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By Ken Crovetti, Head of Global PreSales

When an agrochemicals company, stricken by competition, sought out new customer acquisition channels, an app emerged as a possible solution. Using the app, the company took farmers on a journey of crop planning that began with soil sampling and concluded with recommendations for yield-enhancing fertilizers. The app itself was promoted via digital marketing and soon enough, the company began witnessing a dramatic rise in its customer base and orders.

While the digitization of customer experience has seen widespread acceptance, its usage to fuel the sales engine is now rapidly gaining momentum. Research shows a 2X rise in companies viewing digital-enabled sales interactions as more important when compared to traditional interactions. The pandemic accelerated this trend of the digital customer which, according to reports, is being witnessed in the B2C (63%), B2B (57%), consumer goods (72%) and the manufacturing (56%) environments.

Self-service, a terminology that is synonymous with the B2C E-commerce landscape is now making its way to the B2B sales arena.

Self-service as a Sales Enabler

Traditionally, self-service is a mechanism where customers seek out answers to fix issues that they might encounter with a given product or service. This philosophy is now being implemented in the enterprise sales funnel to address that phase where a customer conducts expansive research and evaluates the options on offer to address a pressing business need.

Often, in the digital realm, this process begins at the search engine and leads to a website where solution overviews, case studies, video testimonials and white papers educate the customer. On sensing that the customer has been on the site for a while, a chat-bot pops up and offers help. A call-back or demo-request are common outcomes and consequently, the all-important lead has duly been generated.

Customers expect a seamless experience in the purchase journey which begins with information availability and self-service accelerates this process through the decision-making phase. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chat-bots are making their presence felt in this space and per reports, the next three-years will witness about 91% of global organizations deploying some form of AI to enhance the self-service experience at the top of the sales-funnel.

A LinkedIn study showed that customers have embraced virtual selling as the new reality with 50% of them acknowledging that working remotely has simplified the purchasing process. That said, implementing a digital sales enablement process is easier said than done.

What then, are some of the critical success factors that contribute to the success of self-service selling?

Getting Digital Sales Enablement Right

A superlative digital experience is more likely to attract customers than a sub-par one. And for that reason, providing customers with the right information, at the right time and guiding them through a process that evokes trust makes a significant difference.

Here are some of the critical enablers:

  • A digital-sales funnel that aligns with the customer-journey: a study showed that just 19% of organizations align their processes to the customer-journey. That said, when the alignment is right, their win-rates improve by 17.9%. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, organizations must study their target customer and design a sales-funnel that works best for them. While webinars might work wonders for some, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) could help others in getting their webpages featured prominently in search results, and in doing so, attract prospective customers to their website

  • Easy to navigate website: researchers have found that 50 milliseconds are all it takes for an opinion to be made about a website. And if the site-experience hasn’t been a good one, 88% of them are less likely to return. Therefore, when the arduous task of drawing prospective customers to the website has been achieved, it is vital to keep them from ‘bouncing’ out. This begins with a website that is optimized for the mobile phone, loads quickly, has a friendly User Experience (UX) that aids in-site navigation and ends with quality content

  • Quality content: 38% of the viewers stop engaging with content that is unattractive. Providing customers with all the information they seek can be a game changer for your business. From whitepapers and point-of-view documents to community pages and precise calls-to-action (CTA), quality content can make the difference between customer acquisition and a missed opportunity

  • An efficient chatbot: reducing customer churn and increasing conversion rates are key to the success of self-services in sales. And for this reason, FAQ chatbots must make way for those equipped with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). A bot that analyzes the average maturity level and sentiment of the audience and responds accordingly only heightens the user experience. Add to this a robust chatbot API and you get a system that enables users to browse through the bot itself for information they seek.

An Omni-Channel Future

A study found that 27% of organizational buying activity involves independent online research. Recognizing this trend, organizations in China and India are leading the charge in digital interactions with their customer-base. Meanwhile, customers in Spain and UK are displaying a 3X growth in their preference for digital interactions. Also, with the probability of customers opting to work with companies offering a digital experience increasing by 2X, the pivot to remote selling is accelerating.

That said, with global vaccination drives underway, the enterprise salesperson has resumed cross-border travel. And therein lies the reason to ensure a fine balance.

Omni-channel selling, a combination of digital self-serve and in-person selling, has gained acceptance across 83% of business leaders as an undeniably compelling way of securing new business. The ‘hybrid seller’ of the future will work with customers via digital channels while occasionally meeting them in-person. And as digitization spreads across industries like wildfire and self-serve increasingly becomes the yardstick for excellence, a failure to adopt will be detrimental to an enterprise.

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