As sales organizations look to the future, most if not all expect to adapt to hybrid work environments. And in a job where in-person relationships were once critical, that can be a huge change. Sellers now need to be able to develop and maintain the same strong relationships from virtually anywhere. In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with Gerry Murray, Research Director at IDC, about how selling organizations are trying to cope with these changes, the new technologies influencing the world of sales, and where the companies should be looking for the richest opportunities in digital selling. Dynamics 365 Sales helps sellers unify data, discover actionable insights, and improve productivity. By using AI solutions to bring previously disconnected data together, teams are able to drive more relevant and authentic customer relationships, generate more quality leads, and turn relationships into revenue. Request a live demo today: https://aka.ms/AA8tgbr Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
Gemma Milne talks with IDC’s Gerry Murray about how digital selling has evolved over the last year, including what changes are temporary and what changes will be longer lasting, how certain organizations are doing a good job supporting sellers to adapt to these changes, and how companies should think about their technology infrastructure to support sales teams.
About Gerry Murray:
Gerry Murray is a Research Director with IDC’s Marketing and Sales Technology service where he covers marketing technology and related solutions. He produces competitive assessments, market forecasts, innovator reports, maturity models, case studies, and thought leadership research. Prior to his current role he spent the first half of his career at IDC advising executives from some of the world’s largest software and services providers on market strategy, competitive positioning, and channel management. As the Director of Knowledge Management Technology, he conducted research on a worldwide scale including market sizing and forecasting, ROI models, case studies, multi-client studies, focus groups, and custom consulting projects.
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Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author. And I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting to Gerry Murray, research director with IDC's Marketing and Sales Technology Service, about the evolution of digital selling and the critical consideration of the customer experience. We discussed how the seller’s role is changing in 2021. We look at how to identify ways to update sales models and the technology to enable those updates. And we look to the future and we explore some of the biggest trends expected in the next five years.
Gemma [00:00:59] Gerry, thank you so much for coming and joining me on the show today. Why don't you start by giving us a little bit of a brief introduction to yourself and what you work on.
[00:01:06] Thanks, Gemma. Pleasure to be here. In my practice at IDC, as the Director of our Marketing and Sales Technology Research Practice, we interact with hundreds of vendors and practitioners in the marketplace that are all constantly trying to keep up with the tumultuous changes going on with respect to technology and buyer behavior. So I've been at IDC now for 10 years in this particular stint. I spent about 10 years in various marketing roles prior to that and then spent some time at IDC prior to that way back. So I've been around both marketing and market research for quite a while.
Gemma [00:01:35] Amazing. So thinking about the fact that you have been looking at this for quite some time, despite the different roles but you've been looking into, all these different new trends, new technologies, thinking about the research, we're obviously going to be focusing on digital selling today. So thinking about the last year, we spoke so much on this podcast and in general about this idea that, you know, digital transformation has been accelerated so much because of what's happened with the pandemic. But from your perspective, what would you say will be the changes that continue into the future for digital selling? And how is the buying journey and behavior shifts changed to accelerate this trend? You know, what's going to stick and what's just temporary?
Gerry [00:02:12] It's a good question. And I think some of it needs to be revealed as we go through the future. But it's pretty clear at the moment that for most sellers, the transition to a digital selling methodology and practice has not been the thing that's interrupted the growth of their businesses. So there’s lots of other external factors that may have affected different businesses and different kinds of industries up or down with respect to what happened last year. But the sales practice itself is like, well, we've been able to accomplish a lot of the same things that we would do if we were flying field salespeople around and paying for travel and expense budgets and all that extra time and energy, trying to go on site and have in-person engagements with customers. And I think companies and customers are both – buyers and sellers have both realized how we can do a lot of this much more efficiently on digital and do it through these video conferencing platforms. Now, clearly, there are lots of instances where on site collaboration and customization and engineering needs to take place and that will come back. But I don't think we're going to see a full scale 100 percent return to the field sales profession of old. I think it's actually permanently changed for a lot of companies. And that has huge implications for how we engage with buyers, who we hire for these roles, the kind of technology and skills they need. There's really big implications here, but at the same time, really big opportunities.
