What does digitalization mean to the B2B sales force strategy? Is it necessary to digitalize or could it even be disadvantageous when it comes to customer relationship management?
The answer is yes and no. The future belongs to hybrid sales organizations. And why? Simple, the customer wants it.
Success is about customer centricity. Digital has changed the expectations and behavior of customers. And to be successful, suppliers need to meet these new customer expectations.
Digital has changed the decision journey of customers. The number of information sources and customer touchpoints have multiplied. Traditionally, the sales force has been the main touchpoint between suppliers and customers for most of the interaction, be it information seeking, problem solving, contracting, or after sales service. Today, customers prefer to use multiple channels depending on the situation and support they need, ranging from web search, supplier websites, supplier solutions such as procurement portals, and a variety of contact options (e.g., email, mobile, web chats, and video conferences), to classical approaches such as in-person meetings and phone contact.
Implementing hybrid sales organizations will not only improve the service, but also help suppliers gain important competitive advantage and drive revenues and improve profits. This advantage centers on what we refer to as the 3 Ps: Precision, productivity, and pressure.
Digital allows for an unprecedented access to data. Data that facilitates the improvement of customer management.
Precision. Data analytics enables identifying and qualifying prospects, as well as segmenting customers continuously and in real time. Factual customer insights are the foundation for developing and measuring joint business plans on a continual basis, to ensure the success of the business relationship.
Productivity. Helping the customer and meeting him in the channels where he wants to be met not only has a big productivity improvement opportunity but improves service as well. Performing operational tasks more efficiently, such as order taking, procurement, contract management, etc., not only frees up the sales force for higher quality customer face time, but increases customer service and satisfaction as well. Additionally, data analytics allows for better allocation of sales force resources toward the right customer, at the right moment, and with the right interaction.
Pressure. Digital supports more and lower-cost customer touchpoints, generating more commercial pressure and reach to customers that were previously unprofitable to serve directly. Data analytics permits planning for the right channels, with the right messages, and at the right time for any specific customer. The sales force may thus be directed toward more quality customer interactions, focused on sales rather than operations, and customer coverage potentially increased.
Achieving the upsides of a hybrid sales force requires not only a clear strategy, but a transformation of the commercial organization as well.
Digital is not a standalone solution, but rather needs to be fully integrated into the commercial strategy. It is not enough to incorporate some digital tools. To fully reap the potential of digital in terms of commercial precision, productivity, and pressure, the organization must become data driven, propelled by advanced data management capabilities. Integrating digital into the commercial strategy, introducing data hubs, is not enough. The human factor plays a crucial role in terms of attitudes and the capability of the sales force to change its way of working.
If approached and implemented in the right way, hybrid sales organizations enable suppliers to outperform competitors in customer management, resulting in more revenues and higher profits, through commercial precision, productivity, and pressure.