How IBM transformed their digital sales process with the help of DMI

"I've had a lot of field sales teams coming in and when we tell them how we work, they want to know how best to use digital in their roles. The challenge is we know they need to know digital, but we don't know how much they need to know."

Hugh O'Byrne

Hugh O'Byrne
VP of Global Sales Center Excellence, IBM

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Key Results

37% decrease in days to close digital sales

132%+ digital skills increase

4K+ marketers trained across 23 countries

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The rise in digital technologies has given the IT industry a much-needed boost as it presents new and exciting ways to think about and interact with technology. As consumers become more demanding in their expectations, the way they interact with companies and purchase from them has changed.

The Challenge

Increasingly, IT solutions are being purchased ‘as a service’, online which requires sellers that know how to use and influence using digital channels. In addition, clients are now able to conduct their own research on digital channels and are more empowered, reaching out to a seller later in the buying process.

This digital transformation means the fate of the sales pipeline is now controlled by the buyer, rather than a sales representative. In essence, the balance of power has shifted.

For IBM this shift made them realize that they needed their sellers to take a different approach in client engagement, beyond traditional selling techniques. This meant that sellers needed to learn to be more personal, more social and more digital, a difficult feat to achieve without the input of a digital specialist that offers industry aligned learning programs.

The goal for IBM was to empower and educate their digital sales staff to adapt to this changing consumer environment. It was at this point that the foundations for their collaboration with the Digital Marketing Institute were formed.

The Solution

To have influence and presence online, IBM worked with the Digital Marketing Institute to create a customized digital and social selling program that met the unique needs of their business. The aim of the program was to put people at the front of the brand to build trust with customers and clients and establish their sales team as digital leaders.

To kickstart the process, the organization’s inside sales team was rebranded as IBM Digital Sales, a name which recognizes a distinct selling discipline that, at its core, thrives on social and digital engagement.

In addition, IBM also recognized the need to take a systematic approach to ensuring its sellers had the essential skills training and ultimately, a globally recognized digital certification that would equip them with the tools and techniques required to achieve their targets.

According to O’Byrne, certification was key to staff engagement as it improved skills, allowed them to gain a professional qualification and made them more comfortable in the digital world. In addition, earning an external certification enabled their workforce to learn new skills and build their career.

The Result

On completing the Certified Digital Selling Professional program, an assessment was carried out on the benefits of the training for IBM’s sales executives. The organization discovered a 50% improvement in the confidence levels of sellers in the digital realm based on what they had learned.

In addition, through the program, sellers established their personal brand along with gaining a clear understanding how to communicate and engage online along with curating and sharing content - skills that are essential to enabling sales and business success.

To measure efficacy, an ROI study was carried out over 15 months looking at 7,200 opportunities being developed by our Business Development staff, delivered a 7% increase in win rate and 37% reduction in days to close.

The Future

O’Byrne sees the digital future for IBM as one that continues to push the envelope.

“I’ve had a lot of field sales teams coming in and when we tell them how we work, they want to know how best to use digital in their roles. The challenge is we know they need to know digital, but we don’t know how much they need to know. We’re working with different parts of the field and evaluating what they should learn and how we can help them on that journey.”

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