What have been the key industry changes over the past 5-10 years? Is the digitalization of the sales process really that important? And what exactly does the future hold for field sales teams?
Luckily we were able to sit down with just the man to help answer some of these questions. Llorenç Palomas has over 10 years’ experience in the industry, specifically in online sales. He specializes in bringing companies out of the dark ages and into the light; successfully overseeing the digital transformation of their marketing and sales process. He is currently leading the innovation and development department at Doofinder, mentor at FuturMod and owner of the esdeMarketing portal.
- How has the way of establishing relationships with clients changed? How should we approach this new wave customer profile?
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to molding dreamy client relationships; it varies greatly by sector and the type of product/service you’re selling. It's not the same selling a B2C product as it is a B2B service, for example. In any case, there are some core principles that can be applied to almost all sales processes regardless of the target audience.
Before (and when I say before I’m referring to before the recent financial crisis) the sales industry was not consumer centric at all. The goal was to sell more and at any price.
A client’s or consumer’s actual needs were a distant echo in the background, a bit like when your mom is calling you off the playing field because dinner is served; you hear her faint calls but are determined to carry on playing anyway.
During the crisis sales representative quickly realized that pricing, which has always been a key factor when processing any type of sale, had greatly increased in sensitivity and importance in the purchase decision. So what did we all start doing? Lowering the price of course. But this is where we saw a real break from tradition.
Those reps that excelled knew it was no longer sufficient to focus solely on pricing (every Tom, Dick and Harry was doing that) but to shift their efforts towards the value of the product. And those companies and vendors who instilled this culture throughout their sales teams were the ones who endured and overcame the crisis.
After those turbulent years as we began to drag ourselves into the post-crisis era we encountered a new type of customer. One much more informed, more demanding, less faithful and completely wired to the internet. The crisis forced people into doing their homework to find true market value and Omni channel purchasing; they look for a product, research it on the web, browse various vendors and then maybe, maybe contact a sales representative for more information. Not the other way around.
This is also true with B2B sales. Faced with this new ‘panorama’ what the seller has to do is offer a much more advisory role. There is still a wealth of information we can offer our consumers but we have to change the nature of the conversation, listen to their needs, discover their pain points and then (and only then) are we ready to step in and truly offer them value with the right product or service.
- How can we nurture these relationships and make the process more efficient for the customer?
I think the biggest scope for improvement lays in the technology stack sales teams are using, especially those in automation. At the end of the day consumers have become extremely demanding. They don’t have time to sift through countless reviews, blogs and product options – they want to know what solves their particular pain point, and they want it NOW. So if we are going to make a real impact we must be quick, deliver the right information at the right time and with the right message.
Tools such as automated email, online chat and CRM with AI allow us to do all this and in the process, help build lasting relationships with our customers.
- How can we increase sales?
Get your field sales teams to update the CRM. And not just “updating” it, it's important that it be used on a regualr basis. If it’s going to provide insight into how your sales process is working, then it needs accurate data – not stuff that’s uploaded as an afterthought otherwise it’s a case of rubbish in, rubbish out.
Though the blame shouldn’t necessarily be laid at the feet of the sales team. It’s important when choosing your technology stack to receive the buy-in from the sales people on the ground, the ones that will be using the tool day in day out. Get them in a room and trial a few different systems. Remember, if it’s not getting used in this controlled environment it will never get used out on the road.
- What is the latest trend to attract more people and accelerate sales?
I want to highlight two channels: the first is content marketing and the second is marketing automation. As I mentioned earlier it’s vital that when our clients and potential customers are searching for information we are present. It lets them know we understand their needs and are in a position to offer them an affordable solution.
Automation tools also allow for the qualification and nurturing of all leads acquired from these digital channels. This means (in theory at least) that before the sales rep picks up the phone or makes that initial visit they’re not flying in blind. While the customer may not be ready to make a purchase decision just yet they will at least be familiar with your brand and/or the solution you are offering.
- How can leaders promote digitalization and what strategies should they use to do so?
First of all, they must understand what digital transformation is. The truth is it goes a lot farther than simply gathering a bunch of digital tools and starting to use them. It’s about changing the mentality in every department, letting them know the importance of all these new channels, the potential benefits they bring and providing the appropriate training to maximize their use. All this must be done with a long-term vision in mind.
During this digitization process, it is very important to listen to the market and to your customers as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. The sales representatives are key in conveying to managers what’s happening on the front line, what customers are requesting and what the competitors are doing. Armed with this information sales teams can ensure that the sales stack and the processes of implementation are optimized to their company’s particular situation.
- What benefits does this digital transformation offer us?
Building customer loyalty. The new generation of consumer (Millennials, Generation Z ...) are accustomed to the barrage of marketing material we throw at them and are more than capable of doing their own product research. So how do we step out from the crowd and become a trusted go-to for our customers? We have to take two things into account:
The first is to put customers first. That means in everything we do, whether it’s marketing collateral, a sales proposal or a customer success call - it’s vital their pain points and concerns come before everything else. This will greatly help with the second point, customer acquisition and retention. There’s no better advocacy for your brand than happy customers and get these two things right and you will see the sales numbers start to steadily increase.
- What do you consider are trends in the sales sector?
The digitization of the customer acquisition and retention process. A gradual development of “Big Data” and the ability to analyze customer data helps us quickly forecast which profiles fit certain products or services. There are already tools that can bring us that sales insight on a basic level but look for this to grow exponentially over the next couple of years.
This analysis can also be applied to customer acquisition models. Perfecting the timing and delivery of information, as well as the quality of content we are putting out there will lead to an increase in qualified leads entering the sales funnel. More leads, more potential sales!
In the end, technology helps us to better exploit data using less resources, access new customers and build brand loyalty.
So, what are your thoughts? What do you see as some of the big hurdles facing the digitization of the sales process? Enterprise-wide buy-in? Let us know in the comments below.