The Key Elements of Digital Sales Transformation

Digital transformation and digital sales transformation is much spoke about business strategy terms (there is even Kudos within management circles for mentioning them). But what is it and what can it do for a business is less understood. How can a business benefit from digital sales transformation strategy is a question being asked in many companies?

I think we all have to acknowledge that the sales profession is going through a major transformation. Social media, mobile, and digital information means buyers are better informed and rely less on sales people in the purchasing journey. And that same purchase process has become longer and even more complex within the consultative type selling models.

digital-sales-transformation

Digital Sales Transformation could be defined as “How sales capabilities and competences need to be developed to address the “Connected Buyer”, meeting changes in the industry facilitated by digital tools”. In a nutshell, transforming sales performance will involve a combination of better training for the new age sales person, better use of technology/data, and better customer content to drive conversations.

It is not just another business buzzword to be bandied about at management meetings. The buyers journey is changing fast (wait till Millennials make up the majority of buyers!!) so it’s important to focus on real business and customer challenges and changes now.  Now it the time to have a clear approach, prioritise action and involve the entire marketing and sales force in any digital transformation process. Where to focus in terms of market arenas (capture more business in the short term), what is the right offering (product to market fit) and value proposition for these markets, and how to manage customer relationships and sales to win in the digitally influenced market, are some of the questions to be answered.

The digital tools I mentioned above as part of the definition of sales transformation are invading the business ecosystem, bringing with them major changes in the way we work, communicate, and sell but most importantly the change in how customers buy. As with most things in like, this has brought both opportunities and challenges, and has triggered the Digital Transformation within companies for all aspects of customer touch points.

Sales enablement needs to focus on “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training.

The starting point is focused on improving the business awareness of the sales teams because the old sales methodology of selling product features to increasingly more sophisticated buyers will not cut the mustard.  Sales professionals must be able to map the buyer’s journey, understand “Ideal Customer Profiles”, deliver compelling insights (using a variety of content) to differentiate themselves (Why me!!)  And communicate this value to close more business without being dragged into the pricing discount race. So sales enablement leaders are looking to “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training using social networks to help the sales force communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value.

The development of these new sales or marketing competencies revolves around the capacities for sales people to be more agile, buyer-centred, innovative, connected, aligned and effective with present and future changes in mind. The digital sales transformation will have many connected goals, but in the end striving towards optimisation across sales processes, support divisions and the business ecosystem of the always-connected customer where building the right bridges with the right people at the right time during the buyers journey is the key to success.

A reminder of the buyer’s journey: Today’s buyers, from consumers looking for a new car to company buying committees purchasing software, can easily research and compare products thanks to the visibility offered up from a host of social networks.

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The positive news is that with re-tuning for this digital era, sales teams have significant capabilities to impact the buyer’s journey to become a valuable influencer, aided by big data, digital selling tools, and organisational changes to the buyers’ growing level of self education.

The major themes of Digital Sales Transformation:

  • Find growth in arenas before your competitors arrive
  • Sell the way customers want to buy
  • Optimise sales operations and digital tools
  • Sales and marketing as a unified team who challenge the status quo and manage revenue performance
  • Empowering sales enablement to make change happen

Look Ahead

The whole purpose of sales transformation is to drive profitable growth within companies. It is about using insights, social signals and data to anticipate buyer interests and map out where untapped potential lies. They focus on being useful and valuable to buyers in order to lock in new customers first (and out manoeuvre their competitors).

Find growth in Social Data

The use of social data as part of the sales engagement plan can open up amazing sales opportunities. Companies from all sectors, B2C and B2B can build insights from a wide array of internal and external sources and create tailored selling propositions based on prospect personalisation. However to maximise the benefits of social data, social selling needs to be at the very heart of the sales culture.

Selling that matches the Buyer’s Journey

Generation connected customers have discarded their participation in traditional sales models. They want self-determined, more seamless, and rewarding buying experiences; they want more of the right information at the right time, more value from sales interactions and they want on channels of their choosing. For sales leaders, getting their heads around this is hard enough but transforming sales models in mature or emerging markets is a major challenge. But leading sales organisations are finding ways to improve digital channels, the availability of content plus maximising direct and indirect channels. Using social data and social selling they are cracking the code of how to integrate them all. No company can win today using old sales methodologies, so the smart ones are using transformation to manage a multi-channel approach to ensure consistency, maintaining close contact with customers and raising the sales bar. The best sales leaders are transforming inside sales and field sales, integrating online with inbound with social selling, orchestrating direct and indirect sales and marketing teams and using data to drive activity.