Gemma [00:03:34] Well, that's what I was going to say, when you say that it really has huge implications, particularly from the perspective of who you're hiring and what kind of skills, because I think the sort of traditional – and this might be an outdated traditional view of a salesperson is that people person, particularly when it comes to bigger deals, is the kind of wining and dining, the really personalized approach to what you're doing. And yeah OK, you can have a personal conversation online or digitally, as we've been finding out over the past year. But there is, of course, as we all know, a human touch and a real, you know, nice thing about being physically in the right place. Tell us a little bit more about that, are people craving that kind of thing when it comes to being sold to or doing the selling? Or is it really been this big shift where people are going do you know what actually sales is just a thing that I want to be more transactional, more online, quicker, cheaper, easier.
Gerry [00:04:22] Well, that's an interesting way to put the question, I think. And one of the things that's clear is that this whole grab a bag and see the world approach to the sales role and the person that's going to want to do that job is different now. We need someone who is going to be much more effective in terms of their persuasive powers to do that over digital. There've got to be tools to have the right tools and skills in order to articulate their personal, you know, engagement and connection with their customers and their ability to empathize and discover the true issues with respect to solution fit and product fit with their buyers. And at the same time, you know, buyers are also expecting that there's going to be a lot more self service, that they're going to discover a lot more and educate themselves further down the road before they spend time with sales. And I think in the end, it's not so much about becoming more transactional as it's about sales becoming much more prepared to have the right conversation with the customer with respect to familiarity with the solutions and the challenges that they're having and that the customer is now expecting that, you know, the brand as a whole, sales, marketing, advertising, commerce, support services, billing, the whole front set of office functions is going to be able to act as one and provide a continuously high experience for them. And this is particularly critical in the sales process. Right, because it's still conversational. He's still going to have to have a conversation with a customer, particularly if you're selling fairly complex, high ticket enterprise type solutions. But even if you're not, you're really transitioning into this world where there's more subscription selling, there's less kind of drive by one and done type of deals and transactions that you're doing with customers. It's more relationship selling. It's more value-based selling. So there's an enormous amount of things that that the sales organization needs to respond to and become more agile with respect to not only the practice and the people in the skilling, but the underlying infrastructure has got to enable that agility. And if it does not, the customers are going to feel the difference between brands that have made these transitions and those that are kind of still stumbling through some of these ideas and don't have the back end to really connect their data from one point of interaction to another throughout the lifecycle with their relationship.
Gemma [00:06:32] So talking about these huge changes, then, specifically from the perspective of the sellers. Right? In terms of who's going to want to do this job, the actual skills that are required, the way of doing things, the technology readiness, all these different elements, would you see the organizations are doing a good job supporting sellers and sales managers, whether that's existing sellers and sales managers, and effectively upskilling or changing skilling or helping them rethink whether this is the role they really still want to do and that it is so different as well as newcomers, people coming in and being trained up in this new environment. Tell us a little bit about how the organizations are doing the support role.
Gerry [00:07:12] Yeah, I think most organizations have done a good job out of necessity of transitioning to this whole digital platform. You know, conversations are now changing to contactless. Right? So we're doing all of these things through our videoconferencing platforms. And just by virtue of it's an existential crisis. Right. In order to do the job, got to make that part of the transition happen. So I think that most organizations did that very successfully. One of the other things I think that they've got to deal with, though, is that there've been some changes of buyer expectations, particularly in industries that are hard hit by the economic impact of a pandemic. You know, there's just a lot more scrutiny going into every single expenditure and sales has got to be much more effective at articulating the full value proposition and an outcome-based model that the customer can trust. Sales are supposed to make the value promise and then a bunch of other folks in the business going to fulfill that promise. And coordinating all of that is an important part of developing a trusted relationship with the customer. So sales teams need to have a deeper ability to understand the customer's specifications and their expectations for outcomes and define the value. The technology stack needs to be a little more flexible with respect to the sales conversation that needs to be more connected across different functions in the business, because even within sales, we've got the contracting, the quoting, the configuration, you know, the pricing and all the implications of the various ways we're structuring deals. But we also need to extend that capability so that we have the ability to serve a consistent value proposition across roles in the business. One of the things I think that's been very interesting with respect to this individual blocking and tackling of selling has been the emergence of conversational systems that we can start to record some of these things. We can start to create databases of the DNA of sales conversations. There's a lot of opportunity there to identify and share best practices and get into some of the deeper analysis of what makes an effective sales conversation from the point of view of both parties in the conversation. And I think this idea, you know, more support to present that value proposition is kind of the next deeper layer of transition that a lot of the sales organizations still need to work on.
