How sales teams can thrive in a digital world

By Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha & Sally E. Lorimer

Since the dawn of the Internet era, experts have predicted that technology will replace salespeople, and it’s easy to find examples. But sales organizations can survive and thrive in the new digital world by responding to the changes that digital brings to products, customers, salespeople and sales channels. A more data-driven approach to sales decision-making will be critical for success.

Leveraging digital as part of the offering

Some products, such as software and information, are inherently digital. But growing numbers of non-digital products are adding digital elements. And digital support of buying processes can enhance customer value for any product. Salespeople have to step up and help customers get value from digital features.

Embracing digital natives as buyers and sellers

As more informed customers shift power away from sellers and the ranks of digital natives grow, companies should spent time influencing their online presence and persona, thus ensuring that the information buyers get before engaging with salespeople puts the organization in the best possible light. Salespeople must focus on discovering what customers have learned through their prepurchasing research. And companies can take advantage of the skills digital natives bring to sales roles.

Enabling multichannel customer connections

Today’s customers get information from multiple sources. They “pull” information from company web sites, online videos and review sites. They get additional insights when companies “push” information via e-mail, text and their own salespeople.

With the right channels in place, companies must create a consistent buying experience. Customers will become frustrated if, for example, the information they see on a company’s web site is inconsistent with what they hear from a salesperson. Artificial intelligence and customer relationship management tools can help companies deliver a synchronized multichannel customer experience.

Using analytics to power sales decisions and processes

In almost every domain of sales, data-driven decisions are replacing instinct. Sales organizations use data, and analytics, to improve strategy and resource deployment, as well as talent management and customer engagement.

Sales organizations that proactively address these challenges are more likely to navigate the tumultuous digital landscape successfully, thereby driving success for their customers and company.

Andris A. Zoltners is a professor emeritus at Northwestern University and a cofounder of ZS Associates. Prabhakant Sinha is a cochairman of ZS Associates.Sally E. Lorimer is a marketing and sales consultant, and a business writer for ZS Associates.

Image credits: Denisismagilov |


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