Connected & Ready

The future of sales is digital, with Mary Shea

Episode Summary

The trend toward digitization of sales has increased rapidly. Ongoing challenges and changes are forcing businesses to explore and adopt new ways to connect with their customers. In this episode of Connected & Ready, Gemma is joined by guest speaker Mary Shea, a principal analyst serving B2B marketing professionals at Forrester Research. Mary shares her views on the impact of digitization on buyers and sellers, how technologies like AI can help, and the importance of empathy. From our sponsor: Learn how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales helps teams discover actionable insights and drive authentic relationships. Talk to an expert today:

Episode Notes

Host Gemma Milne is joined by guest speaker Mary Shea, a principal analyst serving B2B marketing professionals at Forrester Research. Hear Mary’s perspectives on the art of making meaningful connections during challenging times, the acceleration of digitization, and the advantages of AI technology.  

About Mary Shea  

Mary Shea is a principal analyst at Forrester. She is specifically focused on the empowered B2B buyer and how business leaders must adapt, organize, and enable their marketers, sellers, and channel partners to succeed both today and in the future.  

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Episode Transcription

Music playing [00:00:01]

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 disruptive world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. 

The trend towards digitization of the buyer-seller experience has accelerated as a result of the ongoing challenges and changes businesses are facing. There is no choice other than to embrace the future of sales. On today's episode, I'm chatting to Mary Shea, a principal analyst serving Forrester's B2B marketing and sales professionals. We talk about how the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated adoption of future-facing business technologies, the crucial role of the human in sales (why we're not going anywhere), and how businesses can make the most of digital selling no matter what stage of the technological journey you're on. 

[00:01:06] Mary, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Why don't you start by giving us a little bit of background as to who you are and what you do.

Mary [00:01:13] Fantastic. Great to be here, Gemma. Thank you so much. Yeah. So I'm a principal analyst at Forrester and I work within a practice area called B2B Marketing and Sales. 

[00:01:26] And as part of that group, I spend my time really looking at some of the most exciting and innovative technologies that are out there, primarily in the sales-technology space. 

[00:01:39] That's the short version of what I do. We could talk more over a beer sometime. But the most important thing, I think, for your listeners to know is that I'm an analyst. I've been an academic. And I've also been a practitioner at sales. And so I've done every single role in the B2B selling world, from inside sales to chief commercial officer. Pretty much everything in between. 

Gemma [00:02:01] Thank you, Mary. So before we get into, you know, the current state of things, I want to rewind your memory back [to] pre-coronavirus pandemic. If I was to ask you then… what are your predictions on what the future of sales looks like? 

Mary [00:02:17] Yeah, that's a great question. And I spend a lot of my time thinking about those things. 

[00:02:22] I write primarily future-forward, visionary types of research and also look at the technologies that a company… where things are going directionally. 

[00:02:31] And I wrote a report called “The State of Digitized Selling.” And in that report, I really envisioned what the future of buying and selling in the B2B world was going to look like as digital plays more and more of a role. And there are a number of different trends that surfaced in that report. And really, you know, what we're seeing is business buyers continue to want to interact and engage on digital channels. They're independent-minded. They have very high expectations for personalization and customization with their interactions with sellers. 

[00:03:07] And the interesting thing is, we've got millennials in the U.S. that are about a third of the global workforce, [and] will be just a little less than half globally in about five and half years. 

[00:03:19] And we're seeing millennials who are digital natives take a more front-forward role in business buying decisions. 

[00:03:26] And so this prevalence, this focus on digital, is growing. So it's not just buyers wanting to do research. They want to connect to peer networks. They want to join podcasts like this one and others. They have all kinds of different sources to acquire education, information, even competitive and pricing information, on their own. And so as a result of that, the role of the salesperson is shifting pretty dramatically from what it has been even three or four years ago. 

[00:03:55] What we see is that the buyer will continue to have high expectations, continue to start to expect more from digital interactions, and even in higher-dollar value sales, you're going to start to see e-commerce play more of a role. Marketplaces. Not as a way to disintermediate sellers, but as a way to enable and put sellers in a position where they're able to be more consultative, take on more of an advisory role. The seller is really changing in terms of what they need to do with such a knowledgeable buyer. 

