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Profitable growth is always challenging, and news from around the globe of stagnating and slow-moving economies has put that fact in stark relief. At the same time, buyers—from shoppers looking for a new pair of shoes to procurement officers buying enterprise software—can readily research and compare products thanks to the transparency afforded by digital channels. Yet sellers have significant capabilities at hand to become a formidable force once again, aided by big data, digital tools, and organizational responses to buyers’ growing sophistication. No better time, then, to turn to sales leaders at companies that consistently outperform their peers for lessons on delivering sales growth.
The significant changes in the marketplace, driven primarily but not exclusively by digital, spurred us to update our book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders. How do sales leaders harness digital and analytics to drive growth? How are management and talent challenges evolving? And what does the future of sales look like?
Sellers have significant capabilities at hand to respond to buyers’ growing sophistication.
New interviews and research allowed us to focus on some of the big changes affecting sales and what sales leaders are doing about them. Here are some of the highlights:
Digital is an advantage not a just a threat
By 2017, almost two-thirds of all US retail sales will involve some form of online research, consideration, or purchase. A revolution in processing ability has put unprecedented shopping and buying power in the hands of today’s customers. More than 60 percent of Americans have a smartphone, and 80 percent of them are “smartphone shoppers,”—they use their phones to help them shop while in a store, most often to research product reviews and specifications and compare prices. In South Korea, shoppers are not so much mobile first as “mobile only.” Of consumers who shopped on a mobile device, 13 percent did not shop in stores, and 53 percent did not shop via other digital channels.
In South Korea, shoppers are not so much mobile first as “mobile only.”
Smartphone users are in many ways a godsend for vendors. Their digital footprint makes them easier to track through their decision journey, and that additional data delivers richer insights that can help drive higher-value purchases. The convenience and tailored experience now on offer not only help companies build stronger connections to customers but also drive down costs. Some 40 percent of US drugstore chain Walgreens’ total online prescription refills are ordered via its mobile app. This saves time for pharmacists and reduces the need for additional employees.
Blending digital channels into a company’s overall multichannel approach requires changes beyond the sales force, encompassing product development, marketing, distribution, and customer service.