IBM Watson’s Digital Client Cognitive Evangelism team. “It’s an interesting combination of tech support and learning, while providing key digital assets.” Machines will become smart enough to be able to interact with humans — and also realize when it’s necessary for a human to take over and enact the “escalate to human” sub-routine.
A complete 10 page report overview can be found on SlideShare.
Thank you Charlene Li, Altimeter.