[00:04:30] And those were a lot of the trends that I was writing about, and they were smoldering along. And I thought those trends might reveal themselves in two to three to five years. Now, in the midst of a very different world situation, I find that COVID-19 has accelerated [the] digitization of buyer-seller interactions. So moving at a speed faster than even I, as a sales futurist, could have anticipated. 

Gemma [00:04:56] Mary, you were talking about millennials in the workforce, and we all know that you've got this sort of multigenerational workforce at the moment. What is the sort of future of digital selling? What does that mean for sellers, not just the digital natives, but for others in the workforce that are having to adapt to these new tools and technologies?

Mary [00:05:14] There's really, kind of, two ways I like to think about millennials in the workforce, in a multigenerational workforce. One is on the buy side and the other is on the sell side. On the buy side, you're starting to see millennials have more of a role in decision-making, whether they're creating the initial criteria for the decision or creating a shortlist or providing coaching to a larger committee. And in many cases, you're seeing millennials as economic buyers. 

[00:05:45] What my research showed a couple of years ago was that marketing and sales leaders were still not aware or focused enough on tailoring the message from a marketing and sales perspective to that millennial buying constituency. So millennials consume information in different ways. [They] prefer shorter, succinct messaging. 

[00:06:06] Maybe once the relationship is established, they want to renew a deal via text versus going over longer, lengthy in-person meetings. Instead of going off for the steak dinner, maybe they want to do an Orangetheory class together, when that was an option. So really starting to understand how you are going to modify and adapt your sales and marketing strategies to address a wider range of demographics in the buying process. Now, in the end, you may have that person in the proverbial blue jacket and gray hair making the end decision, but if you aren't on the shortlist in the first place, you might not even get in on that decision. 

[00:06:44] It's really about an awareness. And awareness around how the social events, from millennials, Gen Z, Gen X, implicates how they absorb information, what kind of values they have, and even just sort of the cultural and etiquette dynamics around a sales process. On the sell side, it's really challenging. You've got sales leaders and marketing leaders that have, you know, in some cases three to four generations in a sales force. So that means a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of messaging, tools, 

[00:07:17] technology, training isn't going to work. One thing I've seen that works really, really well is creating a bilateral mentorship program. 

[00:07:27] But my research shows that millennials were not as strong in reading the room—tapping into those buying signals that may not be direct in closing the deal. 

[00:07:41] If you're a millennial, maybe you're asking someone for a date in the room and you're doing it by text, right? You never had to, like, ask the hard question and wait for the “no” in such a dramatic way as you do with some of these selling opportunities. More tenured reps tend to be very good at the art of the deal: reading the room, understanding when to push, when to pull. If there isn’t tension in the system when you're selling, you're probably not selling hard enough. Those kinds of things. I think the more tenured reps have really assimilated and yet they may not feel comfortable making a video and attaching it to an email—even knowing they're gonna get a 66 percent higher open rate. So if you could sort of like create a formal or informal mentorship program between different employee sets, that's something I've seen that works really, really well. But the biggest piece of advice I'd give to sales and marketing leaders is: your internal employees are your customers, too. You would never think of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the market. So don't do that when you think about enabling and advancing your seller skills. 

Gemma [00:08:43] So let's talk a little bit about what's happened over the last couple of months. 

[00:08:47] You know, work has been disrupted, it's been distributed, companies are having to embrace new technologies more as a means of survival. You know, more so than a future-proofing measure, I suppose. What have you seen over the last couple of months? What have you expected? What has surprised you? 

Mary [00:09:08] Yeah, it's really interesting. 

[00:09:09] What I've seen is that the business leaders who invested in sales, digital transformation, who made the right technology bets in terms of the right types of technology and partnering with the right vendors, 

[00:09:23] and were thoughtful about how they rolled out those solutions to their organizations, [they] are in the best possible position they could be in right now. It's certainly a very difficult sales environment. It's difficult for business leaders. But the ones that have had the prescience to make those decisions a little bit earlier than the rest of the pack are in a pretty good position. 

