Masterclass: Promoting change in sales teams to embrace the digital era

An exclusive masterclass for Chief HR Officers
David Wells
Apr 29, 2019

Many companies have traditionally sold their products and services through business-to-business sales teams. However, the online world is fundamentally changing the professional-to-professional sales approach. How far are digital channels replacing the traditional salesforce? Can the two approaches complement each other to engage better with customers—and if so, how?

Based on his extensive research and experience in the sector, Pablo Foncillas Diaz-Plaja, Professor of Marketing at IE Business School and member of the Headspring educator network, set out some of the challenges and complexities of integrating offline and online teams in professional sales. The event was held at the Bacardi España HQ in Barcelona on 5 April 2019, as part of Headspring’s Masterclass series. In the audience were senior HR professionals, drawn from global corporations with operations in Spain.

Professor Foncillas provided the latest examples and trends adopted by leading brands that exploit an ‘omnichannel strategy—meaning a single strategy for all sales channels. He also considered the impact of an omnichannel strategy on the people who make up commercial teams.

Omnichannel is a concept that’s here to stay and is having a strong impact on business models

Some conclusions from the event:

‘Omnichannel’ is the new buzzword in the commercial environment. It is a concept that is here to stay and is having a strong impact on business models, and on the management of relevant teams of employees. ‘Omni’ implies that people need to put themselves in their clients’ shoes, and understand and eliminate barriers that exist between sellers and their customers.

But many salespeople look suspiciously at the introduction of digital channels, fearing for their job or losing competences. Commercial teams have traditionally been the sales engines of their products and services. But the arrival of the online world has resulted in differences in approach. These new forces and dynamics could threaten the way sales processes have traditionally been managed.

But is it true that digital forces will replace traditional sales channels? Is it possible to collaborate, to complement each another, to connect with customers in better ways? If so, how?

Based on Pablo Foncillas’s research and experience, in the Barcelona session he addressed the complexities and challenges of integrating offline with online selling. He considered ways of integrating both worlds, and the processes or systems that are necessary to achieve solutions. He addressed the key challenges that businesses face in managing sales teams in companies that want to expand their online sales, and looked at typical seller profiles, based on a method developed by Forrester Research.

During the session Prof Foncillas described the key challenges companies with strong selling teams face when they want to expand their online sales needs, and considered typical selling profiles. In addition, he outlined the realities of the conflict between traditional selling channels and online, and discussed how HR departments can support the implementation of a new selling strategy.

The session was based on the latest book by Prof Pablo Foncillas in which he establishes a six-stage process to generate valuable relationships with customers, using technology as a tool. The author donates profits from the book to the Éxit Foundation, whose mission is to reduce the early educational abandonment of young people in situations of social vulnerability.

Pablo FoncillasProfessor of Marketing, IE Business School   Pablo is a former business executive working in multinational companies, a consultant and an adviser with more than 20 years of experience working on over 150 brands in 25 markets. In both his professional and educational careers he has paid special attention to dynamic and changing environments in industries facing strong growth pressures. How to innovate commercially for growth is a key aspect of his work. More than 5,000 students and others have attended his lessons, conferences and workshops in recent years, in Spain and internationally.


David Wells

Writer and communications consultant