What is digital sales transformation?

By Anders Björklund

What is digital sales transformation?

Since the beginning of 2020, digital business and sales transformation is a hot topic in B2B. Companies spend millions of euros and dollars re-designing their customer experience, sales processes, and business models.

The digital transformation of a business and its actual people is almost an antithesis. We can provide sales with more software and tools than ever before, but they are still managing human-to-human interactions to educate, enlighten, guide, and do business.
For many companies, digital business transformation is mostly about providing software tools to automate traditionally manual processes including, e.g. contact profiles, marketing automation, email marketing tools, CRM systems, ABM software, and content management tools.
Companies are starting to realise that merely investing in additional software does not have the desired impact on sales or the business.

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The pillars of digital sales transformation

Successful digital sales transformation is a change that fuels existing business and creates new growth paths. It goes beyond simplistic annual changes in responsibilities, compensation models, and the deployment of new technologies. Instead, it must address the pillars of digital change: 

  • Understand digital customer buying behaviour
  • Re-allocate resources and roles
  • Change coverage, quota and compensation
  • Automate workflows
  • Create a data-driven transformation

I will not go into detail on these pillars in this article, but let us touch on each one briefly:

Understand digital customer buying behaviour

You most likely know that digital technology is rapidly changing customer buying behaviour. But traditional sales models based on geographic territories, face-to-face-meetings, and events are not keeping up with how customers have changed their buying.

Customers may be smarter than you think.

Sales representatives must recognise that potential customers are likely to have done extensive research, read reports, read reviews and that they have already interacted to your main competitors. To add to their ability to self-educate, they know their problem better than most sales representatives. Thus, sales actions must be supported by the right predictive purchase data to understanding what content potential and existing customers have purchased, and which products, solutions and services best fit each buyer persona.

Customers spend less time with sales representatives.

The days when sales were scheduling physical F2F-meetings, dinners and golf rounds are gone. And all the right customers have more responsibilities and less availability. Another reason for understanding who is interested or ready to purchase, what content will resonate and be relevant for them, and what is the optimal and personalised offer.

Customers expect expertise

When potential customers engage with a sales representative, they expect them to be experts, respond quickly, and solve their problems—simply knowing who, what, and how to go after each prospect is essential. And the right customer data signals can help you with all of this.

Digital sales transformation must begin with a clear understanding of what real added value the customer expects to be provided with from their time investment in communicating with a sales representative.

Re-allocate resources and roles

Some sales teams have evolved into several types of specialists that try to drive qualified leads to closed deals into lasting customer relationships. These specialists need to become experts as the next phase. The days of a sales representative managing the full lifecycle of their customers' engagement are gone; the level of expertise needed at each stage demands that multiple resources must work fully aligned. As a result, we now see increased complexity and a greater need for specialised sales roles than ever before.

In a sales model, these specific roles need to be defined, recruited, trained and aligned, and the sales managers must do an entirely new type of planning to determine how many of each type of sales reps are needed and where they should be deployed. Customers' buying journeys have become more digital, and the multi-channel sales leaders must respond with a different mix of resources and skills. 

Change coverage, quota and compensation

Your digitalised sales force must work as a team to acquire, nurture, and expand customer accounts. The stacking of touchpoints increases as customers demand multi-channel coverage and require different knowledge experts at each phase of their buyer's journey.

The implication is crystal clear – a digital sales transformation requires changes in:

  • The needed coverage resources to land new potential customers and to achieve long term customer satisfaction
  • Whom that get credit for deals and accounts
  • The activity metrics that are most important for each sales resource
  • The compensation incentives, and how they need to be designed and managed

Covering these and some other questions and implications can be challenging – but necessary. What is most often needed is a change in an existing sales organisation culture. While customers' digital buying behaviour has changed rapidly, sales representatives typically resist changes in year-over-year assignments, quota levels, and compensation schemes.

Automate workflows

As stated above, the available technologies to improve sales performance are impressive compared to just a few years ago. Most recent technology platforms are designed for a specific type of sales representative to do a particular task. The main challenge is that sales representatives increasingly have five to ten separate tools they are asked or forced to use – each one supposedly maximising their productivity.

There are many digital sales technology categories and software vendors – at this point, and the sales reps desktops, and phones are packed with various and disconnected apps.

Unfortunately, software vendors too often convince senior execs that their particular platform across x number of sales reps will result in XX% sales productivity improvement. The lesson is clear: CRM software usually doesn't move the sales effectiveness needle without the right customer strategy, sales resources, coverage and incentives, and correct data.

Create a data-driven transformation

Digital sales transformation is mostly doing things smarter to become more relevant. You and your company must prioritise becoming a data-driven, multi-touchpoint sales team that connects with your potential and existing customers where and when they prefer.

Within most companies, there is an immense and powerful amount of data through which you could dramatically improve sales productivity. Without comprising privacy or data anonymity, predictive data analytics can enable your sales reps and your company to quickly answer the four questions to improve both targeting effectiveness and lead-to-close conversion rates:

  • Who should you target?
  • What is the preferred engagement channel?
  • Which message and content will resonate and be most relevant?
  • How can the customer be nurtured through each phase of their buying process?

Auditing your data

To succeed with your digital sales transformation, you must prioritise getting the data where it is needed, which usually takes a decent software solution. Companies should start with a data audit, looking at starting capabilities and gaps.

Digital strategy examples

There are other digital strategies to consider and apply. Feel free to download these digital strategy examples. 

Digital strategy examples

Digital strategy examples

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.
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