[00:09:44] The ones that did not make those decisions or were laggards or a little bit further behind the curve now are scrambling like nobody's business. 

[00:09:54] I'm fielding questions day in and day out to help these organizations quickly understand what are the critical technologies that sellers need to function day-to-day. What are the ones that can drive better efficiencies and effectiveness and enable sellers to operate in more of a consultative role. And so those organizations are scrambling both from an education and evaluation standpoint to try to figure out what these tools are that they need to put in place for sellers. 

Gemma [00:10:21] I guess one of the big questions I've been thinking about is: What are the changes or the technologies that we're now living with that are going to be abandoned when we're out of this, whatever that means. And which are the ones, you know, the technologies, the changes of behavior, whatever that might be, that, actually, the pandemic has accelerated their adoption, as you say, [that] would have been adopted anyway at some point, so, actually, they're just going to stick?

Mary [00:10:46] Yeah, I mean, that's the million-dollar question, right? And I think all the changes that are going to happen and that will have longevity have been in play, so that what we're doing is really dramatically accelerating things. And so I really liked what I think I read, [what] Satya said the other day, which is businesses—every business—is going to have to be remote on a moment's notice. And so I think that's the biggest thing that we've seen. Forty-two percent of C-suite executives say that they're fundamentally changing their strategies around remote work as a result of the pandemic. 

[00:11:23] So some of these technology bellwethers that I've mentioned are really fundamentally re-evaluating how their employee set is going to work. And that is going to have a huge impact on the selling world. As early as 2017, 

[00:11:37] we saw the in-person, onsite meetings from sales reps starting to decline, where one in five buyers said they prefer not to meet with a sales rep in person if they could do it more efficiently over screen share or a different platform. They wanted to drive those efficiencies and not take up so much time. So that was happening in 2017 and here we are several years later. I think we're looking at a world in the future for B2B sellers and buyers whereby these interactions are primarily going to take place in a remote digital and virtual environment. This period of time that we're in will show that productivity will be off the charts. There will be challenges in airline travel; 

[00:12:19] we've already heard that at least one major U.S. airline probably will not make it through this crisis. We will have less direct connections, higher fares in terms of flights, and the requirements to go visit a corporate office, I think, will be pretty onerous for visitors. Maybe you're going to have to have health certifications. You're going to have to have your temperature taken. You're going to have some sort of an app that you're going to have to use. As all of that sort of amalgamates, you're going to see that probably 80% of the B2B sales are going to be done in a remote capacity. I think there are certain industries, whether that's oil and gas or, you know, sort of IT services or outsourcing, large equipment manufacturing, where you're going to have to sit face to face and, you know, break the bread and look your seller in the eye and know that that's how you're going to do the deal. 

[00:13:10] But predominantly, I think much of the work in B2B sales is going to be done remote. And I even think, imagine this world, that the onsite meeting might become a premium that is paid for by the buying organization rather than absorbed by the supplier organization as part of T&E.

[00:13:30] So I think we're seeing a real transformation in terms of how those interactions take place. 

Gemma [00:13:36] I'm curious about what you think around not having the human at all in some of these interactions. You know, obviously with a lot of these B2B sales situations, it's very much about negotiation. It's very unique for each individual sale, I assume. And obviously, one of the biggest criticisms of digital selling and buying things online [is] not only can it not necessarily be done in some of these unique B2B situations, but you're also lacking that human touch. I wonder what you think that might look like in the future. Do we still definitely need the human? 

Mary [00:14:11] Oh, yes. Another multimillion dollar question. We absolutely do need the human. And I called 2020, even before any COVID awareness, the year of putting the human back in selling. 

[00:14:22] And I made a prediction in 2019, at the end of the year, that even as more buying was done digitally, even for higher and more complex sales, human interaction was going to increase by about 10 percent in this year. And I think there are a number of different reasons for that. One is, if sellers have the right set, the right skilling and education, they can add more value than they've ever added before. There are tools that help with personalization, that help sellers understand what matters to a buyer even before they've had that first conversation. There are a lot of tools leveraging AI that can put sellers in a position to have really insightful conversations. And then the automation that's out there will help sellers spend less time on the minutia and the lower value interactions that they spend about 40% of their time on. So I absolutely think that buyers crave human interaction. People crave human connection. 

