The sales landscape has shifted radically over the past decade or so. While phone calls, meetings, and other familiar sales staples still have a place in the field, digital sales tactics — techniques conducted through virtual channels — have emerged and started taking up some serious space.
A thorough understanding of digital sales has turned from a "nice to have" to a "need to have," and having a handle on the concept and its strategies is only getting more important. But what, exactly, does "digital sales" entail?
Well, this article will provide some insight into the nature of the concept and some specific digital sales practices your organization should at least consider employing.
What is digital sales?
Digital sales is essentially a catch-all term that covers any aspects of a sales process conducted digitally. That can include elements like cold outreach, sales enablement, or any other key sales activities that are supported by digital mediums like email, social media, and online reviews and testimonials.
Let's take a closer look at those three channels, how popular they are, and why they're important.
Email might be the most prominent digital sales resource employed by sales professionals. It has a strong presence in multiple stages of the typical sales org's process. According to recent research conducted by HubSpot, 73% of sales professionals use email while selling.
Roughly 58.3% of salespeople who conduct cold outreach also said they leverage email when connecting with cold leads, making it the second most popular channel for the method after phone conversations.
Email is one of the older, more established digital sales resources available — and given its utility, accessibility, and ubiquity, it will likely continue to be a mainstay for most sales reps looking to register with prospects and customers.
Social media can have tremendous value as a digital sales resource. Though HubSpot found that only 32.6% of salespeople say they leverage social media as part of their sales efforts, 50.3% of those respondents cited social media as being one of their most effective channels — compared to 42.6% of email users asked the same question about that medium.
The medium was also a relatively popular option for cold outreach — with 33.1% of respondents confirming that they use social media for connecting with cold leads. 30.9% of respondents who leverage sales enablement content also referenced social media content when discussing the types of sales enablement content they use to support their efforts.
Social media is borderline omnipresent in modern life, and that trend isn't stalling anytime soon — making the medium an increasingly essential resource for any salesperson looking for a way to connect with prospects or find effective content to support their sales efforts.
Online Reviews and Testimonials
Online reviews and testimonials offer some of the most effective sales enablement content reps can reference to support their sales efforts. 38.6% of HubSpot survey respondents said they use customer testimonials to support their efforts — the second most popular medium after market research. Of those respondents, 61.4% said customer testimonials were the most effective sales enablement resource they use.
People are more inclined to trust their industry peers and fellow consumers than businesses trying to push their products or services on them. That's why positive online reviews and testimonials can help your business project legitimacy, put prospects at ease, and ultimately support more effective sales efforts.
Digital Sales vs. Digital Marketing
The primary distinctions between digital sales and digital marketing are more or less in keeping with those between conventional sales and marketing. Some of the primary differences have to do with each practice's degree of personalization, typical timeline, and endgame.
Degree of Personalization
Digital marketing refers to more "broad strokes," publicity-driving efforts than digital sales — campaigns rooted in building awareness for a product, service, or business online and gathering leads for sales teams to work with.
Digital sales is more locked in on specific prospects. It's about connecting with individuals and converting them to customers. In a sense, digital marketing is about "lining them up," and digital sales is about "knocking them down."
Digital marketing typically covers more long-term online plays — ones that can span months or even years. A given digital sales effort can only last the length of the sales process it supports.
Again, digital marketing efforts — like conventional marketing efforts — revolve primarily around raising awareness and lead generation. Digital sales efforts are focused primarily on turning the leads marketing generates into customers.
Digital Sales Strategies
1. Be active in social media groups.
Social media is one of the most prominent, effective digital sales channels at any salesperson's disposal. Virtually any social media platform provides some kind of opportunity to enhance your outreach, content promotion, and ability to track which aspects of your messaging are registering most with prospects.
The medium allows you to better understand and touch base with your prospects. You can identify users who are particularly interested in your industry or offerings similar to yours through forums like LinkedIn groups and message boards.
By joining and contributing to those groups, you can find interested prospects and establish yourself as an industry authority through your insight. You can also directly communicate with prospects by answering their questions in comment sections and connecting with them after.
2. Empower evangelists.
A customer referral is one of the most compelling assets you can count on to generate new business. Consumers tend to trust other consumers. That's why company evangelists are extremely valuable.
If you have a customer enthusiastic enough about your business to want the world to know how great you are, it's in your best interest to give them a platform. That's where digital sales techniques come into play. You need to let the world know about those evangelists, their stories, and how much they love your business.
Getting there via more traditional sales techniques can be tricky. It would be tough to conduct a string of cold calls, tell everyone how much some person they've never met enjoys your company, and see success.
Post testimonials of satisfied customers on your social media channels and website. Reach out to users who have spoken highly of your business in online reviews to see if you can tease out some more thorough information on why they enjoy your product or service.
Here's an example from a HubSpot customer:
One way or another, take strides to amplify your happy customers' voices — whether that be through your social media profiles or any other online avenue.
3. Conduct webinars or other web-based events.
When done properly, an event like a webinar is one of the most effective digital sales techniques you can leverage. It's an excellent way to establish yourself as an industry authority while simultaneously attracting warm prospects. If you can put a thoughtful, educational presentation on a topic of interest, you'll bring in parties with an immediate interest in what you have to offer.
Webinars are one of the few mediums where you can directly communicate with a dedicated portion of your target audience from anywhere. The premise behind these events captures the essence of digital sales I mentioned earlier — using virtual avenues to make meaningful contact with prospects.
If you have the resources, know-how, and potential audience to make a webinar worthwhile, conducting one can be a big help to your digital sales efforts as a whole.
4. Supplement your sales efforts with original content and case studies.
Helpful, constructive, original content can be an excellent way to draw in and assist prospects. If you can tailor blog posts, whitepapers, or other informative content to suit your target audience's needs and interests, you'll have an effective means of reigning prospects in and some excellent starting points for initial conversations.
You can also use your content to address specific questions you see prospects raise on social media. If someone on a LinkedIn forum has some issue or concern that your content can address, you have an excellent in for what could be a productive connection.
Case studies can also be particularly helpful when conducting digital sales. They provide an air of legitimacy to your efforts and give prospects some additional clarity about how your product or service works.
Though this kind of content isn't exactly tailored to intrigue potential customers or answer their general questions, it's still incredibly useful after connecting with an interested prospect.
To say that digital sales is the future is selling the concept short — because it's also the present. No matter what your company sells, you still stand to gain something from leveraging some sort of digital sales tactics.
If you're interested in enhancing your sales efforts and keeping pace with an ever-changing sales landscape, it's in your best interest to thoroughly research and identify some digital sales strategies that suit your needs.