“Digital transformation in my opinion is thinking about, ‘How are you using data and technology to transform how you sell and engage with customers?’ It really is a very broad term but in the context of what Zilliant does, we’re helping customers transform how they price and sell.”
So said Zilliant Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Duran in a recent appearance on Episode #186 of the WAM Podcast, “Bringing Sales Back into the Manufacturing Conversation.” Duran explained that manufacturers struggle to make the best use out of the massive amounts of data available to them. The sheer number of inputs can obfuscate the fact that highly valuable and usable data exists right inside the four walls of any business. Duran tells host Lydia DiLiello that the first order of business for manufacturers should be to transform the way they use that in-house asset, be it order data, product data, customer data, or historical pricing data.
Duran gave an example of a manufacturing customer that recently told her that prior to implementing Zilliant pricing solutions, their process consisted of setting prices and then emailing spreadsheets to sales leaders to get feedback, then manually loading them into their ERP system. That arduous process was where the pricing team’s visibility stopped. They had no way of knowing what prices sales reps were actually giving to customers. If that lack of visibility into data and what is happening in your business sounds familiar, you have found a really good place to start your transformation, as this manufacturer did.
But how does digital transformation impact sellers? Long gone are the days where salespeople could get away with being order-takers, Duran says. Back when field reps were the mechanism by which customers placed all their orders, they could largely show up and say, “What would you like to buy today?” Now that customers can order through digital channels, they expect sales reps to add significant value in each conversation. Otherwise, why would they waste their time with a meeting, if a click will do just as well?
The problem that manufacturing sales reps run into is how to transform their selling approach to a value-driven order-making one. Not just with their top customers, but with their entire book of business. That’s an impossible order for any one human to accomplish on their own. This is where data-driven digital transformation must come into play.
Manufacturers must equip their salespeople with point-in-time actionable insights they can use to then go have a more productive conversation with each customer. Duran highlighted this with an example of an insight that might be delivered in a highly accessible manner to a seller:
This customer, based on their previous purchase history, is highly likely to buy this product, which is in excess inventory, and we are going to mark it down - so offer them this price.
An intelligent data-driven insight like that gives a salesperson confidence in the offer they are bringing to a customer – here is why this product makes sense for this customer and here is the data behind why the price is the price.
“Don’t give salespeople reports, give them an actionable insight that is specific to a customer that is very clear for them to understand,” said Duran. “Salespeople don’t want to be analysts and you don’t want them to be analysts.”