Sales process transformation for the digital age

by Marty Nicholas

We’ve recently posted a series of blogs that centred on transforming sales to stay relevant in the digital age. Throughout these posts, we’ve explored the reasons why sales must transform, given an overview of the critical initiatives that count to deliver successful transformation, and also provided a more detailed look at evolving organisational design – the first of these critical initiatives. Today’s post will provide insight into the second critical initiative of sales process, which focuses on supporting consistently high-quality interactions between salespeople and the ever-evolving digital customer.

In our last post on organisational design, we looked at three key shifts needed to deliver more value-adding and lower cost sales interactions with customers. These focused on evolving the channel mix to optimise sales effectiveness and the cost of sale; establishing the digital demand creation engine to build an integrated pipeline of leads between marketing and sales; and lifting sales role specialisation to create the capacity for salespeople to provide deep expertise and insights to customers.

Whilst these shifts are important to set the organisation up to deliver more value-adding and lower cost interactions, an equally important element in your sales transformation program is getting the processes right that will actually scale and support these new ways of working. In particular, with our customers traversing across more channels than ever, significantly more lead handovers between marketing and sales, and the need for a higher standard of sales interaction to engage today’s sophisticated buyer – it is only through robust and more integrated processes that we can actually deliver cohesively and consistently.

So, what are the shifts to sales process that count? Across our transformation work with enterprise clients, we’ve identified the three shifts below as the ones that matter most.

1. Develop cross-functional planning processes

With the buyer’s journey now spanning multiple channels and functions, there’s a need to enhance cross-functional planning processes to ensure that the customer is cohesively supported at each stage. This means that organisations need to shift from a sales-led account planning and engagement process to one that is more collaborative.

Typically what needs to be determined is the role and specific activities of each function against each stage of the buyer’s journey. By creating clear progression rules for each funnel stage, as well as defining the most effective activities each function needs to carry out at each of these points, organisations can facilitate customer progression and minimise clunks across the buying journey.

2. Integrate marketing and sales processes + metrics

With more leads flowing from online marketing channels, it is critical to establish integrated processes which hardwire the timely and effective follow-up of marketing-qualified leads. This also ensures that the experience will be cohesive for customers as they traverse between marketing and sales channels.
The first step towards achieving this is for marketing and sales to agree on a clear, single definition of what a qualified lead is. Secondly, they need to decide on the appropriate accumulation of customer activity, interest and intent that will warrant sales involvement. With these criteria established and new processes and workflows designed, organisations are then effectively set up to leverage technology tools to automate, scale and measure the handover and recycling of leads between marketing and sales.

3. Focus on new success drivers

The levers that dictate success in sales are changing. With a more informed buyer, the quantity-driven or ‘numbers-game’ approach of the past is no longer the success driver it once was.
Whilst activity levels are still important, organisations need to shift towards a focus on sales quality – ensuring that behaviours such as prompt lead follow-up, adequate call preparation and the delivery of contextual insights are business-as-usual. Legacy sales processes will typically need to be redesigned to support these new behaviours and ensure they are delivered consistently.

Stay tuned for future posts, where we’ll look at Technology and Data, as well as Sales Talent and Capabilities – the final two critical groups of initiatives required to adapt sales for the digital age.