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Gemma [00:09:57] So you mentioned conversational systems. What is the benefit of these systems is it only sales teams that use these kind of systems or perhaps can other departments tap in and use these systems or even connect with all the different ways that all the different departments are using so that everybody elevates what they're doing?
Gerry [00:10:15] Yeah, I think the conversational systems are a game changer, right. Because almost all currently sales conversations are happening digitally that can be recorded. And the transcription and translation capabilities of the AI are such that we can get really good not only transcripts but analysis of conversation. Who talked the most, who mentioned price first, which competitors came up, what kinds of customer options and preferences are trending across these various conversations that we're having? And if we have a really complex product set and solution set that could be really important. Right, because not knowing that means we have to prepare our sales team to sell potentially thousands of different options or bundles. Whereas if we know, hey, here's this set, 30 or 40 percent of the time, the conversation kind of looks like this. The product that is, you know, these 10 or 12 items that we can emphasize our training, we can make sure that all the teams are really ramped up on those particular solutions. They don't have to continuously go back and reeducate themselves on a very complex set of pricing and bundling and quoting possibilities for a potentially complex product set. And it can also be useful for marketing. So you can start to hear how the customer is describing their own problem. We've heard some really interesting anecdotes about companies selling certain kind of systems. In one case, it was a lighting system selling to car dealerships and they had all these product features that they had done focus groups on. And, you know, how the lighting is better it makes the cars look newer and glossier. They thought they had their messaging down. And then the minute they started having conversations and listening to them and doing the analysis, they realized the dealerships don't care that much about the quality of the light. What they care about is the electric bill, it's like, oh, completely change the whole go to market model because we finally listen to the literal voice of our customers and we're able to glean some insights out of that. Back to the sales team. With respect to sales managers, this conversational analysis is a goldmine. We are not really doing get togethers where we're doing role playing and all that kind of stuff which is kind of traditional sales training. And it's very difficult when you have a sizable sales team having multiple sales calls every week. It could be hundreds and hundreds of hours of sales conversations. So how are you going to figure out which ones to listen to? It's kind of random. With this technology now, you can actually look at what you can actually search and go through and say, I want to listen to conversations or even parts of conversations that are related to one product or one territory or one competitor every time this competitor is mentioned. I want to see how my sales team is responding to that. And then I can go back and train very specifically each individual rep and share what the best answer was to addressing those various topics that come up naturally in every sales conversation. So I think this is another big transformational moment, game changer for the sales team to be able to go in and analyze the DNA of sales conversations. And it has a lot of application for everybody talking to the customer. There are many use cases for AI, and that does not imply that AI is going to start doing all of your selling for you. What we're trying to do is take out all of the trivial administrative work that reps and managers and executives have to do in order to do their jobs. There's a lot of low value work there that can be much more efficiently delegated to AI. I think sales teams need to have a strategy about like, well, which kinds of tasks performed by which roles in our organization shall we delegate to AI and as a result of doing so, what are we going to get out of that? What levels of productivity or additional call volume can we create or open up as a result of taking out eight percent of the time or 20 percent of the time that we're using for arranging calls or scheduling or doing database queries to try to get our forecasting and pipeline analysis data set ready to go. So I think there's a lot of opportunity there and I do not envision sales becoming a fully automated lights out kind of operation. It's always going to come down to conversation because in the end, in addition to the products and services that you're delivering, your customer knows that they have to rely on a bunch of people to support what they're doing to build those products, to listen to their enhancement requests, to fulfill their service requirements. And so it's still incredibly important to make sure that as we deploy something like AI that we don't overrun the idea that we still need to have very deep trusted advisory type of relationships with our customers, person to person, and that's really where the trust of the relationship comes in. AI is not going to ever replace that.
Gemma [00:15:10] So you've mentioned self-service, you've mentioned conversational, and you've mentioned value-based. So is it about one of these or a combination of these or is it different depending on what you're doing? Tell us a little bit about some of these different sales models.
