How Are Sales Organizations Adapting to Selling in the Digital Age?

It’s no secret that we’re living in a digital age, especially when it comes to how consumers buy the things they want and need. Customers can find practically whatever they need online, and as a result, they are savvier and less reliant on a salesperson to hold their hand through the buying process. Just look at how they’re purchasing cars and houses — many are doing virtual tours, picking out the features they want, and striking deals sight-unseen. It’s incredible, especially during COVID-19, and it begs the question: “How are sales organizations adapting to selling in this digital age?”

We recently invited Dr. Michael Ahearne, Professor of Marketing and Research Director at the University of Houston’s Stagner Sales Excellence Institute, onto our Disruptors & Innovators podcast to discuss this very thing. 

There’s a Transformation Happening!

Businesses are learning very quickly that they need to up their game and change how they engage with customers from both a physical and digital perspective. In the B2B space, customers will educate themselves and do their research online before purchasing your product. The salesperson has to factor in this transformation to convert the sale effectively.

Therefore, the salesperson has to be aware of two key things:

  1. The salesperson has to add value on top of what the consumer already knows.
  2. And the sales process has to be very rapid. 

A perfect example of the transformation in selling actually comes from the B2C space: car sales. You can go online and find out everything you need to know before you even walk into a dealership. In many cases, car buyers can purchase online and not enter the store at all. We see this a lot more with the younger generation. They prefer to do things differently than their predecessors. As a result, the company’s role is to make sure they are providing a tremendous amount of information digitally and then respond to that information quickly when the prospect is looking to buy. For B2B, the response from the sales rep has to be even more rapid and contain even more information.

Changing Corporate Structures

One of the biggest things we saw almost immediately when the pandemic hit was that firms were reorganizing the whole structure of their organization. Specifically, they were transitioning many of their people from “outside sales” to “inside sales.” With this shift, somewhere between 15-30% of salespeople had moved to an inside role.

Firms also moved to more of an organic growth strategy to separate themselves from their competitors. The importance of the interaction between the marketing and sales function was also heightened, as well as the importance of sales ops to:

  1. Understand where the buyer is
  2. Understand how educated the buyer is
  3. Understand who or what is influencing their decision, and …
  4. How best to facilitate their buying process (bringing enhanced knowledge to the game)

Parting Advice for the Digital Sales Transformation

If your company is looking to transition better to the digital selling age, start by looking at the way your customers prefer to buy right now and what their journey looks like right now. One of the challenges we are seeing is that salespeople are quick to impose their own ideas without first understanding the buying pattern.

It is also important to look at how much business you’re retaining vs. losing. Where exactly are you losing business? How can you grow your business with existing customers, and how can you best impact the customers you’re not serving right now?

Listen to the complete podcast below to hear Dr. Ahearne’s in-depth take on the digital transformation in selling.


Author: Dario Priolo

Dario brings over 20 years of experience in the sales enablement and talent development industry. He has led marketing and strategy as CMO for leading companies like the Hay Group, Miller Heiman and Profiles International and has been part of 4 successful exits, including his own start-up.