In an economic landscape grappling with staggered responses to Covid-19, frequent and unforeseen disruption regionally, nationally and globally may be the ‘new normal’ for businesses. Many experts believe local economies may need to brace for start-and-stop cycles as coronavirus cases spike, fall and then rebound. For your business to maintain its health, preparing for disruption is essential. But how do you do that?
It’s time to prioritise digital transformation. Even if you as the seller aren’t connected to the disruption physically, you are digitally – if the buyer affected by disruption cannot make a connection to your offerings digitally, then you miss opportunities. In a start-and-stop, socially distant environment, the importance of digital is elevated to maintain continuity and revenue. In-person sales engagements – if they happen at all – are going to look very different, and there is no reason to believe buyers in isolation from vendors won’t struggle with the same thirst for relationships and engagement that many of us felt during our respective lockdown/stay-at-home/quarantine periods.
Trust has always been a major component of the buyer-seller relationship, and face-to-face interaction went a long way in establishing that trust. Now, sellers must build that trust digitally, and I don’t just mean by turning on a webcam. Every component of the digital sales cycle must instil trust in the seller and better scale across teams and channels to maintain a path to revenue.
It’s important for every business at this time to look inwards and ask if they can prove their trustworthiness to their buyers in this new environment. But what indicators should you look for when self-evaluating?
Firstly, is the quoting process transparent, accurate and easy to understand? Is the buyer presented with options that meet their needs, or being led to solutions that meet the seller’s needs (the most expensive solution)?
Product visualisation is also key to gaining customer trust. Can the buyer see what they’re getting, or are they purchasing on blind faith? Can you show them the product with the specific options they’ve selected or are they only seeing a generic stock image?
Product alignment is another important indicator. Can you help the customer understand the product you’re offering in the context of their use case? Can you help them understand how the product will interact with other products in their environment and with future products/solutions?
Finally, can you work the entire sales cycle without armies of people and convoluted processes, keeping touchpoints minimal but effective?
Failure to deliver in these areas means it’s well beyond time to transform. It can’t all be down to the individual salesperson to make up these gaps in your sales process. Businesses are too smart to buy from the salesperson promising to solve all their problems, who is not focusing on the full digital experience anymore. Moreover, it’s not a scalable or sustainable approach to think sales talent will always overcome such fundamental barriers.
Execution of digital transformation allows businesses to start thinking more strategically. Those benefits at the buyer-seller level create empowerment at the individual level, alignment at the functional level and adaptability at the organisational level. Businesses will need all of those if they hope to compete in the ‘new normal’.
But let’s say this crisis goes away in a few months and restrictions are lifted. The world is not going to un-digitise itself, businesses included. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being ready for whatever comes next.
As we have been harshly reminded, disruption takes many forms, and who’s to say what will cause the next wave of chaos on a regional, national and global level. The aim is to put yourself in a position to adapt quickly. For the periods between disruption, digital transformation is going to enable sellers in key areas:
• Compete against Goliath: even if the seller can’t be there in person, they are still able to create great experiences whenever they engage the buyer. That levels the playing field for smaller businesses to compete against the giants.
• Scale product knowledge: systems and tools put in place via digital transformation let salespeople flex product knowledge they may not have otherwise had at the point of sale.
• Retention: this is true of customers and sales staff. Less travel means more time to interact with customers. For sales staff, transformation makes it easier to onboard and sell – why go anywhere else?
This is a defining time for the world and businesses in many ways. Your response to disruption will define your outcomes as a business. It’s time to lean into the digital world, adapt and carry on, or get left behind.
David Allison is the global CPQ product manager for CPQSync by Cincom Systems
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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