How to Achieve Digital Transformation in Sales

Chuck, Rick, and Joachim get into the digitalisation of the sales process and how it can be an obstacle for organisations, their salespeople, and the way they are set up to sell. Chuck will also tell why ghosting is not always ghosting in a non-linear sales process and lay out 3 ways to keep focus on the client instead of the project.

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Digital Adoption Talks E03

The quick overview

You will hear about what you can do to adapt to the digital buying process while leveraging the advantages of the professional sales team. And learn about how to support user adoption to drive effectiveness – especially for the not-so-tech-savvy salespeople in your organisation.

In this episode of Digital Adoption Talks we are joined by congruentX CEO Chuck Ingram to a talk about digitalisation and sales professionals. Chuck is an expert in aligning people and their technology.  

Chuck, Rick, and Joachim get into the digitalisation of the sales process and how it can be an obstacle for organisations, their salespeople, and the way they are set up to sell.  

Chuck will also tell why ghosting is not always ghosting in a non-linear sales process and lay out 3 ways to keep focus on the client instead of the project.  

You will hear about what you can do to adapt to the digital buying process while leveraging the advantages of the professional sales team. And learn about how to support user adoption to drive effectiveness – especially for the not-so-tech-savvy salespeople in your organisation. 

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The full transcript

Podcast episode 3 – Chuck Ingram

[00:00:00] CEO with focus on getting CRM right

Rick McCutcheon: Hello everybody. My name’s Rick McCutcheon. I’m a Dynamics 365 MVP, and I want to thank you for tuning into digital adoption talks today. There are over 300,000 business professionals with digital adoption in their job titles on LinkedIn. On this show, along with my co-host, Joachim Schiermacher, CEO of ClickLearn, we will talk to some of the leading digital adoption experts in the Microsoft ecosystem.

And boy do we have one today. This week we are thrilled to talk to Chuck Ingram, CEO of Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner Congruentx. Chuck has over 20 years experience leading CRM practices for companies such as HP, DXC, Tribridge, and even Microsoft. At CongruentX, their focus is always about getting CRM, right?

Gentlemen. Introduce yourselves. We’ll start with you, Joachim.

Yeah, so my name is Joachim Schiermacher. I’m the CEO of ClickLearn. So at ClickLearn we do a digital adoption and training solution that we provide for the inside Dynamic 365 community and a number of other vendors that we support in the market.

Okay, Chuck.

[00:01:00] Focus on CRM adoption

Chuck Ingram: Awesome. I’m delighted to join. I’m delighted to side mention that we are a ClickLearn partner. But at the same time I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I, may be crazy because I started a firm. CongruentX was actually started to focus on at least partly CRM adoption. I’ve worked at, as Rick said, I worked at some, big places and did a lot of CRM.

I’m a CRM guy. This is what I know. And A few years ago just said, man, people aren’t always happy with this stuff, and it was even exacerbated the last couple of years, and we just said, that’s not okay. So let’s look at how we can make it. Okay. So we started CongruentX. It’s about aligning people in technology.

[00:02:00] Instant transformation: Road warrior to inside sales

We mostly focus on CRM and the power platform though. So excited about this conversation and thanks for asking me to hop on.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay, so Chuck, we’re gonna start off with you because over the last little while this pandemic shoved us all back into our houses, right? And we had these salespeople that were roaming around the country, right?

And nobody really knew what they did. They just sold things and everybody kept their eye on the number. And we had a pretty good economy going, so that number was pretty good. So I don’t think people paid a lot of attention to CRM. And user adoption, then all of a sudden we went to our homes.

And these Road warriors were now inside salespeople. And all of a sudden people were concerned about the data, where’s the data? And I think we forced a lot of people who really never used technology, whether it was CRM, whether it was Teams. Whether it was Excel spreadsheets reporting tools, all this stuff they needed to really catch.

So talk a little bit about what you saw over that time.

[00:03:03] Tech is contextual

Chuck Ingram: It’s, interesting from a big picture perspective. This topic was so compelling to me that I wrote this blog two years ago. It’s called, we Are All Inside Sales Now.

And then I wrote another one. A few months ago that says we’re all still all still inside sales now. And it’s, crazy because to your point, Rick we’ve all been at home for the last two years and all of we, went from, okay honey, I’m gonna go to the store, to everything is just available.