[00:15:23] We're seeing that right now, where you're even seeing more opportunity for sellers to interact and engage. And the ones that can do it on synchronous and asynchronous video, who know how to make themselves memorable in a remote setting, who can add insightful and meaningful…and tailor value every step of the way, someone who can walk the digital hallways with their buyers on a social channel, 

[00:15:47] those are the ones that're gonna be really sought after. They're [going] to make a lot of money and they're gonna have a big impact. I'm one of those folks that does not think the tools and technologies will replace the seller, but take the seller out of low-value activities and amp the seller up with higher levels of intelligence and insights, to make them more valuable and more necessary to the buying process. 

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Gemma [00:16:38] When we're talking about some of the tools for insight and intelligence for sellers, you know, how technology can be useful in giving information that can enhance the job of the seller, give us a little bit of an insight into what's available. 

Mary [00:16:53] You know, there's a wide range of tools from sales intelligence to sales content solutions to solutions that help you with your engagement. So all of these sales tools now have AI embedded into them. So AI is sort of not a separate category in sales, but is pretty much embedded as a functionality into every modern sales tool that we have. 

[00:17:12] And so a few examples are…I could be talking to a certain type of buyer at a company that's a certain size in an industry with a role. My content management solution will serve up a piece of content that's going to resonate with that buyer based on their role, the industry of the company they are at, where they're at in the sales cycle. And it will recommend this piece of content for me to send. Now, as a seller, I can step back and say, yeah, but there's maybe a couple other things here that the AI isn’t considering. I'm not going to do that, I'm going to do this. But maybe it's a great fit. Another example is there's a company in Toronto that I do a lot of work with, and they have a chrome overlay that can sit on any kind of digital page of a potential contact. It could be my Forrester bio or my LinkedIn or even my Facebook. And immediately, what the AI does is surface in a visualization what the four to five areas of my personal/professional interests are. And then the next step is the AI surfaces content, either aggregate from outside or internal marketing content, and recommends that piece to a buyer and that content might resonate with three to four of the areas of interest for that particular buyer. Other things we see systems doing—sales performance management systems that are increasingly sophisticated around helping companies with business planning, setting quotas, and territory, and paying commission out—[we] can see that as an example, a seller might not be tracking to quota and push insights and ideas around, “Hey, if you focus on this region or these products, you're going to be 99 percent more likely to hit quota than if you don't.” Things of that nature are the kinds of recommendations that are surfaced up. Another example with guided selling tools is somebody asks a question and I might say to you, well, you know, how does your solution integrate with certain CRM that I have? And immediately, all kinds of information around integration will pop up to cue the seller on what the right answer is—because you can't remember everything. So those are just a couple of ways where you're going to see the AI be that angel on the shoulder for the seller, helping them make decisions quicker, be smarter, execute faster in a way that's consistent with what the buyer is looking for.

Gemma [00:19:36] Building on that, we talk about technology being this, I guess, enabler of the roles that humans already have as opposed to a replacement. And those of us on the outside, those of us researching it like yourself, perhaps that may be a slightly easier thing to accept and to explain and to understand. But that might be different for the people who are in these roles. And from what you see, do you feel the sellers maybe feel that fear of automation, fear of being replaced, more so than people like yourself researching? 

Mary [00:20:05] One hundred percent. And I think that's where, you know, the folks that do the theoretical work need to, you know, have a little empathy and understand what it's like to walk in the shoes of a salesperson. The way I see the fear around automation and technology innovation as it relates to sellers is not dissimilar from what we saw back in the day when Granger was the first B2B firm to put its catalog up on an e-commerce website. Sellers at that time really viewed e-commerce as a disintermediator. Today, now it's just another channel, another sales route that their buyers can use in addition to a variety of other routes. So I do think that sellers are very scared about automation and technology advancement and what that means for their role. And I try to go out and talk to as many selling organizations as I can enlist and inspire them and help them understand a couple of things. As automation saves significant amounts of time, 

[00:21:01] you as a seller can probably work a three-day workweek, be massively effective, have more impact on your customers’ business goals and strategies than you ever have before, be a consultant, and have just a massive quality of life. 