Gerry [00:15:22] For the most part, I think there's been a big emphasis on self-service to make sure that we can, you know, allow customers to most conveniently and most efficiently find answers to their questions or information that they're looking for on their own. In the end, in a business-to-business, complex sales environment, it still comes down to a conversation. And it's really important to start to understand how those conversations are taking place and how your experienced A-level of salespeople knowing how they conduct their conversations, being able to transfer that and share it with the new hires that are coming in during the onboarding process makes them much more effective, much faster, because they understand how to cadence the conversation, how to introduce different kinds of topics, and how to respond to mentions of competitors and alternatives, et cetera, et cetera. So that can be a very big asset for the sales team. And then it's really about the data sets. Right. And understanding how many customer attributes you bring in to help the sales team identify opportunities in existing accounts and expand our relationships there and connect to the decision makers, leverage our relationship with one very successful implementation to other use cases, functions, or business units around the same corporate entity. There's a lot of work that AI can do with respect to helping organize and make more efficient day to day life of the sales team, in particular, the whole concept of call reporting, which is always the biggest headache of every sales person's life at the end of the week or whenever they're doing it. And because of that, it also tends to affect the quality of the data that goes into our backend systems, our CRM systems. And the more of that, we can automate who is in the meeting, who wasn't in the meeting, what new products or pricing changes are, what's the next steps in terms of getting these people together again to build consensus and make the decision? The more we can automate that the daily administrative stuff, the more customer face time we're going to get, the greater the accuracy and freshness of the data that we're going to get. And that will improve decision making throughout the whole sales process from the sales rep to the sales manager up to the sales executive team. So there's a lot of work that's a multi-layer technological issues to tackle. But I think we're making incremental progress towards this idea that the data infrastructure has got to inform everything about sales and we need good AI and analytics capabilities in order to do that at scale. It's really all goodness, but it is a roadmap and companies are going to be able to accelerate down that roadmap at different rates. Those that do, I think, will find themselves having an advantage in the marketplace and their customers will recognize oh when I talk to the next person, they know my story. I don't have to agree to all the decisions and conversations we had with the last point of contact. I'm being passed on to somebody who already knows everything we talked about before. So that's a nice way for the customer to kind of go from one point of contact to the next.
Gemma [00:18:18] So what does this actually look like from the seller perspective? We're talking about all these different models of sales, this integration of data, this doing things more digitally, using things like AI. What does this look like from a tech perspective? You talked about how staff, new staff will have expectations of businesses to be able to actually provide them with good tools that work that allow them to do their job in better, more interesting, more productive ways. So tell us what actually looks like from a seller perspective?
Gerry [00:18:48] From a day to day selling experience, I think that experience largely takes place in the CRM or Salesforce automation platform that they're using. But clearly now this whole digital selling motion has got to be incorporated into that. They need to be able to have access to all the various details of the account as they are going through the conversation. We can start to surface some of that to support the salesperson through the conversation. Right. So they can get the information about the account, get prepared for the opportunity, understand the product offering and solution that we're delivering and some of the bundling of pricing and options that they can present and help guide the customer through their decision making process. But at the same time, do that in an interface that's not – they don't have a switch multiple how many different screens they have to switch around to find all that information. We want to deliver it right in the user interfaces that they're familiar with. And so they can conduct the conversation and optimize the conversation based on the information that can be surfaced not just through the CRM, but also through the actual collaboration platform. And that's really important when you start talking about team selling, selling with partners, joint go to market models, and you have multiple different roles on the selling team that all need to also share that information consistently with each other so that once again, we're having that continual high level of conversation that everybody on the team is up to speed.
Gemma [00:20:15] So you mentioned roadmap there, I mean, this is something we talk about a lot on the show is, you know, what can we do now? What does it look like long term? How do you make decisions about what you should do first? And I think building on this idea of there's different models, different sales models or different ways of being most successful in your sales, whether it's self-service, conversational value based and so on and so forth, is it about picking a technology system or whatever to match with whichever one you're going with or is it about, as you said, having good data infrastructure and that's important for all of them and that's a good first step. Talk to us a little bit about how you would build that roadmap, what you do first, what you do second, and how you would even strategize in the first place.
