Podcast: A digital outlook on 2022 (with Martin Ray)

By Doug Bolton

Podcast: A digital outlook on 2022 (with Martin Ray)

The year is drawing to a close, and many companies have already started their planning for the year ahead. If you've got a spare 20 minutes this Christmas period, then take a listen to this week's pod, taken from a recent webinar we held with Martin Ray, our chief analyst. He's got plenty of insights about tomorrow's digital reality that can help you and your company set the right priorities for 2022.

Take a listen, and you'll get four key takeaways that you can use to improve your sales processes and internal approaches to digitalisation. 

Enjoy this week's episode, and don't forget to subscribe! The Onlinification Pod is available on most leading podcast platforms, and we also have a large archive of video episodes on our YouTube channel - you can find all the links you'll need below, along with a full transcription of this episode.

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Martin Ray: [00:00:00] So today we will focus mainly on some of the learnings from the last couple of years almost now. And what you can do about it. So first off, if we look at the main kind of B2B learnings from the pandemic, it's quite simple. It's most companies would agree that you would you need to change. Almost every company, specifically within the B2B sector, found that we are heavily reliant on a very analogue way of doing our business. We are reliant on our salespeople being able to work as normal, going out on sales calls, going to events and exhibitions. And the fact that this does not work really in an increasingly digital world. Specifically, if we have a lockdown in the world and the way things are looking currently, this might well happen and it's already starting to happen in some parts of the world. So we need to be able to do that. So the main conclusion is we need to change and we become we need to become more digital in how we conduct business. And this is also based and supported by the major B2B sales trends that we are witnessing now and that we have seen over the last few years, one being the fact that remote selling continues to advance only a couple of years. If we go back to before the pandemic hit, it was still a huge discussion. Will people really buy? Will they close these big deals in a remote setting? Will they do any kind of business that involves a more complicated kind of negotiation and certainly when it comes to spending a significant amount of money, surely you need to meet in person? Now, based on some of the research, this one being from LinkedIn's global state of sales report about 36 percent of sales.

[00:02:00] People say that they have close deals that are on top of half a million dollars without ever meeting the buyer in person. And in fact, if you look in some specific countries, they're looking to the US, for example, this is closer to 50 percent of salespeople reporting that they have close deals that are worth more than half a million completely remotely. And look at it the other way around. Buyers are quite happy to now buy remotely. It's becoming the norm in how you do business within B2B. So about a third of people report that they are happy to do deals between 50000 and up to half a million dollars. Another 12 percent say 500000 to a million is fine, and even 50 percent says spending more than $1 million completely remotely by self-serving or by doing remote negotiation is fine. And this is based on research from McKinsey. In fact, looking at some more McKinsey data, B2B decision-makers actually prefer remote human interaction and digital self-service over that kind of personal meet. So even early in the sales process, when it comes to identifying new suppliers, about 75 percent of people prefer doing that remotely or completely on their own.

[00:03:21] In terms of digital self-service and moving all the way down to ordering and reordering. About 80 percent of B2B decision-makers report that they would prefer doing that remotely. And why is that? Well, one being that it's much easier to schedule meetings. If you can do it remotely and digitally, it's easy to fit into the calendar. It is about saving on travel expenses, and for some people, it might be about saving the environment. And in this day and age and in this climate, obviously safety, the ability not having to meet physically worry about getting, you know, getting COVID or anything else for that matter. It's also planning to do this. So it's becoming the norm in terms of how people today prefer to do their B2B business interactions. And in fact, looking at Gartner, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of all sales interaction between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels, meaning that this is by far the kind of norm how we will do business. And in some industries, we are already there. So you need to think about it in terms of how is business being conducted now and in the future? This is not something that will be going back to normal before the pandemic. This is just the evolution of how most companies in most industries will conduct business now and into the future.

[00:04:58] So that leads us to our first take away - if I'm completely frank, if you don't have digital at the core of your business strategy in 2022, you don't really have a business strategy. What I mean with that is you either have to disregard all the research, all the indications on how business is conducted now and in the future. Or you are in such an isolated industry that digital doesn't come into play. But for the vast majority of companies, you really now need to put it at the core, that's the basis of how you should think about conducting business now and into the future. And as a supplement to that, you might still do analogue sales processes and analogue interactions, but the vast majority of the core needs to be digital now. The other thing that's happened because of this is that a lot of companies want to change now that they try to think about how they can change and become more digital. But if we look at ourselves from Zooma's perspective and look at kind of the RFPs that we have been part of in this year. The interesting thing is that the vast majority or 80 plus percent of RFP or four out of five tend to be based very much on how we are currently working, how we are set up, and they want to kind of get a new modern system in place that is tailored to their old way of working.

