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Sellers adapting to a digital world

There are signs that channel sales staff are getting more comfortable with a digital approach

Making the shift to digital marketing has been one of the biggest challenges for channel sellers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vendors have stepped up support, with training, white-label services and virtual events covering the subject to help those partners that have been forced to move marketing online.

Dell and IBM are among those that have made such efforts. Dell held a digital marketing forum last week, covering how to find and engage customers in a virtual-only world, while IBM used the keynote session at its recent Think event to point the channel towards its free My Digital Marketing platform, which could help them put together campaigns to reach out to customers.

The channel typically uses events, ranging from the large trade shows to the more intimate roadshows, to get in front of existing customers and prospects. With social-distancing rules in place, those opportunities have been put on hold, so sales teams have had to get to grips with online collaboration tools to talk to customers and digital campaigns to try to reach fresh ones.

But as the months have passed, vendors’ efforts to make life easier and the investment made by sellers themselves appear to have started to make a difference, with confidence levels rising.

Research from Showpad found that 44% of sales and marketing professionals did not see “elevating the customer experience remotely” as their main challenge. That compared to findings from May that had enabling remote selling as the number one priority, accompanied by the twin challenge of increasing seller productivity.

As the weeks have gone by, the challenges have shifted, and the latest poll findings reveal that issues around aligning sales and marketing into digital transformation strategies appears to be the biggest headache.

“Buyer expectations are higher than ever before, and sales and marketing professionals have had to completely redirect their approaches to respond to this shift. It’s heartening to hear that many have adapted to ‘remote life’ and are now starting to move on to other priorities,” said Jim Preston, vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) sales at Showpad.

“With research from CSO Insights highlighting the importance of sales and marketing collaboration in demonstrating value to customers, being considered a strategic partner and keeping customers coming back for more, this is also not something that organisations can afford to overlook,” he added.

Those that get digital sales right are more likely to stand out from competitors in the current situation when there are limited chances of gaining attention from prospective customers.

“With a much fiercer competitive landscape, customer and prospect experience is the biggest differentiator for a sales organisation today. Evidently, sales and marketing professionals are recognising this and listening to new customer desires and concerns – even at a distance,” said Preston.

“But to keep providing great customer experience and responding to those different needs, organisations also cannot be putting digital initiatives on the back burner. We are all digital natives now and customers and prospects expect the same from salespeople and marketers. They want a quick, seamless and connected digital experience,” he added.

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