Gerry [00:20:54] Yeah, so it's a very important question. So I think, you know, what we want to see and how we're kind of counseling our practitioners in the sales organizations with respect to technology infrastructure is similar to how we're counseling, marketing in the rest of the front office. Right? The idea is you need to have a set of shared services that span these various application environments that are supporting all these different points of contact with the customer. For sales to really understand everything about what we have to offer the customer. The first thing we've got to do is really think about how do we make data an enterprise service that can enhance the sales team and all the other teams that serve this very same customer. We want to try to get to this idea that every interaction with the customer is able to enhance every other interaction with the customer, and that transcends these departmental ideas of system specification, deployment operations. We've got to start to have shared customer data models, shared governance and identity and compliance and consent capabilities that are baked into that infrastructure. And it's got to be something that's really designed to be a horizontal process across these different points of contact, across these different application environments or cloud environments that were running departmentally. So there's a big transition going on there. And so we will continue to need all kinds of core technology platforms, as well as a bunch of different tools to manage particular types of engagements or particular kinds of channels that were acting and engaging with our customers. But underneath it all, we have a more of a shared services model to make sure that all of these systems can work together more efficiently. Because in the past, you know, all the best of breed technology models that we've put together end up with these fairly fragile point to point integrations that can be hard to manage over time, especially when we have cataclysmic global or local market changes. And suddenly we've got to completely reengineer how our sales team functions in the world. And if we're going to be stuck in these technological cement boots, so to speak, we're going to be much slower at making those transitions than our customers. And, you know, the pandemic is only one of potentially many future different kinds of things that will happen in markets that will require great agility and responsiveness on the part of our sales teams.
Gemma [00:23:13] So we've spoken about, I guess, making the changes to systems to be able to enhance selling and enable sellers and, you know, have these new different infrastructures and new different ways of doing things. But how do companies identify the places within their systems to make them more connected, more ready for the future? You know, is this something they have to sort of change all at once or can they kind of go piece by piece or department by department, kind of have that modular step by step? Only a little bit investment at the moment as opposed to an overhaul. Tell us a little bit about that.
Gerry [00:23:47] Yeah, I think the grand plan in the scheme of things, the long road, is that we want to have this set of enterprise services that are operating end to end and tracking the customer experience across channels and systems and at points of interaction. But that does sound kind of like a boil the ocean model. And we're not going nobody's going to rip and replace all of their front end departmental mission critical systems. That's one of the reasons why we need to have the data and analytics infrastructure kind of compensate for the fact that we've got all these other systems and legacy technology in place, even if it's out on the cloud. And so it's a big transition. And the way to do it is use case by use case. You know, you've got to go through and decide, well, you know, we don't think our pipeline velocity is very good. We need better insight into pipeline. We need better forecasting. You know, how do we optimize the resources that we're using there? How do we get better information about our partners? There are lots of different things that could be key pain points. And what you want to do is prioritize those, both with respect to how it's impacting current performance and with respect to the cost envelope it's going to take to address them and really work through use case by use case and start to think about, OK, we're going to address these business challenges with specific technology investments, and as we make those investments, we want to make sure that we're not just putting the blinders on and just solving this problem in a box. We want to make sure that that box has an open bottom, so to speak, so that all the process techs and the data techs and the data schema and the various components of the way that part of our infrastructure is deployed is going to talk to all the other solutions that we have in place and the future solutions that we're going to put in as we work through this use case roadmap. And in some cases, you might be doing just manual data dumps out of certain systems in order to get enable different kinds of analysis to drive decision making. And those efforts should be precedents for making the investment to actually build bits and pieces of the infrastructure. Make sure you're connecting systems in ways that obviously are under regulatory and brand policy compliance requirements, but that you're all are understanding a little bit more about how you can start to leverage these different bits and pieces of customer data that exist all over the enterprise and help improve your current decision making, make it better, faster, cheaper, but also provide new insights not only to the sales team so they could function better, but possibly even package up those insights and deliver them as value over the top to your customers who don't necessarily know whether 13 percent improvement in their process is good or bad relative to their peer group. And we could start to learn about from the collective wisdom and experience of all those customers to help every individual account and accelerate their time to mastery with the challenges and the solutions that are needed to address them.
Gemma [00:26:41] So in terms of thinking about then, for companies who have maybe perhaps already started implementing some new data infrastructure, starting to do this shift, how do they know what's working and how do they identify gaps perhaps that they haven't yet done so? Because, you know, there's one thing to say, oh you know, change the way your tech is set up. But as we've already discussed in this brief chat, you also have to think about reskilling. You also have to think about understanding new customer expectations. You also have to think about making sure that you're bringing in different kinds of people that are better for these newer types of sales jobs. So how do you kind of assess the lay of the land, shall we say, both at the beginning, but then also mid transformation to make sure, you know, of course, you could just look at, you know, have our sales gone up. That's one measure, of course, but that doesn't really tell you which part of this arguably pretty messy system still needs work, still needs investment and still needs upgrading, shall we say?
