Preparing Flooring Salespeople for Digital Transformation

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By Kevin McGirl

The flooring and construction industry is steeped in tradition – and it has served the community well so far. Market and Markets’ Flooring Markets Report said that the flooring market was valued at $324.26 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach $447.74 billion by 2023.

The industry has proven resilient through times of economic uncertainty and has managed to create demand for more innovative flooring and construction solutions. But it is now faced with a different type of challenge – digital transformation. This process is best understood as the implementation of new technologies to accelerate sales, productivity, and ultimately, the growth of the business from end to end. It applies across the production, manufacturing, and operations departments, and also in the sales and customer experience departments, too.

Customers are becoming more and more educated and technologically empowered. This means that they can move faster and do more research than ever before; they’ve often made up their mind on what they’d like to buy before they even engage with a salesperson. Consequently, companies must be able to match them in their agility and digital prowess at every stage of the buying journey.

Enhanced day-to-day insight and productivity is crucial to maximizing the opportunities that exist within the flooring industry. When you first start delving into the world of new technology, it can feel overwhelming. Let’s take a look at some of the key technology trends that will be key to achieving digital transformation success.

Data-driven technology
Maintaining and building relationships with current clients is crucial to growing a business. A study from sales-i looked at the major problems and obstacles for salespeople, and it revealed that only six percent of salespeople rely on their gut instinct alone to drive decision-making, by comparison to 40 percent who use the data they have on existing accounts as a guide.

Bearing this in mind, consider the strength of a strategy that combines customer knowledge, instinct, and data analysis. Data analytics and reporting capabilities, which are often built into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Business Intelligence (BI) systems, can keep track of customer buying patterns and identify any up- or cross-selling opportunities. This supports greater visibility into market trends and allows salespeople to personalize their efforts for enhanced results.

The right data eliminates the need for guesswork or cold-calls. No time is wasted on trying to fill in the gaps; sales teams know what their customers need and when they need it. For example, salespeople can be notified if there’s a sudden dip in spending. That way, they can call the customer in good time and resolve any issues that may have occurred.

As data analytics become more sophisticated, the easier it is to share and understand insights. In today’s world, sales and marketing teams don’t need a data scientist on hand to analyze and explain the raw data; instead, user-friendly visualization will help them process and interpret the information with simple clarity.

Automation
Our research showed that 17 percent of salespeople battle with manual data entry, 9.5 percent use outdated spreadsheets for reporting and analysis, and six percent feel inadequately prepared for sales meetings. Allocating time and employees to manage these tasks is an archaic and inefficient use of resources. In the modern business environment, many software applications already use task bots to automate data entry, reporting, and the collation of information for meetings.

In the coming years, automation will transform the workplace even further and free employees from the burden of administration. This is a good thing – it means salespeople will be able to prioritize work such as building customer relationships, promoting your company’s brand, reassessing pricing structures, and closing deals to hit targets.

E-commerce
Another piece of research from sales-i looked at major trends in product manufacturing and distribution. It found that 61 percent of those in the industry see automation as an opportunity, and 70 percent said the same of e-commerce. However, the rest are either ambivalent or openly view these innovations as a threat to their current ways of working. It’s encouraging that respondents are seeking to take advantage of the expanded reach that digital sales channels can offer. This is particularly relevant for flooring materials suppliers, who can leverage e-commerce to reach the right companies.

They are also taking advantage of a wide range of software systems and apps. According to our research, the most common areas in which supply chain companies are deploying software systems to boost performance and efficiency are sales and marketing. Technology is critical to making sure that these departments succeed.

Possible barriers to new technology adoption
Most sales and marketing teams will happily and readily acknowledge the importance of data and are happy to make use of insights. However, they can often treat it as if it’s the sole responsibility of the information technology department. On the contrary, data governance should involve every department that has contact with customers in some shape or form: sales, marketing, customer service, and operations being only the most obvious.

Other barriers to new technology adoption include a lack of awareness and resistance to change. In our experience, this can easily be defeated with some awareness campaigns and education across the company. Once teams are taught about the ways that technology can improve their productivity – and shown that the technology will not replace them in their jobs – they are much more enthusiastic.

How to encourage a more data-driven and tech-minded culture amongst your staff
Encouraging staff to adopt new ways of working can be tough. But if they don’t, they could hold your business back from growing, so it’s important that they get on board. One way to do this is by building a tech roadmap for the entire organization. (See graphic on the left.)

By involving staff in technology adoption, they can assume a great level of ownership over the process, which in turn encourages feedback and helps to manage their expectations. User training and mentorship schemes can also go a long way to help staff feel more familiar and comfortable with using the technology. All companies have something to gain by embracing digital transformation. It’s time to spread that message across all departments to get them excited about it.

Kevin McGirl is the President of sales-i. To learn more about sales-i, visit sales-i.com.

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