Why Sales Leaders Are Reluctant to Adapt to the Digital Age

“By 2020, every company that exists today will have become a digital predator or digital prey,” writes Forrester. In short, companies that adapt to their customers’ digital journeys will succeed, while the laggards will risk extinction.

Unfortunately, many sales teams have not heeded the warnings, and they find themselves in the dinosaur category. They don’t have digital and social sales strategies in place, and they are reluctant to use digital to create value for their customers.

Sound familiar? Perhaps you find yourself on one of those dinosaur teams. Well, this post is for you. To change your sales team’s culture, you have to understand why the team has not evolved over time. Here are some of the most common reasons for cultural inertia in sales.

Finding the Origins of Your Sales Team’s Inertia

Today, many sales teams are still using playbooks from the early aughts. They pitch and pounce. They cold call and cold email, even though there’s plenty of research to the contrary. Here are a few of the common reasons for this:

  • Many sales teams are set up to pitch products – not to provide valuable information to customers and prospects. Sales reps aren’t supplied with content, nor are they taught how to leverage content in sales conversations.
  • Sales teams have longstanding playbooks in place. It’s much easy to continue to use an old playbook than write a new one.
  • Many sales leaders were trained in traditional pitch and pounce methods. So, they teach what they know.
  • The reduced effectiveness of traditional sales tactics may have occurred so slowly that no one has noticed the diminishing returns.
  • The digital era requires between communication between sales and marketing teams. But many sales and marketing teams are still at odds.
  • Some sales teams aren’t tracking what’s working and what isn’t. So, they have no clue whether their traditional methods are paying dividends.
  • Many sales teams lack the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of sales strategy.
  • It’s easy to become disconnected from the customer’s reality, especially if sales leaders are not engaged in ongoing conversations with the customers.

Finding the Impetus for Change

So, what has to happen for sales organizations to change? In order for a sales team to change its mindset about social selling, one of a few things needs to happen:

  • Business gets so bad that they have to try new things. (Fingers crossed that your business is not in this situation.)
  • A staffing turnover generates new thinking in the organization.
  • A culture change is sparked through external customer demands.
  • A culture change is sparked through an internal champion. For example, the CEO prioritizes creating a social business, and the sales team maps their strategy onto the CEO’s vision.

If you’re looking to modernize your sales organization, the last option is often the easiest path. It’s much easier to sway the opinion of an internal champion than to, say, overhaul your sales leadership. To win over the hearts and minds of your leadership, you’ll need to build a compelling business case for modernizing your sales team. Here are some resources that can get you started:

For any sales team, there is great opportunity in embracing their customers’ digital journeys. There’s opportunity for small sales teams that are nimble and capable of adapting faster than their larger competitors. But there’s also opportunity for medium and large businesses that have budget and are empowered to make decisions based on how their customers want to engage with them rather than sticking with the status quo.

Just beware: Some companies think that texting, social media, and other digital tactics aren’t for sales teams. Those companies are the ones that are on the verge of extinction.

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