Revenue Leaders Must Own the New Digital Customer Journey
It May Already Be Do or Die Time…
Digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way customers engage with you, and if you don’t own it, it may well destroy you. This has become an increasingly clear and compelling finding from our ongoing quantitative and qualitative research with hundreds of Global 2000 companies, as well as our executive sales transformation roundtables and benchmarking initiatives.
Adapting to these new sales leadership realities will require forcing sales personnel and sales organizations out of their legacy comfort zones. More than 50 sales and marketing executives recently confirmed this reality in a series of AGI Sales Leadership Roundtables that zeroed in on eight critical findings:
The binary concept of the sales “close” is outdated
It’s no longer a two-person game between a vendor and a buyer. The digital age requires deeper interactions on many different levels long before and long after the sale. This has enormous implications for the types of sales and support resources to be deployed, and where to focus them in the customer life cycle. As one Roundtable participant said, “The tip of the spear that used to be sales is now a multifunctional team that includes several non-traditional sales roles.”
Prospects are self-educating at an accelerating rate
Before a prospect ever reaches out to you, they already know a good deal about you, your offerings and your competition’s. To enable this self-education in a way that builds loyalty and pipeline, sales leaders must now be investing in new web-based IP, interactivity and value-added features, as well as new sales and support roles, to make these features come to life for prospects. If not, your prospects will get their education and value-added features from your competitor.
Sellers now need to treat prospects like customers
Because your prospects have likely educated themselves through self-learning, user groups and social media, they will be very demanding. You need to start providing them with customer-type value long before they sign a contract. Trial or freemium offers may be a key part of that value, but your prospects will also expect significant support and value-add. Essentially, you’ll need to treat them like customers, although they haven’t yet (and might never) generated any revenue. This will be a significant culture change challenge for many organizations, to say the least!
Customer data is now as valuable as customer revenue
Prospect and customer data is the new mission-critical production input for vendors. Capturing and using this data wisely will lead to improved marketing, more prospects, higher close rates and more revenue per customer. Specifically, Sales now needs to capture and (add value to) prospect data early in the buyer journey to shape the right solution for that prospect, to determine how much to invest in them and to refine sales approaches on the fly. Moreover, Customer Success will use this data to improve adoption; Marketing to estimate and improve customer lifetime value; and product teams to customize new solutions more quickly. Acquiring customer data is no longer a cost item; rather, it’s now the linchpin to driving new and stronger customer relationships, and revenue growth.
Customers want to integrate solutions across vendors
Sales must now be able to show prospects how their solution will work seamlessly in a digital web with other products in their ecosystem. For example, one roundtable participant discussed how reps now show their security systems sharing data with lighting, HVAC and elevators to improve security, power usage and employee productivity. Beyond features and benefits, sellers now have to articulate how the product increases the value of the customer’s entire digital web.
Customers want self-service wherever possible
For many buyers today, “Digital” means self-service. They increasingly want to dial your value-added up and down based on their daily needs, without being sold to or even having to interact with your team. That implies your sales and account management model is able to consistently communicate your value so customers and prospects can get the most out of your solutions with whatever degree of engagement they want. This can include helping them order, customize and adopt new products, while accessing solid support and/or guidance on implementing best practices.
Sellers now need to treat customers like prospects
The cost of switching vendors in a digitally webbed ecosystem is falling, so customers feeling neglected will go away fast. To keep them, sales and account management has to continuously add new value to their business and woo them as if they were still a prospect. Sales should never take customers for granted. As another roundtable participant commented, “Retaining customer revenue today requires a new culture and new roles. We’re struggling, due to our internal roles, process and the unrealistic expectations for our CSM role.”
Customers want a digital concierge and orchestrator
Today’s digital customers want it all! Even while they increasingly seek self-service, they also want quick assistance leveraging the product when they need help. Additionally, they need help coordinating all the sales specialist and expert roles needed for today’s more complex digital solutions. For example, your sales model may now include resources skilled in adding value to prospect data, managing on-line demos or assessments and converting new types of try-and-buy customers, all without being intrusive. This Digital Concierge role may soon become a crucial member of your sales model.
These changes in the digital sales landscape are occurring much faster than anticipated–and 4,000 U.S. sales and revenue leaders are trying to figure it out! Many are struggling with deploying the sales roles, processes and tools to compete in today’s digital world.
Bottom Line: Building a Sales Digitalization Roadmap must be an urgent focus for your Revenue Leader team right now.
In three future blogs we will explore sales Digitalization leadership best practices under the eight digital sales imperatives more deeply.
In the meantime, you are welcome to participate in one of our ongoing Sales Leadership Roundtables, benchmarking studies or leadership events.
Marc Metzner is a principal in the New York office. He has over 20 years of experience working across media, software/SaaS, medical products, business services and manufacturing to improve sales and marketing strategy and effectiveness. As national director of the firm’s Sales Transformation and Benchmarking practices, he leads bi-monthly executive roundtables and benchmarking programs with Fortune 500 sales and marketing leaders on key sales strategy topics. Marc also frequently speaks and writes on best practices for optimizing sales coverage to stay ahead of disruptive industry and technology changes.