By Lauren Somer

Business has changed. The way people do business, how they engage with business, and the connections they create in business. While the global pandemic has played no small part in this change, digital has been eroding at traditional boundaries and approaches for years.

Today, organisations must adopt a digital-first view of engagement across customers, markets, and employees to ensure sustainable growth and consistent service delivery.

According to Gartner, a digital mindset is key to meeting new customer buying preferences and ensuring that the company is capable of adapting to evolving market demands.

With 80% of sales interactions predicted to take place in digital channels by 2025, this is the time to revise how the organisation engages and interacts across multiple supply chains to ensure it is agile enough to adapt and flex.

This flex, this adaptability – these are not nice to have capabilities in the current climate, but rather critical success points that ensure that companies can maintain connected business relationships. The pandemic is cementing the need for this approach today, but companies need to evolve their approaches to ensure they are ready for tomorrow.

Rethink the traditional

Face-to-face meetings and engagements. Networking events. Personalised sales visits. These approaches are slowly dying in the face of limited in-person engagements and the rigours of pandemic-led restrictions.

The past year has forced companies to adopt new ways of working and digital-led solutions to ensure they can stay ahead and afloat. Rapid digitalisation and investment have put many on the fast-track to transformation and allowed for sales teams to connect with customers in unique and unexpected ways.

However, these solutions have been cobbled together by speed and necessity but now require a more targeted approach that allows for the permanent and elegant transformation of strategies and resources for long-term, digitally empowered, success.

Gartner believes that the future lies in the move from a seller-centric model to a buyer-centric one, shifting from an analogue approach to sales to one that is hyper-automated and connects with customers on multiple digital levels.

These can include anything from back-end automation innovations such as CRM and ERP platforms that can analyse the rich pools of corporate data and turn them into customer-driven insights to front-end engagement across social media, email, and digital marketing toolkits.

To thrive in a digital world, the organisation needs a digital toolbox that is filled with all the relevant tools it needs to connect with customers across multiple layers and touchpoints while delivering next-generation experiences and results.

The digital toolkit

The disadvantage of digital is the lack of human connection. This is a challenge for traditional sales teams that rely on communication and personalised engagements to create networks and sell solutions.

However, research has found that only 17% of a buyer’s time is spent meeting with a potential supplier, and that can drop down to as low as 5% if they’re engaging with multiple suppliers. The rest of their time is spent online, researching the company through content.

Digital content has become the queen of the successful sales story. The company story can be told and retold across multiple platforms and leveraged in multiple ways. From the whitepaper that holds the insights of business leaders to the ebooks, blog posts, sales materials, datasheets, and social media posts that cement those insights in the eyes of the buyer.

Influencing the customer decision is less about the time taken up in meetings and more about adopting innovative approaches that value buyer time and deliver information in intelligent and relevant ways.

This approach not only takes the limitations of the pandemic into consideration but the needs of the client. What do companies need in a time-starved world where information is everything, and everywhere?

They need the personalisation that sat in face-to-face communication to now sit in their digital world – content, marketing, digital business cards all customised to fit that client’s needs. Digital does not have to be cold or be limited by physical distance, it can be as dynamic a sales strategy as the knock on the door.

At the beginning of 2020, we equipped our entire sales force with digital business cards that incorporate a QR code, to enable them to have real-time contact with clients, and eliminate the need to search through collateral, making all the tools they need available in one click of a button. This allowed them to quickly embrace the concept of digital sales when face-to-face engagement was not an option.

An evolved approach

When the pandemic is over and traditional sales approaches are back on the proverbial table, it would be wise for companies to not simply slide back into what they once knew.

Digital transformation has forced change, and now is the time to leverage that change to create holistic and engaging ecosystems that connect with clients across multiple digital touchpoints. This is not the future forced on the business by viruses or regulations, it is one that centralises and listens to the customer.

Customers appreciate the speed and accessibility of digital, the more intensely realised experiences that digital delivers, and the fresh approaches it offers their approaches to customers and the market.

Organisations that can embrace this digitally-driven future are more likely to improve customer satisfaction and, as a bonus, have better financial performance. Digital maturity is not a trend, it is a strategic advantage.

Lauren Somer is the Head of Marketing, Aggreko Africa


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