Tech is contextual. We, can say, and I, can’t say the name of the personal digital assistance, but if I say the name, I can just get stuff to show up at my house. So tech is easy. Tech is fun and, it’s awesome at home. And then we go back to work and we get these giant big forms and maybe not much training on how to use them and it’s difficult and there’s implications behind that where.

[00:04:10] Salespeople lacking proper planning time

What we’re missing is, as salespeople is the Starbucks around the corner from the office. Remember let’s say us three were going to a, sales call.

We would stop at that sales call. We’d think about what we’re gonna say. We’d look up the company’s information on DMB or something like that. And we’d, okay, you’re gonna talk, you’re gonna ask about this. You’re now, it’s 22, 30 minute calls all day long and you go from call to call.

[00:05:00] Tech at work is not as easy to use as tech at home

So there’s a stat where 82% of customers say that reps aren’t prepared for meetings. And we know it. 50% of reps say we are, we’re not ready for meetings because we are just going from call to call, because as you said, Rick, we’re inside sales and the tech. We’re not using the tech as easily.

The tech at work is not as easy to use as a tech at home. It could be, but it’s not.

Rick McCutcheon: And I’m seeing it’s changing the way the customers look at us too, right? Yeah. At one end we used to visit them on an ongoing basis and now you don’t need to come in here. Just get on a Zoom or Teams meeting and that’ll be fine. Which is a big change for many organizations and the way they’re set up to sell.

[00:05:32] Customers prefer a rep-free buying experience

Chuck Ingram: No question. I, think I saw where. Gartner said that 70% of customers would prefer a rep-free buying experience. It’s almost a scary stat, but we better, as in sales, think about how we can add a whole bunch of value to our, clients.

Rick McCutcheon: And I think we have to figure out, because we don’t wanna lose the advantage of a professional sales team.

[00:06:00] Embed sales team into the buying process

Yes, We don’t wanna lose that because they can help pull things over the finish line. But I think as organizations, we’ve gotta figure out how we embed our sales team within that buying process. Yes. Forget about the selling process and that buying process, like you said, 70%.

Really frictionless online buying. So how do we embed our sales team into this technology so they become useful?

[00:06:28] Sales should support the digital buying process

Chuck Ingram: Sales is a channel in that process to support that digital buying process, as you said, I you can, the folks who aren’t listening, you can probably see there’s a couple guitars back here and I, got a whole bunch of ’em and I, tend to buy things either in person or through, I don’t wanna say the name, but one of these online buying things where you get to talk to a person. So if I have questions, I can talk to the person, but I can do my research myself.

[00:07:00] Buyers are doing more research before reaching out

And I think things may head that way where we have a seller who has a whole bunch of context and a bunch of expertise that can help the customer buy versus ask this tricky question and kind of the, old way that things worked.

Rick McCutcheon: Joachim, do you wanna add anything about even your personal experiences? Buying now as opposed to buying even 24 months ago.

Joachim Schiermacher: Yeah I think that the transition has been going on before Covid actually but, I think that the transition definitely being enforced by Covid, the idea that the last person that you want to talk to, especially in the beginning of your buying process where you’re actually vetting out whether is this a fit for me, is a salesperson, right?

You would rather have a help desk at the other end, to be honest, because you’re not there yet. Yeah. And, the idea is that I think 80, 90% of our clients, we can see that they are, they’re vetting out. They’re much, much better prepared than they used to.

[00:08:00] Buyers are well-prepared before contacting sellers

They’re not coming into the room and say what are you selling? It seems interesting. Could you take me to the, through the grand tour? That’s not happening anymore. They’re, really well prepared when they enter the room. So sales has taken on a different task. And I really like what you said Chuck, about the pressure that we are applying to the sales force today, because we used to have those car rides.

You remember them? We used to actually go in cars at a point in time. And we, had that car ride between places. Between our, sales destination. And what did we use that for? No. We called up the other guy who was also on the road maybe that we were meeting up together and we discussed that next client and we prepared, right?

We prepared for that meeting. Now I, think that we are pushing the sales organization way, way, too hard in terms of driving the effectiveness. And then I think that we have it there’s a perversion in the sense we are picking up. We want to pick up more data, and we are saying, look, you’re the frontline.