[00:06:37] So they want something completely new, but they don't really want to change. This is, in my opinion, the wrong way to think about it, and I'll come back to that. But it's an interesting observation that when we when a lot of companies think about change, they think about the technology or the platform rather than thinking about how can we change? How do we need to change our processes? How do we need to change the way we are working at the same time? Everyone is now investing in and sales technology. Based on the same LinkedIn survey, 74 percent of global sales professionals say their organisation are investing in more sales, intelligence tools and other kinds of sales technology to help sales become more digital in their way of working. And that makes perfect sense because 94 percent of these sellers say that sales tools on digital sales tools help and close more deals in 93 percent say that tools enable them to build actually stronger relationship with buyers by having everything digital recorded stored the ability to kind of follow up from a top-level to keep that data and that interaction going with buyers is helping to build stronger relationships over time. Now, everything isn't just rainbows and sunshine, though, because a lot of people say that they have challenges with data or getting access to data.

[00:08:16] In fact, 80 percent of sellers say they lost or delayed at least one deal in the past year because a stakeholder had changed jobs and they weren't really aware the system didn't alert them. They didn't have enough data throughout the organization to do something with that, and another third of people say that they have lost at least three deals due to stakeholders leaving. Part of this is incomplete data, inaccurate data, inaccurate CRM data, specifically because you only have part of the picture in terms of seeing how the kind of sales process is progressing, what the stakeholders are doing and getting that kind of feedback that you can act on. So the issue then becomes how do we need to think about picking a digital platform, a digital system for our organization? What is the best system for us? And from all that we've seen and all that we've been working with for the last few years? The most important thing is really to try to think about it as a single source of truth and have one data become the reference and the most accurate and up to date data on a specific customer. And that means that you need a single data card for every customer. If you have, like most companies, have a bit of data here, a bit of data there and a very siloed structure where you can't really complete that picture of your customer and your customer journey, then it becomes almost impossible to kind of work smoothly with taking the customer from the very first touch all the way down to being an existing and trusted customer that have good interaction with your company and for the vast majority of companies.

[00:10:04] This means that you should probably be looking at an all in one platform approach, rather than having a best of breed solutions for one solution for sales, one for marketing, one for customer support from different ecosystems. And they don't really talk and interact with each other. Taking the shortcut to one platform where you actually then instead looked at adapting your process and way of working to the system, you choose and think about how you can change and make that happen smoothly within the organization is a much more cost-effective and faster way to actually get and become more digital at the core of how you conduct business. So creating this accurate and complete picture for every customer journey should be at the core of how you think about what we need to create. Why is that? Well, first of all, by having that, you can become much more personal in the way you interact with your customer. Just by having an accurate and full picture of customers, it's much easier to utilize the data to become that extra level of personal in your communication.

[00:11:17] And that also makes you stand apart from the competition. Secondly, you can create a consistent experience across your company's touchpoints. So instead of having very different ways of interacting with your customers by having one system and a complete picture, you can make sure that the customer feels the same way from the first interaction with your company all the way through your marketing process to your sales process to ensure that your customer service and support interactions with your customers. And thirdly, by having a complete picture, you can do much more advanced analytics and create much better insights. We can segment your database much more accurately. You can look at the full picture and you can get into those specific close or Egypt close customers or prospects and actually focus on those and making sure that you are serving them at the time they want to be served. And fourthly, looking to the future by having this. Also, it lends itself to doing much more predictive forecasts. So utilizing things like machine learning, artificial intelligence to have the system actually work and prompt you with alerts for a customer that seems close to to to buying something or for that matter, seems to be unhappy with something, the more complete picture you have and the more you can feed that machine, the more accurate you predicted forecasts will become. So that leads us to our second takeaway from this presentation.

[00:12:57] Adapting your process and way of working to fit the system is much more cost-effective and sustainable in the long term. So when you think about change, you need to think about how do we work firstly and secondly, what system and tools do we need, because the key is really to think about how can we change our way of working and fit a good enough system and platforms to do that? And in fact, this ability to cope with change is what is front and centre for most sales managers today. So having an organization that can actually deal with the fact that we might be in lockdown for a couple of months, we might need to change. We might need to go into new market. We need to do it fully digital. All that ability to kind of manage change is kind of at the core of how we think about sales going forward. So this means that that we have seen that we start measuring sales processes and outcomes in different ways. It might have been you're looking at historically, how many sales meetings do you have, how many calls you made, how many doors do you knock on? And now it might be more in terms of what's our average response time to incoming RFP, how what's our conversion rate for qualified leads to sales qualification and sales outreach and eventually close deals? We are adding new technologies to help everyone within the organization to cope better.

