Rakhi Voria: “My biggest piece of advice (to young entrepreneurs) is to surround yourself with great people. That’s the best way to learn to build your network. Invest in your relationships. That’s really the true currency of the world.”
- The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a massive shift towards digital processes which have helped engage with customers at scale.
- Artificial intelligence is paving the path to personalize our approach to customers for sales and marketing
- The lines between digital marketing and sales are blurring.
- In India, on the marketing side, brand awareness is critical and there’s a lot of price sensitivity.
- Physical salesforce is not yet obsolete and will always be needed for human interaction is critical in many areas
- You can never fully adopt global processes because every geography is so different.
- Companies in India are at the forefront of technology and want to adopt the latest advancements in sales and marketing.
Today’s topic is Global Trends in Digital Sales and Marketing. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a massive shift towards digital processes. Global sales and marketing are no exception. There can be no doubt that we will gladly continue using many of the digital solutions that have become a necessity even after the crisis is over. But, we’ll all miss the various forms of interactions that are normally part of our daily lives. In the case of sales and marketing, there is a big difference. A recent study by McKenzie found that 70 to 80 % of decision-makers prefer remote interactions and digital self-serve processes for business-to-business transactions. Alongside the current health aspect, they cite easy scheduling and saving on travel expenses as key advantages.
There is no returning to old ways in sales and marketing. What will the future look like? To discuss this new fascinating development, I had the pleasure of speaking to an international leading expert Rakhi Voria from the US who has been named in the top 100 Global Sales Leaders in 2021.
When I asked Rakhi to share with us some information about the work she does and her experience and expertise as the Head of Global Digital Sales at IBM, she replied, “I joined IBM about two years ago from Microsoft. I manage a global team that’s responsible for the digital sales development function. We are typically the first line of communication that a client will have with IBM. We get to shape whether or not a client chooses IBM now or in the future.”
How, I enquired, would Rakhi place the digitization trends being driven by the current COVID-19 pandemic into the context of development that has been ongoing for an extended period already. “Clients now want an experience that’s channel-agnostic and consistent. Secondly, they want more personalized streamlined experiences that are designed to meet their specific business needs, and third, agility is the key to their expectations and services. The new digital era provides us with an opportunity to engage with prospects at scale. We are seeing a lot of investments in machine learning and AI, which helps to personalize our approach.”
What changes did Rakhi see in B-to-B and B-to-C sales? “Trends for both are similar. Brand loyalty is getting seriously challenged because of digitization. The lines between digital marketing and sales are blurring. There’s a tighter alignment and partnership between sales and marketing than ever before. Many organizations have merged their sales and marketing teams underneath the same organizational umbrella. According to CSO insights 70 % of buyers actually fully define their needs before they even engage with the sales team. 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media now to make purchasing decisions. Customers are making more decisions now on their own than ever before.”
Did she see companies reducing actual physical sales forces and investing more in digital networks or digital capabilities? “It depends on the corporation,” avers Rakhi, “But in general, yes. As companies are getting more sophisticated with their tools and technology, they are trying to make a seamless experience where clients can self-serve without having to work with the seller altogether. At the same time, people really would like to speak with a live human to understand all the questions they have.”
What differences did she see in digital sales and marketing adoption in India compared to the rest of the world? “Absolutely, I’ve always tried to adopt the 80-20 rule. 80% globally consistent standardized roles, and 20% variants for geographical differences. The reality is, you can never fully adopt global processes because every geography is so different. In terms of what I’ve seen in India, on the marketing side, brand awareness is critical. Prominent brands tend to carry a lot more weight and respect. On the sales side, there’s a lot of price sensitivity.”
Were there learnings from the Indian market which are useful globally? “In India, trust and relationship building takes longer. A lot of it is almost familial. You’re actually taking the time to get to know people at more of an individual level and that leads to referrals, trust, people really understanding the value that your product can deliver. There’s a lot that the rest of the world and many of the western geographies can learn about doing business from India. The aspect of camaraderie, teaming, openness and transparency. Also, companies in India are really at the forefront of technology and wanting to adopt some of those advancements.”
What advice would Rakhi give to young entrepreneurs in India regarding digital sales and marketing strategies, I ask. “My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with great people. That’s the best way to learn to build your network. Don’t limit yourself to specific sectors or specific geographies,” she advises. “It’s important to be regimented about your career development plan but not over-engineer it so much that you’re closed off to different possibilities. It’s so important to invest in your network, invest in your relationships. That’s really the true currency of the world.”
What was her advice to all the women who are responsible for sales globally in various industries, for 2021? “I would tell them to leverage sales to do other things. There’s no traditional path in sales. A lot of people come into sales and think, I have to start as an account executive, then I’ll be a Sales Manager, a VP of sales, a Chief Revenue Officer, etc. But there’s no linear path. The beauty of sales is that it can set you up to do anything. You can learn so many different tangible skills around influencing, negotiating, persuading, communicating, etc. I would encourage you to be open to different possibilities because sales can set you up to do anything. Don’t sell yourself short. The second piece of advice for women is just to be yourself and believe in yourself.”
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