Gerry [00:27:38] Well, you know, that's a really broad question that would be difficult to answer in an hour, never mind a few minutes. So I think what to me, particularly because of the infrastructure implications of all of this, one of the areas that we're asking our customers to think about is this concept of the customer journey. Right? So everybody's got that idea already. Right? So we've done a pretty good job, I think, in most companies of mapping out how different customers go through different touch points, whether in marketing, sales or otherwise, through partners and whatever, however they come in. And how did those relationships perform with respect to the value we're delivering to them? And how profitable is the relationship for both parties? But there's a shadow journey that's going on with respect to the customer that a lot of companies haven't really mapped out. And that's the journey that the customers’ data is going on. And when you talk about identifying gaps and bottlenecks in places where we're not doing a very good job of providing a continuous customer experience, but we struggle to make that a continuously high level of service for the customer. So map the customer data journey, figure out where is all the data going, where is it getting stuck and how much of the data is behind where the customer is as they move around from different points of interaction. Because it's not always a linear process in many businesses, it's becoming far more non-linear than it used to be. And so we need the data to be as fast and flexible as our customers are at moving around their points of interaction. And then in terms of building up metrics, you know, I think some of the basic same metrics still apply to productivity on sales teams like customer face time, counting how many meetings are they getting out, you know what are what's there, what kind of pipeline generation is occurring? Those are all the standard metrics of the sales process. We talked about the conversational selling. You know, that's a whole new set of metrics that we can start to apply to down the blocking and tackling of how we make our actual customer conversations more effective. And we can then map that to how did we do with respect to customer satisfaction and, you know, deal size and the velocity of how quickly it closed and start to map different conversational models to how did the relationship perform downstream? Did we win the deal? Did a competitor take this away from us? You know, what were those issues that we won or lost on, you know, it's going to make all those analyzes deeper, right? So I think we're going to find that, you know, for the most part, the metricing of sales isn't going to change that much. But we're going to have much deeper insights. And with respect to the relationship with the customer, and we're going to have much more connectivity across interactions that should help inform everything that we are doing to serve the customer.
Gemma [00:30:16] Let's talk a little bit about the future, because this is always a nice note to end on. And obviously, considering the role that you have and you're spending a lot of time looking at what's next as well, of course, is looking at what's happening right now. So based on what you've been researching and what you've been looking at, has there been anything that sort of surprised you, particularly when it comes to what's most top of mind for sales organizations, where they're looking to invest in the future, and so on and so forth?
Gerry [00:30:40] Yeah, one of the interesting things we found last year in some of our surveys about the challenges that both marketing and sales teams are facing is this whole area of identity and consent, governance, compliance, and personalization. And it was interesting. It was very obvious that would be on the marketing side of the house because of all the changes with cookies and mobile advertising IDs that are kind of the digital building blocks of the whole digital marketing practice. But the fact of the matter is, it came up as one of the top three concerns and challenges for the sales organization as well. So we've got to make sure that these teams and the underlying infrastructure is highly coordinated with the data governance and data strategy team so that all of that compliance work is baked into the infrastructure, so that by the time our line of business decision makers and sales in particular are interacting with customers, that they can feel confident that whatever dimensions or data they use to analyze the customer or rank their propensity scores for certain kinds of product sales or a close propensity, that all that modeling is done in a way that's safe and that the sales team can and the marketing team together can share customer identity and consent and proper protections and safety with respect to the customer's data. And the different tolerances and rules and regulations are different with respect to B2B and B2C, particularly B2C considered purchase, where you still might have some direct sales people involved. You know, that's a probably much more sensitive situation. But a B2B, customers are also just as sensitive to this idea that, you know, we're just sort of gathering all the information we possibly can about them, you know, with or without their knowledge, really need to think about it as a data relationship that is part of our customer relations. It's part of brand equity. It's baked into how our customers feel about doing business with us. And in business in particular, you know, we're going to disclose all kinds of proprietary things and we have been for many years. But now the question is, how secure is that? Because we've had lots of issues of hacks and leaks and things that we've got to make sure that we do a good job of putting an infrastructure in place that can protect and respect our customers data and also drive the proper insights that we need to serve them to the best of our ability in each of our interactions. So I think the future is going to be much more digital. It's going to be much – a lot of work being done behind the scenes with respect to the underlying set of enterprise services that need to be shared across these applications. And we've seen indications that we're already maybe two, two and a half years into this big transition from the trend of driving innovation and investment at the application layer of all these stacks to investment and innovation driving out of the data layer of these stacks. And that's going to take a number of years for a lot of companies to get through, particularly in large enterprises with many different business units and hundreds of data repositories. But it will be worth it. It'll be much more flexible, much more agile. You know, customers will really understand and really feel the difference with respect to how they're being treated. And they'll be much more consistency and much more readily available insight into how their every relationship is working, whether it's the prospect and acquisition stage or whether it's a longtime customer and how we're doing with reselling and upselling and servicing these accounts. So a lot of that will be facilitated with respect to the technology transformations that are happening on supply side, because we're no longer selling every little application as a full stack. We're trying to make sure it talks to an open infrastructure in the back end. And that's a big advantage. So I think we'll find that this road gets easier, but it's really important for companies to get started down as soon as possible because any advantage you have over your competitors in this regard will translate into customer value.
