The Power Of Digital Selling For Small And Midsize Businesses

By Subhomoy Sengupta, Head of Small and Midsize Business Operations, SAP

For generations, businesses fostered relationships in the field by traveling to customer sites, shaking hands, and talking face-to-face. The nature of small and midsize companies is undeniably human. In a world where social distancing, face masks, and elbow bumps are now the norm, however, such close physical proximity is no longer possible. But this doesn’t mean sales teams aren’t staying well-connected with prospects and existing customers – they are maintaining those relationships and effectively engaging in digital selling.

A surprise for me is that our new COVID-19 pandemic reality and digitally reliant business world has created opportunities to become even closer. I have found it refreshing to connect with others to a degree I never imagined. Recently I met with an entire global team of employees in one virtual sitting — as opposed to only meeting a few at a time in person as I did before.  

After that meeting, I realized I’m no longer burning time making airport connections, checking into hotels, and worrying about logistics. Instead, my time and energy are focused on the person smiling at me from their webcam. And I’m learning about them in fun and casual ways.  A child peers into the camera, a dog barks, a roommate walks by, and instantly you have something to laugh about that connects you at a different level. That just doesn’t happen in a sterile conference room. Even murky internet connections or a malfunctioning Skype session can serve to bond you.

How digital selling can improve customer experiences

I am not alone in this experience. In a recent Oxford Economics study, 73% of senior executives from small and midsize businesses worldwide said digital technologies have improved their customer experiences in meaningful ways. Similarly, 67% cited the same benefit in their employee experience.

How can such traditionally high-touch customer engagements be replaced so successfully with a digital sales approach? When I reflect on our small and midsize business customers, it’s clear that technology makes digital selling more straightforward and convenient for both the customer and the salesperson. Technology can actually enhance the human experience.

The moment the pandemic became an unforgiving reality, sales teams everywhere were forced to transition to digital selling. Customers cancelled on-site meetings and workshops. Flying across the country by plane stopped. Not even meeting a client for coffee was feasible.

Many traditional salespeople in our global sales organization were apprehensive about this radical, forced change to digital selling. It meant these road warriors were no longer traveling 20 days out of the month. They had to figure out how to work in a home environment that was not always conducive to their jobs. It was stressful.

Fortunately, we had a secret weapon. A segment of our salesforce has successfully leveraged a digital selling approach for several years in this market. By learning their best practices, a silver lining appeared, and our traditional sellers adjusted quickly. As they began to acclimate, their level of success in closing deals faster and achieving their quota grew. We were very pleased by the results the team delivered in the first completely digital quarter.

This rise in the digital experience improved customer engagement. Via the ubiquitous webcam meeting, customers and sales representatives got a glimpse at the other’s personality, family life, and personal flair without neglecting the speed, accuracy, and relevance needed to close the deal. It’s been a revelation for our salesforce, and for many of our small and midsize customers.

Customer relationships are changing – for the better

Conventional wisdom tells us that a pessimist sees difficulty in times of crisis, but the optimist sees opportunity in every challenge. I believe digital sales engagement brings a value that has forever changed how small and midsize businesses interact and build relationships with their customers. And businesses that invest in technology now are positioning themselves to scale more efficiently in the future.

Now we know the assumption that customer engagement requires meeting in person is wrong and that digital selling and engagement can be just as effective. The proof is clear when we see small and midsize businesses closing deals, delivering outcomes, and reaching more customers worldwide – all without a single plane ticket or night in a hotel room.

Ignites your business’s recovery by committing to the strategic priorities identified and prescribed in the Oxford Economics study, “Digital, Resilient, and Experience-Driven,” sponsored by SAP.

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