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In an evolving business world, organizations must ensure their e-commerce platform is up to par in order to thrive.
This was the overarching theme of Siemens AG President and CEO Ruth Gratzke’s keynote session on the opening day of WorldatWork’s Spotlight on Sales Comp Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. “Digitalization, the Power Tool for Top-Performing Sales Teams” emphasized how the roles of sales has changed alongside this emergence of e-commerce. Door-to-door salesman and traveling salesman are a thing of the past and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this transition to online sales.
Gratzke noted that 93% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers prefer digital sales channels when they know what they want to buy, according to Accenture’s 2018 B2B Consumer Pulse Survey. Additionally, the survey found that 57% of the buying process is final prior to contacting the seller in person and 88% of all B2B transactions start online.
“If your e-commerce is not up to industry standards, it will hinder your ability to sell,” Gratzke said. She then highlighted the importance of also utilizing social media to form and enhance business relationships. LinkedIn, Gratzke said, is a crucial B2B platform where organizations’ sales teams can identify new customers, build relationships and even recruit new talent to their own teams.
The pandemic’s influence on this evolving role of sales became evident throughout the past year. McKinsey’s Decision-Maker Survey found that live chat rated as the No. 1 channel for researching suppliers and there was a 250% increase in mobile app ordering during 2020. Additionally, it was found that companies are twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier if they provide an outstanding digital experience.
Gratzke implored attendees to invest in a digital presence, noting the positive effect social media can have and how performing well in search engine optimization can be a differentiator. A company’s website should educate potential customers and email campaigns should be high quality and targeted, which might mean fewer blasts, she said.
“A digital mindset is all about framing the conversation with your customer,” Gratzke said. “Lead generation happens before you meet a customer. It’s about how well you structure your email campaigns, because that will lead to better leads.”
Because of the increase in online sales, organizations also should invest in training their salespeople on technique and professionalism over video calls. While beach backgrounds might be fun, Gratzke said, they will detract from business.
“If you want to be taken seriously, make sure your people are educated on how to properly setup on Zoom calls,” she said.
Organizations should strive to get to know their customers online, which means leveraging social selling, having an up-to-date social media presence and actively engaging on those social platforms while also utilizing customer relationship management software for data insights.
“People look at this [social media page] and assess you based on what you put online,” Gratzke said. “You need to take that seriously.”
Accenture’s survey found that 90% of decision makers never respond to cold outreach, which means relationships should be fostered online well ahead of speaking over the phone.
In keeping with the digital theme, Gratzke suggested organizations also take advantage of AI tools to refine their own sales pitches. This sort of technology can assess a sales pitch and instantly provide feedback to enhance the presentation.
Data from the Alexander Group revealed that more sales roles are now involved in customer engagement throughout the buying journey and some companies are considering putting digital sales, marketing and inside sales on a compensation or bonus plan.
This changing environment requires organizations to get a grasp on what is the optimal sales team and sales plan mix. Thus, Gratzke left the attendees with an initiative to take back to their organizations.
“Assess your sales resources,” she said, “and make sure you have the right mix to support your current business.”