Gemma [00:34:39] One final question, then, for you that I want to ask about again, a little bit of futuring, shall we say, and I suppose its two parts, nobody really could predict that the pandemic although apart from maybe some really specific epidemiologist. Right? We don't know what's going to come next. And you've mentioned before about, you know, the need for agility and responsiveness and resiliency is a lot of what we talk about in the show. So in terms of future, what do you think is the kind of main thing that companies will do or should do in order to ensure that they are going to be ready for whatever we can't see in the crystal ball ahead of us? But secondly, I'd love for you to just tell us maybe something you're excited about in terms of the future of selling that we can expect to see coming our way?
Gerry [00:35:20] Well, I think the exciting thing is that customer expectations are rising and brands and sellers have got to rise to the occasion. We're seeing big changes in the way, in particular, customer identity is going to be managed in digital relationships of all kinds. Right? And that's going to require better practice because we no longer have kind of infinite commercial entitlement access to everybody's mobile IDs and everybody's cookies and all the things that they're doing on the Internet. And that's now going away. And that has big implications for everybody. And most of all, it represents a big change in the mindset of buyers. And we can't just assume that we have every right to know everything about the customer. We've got to actually earn that now and we've got to exchange value for it. With respect to sales, also, the emergence of more kind of subscription-based revenue models is starting to happen in many different kinds of industries. Even in manufacturing, we're finding that, you know, there are examples where instead of selling someone a machine, we can give them the machine and then charge them based on how much output they create on site, on their own. And we can actually use that as instead of a capital expenditure, we can start to charge that as a consumable for whatever they're producing out of the device that we're providing. And that's a big culture change for sales because that moves from a transactional type of relationship to a relationship kind of relationship. So I think in some respects you could think of the evolution of sales like we've moved from feature function level product selling to this solution, selling models that we used to have. And now we're moving into this world of kind of outcome-based solution selling. And now we're kind of moving towards a value-based relationship selling and that we have to be cognizant of the fact that the customer in a subscription business, they could kind of switch and change pretty much at any time. So we want to make sure we have these customers for at least a couple of years. And we can't just, you know, set and forget. And we've got to learn how to build those personal relationships digitally. So there are some big transitions going on there with respect to the technology underlying the sales organization and the fundamental practice of selling. And that's going to continue to have a lot of implications for things we didn't cover. But I think particularly that idea of who are we hiring, to do our selling, you know it’s a different person, they're going to be much more digitally savvy, but they're also going to have expectations that they have the tooling to do their jobs and that they may, in fact, be expecting that you have machine learning and AI assistance to help guide them and, you know, take the administrative trivia off of their plate and allow them to be as effective as possible with respect to their selling and persuasive skills with customers. So a lot going on. It is the most exciting part of the job is, you know, change is constant. So sales teams got to make sure that they are able to adjust to the unexpected, whether it's something that's caused by competition or by regulation or by shifts in customer businesses or global economics, it's all going to continue to change. And we cannot have rigid infrastructures that are the interface for dealing with a dynamic market. That's a bad model. So I think that's kind of the fundamental overview of some of the things that sales teams need to start to adjust to and kind of rethink how all that tooling is done with respect to a set of market dynamics that we cannot always predict.
Gemma [00:38:45] What a lovely note to end on. Hopefully a bit of a positive note to end on there, as well as more a message of empowerment there rather than fear. And certainly something that if companies are willing to dive in and work out how to change and how to adapt and how to have a different mindset towards these ideas, it seems like the future of this area is very bright indeed. So, Gerry, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show and sharing so much expertise we really appreciate it.
Gerry [00:39:08] Thanks, Gemma. Very much appreciated, everybody. Thanks for listening.
Gemma [00:39:12] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Gerry's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoy the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed.
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