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Jan 2, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Future-proof your sales competences

Maija Satama

Consultant, Sales & Customer Engagement

Download The Digital Sales Transformation Handbook


Studies show that more and more decision makers are using digital channels in their decision-making process. Digital technologies are a new playground for companies to use in approaching potential buyers and get leads, including influencing on social media and building a professional brand online.

To succeed in the fast-moving field of digital sales, the sales team needs to adopt new skills and technologies. As buyer behaviour is changing and sales is becoming more digital, organisations need to start thinking about sales from a different angle. In fact, the whole sales process should be seen in another way. This requires a shift in the organisational mindset, as well as novel, lean ways of organising around growth – especially digital growth.

Organisations need to respond and adapt to changes in the turbulent and ever-evolving business environment. A proactive stance is needed not only for organisations to stay alive, but also to present themselves as an attractive option to potential employees. Talent acquisition will always be important, but talent nurturing is now becoming a crucial factor for companies who seek to survive and be at the forefront amid increasing competition for capabilities and know-how.

Everyone is a salesperson

It is mainly a strategic decision to build a digital sales team. Some say that in the long run AI and robots will conduct sales, but others believe that there are business fields that will never succeed without a personal sales contact. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes; at least for the next five years or so. 

Companies that want to succeed need to make the decision to immediately start investing in digital sales and new digitals sales teams. Start building new sales teams now, training and recruiting employees that share the vision of digital sales organisations. Everything is sales and everyone sells! 

To fully grasp what it means when we say that everyone needs to sell, it is necessary to contemplate the different roles in the organisation. Considering every single role as a potential sales role may seem overly theoretical, so we recommend looking at the bottom-line business impact of different roles and taking sales numbers into discussions. Plan together with your employees what the “everyone sells” ideology could mean in your organisation, and in different teams. Allow innovations and your culture to support everyone's growth mindset.

Build a future-proof sales team

Recruiting the future rockstars of digital sales is crucial. Everyone participating in the recruitment process needs to adopt the idea of finding people who really want to be an important part of the business and create growth. New recruits should have the mindset of making and delivering business impact: understanding the importance of measuring through analytics and tracking, be willing to experiment with different approaches, able to analyse available data, and producing actionable insights. 

In the sales teams of the future, we need to break the lines between departments and start to work together more. Designers, developers, digital marketers/analysts and ecommerce shop keepers (e.g. product owners and growth owners) need to be considered as sales personnel as well. This new sales team should work closely with the traditional sales personnel and other departments or business units in a non-siloed, flexible manner – sharing growth ideas, lessons learned and best practices along the way. Transparency is important. 

Cross-functional operations are key. It is also key for everyone to understand the power of digitals sales. Cross-functional growth teams let people learn more from each other and understand each other better. They are often more innovative when they have a wider perspective in the whole sales process.


A resilient culture is a winning culture

Digital growth teams have a mandate to initiate growth experiments in digital channels. Business goals set the scope for the experiments, and the team focuses on studying the data to learn what has the biggest impact. Experiments are not individual tricks, but rather activities that are closely associated with and planned along the customer journey, and in terms of customer lifetime value. 

When all employees are selling, they also need a mandate to try things and fail. This gives the team not only the freedom, but also the responsibility to measure their growth activities and learn from their actions. A culture where it is “ok to fail” stems from a safe atmosphere: ways of communicating openly and a buy-in and understanding from top management. Let’s not forget that 80 % of growth experiments typically fail, and only 20 % make a real impact.

Recruiting the right people is always important, but it is also important not to forget about the current employees. The people working in your company right now have the relevant know-how and understanding of the company’s current business and clients. When making the change from traditional sales into digital sales, you should engage all employees in the process, and listen to all the worries they may have or the potential obstacles they may see. Open the word “sales” to everyone in the organisation; ask them to define what it means for their role.

No matter how well you do the transition towards digital sales teams, there is always a possibility that you might lose some people in the process. Change always involves risks. The good thing is that those who will stay are willing to adopt new ways of working, and are usually more motivated and more likely to make a greater impact on a company’s growth than in the past. 

Ultimately, teams should take more ownership and act autonomously in driving growth. While business goals set the scope for work, tactical work should be independent and driven by teams themselves. This way, an experimentation culture can flourish, as there are no fixed job descriptions, external sanctions, and/or artificial hierarchies for work.

How to get started?

Understanding the importance of digital sales is the starting point. After that there are three steps to get you started:

  1. Decide that digital sales and transforming your sales process and team is something you want to do. Start making the change, allocate time to the new team, advise and educate, and give the team a mandate to work. When the business impact is proven, you can always scale and adjust.
  2. Select a single service channel or service/product area for digital sales improvement and optimisation. Learn and scale to other channels and areas of the business. Don’t overload people with too heavy a start.
  3. Learn from other businesses and success stories. There are also others doing the same transformation and they will have learned lessons they can share with you.


This blog post was written together with my amazing colleague Krista Palmu. 


Learn how to thrive at the turning point of digital sales by reading The Digital Sales Transformation Handbook. Discover how digital sales transformation is changing companies, and how your business can leverage this change through organisational development, customer experience, ways-of-working and technology. Featuring interviews with industry experts, such as Marta Dalton (eCommerce Director for Unilever and Coca-Cola previously), Risto Siilasmaa (Founder of F-Secure) and Antti Kleemola (CDO of VR, Finnish Railways).


Download The Digital Sales Transformation Handbook


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