The rapid expansion of IoT and Industry 4.0 Solutions has created exciting opportunities for B2B companies to develop nontraditional business models that address new and previously untouched markets. Although this paradigm shift presents many great opportunities for growth, sales and marketing leaders are experiencing significant challenges in implementing strategies to effectively drive the sale of IoT-based solutions.
In the final part of this blog series, I will focus on the last 2 concepts for successfully creating winning IoT sales and marketing strategies. If you missed part 1 or 2 of the series, check my LinkedIn profile page to catch up on the blog.
Concept 5 - Sales Team Training and Development
A core challenge for B2B companies who are transitioning into selling IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions is that they typically have a legacy sales force that is not equipped to make the transition from relationship-based, product-centric selling to consultative-based, complex solution selling. The majority of manufacturing organizations have aging sales teams who have driven sales growth primarily through relationship-building activities, calling on the same account base for many years and differentiating on price and product features rather than their ability to help design a tailored solution for their clients (tED magazine).
With the proliferation of new, connected solutions that are quickly becoming the centerpiece of B2B customer needs, this creates a significant problem for organizations that are looking to innovate and grow their business in the new digital industrial revolution. Organizations must double down on investments to help their sales teams make the transition, including exploring new ways to deliver training, coaching, and skill-enhancing tools. Learning management systems have historically been the digital solution to address this need in organizations but with complex solutions and buyer journeys evolving rapidly, online training modules aren’t the answer to the problem.
One modern method that is gaining momentum is delivering training via Podcasts.
One-third of Americans are now actively listening to Podcasts on a regular basis and roughly 40% of listeners are specifically searching for educational content (Musicoomph). With low startup costs and easy hosting options available, there is a huge opportunity for organizations to build on this trend and deliver educational content that can be consumed during periods of time that have traditionally been non-value added. Consider how many combined hours each year your sales team spends driving to and from sales calls. With podcasting, that non-value added time can be converted into an opportunity to consume valuable content.
Training and development is another area where sales enablement software can be used effectively. In addition to being the conduit that delivers properly aligned marketing content to sales users, SE systems can also deliver training and development resources when and where sales users need them. For instance, if a sales representative has a meeting scheduled to discuss a specific IoT system with a prospective client, SE can deliver the proper training and coaching resources for the rep to review prior to the meeting. SE provides the ability to measure these activities, so sales managers can accurately assess which reps are or are not engaging in training activities relevant to their sales calls and can better align their sales coaching practices based on each team member’s needs.
Concept 6 - Better Customer Conversations
This brings us to our most critical concept, which should be empowered by all of the data, systems, training, and content that has been discussed previously. To achieve success in selling IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions, sales reps must conduct better, more informed customer conversations with their clients.
It’s not that relationships aren’t important. Conversations and relationships are still at the heart of successful selling; however, relationships are now formed by sales reps becoming trusted advisors and digital navigators to help their clients overcome their ever-evolving challenges (Leadfuze). Conversations and relationships that lead to success in IoT and Industry 4.0 sales are also occurring much higher in the organization than sales reps are traditionally used to. Although the more traditional contacts in industrial sales (such as facility managers, specification engineers, and project managers) are still involved in the cycle, decisions on systems that involve large scale IoT integrations are typically being handled at the VP and C suite level. This presents a new challenge for legacy sales teams that are comfortable in their traditional roles.
To bring together a successful strategy that enables better conversations for sales reps, organizations must build upon all the concepts we’ve previously discussed. Marketing teams must produce more engaging, educational content that helps convey the value of complex industry 4.0 solutions. Data, in conjunction with CRM, marketing automation and sales enablement, must be used to tailor and inform communication strategies that fill sales funnels and nurture potential buyers to become qualified sales leads. CRM systems must be used to provide sales with a stratified view of the funnel and keep records of the many touch-points that occur during a long sales cycle involving IoT-based systems. Training and development must be properly executed to ensure that sales reps are prepared to have detailed conversations with informed buyers higher up in the organization.
To put the final icing on the cake, sales enablement systems can be used to help execute and measure everything that happens during the final stages of the sales cycle. Being the system that bridges the gaps between sales, marketing, and the customer, sales enablement can be one of the most valuable tools in the MarTech stack when it comes to driving increased revenue of IoT-based solutions. With its ability to intelligently tailor content for sales users based on the customer’s industry, job function, and sales stage, sales enablement systems provide reps with the ability to align their entire approach to address the needs of their customers. This approach helps ensure that sales reps always have the right content at the right time, allowing them to focus on the most important customer interaction, the conversation.
As long humans remain at the center of the buying cycle, high-value personal interactions will always remain the most important part of the selling process. However, just as IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions leverage digital technology to help machines perform at their best, digital sales solutions help salespeople perform at their best. There isn’t any great mystery to effective sales and marketing for IoT solutions. It’s simply using technology to make your process more efficient.
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