[00:14:33] And we also looking at kind of instituting new hiring processes and just realizing that we might need new types of people within the organization that are comfortable and excel at actually closing deals remotely to that can do virtual demos that can do the whole sales process without ever meeting a person. So implementing those new sales technologies to actually help people to do and excel in their work completely in a digital way. And in fact, remote sales work continues to increase and is now almost becoming the majority of the way sales professionals are selling and interacting with potential customers. So the number of safe freshmen now that report that they're working remotely 50 percent or more of the time has increased significantly over this period, so from 28 percent in 2019 to about 50 percent in 2021. And also the feedback is coming that actually saves. People tend to prefer this and it seems to work. So again, it's not something that we expect that will go down dramatically. This will be the new norm to work remotely. Most of the time. And if you turn to the other side, it actually works even better for buyers. 55 percent of buyers responded. They say working remotely has made their purchasing process much easier. So again, both salespeople and buyers are saying that this works better and they prefer it.

[00:16:06] So chances are that this is just going to continue to increase even if we go into a post-pandemic world where we could potentially do everything as we did before. The fact that both sellers and buyers prefer this way of doing business means that this is here to stay. And to sum up that we can look at what Gartner says about their idea about future sales and to quote Gartner, they say the future of sales is the permanent transformation of organization sales strategies, processes and allocation of resources, moving from a seller centric to buyer-centric orientation. It involves moving from an analogue sales process to a hyper automated digital-first engagement with customers. So again, this is playing into the fact that we're seeing this increase in terms of how business is becoming increasingly digital and how business is conducted already today. And Gartner's prediction that by 2025, 80 percent of all interaction will be digital and that that will kind of focus the future sales much more on the digital scalability of how can we do sales? How can we hyper automate things? How can we become even more personal? How can we make sure that we are predicting when a potential buyer wants something, even maybe before they know it themselves? And this is then eventually also kind of leading into utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence in a way where actually sales become a much smoother process for everyone involved.

[00:17:42] And that leads us to our third key takeaway. If you can't close deals virtually and remotely in 2022, you can't really do sales. I mean, with that, as it needs to be at the core of your skillset as a salesperson to actually be able to conduct sales remotely and digital, it doesn't mean that sometimes on certain circumstances, it might still be that you need to meet eventually in person and so on. But it's saying that it's not the core skill set, the core skill set already today and certainly in the coming years will be the ability to conduct and close deals remotely. So to circle back that and sum up most companies that come to the realization that they need to change and then the question becomes, how do we change? There's really four major areas when you think about any kind of change project. The first thing you need to have a unified top management team that is committed to change communicating in the same language what it is and having a captivating vision and clear objectives of what needs to be done. If you don't in almost every organization, what will happen is that will trickle down through the organization and it will be seen that that's a disjointed communication or not. Everyone is on the same page. And chances are then that the whole organization would grind to a halt when it comes to this change product.

[00:19:10] So having a very clear and consistent message from the top down is key. Secondly, for the vast majority of companies, choosing an all in one platform that works is much more important than trying to tailor something specifically for your current needs. Because chances are that you will change the way you're working and you will need to change your process and where working regardless. So unless you have, it's so core to your business. And the way you do business is, you need to really have a tailor-made solution just to be able to do business. The vast majority of companies will be much better off choosing an all in one platform. Certainly, excuse me, redesigning the organization and way of working before you define you, define or decide on a solution. It's also key. So coming back to that that you need to think about how should we be working? What are the processes, what are the skillsets we need? How will we be working? And then, you know, she's a good enough system to that and be willing to change the way you work. It's a much quicker, much more cost-effective way of doing things than trying to, you know, mitigate different solutions that aren't built to fit together and trying to solve that and base it on the fact that we have been working. Rather than thinking about how you need to be organized and how to change, how you need to change the way I work.

[00:20:47] And fourthly, and I can't stress this enough, it's setting aside time for onboarding and education. So realizing it, if people need to change, you need to let them have the time to do that. They need coaching. They need to have the time. That's a learning curve for them to change into new behaviour. And you need to really focus on that. So that's the fourth and final key takeaway for today. It's set aside time for learning summa for the first time. Earlier, this autumn had a full day where we basically closed down, and everyone within the company was focused on learning and taking certification to advance our knowledge and understanding across the company. And I think we managed to do more than 50 certifications, so that averages out to more than two on average for all employees. And yes, the fact of doing that and really focusing on learning and education for a full day is one of the best things we've done ever in terms of getting people to find the time to actually do something. So that's that one thing that if you don't take anything else away from this, I leave you with that to focus on setting aside the time for helping people learn and educate themselves as one of the most important factors for actually having change happen within the organization.

Doug Bolton
Doug has been a Content Producer at Zooma since 2021. Originally English, he now lives in Sweden.
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