Your sales future is zeros + ones

You get to decide how many zeros to add

Last month, Gartner released the Future of Sales 2025 report, which I’ve spent a fair amount of time perusing.

The first thing to notice is the report is sub-titled Why B2B Sales Needs a Digital-First Approach. Duh, you might be thinking, but in truth (and perhaps South Africa is somewhat old fashioned in our manners and approach) the vast majority of sales still take place on the personal level – it’s about relationships, trust, the old “look me in the eye” approach. This isn’t bad – it’s how we’ve always done things, but, as Gartner points out, the Boomers are retiring, and the digital-native Millennials are maturing into “key decision-making positions”.

If the prediction, that “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels” is correct, we need to start transforming our businesses today – and fast.

Key among these changes is the shift from what Gartner terms seller-centric to buyer-centric. This point deserves far greater attention. Heading up a business that automates as much as we can, and is clearly focused on improving client sales, marrying the personal with digitised AI is delicate.

In the pursuit of the ever-elusive “personalisation at scale”, here are some key points that help us navigate this space with success.

It’s an iterative process

Engaging with prospects takes time. We all know that you’re not going to pack your pipeline in a week, and migrating your sales processes to digital platforms will not change that. The same rules apply – we are simply changing the delivery mechanism. Patience, care, repeat – and repeat.

And part of the repeats? It’s ensuring that all questions are answered. You’re not dealing with one person, you’re answering the questions, predicted rather than raised, of multiple stakeholders. You may have identified a champion in an organisation, but recognising that until every objection has been satisfied, you’re still in the ring. Identify what these are, and lay-out your strategy.

Trigger warning

We might be the experts in selling, but we’re not the experts in your industry. Obviously, learning your business is important to us, but let’s face it – we’re never, ever going to know more than you do. The nuance, the trends, the pain points – that is your domain. CSOs and CEOs that hand this process over to a junior to “get it done” do not enjoy the same levels of success as those who commit time and knowledge sharing to the process. What’s worse, the risk of error increases – and errors when selling at scale cause brand damage. Mitigate those by rolling up your sleeves.

Brainstorm this:

  • Segment your client base (whether by industry, stage-of-journey, or outcome) and clearly define the specific pain they face, which you can solve. Detail is good. Look for your prospects’ triggers and lay them out.
  • Why are you in business? What is the nub? If I was a really tough prospect, what would that golden nugget be that would pull you into my confidence? Often, this is not the “20% reduction in downtime” alone – it’s the “here’s my personal cell number – my phone’s on 24/7”. That message is critical – the one that grabs them in the feels, and can be backed-up by proof points.

Once you’ve clearly defined what your clients need from you, how you can offer a proven solution, and then WHY they should trust you, you’re ready to start building personalisation at scale. It requires a deep relationship between marketing and business (often fraught, we know). It requires a time commitment, which if invested, will pay off many times over. And, it requires the agility to update, course-correct, and action rapidly.

The importance of choice

Spoiled for choice? Analysis paralysis?

Well, here’s the thing: your prospects are not choosing between 27 shades of yellow for the baby’s room – they’ve already selected their preferred engagement channel. Are you equipped to communicate on it? We always kick-off on email, but if a client expresses their preference for another digital platform, you need to be ready to pivot. LinkedIn, FB Messenger, WhatsApp? Be ready to swap your engagement process across seamlessly, or to kick off on multiple channels without duplication.

For today, the argument to invest in the technology that will equip a digital sales force may seem premature. But I can promise you that starting to explore your options will not only deliver an ROI many times over, it will also put you ahead of the competition. It’s time, now, to ready your sales team for the inevitable.

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