IT, HR and communications – departments in companies often have different levels of maturity. In this article we present the most important drivers for a digital transformation strategy in a loose sequence.
Coronavirus, VUCA world, digitalization – various factors are currently driving change in companies. The importance of digital transformation and agility is increasing in many companies. In this context, the role of sales is also changing. When people talk about the drivers of digital transformation, they often focus on the IT, production or purchasing departments. However, sales is rarely mentioned here, as a Bearing Point study shows: Only 13 percent of the companies surveyed see the most potential for the use of agile methods in sales – outside of IT. Nevertheless, sales can make an important contribution to digital and agile transformation.
Digitality and agility
The interface to the customer is currently undergoing a transformation: In the Corona crisis, face-to-face customer meetings fell away, as did trade shows. Direct contact with the customer disappeared behind screens and video conferences. However, this development did not just begin in the Corona crisis. In the VUCA world, customer needs are changing, complexity is increasing, and cause-and-effect relationships are dissolving. The pressure on companies to create digital offerings and improve the customer experience is increasing.
Sales must retain existing customers despite volatile markets, identify new customer groups, and understand changing needs. To do this, the customer journey must be mirrored and the company’s own organizational structure must be aligned with the requirements. This results in the key challenges of digitality and agility. Agility here does not necessarily mean agile methods, but rather the general adaptability of sales to customer requirements. The following aspects concretize “adaptive sales”:
Sales is the interface to the customer. However, this does not mean that it is the only department in contact with customers. In many cases, for example, other employees from specialist customer teams, production or marketing work together with the customer. In this process, Sales integrates information about customers from the company’s various channels and departmental perspectives, prepares it transparently for everyone, and translates customer requirements into the organization. This includes the adaptation of organizational structures and processes as well as the collaborative exchange of information between departments.
Lean organizational and process structures help sales to respond quickly and flexibly to customer requirements. To this end, pre-sales and sales work more closely together and jointly develop service offerings. Standardizing the quotation process through templates, automating booking processes or a useful CRM can also significantly increase speed. In many places, sales is also changing in terms of service offerings: traditional product sales are often supplemented or even replaced by the sale of complex solutions.
Customer orientation remains central to “adaptive sales” as well. The aim is to pick up and support every customer – regardless of need or size – in the best possible way on his or her customer journey. The structure of alternative sales channels should be correspondingly diverse. This includes online offers as well as personal customer meetings. In this way, the consulting-intensive project business, in which customer-specific solutions are in demand, could continue to be covered to a large extent by the field sales force. At the same time, standard components with low complexity, for example, could be offered well via automated self-services or web stores. A prerequisite for both approaches is an assessment of the complexity of the need. It is also important for sales and the specialist departments to continuously learn about customer needs and the customer journey.
In its changed role, Sales relies on Small Data/Big Data to systematically analyze customer needs. With the insights gained, the range of services can be adapted to customer requirements and, if necessary, supplemented by partnerships. Digital media can support communication with customers, as can information about products and services. More targeted customer approaches increase customer loyalty here.
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Face-to-face customer dialog
Big data, small data, automation and digital services are changing the role of sales. Nevertheless, or perhaps precisely because of this, personal contact between sales and the customer continues to be of central importance. Complex challenges, changing needs and transformation projects require a holistic, differentiated view and stocktaking by sales and specialist departments, for example at IT service providers. Particularly in the case of customer problems in areas such as IT architecture, conversion to the cloud, replatforming or devops, cause-effect relationships can be difficult to identify, so that although the effects on day-to-day business are clearly noticeable, the cause of the complex problem is not immediately visible. In some cases, problem identification becomes part of the service provider’s service delivery.
In general, it is important for the “adaptive sales” of an IT service provider to adopt an integrating perspective in order to develop a holistic service offering: In addition to the technical requirements, the effects on corporate culture and organizational structure must also be considered and taken into account when selecting measures. In this assessment, sales plays a key role at an early stage of the customer relationship, which also places specific demands on the skills of salespeople.