[00:21:18] Now, the challenge is, one of the things that automation and technology is driving is greater efficiencies. So B2B organizations will be able to do more with less, so to speak. But the sellers who are in-seat, who can make that transition to digital, I think will find themselves in a rewarding position where they'll be highly sought after. They'll be able to really impact their business, their customers’ business in meaningful ways that make them feel great about their jobs. 

[00:21:46] And when you think about salespeople, everyone always defaults to, well, you know, it's all about the commission. It's all about the upside. 

[00:21:52] Having been a salesperson, I could say, yes, the money's great, but it was always more about helping the customer succeed at their goals, for me. 

[00:22:03] And when I talk to salespeople worth their salt around the world, that's what motivates them, as they don't have to spend their time scheduling meetings and searching for content that they can't find, and chasing contracts and all these other kinds of things. And they can really focus on value-added activities, I think you're going to find it to be an even more meaningful and rewarding role. But I totally get it. You know, people are fearful of change and sellers don't like change. That's, you know, that's sort of the mindset. 

Gemma [00:22:35] So bearing in mind that this human is really important and the, kind of, the sales process and bearing in mind we're talking about remote sales being something that can be used moving forward…how do you think we can, kind of, replicate these human, real-life human, connections that, you know…normally we'd be sharing a tin of biscuits or an ice coffee or perhaps, as you said, a beer, earlier on. What do you think can be done nowadays to make sure these video chats and these technologies are used to give that sort of human connection? 

Mary [00:23:03] Yeah, so there's no doubt that there is a bit of, you know, fatigue that's out there. But there's a few things. 

[00:23:09] One is, you know, the technology continues to mature and be better. And then I think getting stronger at ways to interact. So, training that will help sellers understand how to be more impactful in a remote or synchronous or asynchronous video situation. Right now, like, for me, it's like I was just sitting next to you. It doesn't really feel any different. Sure, it’d be great to have the biscuit. But this is still great as well. So helping sellers get more confident in the modality is great. 

[00:23:40] And then we'll see a lot of other tools that will emerge, that already have emerged, that can take the conversations even further—whether it's an augmented reality or 3D opportunity for someone to go through with a seller and evaluate the solution or technology real-time with the seller. There's a lot of different things, I think, that can help to foster that connection. I've also seen on other properties sellers being wildly creative, setting up coffees with industry experts, setting up drinks with a range of people dealing with topics that everybody cares about. So I think this is going to generate and drive the creative juices of our sellers to find new and more impactful ways to connect with people. And I think that's good. 

Gemma [00:24:29] So I want to go back to this idea of what the experiences look like at the point when the human isn't involved, these sorts of administrative, 40%, menial tasks. 

[00:24:39] And especially when it comes to, you mentioned earlier, customers who are digitally savvy, who want these kinds of self-directed experiences. They want to, you know, go and look at the information themselves. And I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how sellers can adapt to this, and kind of make sure they're adding value to the process. Maybe we can touch a little bit on mindfulness and empathy when it comes to sales. 

Mary [00:25:05] I think in the past, you know, a seller's job was to kind of build the relationship, have good communication skills, being able to accurately pitch product. Today, the types of skills and attributes we're looking at are really different. They need to understand data. They don't need to be data scientists, but certainly understand how to ask questions to better know the patterns of their customers and prospects so that they can respond appropriately. They need to be savvy on a wide range of digital tools and be able to get around those comfortably. They need to be able to be highly collaborative. What we're seeing is you've got now a very distributed workforce. We've seen buying teams increase exponentially on the buy side. We've seen the rise of procurement. So the sense of how to be collaborative as part of the sales process is really important. I'm starting to think a lot about this in the research lab [I’m] embarking on, which is, what is the impact of psychological resiliency on your ability to be successful as a seller? And we've talked a lot about empathy and empathetic interactions. And I think now more than ever, on so many levels, that's required from a seller. I think sellers understand that. I think the next level is to really understand yourself, 

[00:26:19] where are you before you engage in that call, understand and assess where your customer prospect is, present an appropriately positive view of the future where your solution can contribute to value. And so I really think that sellers are going to have to be psychologically resilient. 

