Digital Sales Transformation Needs the Right Connections

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Digital technology is drastically altering the balance of power between customers and companies. While customers gain the power of information and choice, digital technology dramatically improves the economics of business, Forrester Research concludes in its recent “Digital Rewrites the Rules of Business” report.

“The rules of business are being rewritten nearly every day with these new digital technologies,” the research firm maintains. “It’s your job as a digital business leader to apply these rules to engage, compete, and grow. Every industry has a unique digital transformation opportunity.”

But it’s one thing to be presented with an opportunity and something entirely different to seize the opportunity and benefit from it. Doing so involves far more than merely converting paper processes to electronic ones. Companies undergoing a digital transformation also need to make sure that all of their digital processes are interconnected.

Even more important, though, digital transformation requires a company-wide culture transformation. Though other factors were involved, several financial analysts have pointed to a failure to fully convert to a digital sales culture as one of the primary reasons for the downfall of Sears, once the largest U.S. retailer, which filed for bankruptcy in October.

“For successful digital transformation, first we need to understand that digital transformation is more than simply a technology change or software adoption,” says Kyu Cho, vice president of consulting services at Nisum, a technology consulting firm based in Southern California. “It requires a cultural shift and a change in how a business behaves, given changes in customer demands. The shift and change require complete support within the company, from top managers to rank-and-file personnel.”

Digital sales transformation means making sure there is a digital aspect to all customer communications, says Yoel Knoll, vice president of marketing at CallVU, a company that provides digital customer self-service platforms.

Digital sales transformation, Cho explains, is not a “project” or an “initiative/program” that is achieved by purchasing new software. It requires a fundamental change in the belief that salespeople in the organization serve as a bridge between the products and services the company offers and the customers who would purchase them.

“The sales organization should be the customer’s trusted business partner and ensure that customer needs are not only being met but fully anticipated,” Cho says. “A well-timed adoption and utilization of technology and software can support this bridge by enabling seamless flow of information between the company and the customer, thus enabling an increase in upsell and cross-sell.”


That kind of transformation took place at business software manufacturer CA Technologies. The New York-based company sells a broad portfolio of IT monitoring analytics and business automation software but had been slow to complete its own digital sales transformation, recalls Sid Kumar, its global head of digital demand generation.

“Digital sales transformation is all about being focused on the customer or buyer/prospect and how they want to engage with you as opposed to you selling to them,” Kumar says. “It’s about you enabling them to be intelligent and self-educated and to go along their own buyer’s journey in a self-guided manner, and then you figuring out where you need to intersperse human touchpoints along that journey to add value to the digital touchpoints.”

As part of his prescription for an effective digital sales transformation, Kumar recommends a mix of digital content and human interaction that’s orchestrated around customers and how they want to learn about and experience the company and its brands.

As one would imagine, CA Technologies was already using a suite of products from multiple vendors, including Salesforce.com and Marketo, to help drive sales. Salesforce provided the basic CRM system, and Marketo was the vendor of choice for marketing/demand generation.

“What we realized was, on top of those, we really needed something else to drive productivity and sales growth, especially for inside sales reps,” Kumar says. “What we still didn’t have and needed for our high-velocity sales organization was something that would help maximize sales productivity and give me and other leaders visibility into whether sales reps were spending the right time on the right activities.”

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