Evolving organisational design for the digital age

by Marty Nicholas

In previous posts, we explored why sales must transform to stay relevant in the digital age, and briefly touched on the critical initiatives that count to deliver success. These initiatives span organisational design – enabling more value-adding and lower cost sales interactions; sales process - supporting consistently high quality interactions; technology and data – creating additional sales capacity and effectiveness; and talent and capabilities – building sophisticated skillsets to exceed the expectations of today’s buyer. In this post, we’ll take a more detailed look at the first critical initiative of organisational design.

With the digitally-empowered buyer firmly in control of the sales process and increasing cost pressure to ‘do more with less’, the impetus is now with organisations to deliver sales interactions that are far more customer-centric and cost efficient than in the past. Organisational design – the mix of roles, KPIs and capabilities across channels and how these inter-relate with each other and the customer – must be evolved to be more efficient and more closely geared around how customers now interact.

Drawing on transformation work with enterprise clients across a variety of industries, the following are key shifts to organisational design which set up the business to be more relevant, across more channels, more of the time - as well as at lower cost.

1. Evolve the channel mix to optimise effectiveness and cost of sale

In many organisations, a traditional ‘reach and frequency’ based approach is taken to organising field sales coverage. Organisations must move to more responsive and efficient targeting of opportunities that is dynamic across channels.

For example, let’s say a salesperson services 100 customers, and need to proactively interact with these customers 3 times a year. In a busy year, this will equate to around 300 visits a year and about 6 visits a week to hit coverage numbers. Using this model, the organising principle is mathematically derived based on an assumption around reach and frequency.

Going forward, there’s an imperative to be far more dynamic and multichannel focused, organising around the digital and physical behaviours being exhibited by customers that are indicative of buying, then responding to these signals meaningfully and quickly.

To enable this, the channel mix will likely need to be adjusted and account segmentation must be appropriately matched to marketing and sales channels. For example, channels such as inside sales are an increasingly common solution for more quickly and cost-effectively responding to the early signs of buyer needs. After supporting the early steps of the buying journey and qualification, the opportunity might then be handed over to a specialist salesperson for a face-to-face meeting, or handed to a marketing channel for further nurturing.

With calibration of the channel mix around your buyer such as in this example, the business can be positioned to be more responsive and relevant whilst also reducing the cost to sell and serve.

2. Establish the digital demand generation engine

The traditional sales ‘road warrior’ has by far and large self-generated their own leads and meetings, with many of us cutting our teeth in an environment where as a salesperson you own cold and warm calling to existing and prospective customer bases.

Tomorrow’s salesperson will leverage a material pipeline of sales-ready leads generated by marketing, and will work collaboratively with marketing channels across the buyer’s journey.

The key to facilitating this shift is enabling lead generation and nurturing to be more centrally managed, where marketing’s role is to deliver sales-ready, prequalified leads that sales can start to action and advance. A substantial build is required to deliver this, with compelling content, more integrated marketing and sales processes and new technology tools just a few of the common hurdles.

Once achieved, however, this centralisation of lead generation provides significant benefits and scalability. Salespeople can spend more time speaking with high-quality prospects and customers can interact on demand via their preferred channels.

3. Lift sales role specialisation

Salespeople are very often highly capacity constrained. Across our benchmarking projects, routinely only 21-39% of salesperson time is spent on effective selling. Role and goal diffusion is common, with salespeople struggling to balance selling time with other responsibilities such as helping with fulfilment, reporting, completing administration tasks and attending internal forums.
In addition to this, salespeople face the challenge of adapting to the level of sophistication of today’s buyer. With buyers more informed than ever, there is a good chance that a generalist sales rep will simply not be able to add enough value to a highly informed buyer and meet the expectations required to win.
The solution to these challenges is to evolve the capacity-strained generalist reps of old into more customer-focused and specialised sales roles. To do this, firstly ensure there is clear operational demarcation, for example between sales and service, as well as absolute role and goal clarity to solve the capacity challenge and remove noise from the operating model. Secondly, shift sales roles to be deeply specialised around specific industry, functional or solution expertise.
The result of this is more sales capacity to prep, think, analyse the ‘digital exhaust’ of buyer behaviour and develop relevant insights. Coupled with specialised expertise, salespeople and the business more broadly are set up to deliver the relevant and value-adding interactions required for success.

Stay tuned for future posts where we'll explore in more detail the other key initiatives required to adapt sales for the digital age.