[00:26:39] I personally hope to do some more research around the neuroscience of selling and how to deepen your connections in a wide range of types of settings, from in-person to digital to remote. And as we look at the future of selling, I think folks that have that empathy have the ability to understand who they are and where their prospects and customers are at a moment in time, and direct the conversation in a way that makes sense, will be highly successful.

Gemma [00:27:08] I love that. That's absolutely fascinating. 

[00:27:10] I'm wondering as well about the relationship between sellers and marketers. So say, for instance, you've come up with some kind of insight that says, actually, buyers want this information before they get in touch with us, they want to see [it] on the website, they want it to be easy to access. So we're going to need you, marketing department, to change the website, uploads things, do some design. And I can imagine, particularly with large companies which have different departments sitting in different places with different reporting lines and decision makers, that is easier said than done. 

Mary [00:27:47] Yeah, I mean, that's a question that's so important and one I kind of call the marketing and sales alignment discussion as the gift that keeps on giving. 

[00:27:55] What's really interesting is that marketing and sales have been at odds for many years in some ways, and the DNA is really different of what makes an individual want to go into one profession or one type of function versus another. 

[00:28:09] The other thing is that marketing and sales have been encouraged to work closer together in more of a top-down perspective, which I say is inorganic. Where the CEO says, marketing and sales, you have to get together, you know, stop the finger pointing and let's really go to market in a consolidated, holistic way. Now, again—going back to the buyer, because the buyer is so sophisticated—sales or marketing in a silo cannot succeed alone. I think this idea of marketing a sales alignment is really driven now more organically on bottom-up from the customer and prospect, who is so sophisticated, doesn't go on linear journeys, is, you know, sort of downloading digital content, going to an event, downloading a podcast, looking at an infographic, calling a friend up to get recommendations and then talking to a salesperson, then going back to marketing. Everything needs to be connected. And many sales organizations are struggling with connecting their marketing and sales systems so that they have a 360-degree view of all customer interactions across every channel. So that's crucial so that everyone has visibility [into] who's talking to a prospective customer around what their recent activities and interactions were. And then, I think also having really strong data strategy is going to be really important as well. So I believe that sales and marketing is coming together and the tools and systems, when used correctly, enable marketing and sales to have data-driven conversations versus emotional ones, which we've been having over the last 20 years. 

Gemma [00:29:44] So we're talking here about the importance of marketing and sales being connected up. But I fear we're being a little bit high-level, so convince me: Why is it that marketing and sales need to be better connected? 

Mary [00:29:54] Well, marketing and sales is mandated by the buyer to be better connected because our buyer now is so sophisticated, so digitally savvy, so independent, that if you've got sales and marketing operating in silos, it's gonna be a very disconnected experience for the buyer. I think in the past, when the sales process was more linear, you know, you sort of had…marketing would warm them up, then pass the lead onto inside sales, inside sales would qualify or [unintelligible], whatever it is you want to call it, pass on to the field rep. 

[00:30:26] And so now, we're not seeing linear interactions on the buy side. As a result, marketing and sales need to be much better and connected, interconnected, both at the systems level, the process level, and just day-to-day collaboration. So, for example, the buyer demands personalization. Account-based marketing is a very popular method right now. 

[00:30:48] You can't really have account-based marketing operate successfully without sales and marketing collaborating really, really closely. In many cases you're going to see marketing individuals sit right in the deal team and maybe even get some sort of variable compensation based on milestones that the account-based team wants to achieve. Many organizations are actually making decisions or even creating a shortlist based on digital content solely without even talking to a salesperson. So if your digital sales strategy and your digital content strategy [aren't] tightly aligned, you're going to miss out on opportunities. And so it only takes a few missed opportunities here and there for marketers and sellers to realize that they have to collaborate in a way to address the way the buyer wants to engage with them. The buyer does not want any kind of disruptions. They want you as a seller to understand that they went to an event, they participated in podcasts, they downloaded this content. And you have to be highly knowledgeable. And the same thing on the marketing side, for when they interact, or else it's gonna be a disappointing experience. 

