“Always be closing.”
The minute Alec Baldwin’s character Blake said it, we all knew it would be the mantra that would stick. We also knew it shouldn’t.
That infamous line from the film Glengarry Glen Ross has been quoted sometimes as sales motivation…sometimes as irony. But it assumes one thing: The act of selling—and more importantly closing—only happens in the Sales department by Salespeople.
This has been a convenient construct, especially for those of us architecting and scaling sales technologies. If selling only happens in sales, tools like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be “owned” by Sales and other functions like Marketing or Service must bear the burden of feeding the machine in order to accelerate and bloat the closing apparatus. Further, if selling and by extension sales tech only exists in and for sales to always be closing, the data that comes from across the enterprise and from the customer should only be pointed in one direction.
This monolithic and unidirectional concept of sales enablement has been manageable (albeit not entirely effective or efficient) in an age where the pace of business was dictated by the schedule of the enterprise, carefully following the cadence of product and sales. This paradigm relied on digital transformation being a slow moving and reliably intractable process, leaving sales technologies to remain largely untouched for fear of disrupting the flow of revenue.
The customer and the world had other plans.
The COVID pandemic ushered in a new age where digital transformation was an act of necessity accelerated by the uncertainty of what might come next. Once the dust of chaos settled, most customers looked around exceedingly pleased at the ease of use, simplicity and abundance of digital engagements that added tangible value. Most importantly, these engagements brought back something that had gone missing: relationships. With each interaction, customers and organizations were using digital touch points to reconnect and build relationships beyond simple transactions. In a time when physical isolation and distance threatened to sever bonds, digital transformation brought people back together in ways pre-pandemic strategies couldn’t imagine.
Are we ready to empower selling everywhere?
was a core question being asked when I sat down with Nitin Badjatia, Head of SAP’s Product Marketing and Solutions Management for Sales Cloud and Service Cloud and Sanjeet Mall, SAP’s SVP and Head of Digital Workplace Platform. As we look into this new moment of digital-first, data-rich customer-driven experiences, how should proceed? How do we rearchitect Sales and selling? What are the requirements for truly modern CX platforms to meet this selling-everywhere, engaging-anywhere model?
Three key themes emerged from my conversation with Badjatia and Mall:
First and foremost, modern selling systems demand composability…and not just as a buzzword or as a nod to modularity. Rather, this is a call for the strength of a microservices architecture that empowers and enables continuous integration and accelerated business application development and deployment. This is about rethinking foundation in order to rebuild business. It is rejecting a monolithic interpretation of the services and applications that exist across the enterprise.
Second, it is a call for awareness, or more specifically for sales platforms to empower everywhere sellers with situational awareness of opportunities. This goes far beyond a desire for sales executives to have data available to them to close a deal. In fact, it is a requirement to have the capacity to quickly and consistently pull data in from across the enterprise so that anyone engaging with the customer has the awareness of that customer’s entire experience with a brand. With this intelligence, individual customers are seen contextually through the lens of whomever is engaging. This is intelligence and knowledge beyond the moment in front of you. It is knowing the account and the individual and binding that to a deep knowledge of your own business.
Next, it is time to rethink the projects and paths to integration, with fine-grained focus on how systems integrate across the entire business. For too long digital businesses have assumed that digital transformation, especially in the realm of CX, was the act of integrating and aligning the channels through which engagement and experience could be delivered. While this has been a critical stage in the evolution of the digital enterprise, it is not the evolutionary end point. For integration to yield value, the people, platforms and processes of the business must integrate to intentionally service, engage and connect with the customer.
This is perhaps the discussion point that stuck with me the most from my chat with Badjatia and Mall: That integration must mirror how the work of a business needs to get done. Technology and systems only truly work if the promise of value is delivered to a customer. The beauty of systems that are built on top of composable architectures is that there is more than one way to quite literally stack the stack.
For Badjatia and Mall this new enterprise-wide sales approach has required some serious introspection at SAP…and a need to rebuild from the inside. Yet in a world where selling has evolved, CRM seems to be stagnant. But to be sure, CRM is not dead. For SAP, this has been an opportunity for CRM to evolve and look beyond the monolith.
This has led to a Sales Cloud revamp that is totally cloud native and foundationally rooted in modern microservices with flexible and scalable workflows. It requires that SAP and its entire CX portfolio doesn’t disqualify connections to other systems, especially those that may be legacy in nature or sit far beyond SAP’s own portfolio of business and operational systems. But it also requires that tools like SAP Sales Cloud take advantage of the business operations systems that SAP is best known for across ERP and data.
This new SAP vibe is about intentionally designing to be open: open to other systems, processes and data. If there is a singular post-pandemic lesson all businesses have learned it could be that while transformation is not a destination, the inability to quickly pivot and scale is. The problem is that destination is never an end point where a business can thrive. In fact, that destination is more about the stagnation of innovation than the capacity to transform.
But Badjatia said it best as we discussed this new modern selling model: Slow remembers. If left to fester, this slow monolith will encourage our most loyal customers to rethink and retreat. As we look towards a new year, it is time to ask serious questions of our selling systems and strategies. Are we ready for sales systems to be enterprise-wide selling enablers? Do we have the right foundation and architecture to empower that? Are we intentionally establishing systems of intelligence to meet customers at the intersection of intent and value?
Answering yes will deliver value at the velocity the business demands and the cadence the customer expects. Answering no will lead organizations to cling to the outdated “always be closing” strategy that only really worked in the movies…and even in the movies, it never really delivered much value.