Q&A: Key Approaches for Digital Transformation and Sales Success

11 August 2020 | Sales Incentives

5 Questions: With Arthur Fritz, Global Sales Manager EMEA and Digital Transformation Expert. He shares his expertise on digital transformation, sales enablement strategies, customer-centric approaches and IT challenges.

1. You state that you enjoy working with your customers on IT challenges and making IT and digital transformation real. What is your approach?

The approach should be customer-centric, depending on the type of customer and the type of vertical the customer is in. It’s crucial that you adapt your approach to customer needs – and the needs of the customer’s customer. Taking this into consideration, you can then take the next steps from where your customer is in their journey to a digital transformation. Once you have these customer insights – or digital transformation assessment – you can set a strategy and the necessary steps to move towards a business model that is more digital.

If you don’t base your solution on the customer’s business and needs, the customer will not achieve their set goals through the digital transformation. A generalized, product-centric approach will most probably fail.

2. From your extensive sales experience, how have customer needs within the IT industry evolved?

At the beginning of my career, IT was a necessary evil and kind of an independent department. In many cases, those working in IT were not really related to the business. The IT department was an untouchable part of the business – many depended on it, but nobody was able to question any activities within IT. Then, it transformed to be a cost center and when times got bad, those costs were reduced. Sometimes with negative consequences for the business. Today, we are in a phase where IT is becoming the business, and this is what we call the digital transformation.

3. What impact has this evolution had on sales enablement strategies?

The impact on sales enablement is not necessarily related to digital transformation, but rather the way in which customers have evolved. They are much better informed through digital media and all their networks.

In the past, selling products was much easier and the focus was on knowing your products inside out. If you were good enough in knowing your products or had a good relationship with your customer, you were set for successful sales. Nowadays, customers are much better informed, they already know your products before the first conversation and the goals are more business related than technical. Taking the same approach might still work in some instances. However, in the long run, you need to rethink the way in which you enable your sales force.

4. What tips do you have for a struggling sales force?

I have realized that there are often problems with experienced individuals within a sales force, because they are not open to new approaches and ideas. Whether you have an experienced sales force or even a mixed sales force with a combination of very experienced and less experienced individuals, the experienced ones usually reject new learnings. It’s hard for these individuals to buy into new approaches or concepts. They don’t necessarily care about learning or see the need for change.

So, based on this, my advice is to prove that a new approach is needed and, importantly, that it works. It is a timely process, because to get their buy-in, you need to invest time into convincing them and time into following through with it in practice. They also need to take time to learn and apply these new approaches with customers. Only then, once they see that it works, will they be more open to the change. The beginning can be tough, but the key is to follow through.

Other tips that could be useful are:

  • Create a learning environment where individuals feel safe. An environment where they can make mistakes and discover new approaches.
  • Create a work environment where they feel comfortable with leaving their comfort zone and where they can practice internally. For example, practice to pitch or try a new sales approach.
  • Asses the skills of individuals regularly to measure their progress and development needs.

5. Final thoughts: Looking to the future of sales, what is the most important approach that businesses should apply?

Understanding the customer, their challenges and how you can add value by addressing their challenges, as well as winning their trust are crucial to staying on the right path. Even now in more challenging times, people are still selling to people and people are still buying from people they trust. Whether you now have to use video conferencing to talk to customers instead of meeting face-to-face, the sales approach is still the same. It’s about understanding and addressing customer needs.

Furthermore, when it comes to IT, the focus tends to be on IT challenges, but as things have shifted, the IT challenges do not necessarily have a direct impact on the business anymore. We need to open up and talk to other departments that are working with customers, such as Marketing, Operations, and Research and Development. IT has a limited view of the business and a limited budget, so the actual IT budget sits within these other departments. It is definitely required for IT to be aligned with other departments in order to understand the business needs, as well as the full scope of the IT investment.

As my background is in IT, I always see myself as an ambassador for the IT business to these other departments. This approach really helps to improve the perception and increase the value of the IT department within other departments.

Arthur Fritz, Global Sales Manager and Digital Transformation Expert
Image: Courtesy of Jana Fritz

About the Expert: Arthur Fritz is a Global Sales Manager and Digital Transformation Expert. Arthur’s experience includes working in an EMEA-wide matrix organization. He is specialized in the markets of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East, as well as in business development within these regions. Arthur is passionate about technology and enjoys working with customers on IT challenges and making IT and digital transformation real. He is motivated by enabling customer success and making IT relevant to business.

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