[00:09:00] Gathering more customer data

You need to pick up the data points. We’re constantly asking those sales guys, no, get the data. Get the data right now, there’s a new form here, right? Because I have seven other data points. And at some point they’re saying, look, what am I here for? Am I the data collection specialist or do you want me to actually sell something?

And that’s the permanent change that we are bringing in there. So I think that from my perspective, when it comes to salespeople, that’s a permanent user adoption channel because they’re just hammered on with changes permanent. We ask them to do more. We want to get more to know more about our customers as we are preparing for that next trip.


Chuck Ingram: No question.

[00:09:30] Salespeople need a skill set to match new technology

Rick McCutcheon: And, another thing that I think pops up here too is the skillset and skillset, the ability for our salespeople to use technology reflect on their professionalism. And I’ll give you an example. I got a friend I do business with a lot, and every time he’s the one who has trouble getting on the teams meeting.

He’s the one who can’t find the file. We sent them all those types of things and this guy is brilliant when he’s getting on these meetings with the customers and I’m introducing him and he’s lost, it just doesn’t look like he’s brilliant.

[00:10:10] Change in buying style changes recruitment requirements

And I think all this change in the buying is going to reflect on what a sales organization looks like in the future and who we’re gonna recruit.

Chuck Ingram: A hundred percent. I’ll if it’s okay, I’ll peel back our covers a little bit. We’re, a just a couple year old firm and we actually.

I don’t know how smart we are, but we read a lot and we try to learn. So one thing we, figured out is it feels like that this, linear sales process, like we used to have these sales meetings at these bigger companies I worked at, and Okay We’re in this stage, so this thing should have happened and you now you get to this stage and it goes backwards.

[00:11:00] Providing buyers materials via smartlinks on LinkedIn

It’s because somebody who wasn’t involved grabs a piece of content from this place. And I think Gartner’s articulated is there’s these buying jobs. So what we do is, yeah, we still have it in CRM. The stages, the way we think of them. But we have a sales leader and that person is accompanied by our sales and marketing operations person who is constantly supporting that person with content.

And sometimes we provide it to them through smart links on LinkedIn. And, we also have a, solution that has these little digital sales rooms. So based on where the, person, are they thinking about the problem they have? Are they thinking about solutions that are out there? Are they building up their requirements?

[00:12:00] Content should support sales

Are they trying to pick the right partner? We have different stacks of content that we provide and she’s brilliant in her name is, Tasha, and she supports our, sales leader. His name is Tap. I picked them both because the names go together. And they’re, like dream team. Yeah it’s like he’s wonderful with what we would call being a modern seller and she supports that from a a digital perspective with content and things like that.

And so I think there’s probably some version of that we’ll see a lot more of where there’s the content. That drives value, that comes at the right time in the sales process. And then there’s that still that really professional salesperson and sales team that can augment that.

[00:13:00] Less time with client means timely content is a must

And, because you, as you guys said earlier, the, we get less time with the client and I, think I read where the winningpartner in a enterprise deal gets about 5% face time with a client or, call time with a client. So we need to send some timely content and some timely case studies, timely emails to them, and so it’s much different now. So we have to leverage the technology so much differently and, think about not 360 degree view 24/7. But context and insights, I actually think the term 360 degree view is not relevant most of the time. Now. Controversy alert.

Rick McCutcheon: So if we start to think about what you’re talking about here, Chuck. And it’s really, I think we have to go back to the training aspect of it. We have to retrain sales organizations Yes. To understand. That the buying process has changed. And in my business, I find a lot of companies are still working on a buying process from 1995.

[00:14:00] Customers do due diligence

They think this is how a customer buys and instead of understanding the customer looks, does due diligence, does their research, then shortlists then comes back, right? So if I talk to somebody at a trade show and they like me and they like the product and it’s going really. Then they go quiet for three or four months.

It’s not because they’re not interested, it’s because they’re doing due diligence on me and my competition. So as a sales professional, I need to understand how to use content to go out there and keep them interested and keep me in the race. And not just drop off and say, I don’t know, they’re not getting back to me.

Chuck Ingram: Yeah, absolutely. Ghosting is not always ghosting.

