Tips for digital transformation in B2B sales Sales by GABRIEL SWAIN August 20, 2020 Business-to-business (B2B) sales organizations started transitioning to digital business models years ago. A digital business model generates value for customers through the use of digital technology to drive business operations. This technology provides extensive, actionable insight that leverages data to drive better decision-making. At the center of digital transformation is customer relationship management (CRM) software. The proliferation of CRM software today illustrates this point. The value of the global CRM market grew from $15.4 billion (USD) in 2016 to $40.2 billion in 2019. That’s a dramatic 260% increase in three years. Experts predict that growth to continue at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.2% between 2020 and 2027.(1) We’re now seeing “unified CRM platforms” emerge as early CRM technology evolves. Unified CRMs incorporate additional business functions, such marketing automation, into a CRM platform without the need to manually sync sales and marketing data. This digitalization of previously-manual processes delivers extensive benefits to sales and marketing organizations. Plus, it’s forcing a shift in how B2B businesses conceptualize and approach sales. However, the internal adoption of digital business technology remains a challenge for many businesses. In the case of B2B sales, managers, directors, and executives must champion digital tactics to support this transition. Below, we share five tips to streamline digital transformation in B2B sales. 5 Tips for B2B sales teams Digital business models will inevitably dominate the near future of B2B sales, yet many businesses find the transformation difficult. Use the tips to minimize the challenges and successfully transition from analog to digital B2B sales processes. 1. Identify & adopt emerging technology Spotting emerging technology and adopting it early on is key to a successful transformation. For example, the first companies that adopt unified CRMs almost certainly outpace their competition today. It’s fairly simple to identify high-potential, emerging technology early enough to get a head start on the competition. But you need to understand existing technology and its gaps and be open to new ideas or ways of doing business in order to recognize it when you see it. Adoption is the difficult part. You can invest in a software system and implement it in your company, but that’s not adoption. You achieve adoption across your company once your entire organization embraces and uses this new technology on a daily basis. And that takes some work. Some employees push back because they’re happy with the way things are done and see no need to change. Some simply don’t use the new system and stick to their old ways. Others aren’t as technologically-savvy as you’d like them to be and challenged by learning new systems. All of this is true for senior management and executives as well as entry-level employees. Fortunately, there are easy ways to surpass these hurdles, most of which are covered in the steps outlined below. And if you’re struggling with CRM adoption, there are plenty of tips to increase CRM adoption rates. Once employees see the benefits digital technology delivers and how it makes their lives easier, their concerns tend to disappear. 2. Prioritize internal training & onboarding Because engaging in a digital transformation requires businesses to invest in new technologies, training is essential. The most powerful technology in the world is worthless unless users know how to leverage it properly. That’s why onboarding sales teams and investing in comprehensive training is essential. B2B companies shouldn’t undervalue the importance of having an effective success plan for CRMs or any other technology. While initial training and onboarding of new users is critically important, user education shouldn’t stop there. Continued training on new features and capabilities ensures your initial investment maximizes your ROI. It also provides B2B sales teams with digital skills that will continue to benefit them throughout their careers. In Europe, the data from 2018 informs us that 90% of all jobs already require some level of digital skills.(2) 3. Educate users about the benefits It’s hard to deny the efficiency and productivity gains that digital technology provides to businesses of all types. B2B companies and their sales teams are no exception. If B2B companies educate salespeople on the benefits digital technology can provide to them, they’re more likely to adopt it. We can again use CRM software to illustrate this point. Because CRMs automate manual tasks, salespeople can spend more time on prospect interactions and building stronger relationships with customers. In a B2B setting, this equates to more new customer acquisitions and increased levels of cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Those, in turn, lead to more deals won and more commission earned by B2B salespeople. 4. Embrace data analysis & digital insights Trusting data and its sources is a major roadblock on the journey to a successful digital transformation. However, the data and insights provided by digital technology are two of the key benefits of digital transformation. First, B2B sales revolves around building trusted, long-term customer relationships. Building those relationships is easier when sales has access to digital insights around customer behavior, buying patterns, interests, challenges, etc. Today’s CRM solutions capture extensive data that B2B salespeople can use to form rapport with customers. CRMs with marketing automation capabilities like customer journey mapping let sales reps maintain insight into where customers are in their decision-making and which resources they need at each stage of that journey. Furthermore, B2B sales leaders and executives can leverage this data to make more informed, data-driven decisions. This is key because the right data gives decision makers insight into untapped opportunities for business growth. Indeed, 51% of companies that engage in digital transformations say identifying growth opportunities in new markets is the leading motivator behind their decision to start that transformation.(3) 5. Commit to & enforce digital sales processes In order for a digital transformation to be successful, B2B sales managers must fully commit to supporting the effort. They also have to enforce new sales practices and consistent use of new technology when interacting with their teams. This may sound easy, but it can be a challenge. There are tactics sales managers can use to smooth the transition to a digital business model. One of which is to clearly communicate to their teams that it is a priority for executive leadership. If sales reps realize that not adhering to new processes and consistently using new technology carries consequences, they’re more likely to fall in line. Constant check-ins when first implementing new technology help sales managers ensure their teams are adhering to these changes. Plus, digital businesses have access to technology that can alert them when their reps don’t use the system. A unified CRM, where sales and marketing data are fully integrated, makes it easy to identify incomplete processes or data gaps. Pulling it all together Ultimately, B2B sales organizations have more than enough incentives to support digital transformation. Sales managers who are actively involved in a digitally-transformed business can attest to this. Survey data indicates that 32% of IT decision makers say that digital transformation has already helped them to achieve revenue growth. They go on to report that the growth they’ve experienced represents a 23% increase in annual company revenue, on average.(4) Ready to start your digital transformation? Connect with Insightly for a free needs assessment and a unified CRM product demo. Request a demo Sources: Customer Relationship Management Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis, Grand View Research, 2020 The Impact of Technological Innovation on the Future of Work, European Commission, 2019 The State of Digital Transformation, Altimeter, 2019 State of Digital Business Transformation, IDG Communications, 2018 Data visualization | Sales Force Automation | Sales management | Sales team GABRIEL SWAIN Gabriel is a content and digital marketing strategist, avid CRM blogger, and business growth consultant. Having spent years working with CRM providers, he has a deep understanding of users’ needs, challenges, and objectives. He uses that knowledge to provide growing businesses with educational content that allows them to maintain insight into emerging trends and retain a competitive edge.