How to Become a Successful Digital-First Seller

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Selling will never be the same. While there are glimmers of hope for recovery from COVID-19, difficult questions remain about what the “new normal” is going to look like. No industry has been left unscathed. Companies have been forced to consider their very survival, let alone business models for the future. One of the toughest challenges falls upon sales teams: In three short months, there’s been a shocking disruption in traditional sales models. Most customer interactions are being forced to go online—whether companies like it or not.

The new corporate mantra is “digital-first.” But what does that really mean for sales? How does digital selling change the rules of the game? What concrete steps can sellers take to master the new selling environment? What happens if they’re left behind?

Digital or not: buying is a psychological journey and it’s filled with risk. As any good seller knows, selling is a lot more than CRM. Successful selling is relational, not transactional. It unfolds over the entire sales cycle, and continues after you win. In truth, the buyer journey is a psychological journey. It involves the evolution of your prospect’s mind-set and should be a two-way journey: You and your prospect learn together (that’s why it’s called discovery). You’re building an authentic relationship.

For most prospects, the decision to buy an unfamiliar product is risky. Many buyers—especially corporate buyers, are understandably risk-averse. They’ve been burned, more than once. Decisions that look good now can go wrong later, causing embarrassment or worse. Fear, along with its prettier twin, aspiration, is often a significant motivating factor in making purchasing decisions. So, to sell is to guide your prospect safely through the buying experience. When going digital-first, the challenge is to create a personalized customer experience that’s as real as if you were still face-to-face.

In digital selling, you are your content. As a digital-first seller, you need to fill your funnel with a lot more than data and activity reports. You need to fill it with fresh, personalized digital content. Content that is tailored to exactly where your prospects are in the buying journey—and anticipates their next steps. Miss a step and you risk losing hard-won sales momentum. Add in stale, unresponsive, or obsolete content and you might lose your prospect for good. In digital selling, you are your content. And you’re only as good as your most recent content.

Sales content in 2020: Still partying like it’s 1999. CRM has advanced a great deal. Digital sales content has not. In fact, it has fallen way behind. As your buyers move online, your sales content needs to be as fresh as a Twitter feed. But much more responsive, sophisticated, and engaging. So why are you still using PDFs, PPTs, static text, and ugly emails? Why be handcuffed by obsolete technologies in an era of mobile-first digital selling? Ditch the 1990s or risk being left behind. (You can keep your Pearl Jam CDs.)

New digital sales content requires new tools and new approaches. New digital content tools (so-called “code-free” tools) offer you the chance to create an unlimited variety of digital experiences for your prospects. It’s a whole new form of customer engagement. Content that motivates prospects to take action, lean in, take a chance. This is true whether in the midst of the greatest growth economy in history (January 2020) or the worst recession in modern history (March 2020).

What’s more, in the era of COVID-19, sellers need to take charge of their own content. With the radical business disruption caused by the pandemic, the new mantra is: Do more with less—and do it now. Teams are expected to become much more self-sufficient but with far fewer resources than before. And continue to hit aggressive targets, with no room for excuses. For sellers, this means taking direct ownership over your sales cycle and your sales content, the same way you did with CRM.

The art of visual selling: show, don’t tell. In other words, stop talking! In the digital world of 2020, selling is a visual art. There’s a reason people still say “Seeing is believing. ... A picture is worth a thousand words. ... Show, don’t tell.” In an age of social media and attention spans lasting nanoseconds, it’s imperative to master the art of visual storytelling. Selling is now entertainment.

Digital “magic moments” and the new generation of interactive sales content. With the new digital sales tools, you and your sales team can create impressive sales content on your own. And, you can digitally transform any kind of traditional sales content to create “magic moments” that wow prospects and speed them along in their journey. Who says sales can’t create its own great content? (Usually, marketers). Try these on for size - a new generation of sales content, created by salespeople. Talk about “digital sales transformation:”

Now, let’s take it to another level. Say you’ve learned to create amazing digital sales content and that you’ve mastered Salesforce as your forever CRM. Is there more to do to make yourself a digital sales wizard? There is. Let’s marry CRM and digital content—a match made in digital heaven.

Salesforce should be the natural place for you to create collateral, customize it, send it out, and see how prospects are responding. Third-party apps for creating content directly from Salesforce are beginning to emerge. For instance, this digital sales proposal was generated with five clicks directly from Salesforce.

And finally, you must make customer analytics part of your strategy. Your content is now fully online and trackable—every click, every invitation to share, every move your prospect makes. What’s the use of amazing content if you don’t know who’s looking at it, what they’re doing with it, and how it’s moving them forward toward purchase?

So there you have it: the four key steps for transforming yourself into a state-of-the-art, digital seller for the post-COVID-19 era. Focus on relational selling, understand the psychology of the buyer journey, put a greater emphasis on the art of digital content, and dive deep into customer analytics. What are you waiting for? Time to schedule your next digital sales call—your prospects are waiting!

Richard Yanowitch is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of Brandcast, the code-free web content system for the enterprise. Yanowitch started in sales two decades ago and has been chasing revenue ever since. Previously, he has served as vice chairman of the NDS Group (News Corp), executive vice president of Verisign, and vice president of marketing at Sybase. He has also served on the boards of directors of numerous start-up and non-profit boards.

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