[00:15:00] Sales supports the last leg of the journey

Joachim Schiermacher: Most true. And I really think that now we are supporting our, sales formula is supporting the last, mile of the journey really. But before that, there’s 800 kilometers that we didn’t map down, but we spend our entire days thinking about how do we map that final one mile right in the journey, which is when the client is actually reaching out to sales and going through the.

And suddenly someone is saying, look, this is happening extremely fast. Not really. It’s been a really long journey. You, weren’t a part of it, right? You’re just seeing the funnel at the very end. And I think that is something that you need to transition to. I’d like to get back to Rick to what you said, because I think there’s, an opportunity in making sure that we support the user adoption, especially for, the sort of not so tech savvy salespeople.

[00:16:00] Salespeople need to understand technology to be effective

There’s an enormous skill set that we are leaving out of the picture and we need a, way to enable those into delivering a new context, because the new context is that tech is going to be a part of being a successful salesperson. If you’re not, no question. If you don’t understand technology and you don’t care, really, then you’re never gonna make it right because you don’t have that support that will make you effective.

[00:16:03] Need to help salespeople adapt

Your colleagues will just achieve 10 times more than you are. And, I think that there’s a challenge in the way that we adopt the users into that that. And how we support them in the constant journey. It’s not about ripping them out their, daily jobs for an hour and saying, look, this is what we are giving you right now of training, and then you can go back and do your job.

It’s, not working for them. They’re not tech savvy. They’re not grown up with technology like teenagers today are. They’re from a different generation, but they have an extremely an extreme ability to close the deals. And they. Yes, they have that nose feeling right about the deals, and I think we, can definitely tap into that.

[00:16:42] User adoption should be constant

And I don’t think that the user adoption, it just needs to be constant. So it’s more about driving the performance inside the application than it’s about providing training packages and constantly say, look, you need to train. So drive the performance inside the, applications they’re working, help them get that support.

And then I think they’re, fine. They’ll be fine.

[00:17:00] Happy endings are possible

Chuck Ingram: A hundred percent can I tell a quick story about the, I think Joachim and what you just said is so spot on. We have a now, a client. We had a call one day from somebody wanted a CRM resource. And we don’t say resource, we say people, but yeah, that’s what they, that’s what the client always said.

And we had a, yeah we, went to to visit the client and they had a big project and some big partner had done some work with them and. All nameless. Although the client is a case study now, so that it was a happy ending for the, story that, to your point, that the, project Green on time finished all that stuff and then they went on to the next big thing and the client Okay and you, break down.

[00:18:00] Help clients support their business goals

What’s the client trying to do? This client is in the construction business and they call on lumber yards and they don’t need a big, giant form to do that. We looked at what are the person trying to do to support the business goal? Where are they getting caught up? Where they’re getting caught up and, where they win or lose is in that lumber.

So they basically need to win the yard. So we took the big form and figured out the few things that they need to be successful in the yard and put it in a, and actually, in our case, it’s just a power app, but it doesn’t have to be. And next thing they’re, super duper happy. They’re showing it at their com sales convention, and they’re on the right track.

[00:19:00] Stay on track by keeping business goals at the forefront

As you said, this has to be an ongoing thing where we constantly tweak, even if we maybe goofed up and did the big form at the beginning. Just thinking about the course corrections, going back to the people who own the business goals, who own the business tools and who use the business tools. And don’t forget about those folks and you can always get back on track.

Rick McCutcheon: And I think those are all excellent points. Chuck. So here’s the question. What’s the responsibility of the Microsoft partner here? Because this has always got me working on projects. Is it was I’m gonna put the technology in, then I’m gonna get the hell outta dodge the gunfights over.

[00:19:32] What’s the partner’s responsibility on digital adoption?

That’s not the way we need to think anymore. What’s the responsibility of the partner around user adoption or digital adoption?

Chuck Ingram: I think Ray Wong does a really good job of explaining the people who are closest to the client will win, even if I’ll probably never develop a CRM product.

[00:20:00] Use tools (like ClickLearn) to help get clients what they need

I just take what Microsoft makes and we can use ClickLearn and other tools to help the client get what they need, make it easy, make it a net positive for their day. So we went from for 20 years I was thinking, like you said, Rick, about the project is thinking about the client. And if you take that focus.

