Guest Column | December 27, 2019

Why Organizations Must Invest In Digitizing The Sales Process

By David Gruenberg, MST Solutions

Digital Transformation

Effective selling in today’s fast-paced, commoditized market requires agility and the ability to problem solve. And this is particularly imperative in the semiconductor and manufacturing industries, which has grown more complex than ever before.

Lengthy sales cycles, catalogs of thousands to hundreds of thousands of products, multiple teams — field sales, inside sales, marketing, support sales — who are often siloed in their respective departments pose huge challenges to companies in this dog-eat-dog world, where sales are slowing down and will eventually lead to competitors swallowing businesses who fall behind.

It’s predicted there will only be a handful of semiconductors remaining in the near future. How do you survive that? Through business innovation and transformation. And that requires challenging the status quo on how things have traditionally been done and shifting the internal culture to one that embraces, and gets excited about, digital transformation.

Overcoming Ingrained Mindsets

Like any industry that’s been around for the better part of a century, there’s bound to be legacy processes and ways of doing things that are still in play today. While those may have gotten businesses to where they are today, they’re now holding them back.

This is commonly seen among sales teams in the semiconductor and manufacturing world. Many are still relying on old systems, notepads and knowledge of a specific subset of their organization’s exhaustive product catalog. As a result, it becomes a challenge to solve for complex issues customers or distributors may have, especially if it requires innovation that falls outside of that salesperson’s purview of product knowledge.

According to McKinsey, the average semiconductor company’s sales force “spends only 26 percent of its time on customer-facing sales tasks, such as planning account strategy, planning sales calls, and traveling to meet with customers. Slightly more time, 28 percent, is devoted to internal tasks related to sales, such as campaign planning.” Additionally, a lack of proper sales tools is also having a significant impact on sales success and the ability to scale.

Sales teams can no longer rely on tribal knowledge or the same tactics that worked in the past. They must work as one team, across business units, to problem solve for prospective customers. They have to approach selling as a partnership rather than a transaction. This requires digitizing communication across the value chain and becoming more intelligent in terms of how they sell. When that’s achieved, organizations can experience top- and bottom-line gains, improving the customer experience.

Solution Selling With The Right Technology

Selling today is not a one-size-fits-all. Customers need customized solutions to complex business issues and they expect reps to know and understand what they want. This requires intelligence. Not in terms of knowledge of how to sell, but intelligence on the customer and their pain points, the organization’s mix of solutions available, and how to talk about those effectively.

To meet this challenge, sales teams must leverage the right technology –– a system that allows for easy collaboration, brings together the collective knowledge of the team, and serves up the right information at the right time. These systems also will allow deals to be closed faster and easier, leading to even more opportunities.

But, as most organizational leaders know, you can’t just implement new technology and hope for the best. The project needs to be sponsored by leadership and committed to making life easier for all stakeholders involved –– the various sales teams, marketing, leadership, customer success, etc. If the new system adds work for them, the organization will realize the symptoms of an unsuccessful implementation: poor adoption.

How do you avoid this fate?

Keys To Successfully Digitizing Sales

As human nature goes, we tend to stick to what we’re used to doing. We need to see the value of new tools by learning how they improve our lives or workflows. For semiconductors wanting to embrace a digital sales process, there first has to be a cultural or mindset change. Leadership has to get the team excited about what this tool or system will do for them, otherwise they will revert back to what’s comfortable. You have to create the philosophy, not just the tool.

This process requires deep listening and involving the team from the start. Take the time to understand their pain points and day-to-day workflows. What would they like to see in this new tool? How can they be better supported in their role?

When they’re a part of the development process, they’re automatically more bought in and it begins to stimulate the collaborative mentality. The team responsible for implementing the new technology –– whether they are internal or an external partner –– must embed themselves in each of the departments to learn everything they can about how it functions so they can effectively architect what the system could look like at a high level. The process requires constant collaboration, testing and feedback to create a system that’s unique and tailored to the business and makes employees’ jobs easier, rather than adding work.

Benefits Of A Digital Team

Many organizations struggle with walled gardens, blind handoffs between departments, and various teams not understanding the processes of their co-workers. It can feel transactional between departments, which is the enemy of teamwork. When an outsider steps in to take a look under the hood, assess workflows and pain points, it can bring a fresh perspective, breaking down the sales process into steps so individuals can understand the full scope of others’ work. Typically, they’re blown away by all their co-workers do and this begins to foster a culture of empathy, understanding, collaboration and transparency.

With those walls broken down, it also creates the opportunity to access one another’s expertise to better problem solve for customers in less time.

For example, we recently worked with a semiconductor company in which the individuals on the various sales teams were used to working as a one-person army. In helping them adopt a system and culture that promotes collaboration, they were able to work as one team. The individuals weren’t limited to their own product knowledge, they could use this platform to tap into the knowledge of the entire organization in real time. If they were working with a customer who was trying to do something innovative, and it fell outside of their product knowledge, they could post a question in the platform and have the entire team contribute to building a solution.

Outside of leveraging the intelligence of the entire organization, some CRMs also can be customized to provide prescriptive guidance to individuals working on a specific deal. This can be in the form of product information, messaging, suggested solutions, etc. that is served to that individual at just the right time.

The collaboration, ability to build more effective solutions and shorten the sales cycle, will reinvigorate sales teams, enabling companies to scale faster.

Keep in mind, however, even after a successful CRM implementation, the work continues. There will be updates, new feature rollouts, and ideally, the system should evolve with your organization to support goals. And if you’ve laid the groundwork for a team that champions this new system, they’ll look forward to these updates like they would the next Apple or Android device, with excitement about their potential.

It’s essential to recognize that software is just a tool. It can be a conduit in your organization’s transformation, but only if your stakeholders embrace the process of implementation. Change is never easy, but organizations, particularly those in the semiconductor industry, have to be ready and willing to change the way they do business, and adopt a forward-looking approach that will keep them steps ahead of the competition.

About The Author

David Gruenberg is High Tech/Manufacturing Practice Lead at MST Solutions.