Create experiences and win customers


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2018)

How is digitalisation changing B2B sales, and what opportunities is this generating for sales organisations? B2B sales are profoundly changing as a result of the constant development of new digital technologies. The changes are affecting all sectors equally, regardless of whether industry, high-tech and software companies or the service sector.

Companies are being faced with a whole range of new challenges that come hand-in-hand with new sales practices. On the one hand, customer demands are increasing with regards to quotations and interaction, while, on the other hand, potential clients are better informed than ever before – even before the initial customer appointment. The asymmetry between those supplying and those demanding information is becoming increasingly small. Before decision-makers invite salespeople to visit them for first discussions, they have already researched two-thirds of the relevant information online – using search engines, social media, specialist blogs and video portals, for example. The new generation of decision-makers uses mobile communication tools such as Skype and WhatsApp, creating networks and relationships via Facebook, Xing and LinkedIn. Their private online shopping experience has resulted in high expectations in terms of the convenience of the purchasing process, which are also being transferred to vocational decision-making behaviour. When it comes to awarding orders, convenient processing, customised bundling and configuration of the services, immediate delivery information and an attractive customer experience are becoming ever-more relevant.

What development scenarios are currently evident in digital sales? What opportunities are these generating for sales organisations? According to TGoA’s assessment and supported by the Gartner ‘Market Guide for Digital Content Management for Sales’ study from November 2017, the digital content management for sales (DCMS) market is growing at a rate of 16 percent per year and will total approx. 430 million euros in 2018. Classical CRM software is usually not suitable for increasing efficiency in sales. The primary functions of DCMS are content repository (media storage & data models), content development (collation tools & collaborative functions), content delivery (publication & presentation tools), content usage analytics (statistics & reporting) and sales process integration (guided selling & recommendations).

Increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of sales using DCMS is achieved through efficiently distributing content to sales staff, optimising the interaction with potential and existing customers and improving deal closure rates and the speed and size of deal closures. DCMS makes sales more effective, can interact with customers in a professional and timely manner, convince and inspire customers and achieve higher deal-closure rates as a result of improved quality of advice. Customer and product information are always available on mobile devices, helping identify cross-selling and up-selling potentials. DCMS tools support the digitalisation of the sales pitch with modules for ‘guided selling’ and quotation configurators.

And the efficiency of sales is increased by upgrading CRM system functions and making PIM data available on mobile devices. DCMS enables simple feedback from customers to the organisation, while functions such as business card scanners and trade fair reports save considerable time. Mobile drafting of quotations with digital signatures for order confirmation enables significant reductions in processing and throughput times. When preparing for customer appointments, DCMS assists with compiling sales documents, customer data and product specifications. During the sales pitch, they enable online/offline product presentation with connections to CMS, ERP, CRM, PIM systems and subsequent order entry. Quotation drafting and contract tracking are supported during follow-up.

The business-acquisition phase focuses on convincing potential customers that the services offered are precisely tailored to their requirements. Mobile digital solutions with the customer’s own corporate identity convey the desired brand message from the very first contact with the customer – first impressions count. In the future, sales employees will be expected to function more as solutions consultants than classical salespeople. With a product portfolio predominantly in need of explanation, the advisory role is of central significance in B2B sales. Due to the comprehensive product and services offerings available on the market, sales staff frequently have to select the best-possible alternatives together with the customer and adapt these to the customer’s specific requirements. For this reason, detailed requirements analysis and a transparent and centrally-managed architecture of product and customer data are extremely important. This allows pre-informed customers to be supplied with the necessary, relevant product information – for instance, specifications, availabilities, prices and product images.

Quotations and customer interaction should be designed as simply as possible. Simplifying and purging traditional processes enable the sustainable development of new motivation and growth impulses within the sales process and additional competitive advantages to be generated. It is all about going beyond classical sales optimisation and intelligently utilising new, digital sales practices. Digital sales support is lean, automated and networked and transparency throughout the entire sales process is paramount. The comprehensive utilisation of digital channels and instruments makes automated, secure synchronisation of the data flow absolutely essential. Information relating to products and customers has to be internally synchronised to ensure professional interaction with clients in all phases of the sales process. Digital solutions must be utilised in order to have access to all relevant product and customer data at all times and in all places.