[00:20:23] First step: Change focus from project to the client

That’s first step. So change of focus. I used to ride motorcycles. I do not anymore, but if you look at the ground, you’ll fall down when you’re turning. But if you look, back at where you wanna go you’ll, go where that place. So it’s change your focus from the project to the client.

[00:20:44] Second step: Think about people’s goals

Second step is, as we said, think about the people and what they do wanna do. So you have to think about this. That the client’s gonna have. And third is we’re in a technical age. There’s tools that can help us. One is you can ask the client what’s working and you should two and, that might mean a little different engagement model.

[00:21:00] Subscriptions offer chance to stay connected

We do a subscription so people can just stay connected. You don’t have to do a subscription, but you can have tools that, listen if you’ve ever ridden in these cars that have the Driving. It goes back and forth like that. And you can see it’s looking at the road.

[00:21:21] Partners need to think about the ultimate journey

There’s course corrections. There’s no course correction. In a big project, it’s you’re done and you pointed the car at downtown Atlanta and you’re just hoping it’s gonna arrive. So I think the partner has to think about that journey. Think about those ultimate goals the client wants, and be prepared to make course corrections both.

By talking to the client and having tools that can listen to what’s working and what’s not working as well, and think about how, to help the client stay on track for those goals.

[00:22:00] Help clients adapt to technology with training

Rick McCutcheon: So Chuck, just on that subscription model, and I’ve talked to you about this before, Now if they enter into, they’re paying you on a monthly basis to not only support the CRM, but to get it running, right? You’ve got some skin in the game here.

Chuck Ingram: Yeah. So there’s a training element of what what we would do to help the client adopt the technology. And there’s also almost like a managed services element. To help keep the lights on and, make sure that it’s running fast and so forth for the client.

[00:22:27] Help clients use technology in the best way

But then there’s also a little bit of an advisory piece where we’re helping the client think about what to, how to best use the technology. Because what’s the analogy about Microsoft Excel? Most of us use 10% of the features. If you, if those 10% can make you millions of dollars, that’s okay, but we need to get those 10% of the features right.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay. All right. Thanks. So guys, any closing remarks about digital adoption and sales professionals over to you, Joachim?

[00:23:00] Driven by the success of clients and not a one-time event

Joachim Schiermacher: I think that we are just starting the journey basically for the sales professionals in terms of driving towards customer success instead of driving toward delivery.

Right, based both on how we are getting our revenue streams. When this event occurs, then basically the revenue comes in and we are done and we can get out. And the idea, I think that which I like what you said, Chuck that, we are now driven much more, by the success of our clients.

[00:23:30] Stay in the room until clients are successful

That means there’s no, it’s not about getting out the door really. It’s about staying in the room until your clients are successful. That sort of idea that will definitely not only evolve, but also be the only one that will win in the long in the long game, I think. Okay.

Rick McCutcheon: Chuck, any closing remarks from you?

[00:24:00] The tech at work needs to match the tech at home

Chuck Ingram: Absolutely. Joachim, you said it a hundred percent that in, in my opinion, that it’s, we’re just starting this journey. We don’t even know just think back three years ago, we would, I didn’t, would’ve never, like I was using Amazon, but I would go on the website and I would search for stuff and now it, things are so different.

I go with my dog for a walk and the watch says, Hey, are you going to for a walk? Do you wanna track that? What if your CRM eventually, or your tech, stack, whatever we wanna call it, say, Hey Rick looks like you’re walking in to to see a client, abc. You wanna see the last three things that happened?

[00:24:33] Employees want to feel connected

Did you know that they were in acquisition talks that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If we can do that at home a hundred percent, we can do that at work and we, have to, because we’ve all heard the stuff about people, you know there, there’s a huge pushback with employees. They, wanna work at a place where they, feel connected and they feel like people care about them.

[00:25:00] Consider the employee experience when creating solutions

How are you showing a team member that you care about ’em by giving them a seven-and-a-half-foot-long form that looks like it belongs in the highway department or in a tax income tax form or something like that? That’s that stuff adds up. To your point, we’re just starting this journey to making tech at work, and especially for sellers feel like tech at home.

And we’ll get CRM right that way.

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