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article imageQ&A: How augmented reality and big data are shaking up sales Special

By Tim Sandle     Mar 19, 2019 in Business
Sales people today need to find new and imaginative strategies to market and sell products. This requires new technology and it requires a new approach to sales. A leading expert shows how AR and big data matters for sales today.
According to Theresa O’Neill, VP of Marketing at Showpad, complex products like valves, auto parts and chemicals take more than just a conversation to sell. Fax machines and static content no longer work, because businesses do not work that way anymore. They now use technology including video calls, augmented reality, personalized sales portals and interactive content.
In order for salespeople to succeed, they need to go beyond dated brochures and aged PowerPoints to convince buyers to purchase.
Digital Journal spoke with O’Neill about how sellers can improve sales processes in the manufacturing space.
Digital Journal: What are the main challenges faced by modern salespeople?
Theresa O’Neill: It’s not easy to be a modern salesperson. According to CSO Insights, only 53 percent of sellers are meeting or exceeding their quota and that number has been trending down over the past several years.
Buyers and their expectations are changing - and changing fast. The biggest struggle buyers face is keeping up with the demands of modern sellers as they aim to hit their quota. The path to purchase is getting longer and deals are becoming more complex as buyers involve more stakeholders in their decisions. Yet despite these growing complexities, buyers expect sellers to not only act as trusted advisors, but help them navigate the purchase process for a smooth, streamlined transaction.
DJ: How has the selling landscape changed in recent years?
O’Neill: Our experiences and expectations as consumers are changing our behavior as B2B buyers, but most sellers have not adapted to changing buyer expectations. Many B2B sellers think their customers are empowered - with tons of information at their fingertips. But the latest research shows that buyers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralyzed than empowered. Buyers need information, but it has to be relevant.
The sales cycle has gotten much longer in recent years. According to our B2B Buyer Experience Report, more than half of buyers said their buying cycle had gotten longer over the past 12 months, with 22 percent saying that it had increased significantly. In addition, 25 percent of buyers reported that more than 5 people were involved in B2B purchasing decisions, meaning that a whole team of people must be in agreement before closing a deal.
Modern buyers demand smart and skilled salespeople who present the right information at the right time. However, this can be a huge challenge for sales reps aren’t properly trained on what they need to know or equipped with the right content assets to present or share in a sales conversation.
DJ: How disruptive has digital technology been in the B2B selling process?
O’Neill: Technology has completely reshaped B2B selling over the last decade. While iPads were once used for entertainment and leisure, they now provide sellers in the field with a tool to present attention-grabbing content. Other evolutions like video conferencing and cloud-based CRM systems have completely changed the sales atmosphere, digitizing daily conversation and leading the growth of inside sales as reps no longer need to visit clients on site.
The next big wave of disruption lies in sales enablement, preparing sales organizations with the right tools, content and information to sell successfully. Platforms that focus on content delivery and coaching are gaining wide popularity, empowering sales reps to deliver engaging experiences for their buyers. These technologies combine sales content management, training and coaching, and conversation intelligence into a single platform, providing sellers with what they need to know, as well as areas for improvement that can be corrected with continuous reinforcement.
We also know that giving sales teams interactive content experiences close deals faster. From our research, about 45 percent of buyers want an ROI calculator or a personalized content portal, while 38 percent said that augmented reality technology would help accelerate the buying cycle. With the additions of these innovative tools, sellers have the power to build a standout sales experience that will beat out their nearest competitor.
DJ: Is there still a place for traditional door-to-house sales in any industry?
O’Neill: Both remote and field sales alike increasingly require digital selling tools, as buyers today demand to know exactly how products and services will fit into their organizations. Even though many of these sales interactions occur over the phone, online or in-person, many industries still require the human sales component, and buyers of complex products in manufacturing, construction and healthcare need more than just a few phone calls before making a purchase decision. In fact, 38 percent of buyers prefer to interact directly with a sales rep according to our B2B Buyer Experience Report.
In these industries, much investment is going toward helping these reps showcase the value of their products and services in visually engaging ways, even leveraging technologies like Augmented Reality.
DJ: What strategies should sales teams be adopting to be competitive across crowded industries?
O’Neill: If you’re going to be competitive across a crowded industry, you need to enable your sellers to differentiate with a better buyer experience. And to deliver that experience, you need to enable them with relevant content delivered in engaging ways and empower them with relevant and contextual training and ongoing coaching.
DJ: How can modern technologies help sales managers with their jobs?
O’Neill: Sales managers already have a lot on their plates, and they are often placed in managerial roles because of their success as a sales rep, without much experience or training as a manager. Currently, there is a lack of tools designed to help managers monitor and support their sales teams, and most sales managers are too busy to even adopt training programs that do exist. However, new sales enablement technologies are emerging with the sales manager in mind that allow them to help reps progress contextually based on their performance, measured by the tools they sell with every day. This allows sales managers to coach at scale, helping their teams progress at a pace they can keep up with and continually learn from.
For example, managers can have better visibility into their employees’ progress and performance, alerting them when reps haven’t completed training or need further coaching. With the integration of artificial intelligence, conversation intelligence and historical data, modern sales tools help managers identify the biggest opportunities for team improvement, improving both their job and the ability of the reps they manage.
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