For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.
Why B2B Digital Transformation?
B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.
Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.
In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.
Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation
Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:
- Meet customers where they are
- Reach new markets more efficiently
- Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities
Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:
- They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
- They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.
GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation
GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:
- Centralise new technologies
- Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
- Reduce sales cycles by 50%
Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:
- Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
- Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.
IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation
IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:
- Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
- Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
- Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
- Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.