B2B sales are characterised by complex services and intensive consultation: products are jointly configured with specific requirements during the sales pitch as tailored, realtime quotations are the order of the day. During sales pitches, sales staff should also be familiar with purchasing, production, project management and service & support resources in order to immediately consider the feasibility of customer requirements. The tailored integration of individual quotations offers real value added for customers. Digitalising sales can considerably simplify complex and HR-intensive solutions sales. Integrating product sheets, catalogues and product configurators onto a tablet enables sales departments to offer their clients a customised sales experience. Furthermore, these instruments provide assistance when negotiating prices, delivery terms and conditions and contract periods.

From the sales perspective, the customer journey ends with a successful sale. Digitalisation provides extensive possibilities for submitting personalised quotations. B2B sales customers expect appropriate quotations, very much like those they deal with in their private lives. Personalised, tailored support, information and services complementing the purchasing and interaction history are met with enthusiasm. Quotations negotiated during sales pitches are immediately sent to the decision-makers and contracts concluded by obtaining digital signatures. Digital orders are then transmitted to the in-house service team for immediate further processing.

And virtual product presentations – aimed at generating a customer experience – are not just gaining importance in B2C sales. Augmented reality, gamification and the use of multimedia will become supporting measures in B2B sales processes in the future as well. Products must come alive for customers. Customers find the visualisation of product and service ranges (by means of apps, for example) inspiring.

Important DCMS tool functions, on the one hand, include multimedia product catalogues with PIM/MAM integration, faceted and intelligent searching, product links and recommendations. On the other hand are functions for guided selling, with which presentations can be designed customer-specifically and CI-appropriately and information and media assets from integrated systems mapped. Customer information can be integrated, feedback logged, quotations drafted and orders entered. Configuring and creating the quotations (configure – price – quote) are carried out using so-called CPQ tools, with which products can be configured and priced and complex quotations created and sent using mobile devices.

In addition to PIM integration, linking CRM systems is also important in order to use and supplement client information and to bidirectionally synchronise it with CRM systems. The DCMS data must be available offline, with synchronisation taking place automatically or manually. Simple integration into the existing IT infrastructure – in conjunction with a high degree of scalability and high data security – are fundamental technical requirements. Collaboration between in-house and field service teams and with customers is made possible as a result of features for content delivery (including e-mail templates, among other things) and distribution via native app channels (iCloud, Dropbox, etc.). Content-usage analytics can be used to accurately measure how the field service team utilises DCMS in its everyday work and what content is most frequently requested in customer pitches. For 2018+ , we are anticipating content development, content distribution, recommendations, analytics and API-based platform capabilities innovations from software manufacturers. One new trend is the increasing use of augmented reality, AI and predictive analytics.

In summary: digital solutions in sales (DCMS) offer technological support for sales and customer service tasks. The customer processing quality is increased through differentiation and value-added services, internal resources are freed up as a result of superior workflows and customer management improved by means of data integration and application-oriented evaluations. Field service staff must exploit the potentials of digitalisation to provide customers with simple, fast support on-site without generating additional work for themselves. Here, full digital mapping of product and service processes, a paperless, transparent process chain and controlled communications between the in-house and field service teams are considerable challenges for which innovative sales apps offer support. 

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Qualified industrial engineer Matthias Kant is CEO of The Group of Advisors and of Deutsche Stadtmarketing GmbH, a city marketing company in Berlin. Prior to this, he was CEO of pirobase imperia gmbh and spent twelve years working as a partner and board member for management consultancies Droege, KMC Management Consultants And IM+C AG. In 2011, Kant set up CityGuide AG in Zurich and Krefeld. 

Picture credit © Franckreporter/Getty Images

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