Gemma [00:31:58] I want to get into some examples, because I think a lot of the stuff we've been talking about, it's a little high-level to some degree. And it'd be great to illustrate some of your favorite examples of who is doing it right. 

[00:32:11] You know, give us a company that you see as doing digital selling right. 

Mary [00:32:16] I think some of the technology companies naturally are a little bit ahead of some of the more traditional industries. So ADP is an example. And I think their head of global sales enablement saw the trends that were in place and began making changes to their organization. And in 2019, before there was even a hint of COVID, they transitioned—they have about an 8,000, 9,000 sales force—transitioned about 2,000 field sellers into the insider remote role. And they really believe that sellers could be just as effective in a remote setting. So they naturally got some cost savings. They were able to take that cost savings, reinvest in innovative marketing and sales tools. That particular channel now, for ADP, carries the largest sales quota of the entire organization. Now they're one of those companies that I think is in as good a position as you could be with a situation because they saw the writing on the wall, made some of those decisions, and executed on them. So I think that's a great example. 

Gemma [00:32:23] The current environment we've got is clearly unprecedented. But as you mentioned at the beginning, the shift towards adoption being fast accelerated is being done as a means of survival right now. So I'm curious, for people listening to the show who are either feeling they're a little bit behind and wanting to quickly jump in and accelerate, or perhaps for those who are thinking, I need to keep being on top of this, I need to keep future-proofing and ensure that wherever it is that comes next that them and their businesses are prepared for it and resilient, how do people start thinking about how to adapt or get better at digital selling? You know, what's the sort of pragmatic and incremental approach to moving forward? 

Mary [00:34:09] Yeah, I mean, I think about these black swan events, and the last one we had was in the global economic downturn of 2008, 2009.

[00:34:16] There can be periods of great innovation, rapid disruption, and change. You know, Airbnb, Uber, a whole host of other companies sort of were born from that environment. And so I guess my advice at the organizational level is think of this as a watershed moment. Don't just think about how do I invest in a lower-cost channel. Think about how you can fundamentally change and improve the way you interact with your customers and prospects. So that can be, you know, understand what some of the foundational tools are that sellers need to be effective, and educate yourself and start to build those tools or process for bringing those tools into your organization. The next thing is, at the organizational level, you need to think about how to reskill and upskill your personnel. We hired for different skill sets than what we need today. So go out and hire an agency to help you get your sellers up to speed on how to engage and be effective in digital formats. And then, I think, thirdly, you want to start to think about how do we organize in ways that are more tailored to the way buyers want to buy? And Microsoft announced this, I think was several years ago, or three years ago, when they fundamentally changed the sales organizational structure to account for subscription-based, cloud-based business models. Well, the one-time sales interaction is sort of behind us. Buyers expect, you know, ongoing and continuous motion. And so are there better ways to organize and align your sellers so that they can be more responsive to buyers so they can deliver deeper insights, or simply sellers and buyers with the same type of skillset are aligned. If someone wants to engage 90% digitally, let's partner them up with someone who's digitally skilled. If someone wants to work with someone they work with before three other companies, let's find that person and align them because they're going to be able to buy quicker from someone they have an existing relationship with. And now with all the data we have, we can do the rich analytics to try to figure out more sophisticated and biocentric ways of organizing. So tools, talent, and organization. I think you start to think about those things. Prioritize, and start picking them off. 

Gemma [00:36:31] Mary, I think that's a great point to end it with. Such brilliant, I guess, pragmatic questions that businesses can be asking themselves, and throughout. Thank you so much for giving such candid answers to all these different questions about how the future of digital selling can be brought on for everyone. 

Mary [00:36:45] My pleasure. Thanks, Gemma. Have a great evening. 

Gemma [00:36:51] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Mary's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

Ad [00:37:12] Learn how Dynamics 365 Sales helps teams drive more relevant and authentic customer relationships, generate more quality leads, and improve productivity. Request a live demo today by following the link in the episode description.