Most construction industry chief executive officers (CEOs) would acknowledge that the digital revolution is underway, but plenty haven’t fully understood what this means for their sales efforts. The following highlights five guidelines to ensure that your business is the disruptor, not the disrupted.
COVID-19 has accelerated the transition online for many construction companies, which means CEOs need to ensure their sales teams have the digital skills and the tools to win buyers, all without straying from the timeless principles that still apply. With 2020 driving the migration toward a digital approach, more people are working remotely and relying exclusively on online methods to make buying decisions.
The construction industry today has already embraced new technology in many different aspects of its physical work and processes. Now, the time has come to have sales make use of the many benefits the digital revolution has to offer.
1. Lean Into Digital Transformation
Even before the pandemic shoved everyone onto one never-ending Zoom call, it was evermore clear that buyers were doing their initial research online, not just for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, but also business-to-business (B2B). COVID-19 has accelerated B2B merging with B2C standards, as few people are eager to build relationships face to face at the moment. And if anyone is concerned that this is a momentary shift, they should know that many of their peers aren’t treating it as such. A recent Forrester report predicts that in 2021, B2B sellers and sales leaders will continue to evolve their methods and strategies in the face of pandemic-related challenges:
40% of B2B reps plan to modify their tactics to adapt to remote selling activities, and 57% of B2B sales leaders plan to make deeper investments in tools with artificial intelligence (Al) and automation. B2B enterprises might feel as if website chatbots and calls to action are pushy, but that’s precisely the engagement buyers expect. Buyers want third-party validation and a message that is comprehensive and compelling. The soft-sell tactics that might be smart in-person will only get
drowned out online, where the struggle is to be seen and comprehended. A recent Gartner study claims that over the next 5 years, an even greater rise in digital interactions between buyers and suppliers will break traditional sales models. They predict that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.
2. Create a Digital Customer Experience
Plenty of companies use customer relationship management (CRM) tools as a data repository, but that’s not the kind of technology we’re talking about here. There are three key areas of technology no sales professional should ignore: hyperautomation, digital scalability and AI.
Hyperautomation refers to the effective combination of complementary sets of tools that can integrate functional and process silos to automate and assist business processes. Chatbots have proven effective and customers are growing fonder of these instant, if automated, exchanges.
Digital scalability is the concept of using technology to cope with the increasing volume of customer interactions and sales work. The demands for swift and accurate targeting and contact are only growing, but there’s technology out there today to help. If hyperautomation helps with tasks, digital scalability is the application
of that automation to speed up the entire process.
Gartner admits that AI is only a concise, catch-all term that denotes the shift from highly analog decision-making to automated, algorithm-based decision-making. This means that decisions that once may have been based solely on hard-won experience are grounded in data and analytics. In fact, salespeople can use engagement tools that target the best day and time to call someone in each industry. Before, that kind of intelligence might have been almost impossible to gather without weeks (or even years) of trial and error.
But for all the promise of these technologies, it still requires an investment of time and resources, along with a willingness for staff to build these digital skills. This isn’t simply about knowing a piece of software, but a fundamental shift in the approach; one that centers the process on the digital experience.
3. Reinvent Sales & Marketing
Marketing professionals have long understood that they need to be omnichannel, but now companies need an omnichannel salesforce as well. Sales and marketing need to work hand in hand, becoming a single discipline. Marketing is integral in helping the salespeople pick the right part of the pond to fish, the right bait, and even the right gadget to help track the fish one can’t see. Marketers have long understood the power of data and analytics and already revolutionized their discipline because of them. Now, salespeople have new tech to revolutionize their craft as well. This tech adds the same layer of rigor that’s been the standard for marketers for years, and it allows the entire marketing-to-sales process to be closely monitored and refined.
4. Develop a Strategy
That is not to say that these great new tools replace what marketers do. A company can have all this tech, but if the branding, messaging and positioning hasn’t been properly developed, all they do is get the company to that next “no” faster. Initially, businesses need to focus on branding, on the value proposition, on making sure that it’s all supported by robust market insight.
Let’s be honest, this is not an area in which the construction industry has always excelled. First up is knowing what the customer’s pain points are, and then communicating the value to the end user. Then it’s time to build a great website with a call to action and continue to build content out. Technology adds speed,
rigor and visibility to the process.
5. Stick to Your Principles
In some ways, this revolution is just a new way to do what salespeople have done since the first man convinced the guy in the cave next door that he could use a wheel too. Building trust, nurturing relationships, delivering value, communicating a value proposition that resonates, these are still happening with a chatbot, a Twitter feed, digital ads and emails. And as much as these tools speed up a process, that still means a salesperson needs to push that process along, day in and day out. The “hustle” has been transformed, not eradicated.
There are a lot of second- and third-generation companies that don’t appreciate what it takes to build the top of the funnel. There might be more smarts, or better technology, but there isn’t the same momentum that created the founder’s exponential growth. Here’s an example: One company was debating whether to invest $10,000 on an industry conference, and while some junior folks were planning several meetings to discuss the ROI, the 74-year-old founder decided to do it after a single afternoon’s consideration. They then they used all the data analytics available to make the most of that conference. That’s the best approach — to keep the old school values of decisiveness, ambition and a little intuition, and apply them with the most innovative technology available. Get that additional speed, rigor and visibility, without ever forgetting the goal is a business that performs so well that it’s still around for that next revolution.