A friend and I were talking about the trend toward digitizing our world, and he argued that there are at least three things that can’t be digitalized— “food, sex, and the salesman.” I had to concede he was probably right about the first two, but the sales professional, in many ways, is increasingly digitalized. And for most who make that transition, they are better, more effective, and far more productive.
But what does it mean for sales enablement to be digitalized?
To me, digital sales enablement means using technology to improve the sales function in a business—and that means everything from filling the pipeline to leveraging relationships, effective presentations, and closing deals. Here are some of the ways that entire process is affected by digitalization today:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is now available to large and small businesses to fill pipelines with interested buyers. AI can plan and target ads to increase productivity, help schedule appointments, and pick out the exact buyers that one wants from the entire world of possibilities.
- Tablet-based enterprise apps deliver consistent training, collateral, and presentation slides to field forces, collect feedback from the field, track activities of the field, and enable optimization of the sales function.
- Opportunities are opened and developed in platforms like LinkedIn, email, and B2B services marketplaces where all communication is digital long before an actual meeting takes place.
- Relationship analytics, which is powered by supercomputing and big data analytics, enables the mapping of all enterprise-to-enterprise relationships so that account executives can plan their approaches using a truly complete view of the target company and its relationships with the rep’s own company.
- Electronic contract management can provide contract terms, collect signatures, store and manage contracts, flag key terms and dates for action, and automate updates. The best systems notify the reps of expiring contracts or terms for follow-up and upselling.
Ultimately, I suppose my friend was right. The B2B sales rep isn’t becoming fully digitalized. It is still a people-based relationship-developing profession. Nonetheless, professional reps have an increasingly powerful suite of digital tools available to make them more productive. The sales leader who is not providing the team with tools applicable to their situation may be putting the team at a significant disadvantage. And those who are moving forward with digital sales enablement are giving their teams every chance to succeed ahead of the competition.