By Randy Higgins
Many sales professionals have grown increasingly worried as new digital technologies enter their space and change how they interact with customers. And, in a world where AI is speculated to replace hundreds of millions of workers by the year 2030, a little worry is expected, even warranted.
At the same, sales teams that refrain from embracing digital set themselves up for severe disadvantages. By becoming defensive to digital initiatives, they’re missing out on increased growth opportunities, finding better ways to connect with customers, and providing superior user experiences.
For example, we have a manufacturing client that goes to market in one of their customers segments exclusive with an outside sale team. They have a fairly large sales team that manages multiple accounts, and from their perspective, they’ve saturated the market. They do not see many more growth opportunities based on the channels they’re using, and they feel their sales team is already doing everything they can to excel. But, and this is a big BUT… they haven’t tapped into the many advantages digital has to offer. This is something we are working on with them. It’s a big task because it doesn’t just mean introducing a new tech stack, it requires that we change a way of thinking that’s permeated the sales world for decades.
That way of thinking is “I have my black book of contacts, and that’s the value I bring to this organization.” The relationship means everything. The fear is that when a digital approach is adopted, the company becomes the owner of the relationship, rather than the individual. Suddenly, the relationship means nothing. And therefore, my place here means nothing. But that’s absolutely not the case.
Mitigating the fear
In reality, the adoption of digital sales technologies does not destroy those valuable relationships. It actually can help to build and nurture them. Imagine a customer experience where every time an issue needed resolution the customer would have to pick up the phone and call a sales rep to talk it through, costing them time and testing their patience. Customers today are demanding and have grown to EXPECT a seamless, easy-to-use digital experience; in the end, digital tools like automation lessen the burden on them, as well as the sales rep.
Plus, by allowing digital tech to take care of something like day-to-day issue management, customers learn to turn to the sales rep when they actually need them. And the sales reps, in turn, can use their knowledge and talents more effectively. For instance, a customer who is purchasing a complex product can call on the sales rep to better understand it firsthand. That human-to-human interaction is irreplaceable.
There’s also an efficiency angle. Sales reps can spend up to two-thirds of their available time on administrative tasks related to selling, like accounting, invoice searches, etc., which distract from providing active solutions and helping the business to grow. A digital approach allows these to be accomplished through self-service. That means less time spent on mundane, repetitive tasks, more time spent on relationship-building.
Finally, digital sales technologies can also catapult organization-wide progress by providing access to invaluable insights and analytics. Gone are the days of guessing—big data is replacing intuition as a sales tool, and the results include improved customer targeting, more efficient use of time on sales calls, and a better understanding of different accounts and buyer behaviors—even the smallest learnings can make a big difference.
All in all, digital technology and marketing automation isn’t replacing our sales teams. It’s allowing them to evolve, gain access to new insights, and build stronger relationships with potential customers—the human touch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.