In the Fenestration Australia winter 2019 edition, I wrote about the speed at which the sales environment is changing and how the impact of the digital era is affecting our sales teams. To continue with this theme, and to get into some more detail on the topic, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at this subject, from both a sales professional and sales leadership perspective, and the effect social selling and the digital age is also having on our sales leaders.
Before we get into how digital is impacting the way we do things, let start with what digital or digitisation is. In its simplest form, digitisation is the process of converting information from a physical format into a digital one. An example of this is when we scan and save a PDF on our computer – simple. Digitalisation, a more commonly used term, is the process of leveraging digitisation to help improve our business processes. Digitalisation is when we take the PDF we scanned and put it into the ‘cloud’ so we can access it from anywhere, at anytime from multiple devices.
So, what’s all this got to do with selling? Well, it is changing the way we need to think about our customers and what they require from us. Whatever information they require on just about any product or service is available at their fingertips on a thing called the Internet – I am sure you would have heard of it. So, why do our customers still need us, the sales professionals or sales leaders? Interesting question. Let’s explore!
Although technology will continue to rapidly develop and remove some of the mundane tasks we currently do, like weekly or monthly reporting (and I hear the sales crowd cheer), technology will not remove the need for sales professionals and leaders because people still want to buy from people.
Relationships will be stronger than ever because technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) or robotics cannot (at this stage) provide insight, wisdom or creativity to the solutions that our customers are or will be seeking. Our customers will look to us to provide more specialised or technical solutions to their requirements and we will need to be on top of our game to keep up.
From a leadership perspective, we need to make sure that we equip our teams with the right systems, processes and tools that they will need to continue to service their clients. This means providing them with the latest technology, instant access to information, customer buying patterns and, in some cases, information that will allow our sales professionals to anticipate what customers want – even before they really understand they have a need for that product or service.
This, of course, brings the connection to the challenger sales professional who is comfortable using the above information to challenge his or her client on why they are proceeding down a particular path when there are faster, simpler and better ways of doing things. And, if the customer responds, ‘But we have always done it this way,’ the real challenger sales professional will come up with a compelling argument and a solution that the customer has not even thought of, saving the customer time, money or effort. And, that takes the customer relationship to a partnership.
Now, let’s turn our attention to digital disruption. As a sales leader, the first question you must ask is, ‘How is digital disruption affecting my sales?’ If it is not at the moment, then, ‘When will digital disruption reach us?’ Because, it is coming. So, what is digital disruption? There are many different views on this but, in simple terms, it is new technology that displaces or replaces the current, shaking up an industry. It can also be a new, ground-breaking product that may create a new market. And, guess what, disruption isn’t new; it has been around for a long time, it’s just getting faster.
Think about the poor old typewriter, banished to the antique stores and replaced by PCs. Standard mobile phones are dead; smartphones are here to stay (for a while) and of course social networking has disrupted telephone, email and even instant messaging. What’s next in our industry? What will change in construction, glass, windows and doors in the next five to 10 years?
VIA Technik, a global leader in virtual design and construction, conducted a poll of its followers on Twitter to see what they believed the next disruptors to the construction industry will be. Here are the top four:
1. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
VIA Technik followers believe that AI will make a huge impact on construction from initial design modelling, to project planning, to performance diagnostics, and will take over many of the mundane tasks performed by us. Good or bad – I’m not sure!
2. VIRTUAL REALITY (VR)
VR is currently helping Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) professionals improve accuracy, safety, and efficiency at all stages of the construction project lifecycle. From enhancing the initial design process, to increasing the accuracy of scheduling and project take-off cost estimation, to facilitating enhanced collaboration and on-site project management.
3. 3D PRINTING
Imagine a world where materials for skyscrapers were printed on site instead of delivered! While the industry isn’t quite ready for large-scale production, 3D printing in construction is generating a lot of buzz. A company named Apis Cor, for instance, recently built an entire 409 square foot house in 24 hours using a 3D printer. Great article – well worth a quick Google.
These nifty flying robots are incredibly useful for managing and inspecting sites. Drones can survey a large location in a fraction of the time that it would take a human, can inspect tall buildings with no risk of harm, and can provide high resolution images of difficult-to-reach locations to operators on the ground.
This timely data allows site managers to deploy resources without delay, avoid potential risks, and maintain an accurate timeline for project completion.
So, what does all this mean for us? Are we going to be 3D printing windows soon or are we already! For me, it means that sales professionals and leaders need to continue to embrace change, keep up with technology, continue to train ourselves and our people so that we are smarter, faster and technologically adapt when our very well informed customers come to us looking for a solution to a problem that we did not even know we had.