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A Sales Transformation: from "Inside" to "Digital" Sales

Author: Judy Buchholz, General Manager, IBM Digital Sales
Posted: October 20th, 2015

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Fellow Inside Sales Crusaders,

I am happy to share with you the following article written by Judy Buchholz, General Manager of IBM’s Global Digital Sales Organization.  Besides her role leading the 5,000+ person organization, Judy is a thought leader and evangelist for everything “Inside Sales”.  As a member of the AA-ISP’s Advisory Board, Judy has given tirelessly of her time and energy to help advance our great profession.  This article discusses her team’s transformation to the new era of Digital Sales while sharing some practical tips for leaders with teams of all sizes. Judy’s full presentation on this topic can be seen during her keynote address at the upcoming AA-ISP Inside Sales World conference in Dublin, IE on Wednesday, November 18th.

Bob Perkins

 A Sales Transformation: from “Inside” to “Digital” Sales
Blog post by Judy Buchholz, General Manager, IBM Digital Sales
Judy Buchholz

One question I get asked a lot is why and how did IBM transform our inside sales team to a “digital” sales team.  The quick answer to the “why” is our clients have driven the transformation as they have changed how they choose to engage.  We’ve all seen the statistic that 57% of the buying process is complete before a client talks to a sales representative.  This sea change means we not only need to equip our sales teams for this new system of engagement but also deepen their skills so they can provide the consultative expertise that clients can’t get on the web.

We know sellers who are digitally eminent are more effective – we actually quantified it in a study we conducted.  But entrenched ways of conducting business, especially when they still produce results, are tough to change.

Now for the “how.”  Our transformation is ongoing.  It is a journey.  We did not snap our fingers, change our name and suddenly become digital.  I’d like to share some advice as you transform your own sales team from “inside” to “digital.”

Buy in and advocacy from first line managers is crucial.  Is the management team on board and can they articulate why the transformation is imperative?  Do they recognize that integrating digital and social selling techniques is about changing attitudes and behaviors of sellers?

Promote, acknowledge and reward the right behaviors.  Our Dublin Sales Center set up a competition across the different country teams – the “Digital World Cup.”  The event, promoted by homegrown posters and videos, encouraged teams to submit their best practices.  Prizes were awarded and individuals were recognized for their innovative use of digital and social to reach clients.  Gamification and competition help drive behaviors – but focus on results!

Provide tools and training.  It’s not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.”  We can provide teams with LinkedIn Premium licenses, personal rep web pages, Skype, video whiteboards, online meeting software, etc.  But without an investment in training – preferably face-to-face with skilled and recognized digitally eminent sellers and marketers — traction will be limited.  And never underestimate the power of informal peer-to-peer knowledge sharing at your sales centers from early adopter social selling “champions.”

Lead by example.  As a leader – what does your LinkedIn profile look like?  Who are you following on Twitter?  Are you using your own tools?  Are you taking advantage of new collaborative tools like wikis?  Are you using blogs and video to communicate to your teams?

Keep your eye on attitude change, not inventing new KPIs.  Sellers are goal driven.  You set a goal of 500 LinkedIn connections, they will get there.  You set a goal of 2 video chats a week, they will do it.  But often these metrics lead to gaming the system and ticking the box.   Focus on best practices and results.

Our journey continues.  But we now have hundreds of examples of using new ways of engaging clients producing new relationships and new opportunities.  This is the future.

About the blogger: Judy Buchholz is General Manager of IBM Digital Sales, a global sales organization with 5,000 sellers and support, located in several dozen sales centers around the world. She is based in Armonk, New York, and travels extensively to stay connected with her teams around the world.