The best test and tweak constantly to bring value to the buyer’s journey and turn conversations into sales conversions. They embrace social networks, mobile and understand the benefits of building deeper customer relationships across all platforms with quality content. Finally, they recognise that digital is an additive process, so they work hard at seamless integration with every other sales channel to win.

Mapping the Customer Decision Journey

“12% of all B2B sales in the US will take place online by 2020 – Forrester”

 digital-transformation

75% of purchases now start with an online search by the buyer. 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).  More than half the sales process has disappeared. B2B buyers are 57% of the way through their purchasing decision before they ever engage a sales person. In fact, a B2B customer will regularly use different interaction channels throughout the purchase process. The mapping of Ideal Customer Profiles and the Customer Decision Journey  around which marketing and sales collaborate has become standard practise in many progressive sales organisations. They also know that this journey is different by customer segment/profile, with varying needs and expectations at each point in the journey.

It is about ensuring the sales teams reaches the right people at the right time with the right offer.

Innovate Inside Sales

Cold calling is dying fast and some companies are still flogging dead horses. Sales transformation success can pivot on changing the inside sales approach. The leaders of the successful inside sales forces have recognised this. They use social selling to nurture customers early, long before any sales pitch. They seek to bring value and be a trusted source of information to unlock growth in key accounts which is the prerequisite for the consultative sale. Regardless of size or industry, there are always new ways for business development people to engage new customers.

 Blend your Sales and Marketing Engine

In transforming the sales engine, business leaders must ensure that marketing and sales teams work together to extract the full value of every piece of data or customer touch point. Despite their co-dependency, it can seem like marketing and sales are marching to a different tune. Successful sales leaders work with marketing (and vice-versa), benefiting from the market insight skills it brings and feeding these insights to the sales engine to maximise every campaign or lead. Research has shown that when the two teams collaborate to drive sales and revenue, companies enjoy higher sales growth.

Use Technology as an Advantage in Sales

The use of digital sales tools must evolve to keep pace with customer preferences.  Part of the role of sales enablement is to ensure the investment enables success instead being viewed as another big brother information tool. Appoint an owner whose focus is on acquiring and implementing the right tools to deliver the returns on productivity or performance the business expects.

Sales Transformation is about having the right Talent to Execute

Think “New Age Sellers”. Sales leaders can have all the social data, all the social selling training or all the digital tools available, but without having the talent who embrace this new progression, they will achieve little. Hard questions like do we have the right talent for our future sales plans or how many of our existing sales force can make the transformation we require have to be asked and answered.

 Make Digital Selling Part of your Sales DNA

Sales transformation is not about achieving some short term wins but embedding it in to the genes of the organisation for the long term. The companies who will win out in selling to the always connected buyer will create a culture that embraces social channels. They will prioritise sales training and throw the spotlight onto people who are playing a starring role as agents of change, and they focus on social collaboration between sales, marketing and support that goes way beyond the individuals skills to create sales capabilities embedded into the DNA of the entire organisation

Growth will be driven from the Top

Every sales leader has to step forward and be at the forefront of change. Because without strong leadership any transformation initiative will hit the rocks sooner than you think! Strong leaders will be given the platform to challenge the status quo or “the way it’s always been done “thinking. They will galvanise their team, they plan and map change while demanding results from the sales force who has been equipped to win. Senior sponsorship and stakeholder alignment is critical as well as a clear vision of where to prioritise the transformation effort.

A final thought

Undertaking sales transformation may sound brave but the insights to future buyer preferences remove it as optional. The rise of social channels and data brings enormous opportunities for value creation and sales growth, but there are many challenges along the way. Any companies planning to be in business five years from now should already be preparing for a major overhaul of how they sell, no business and no industry is immune.

 

 

7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

content-marketing-sales

So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

quality-content-marketing

How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

content-writing

The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

writing-fun

  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov