Selling Digital Solutions in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The capability and influence of digital technologies is accelerating.
The scope of this change is so sweeping that many are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Keeping pace with exponential growth is difficult. While today’s technologies are powerful and far-reaching, businesses struggle to adopt them in a meaningful way.
The reason: realizing the potential of emergent technologies means first initiating a digital transformation.
This challenge is familiar to sales professionals who must position the connected, holistic, and digital solutions underpinning this digital transformation. Responding to this reality means that sales professionals must understand that positioning digitally transformative solutions is challenging because they are: dynamic, abstract and broad.
Here we look at how sales professionals can approach these three challenges and position digital solutions that compel the customer to buy.
Selling to the Customer's Full Potential Capabilities
Gordon Moore, former CEO of Intel, famously noted the number of transistors in circuits doubles every two years. This observation became known as Moore’s Law.
This idea is relevant to sales professionals because it illustrates the non-linear path of change. Digital solutions are becoming exponentially more complex and sophisticated every year. Therefore, sales professionals must adapt at a similar pace. Like Moore’s Law, the buyer’s journey is not a simple, unchanging course; it is dynamic and increasingly complex.
Sales professionals must go even deeper and broader in their questioning strategies. It is not enough to understand the customer’s present needs and challenges. Positioning digital solutions also requires an understanding of future needs, which are unknown until the sales professional and customer surface them together in a dialogue.
Customers also need to be clear on the potential risks that lie ahead, as well as potential efficiencies that can be gained. Often, the initial need is a glimpse through the keyhole, and the sales professional must help the customer open the door.
Doing so reveals unrealized competitive advantages gained through an increased speed to market.
Connected digital solutions can be transformative in nature; therefore, the sales professional is not only advocating business benefits, but they are advocating a business model.
How does an effective sales professional approach this challenge?
- Access Hidden Dialogues: Seek inclusion into the separate, buyer-side conversations that unfold outside of the normal customer/sales professional dialogue
- Become Agile: Address the customer’s evolving needs at every turn in the buying process
- Gain Access Early: Seize on one of the two major factors that triggers the buyer’s journey: a pain point or an opportunity
Articulating a New Value Proposition
Customers need to understand how the solution’s abstract capabilities offer concrete value to their business. Therefore, sales professionals need a new way to articulate the complexities of the solution in a way that is compelling to the customer. They also need the ability to adjust their value proposition so that the same solution can address different business needs across numerous customers.
These challenges compound as time and resources continue to shrink. In the drive to compete, businesses seek fast solutions. Achieving speed, however, is difficult as organizations become more matrixed, and decisions become distributed.
Moreover, customers are increasingly skeptical of data and even the sales professional. For example, one study published in Judgment and Decision Making shows that customers are more skeptical of negotiating with a person than they are with a computer program. Many customers walked away from deals that were financially favorable because they were sensitive to seller-centric behaviors.
This skepticism leads to a buying process that demands more from the sales professional. Rising to this challenge means getting better at three key capabilities:
- Sell to Logic and Emotion: Make data accessible and clear while normalizing risk
- Become a Trusted Advisor: Help diagnose the problem and become viewed as a source of guidance
- Sell with a Team: Marshal the full capabilities of the resources within the selling organization.
Strategizing Around the Pursuit of Complex Opportunities
Digital transformations, like the buying journey, follow many routes. Decision makers move forward, backward, and sideways.
The curving path twists and turns as decision makers work to arrive at a consensus. They must agree on a common definition for success, but as companies become more siloed, it is increasingly difficult for customers to agree on the nature of the problem and the best solution. This process is iterative, and the customer’s initial definition of value rarely matches their final one.
Developing a strategy for approaching complex opportunities is critical to success. Sales professionals need a smarter way to bring the customer through the buying process.
They need a strategy consisting of four parts:
- Assess: Sales professionals must determine where they can add value above and beyond competitors, where they’re lacking, and what areas represent incomplete knowledge.
- Strategize: Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is one thing; advancing your position is another. Doing so gives shape to an action plan.
- Prepare: Understanding the customer’s deeper needs means entering the dialogue with a foundation of pre-knowledge so that sales professionals can get to the incisive questions early.
- Engage: Sales professionals must seek feedback from the customer. Their responses inform sales professionals before entering a second round of assessing, strategizing, preparing, and engaging.
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