How digital documents can streamline sales in hybrid working environments

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How digital documents can streamline sales in hybrid working environments
Businesses across the APAC region must work towards accelerating their transition from paper-based to digital workflows.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The widespread shift to remote work over the last year has redefined the way sales teams engage with customers and prospects.

While digital transformation and virtual conferencing has allowed sales conversations to continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of face-to-face contact and growth in digital engagement means customer expectations have changed.

Long gone are the days of purely offline interactions. Instead, we can expect to see a hybrid combination of physical and digital engagement over time, which blends the offline customer relationship building component of sales with the efficiencies brought on by digital transformation.

Therefore, businesses need to recalibrate their digital strategies to optimise operations in a way that enables employees to remain productive and collaborative. To truly stay competitive, sales professionals across the Asia Pacific region must increase digital engagement and leverage foundational technology.

Offline sales channels need to be converted to online channels where sales professionals can focus more on the customer relationship and less on the repetitive, administrative tasks.

This is where digital documents and e-signatures will play a crucial role. Not only do digital documents create efficiencies and reduce administrative time for sales teams, but they can also accelerate sales cycles and help drive revenue in hybrid working environments. They also have the ability to manage the digital document workflow across different and multiple digital channels, such as mobile.

It’s time to tear up paper-based processes

The lack of face-to-face contact and the inability to physically collaborate revealed the inefficiencies of our old ways of working. Specifically, social distancing regulations and remote working highlighted our heavy reliance on paper-based documents.

Before the pandemic, most of the sales cycle would occur offline and be executed on paper. Proposals printed and presented, quotes issued in person, documents signed on paper documents and later scanned. However, this paper-based approach was riddled with inefficiencies and relied heavily on paper-based tasks, which can negatively impact the productivity of a sales team.

In a recent study by Forrester, two thirds (64%) of sales professionals in the APAC region reported facing inefficiencies from having to manually add information to documents that already exist in their systems, such as customer or product information.

In addition, APAC sales professionals also reported that paper-based processes delay the sales cycle, with more than half (58%) having to constantly rework documents due to high margins of error. Not only does the reworking of paper documents negatively impact productivity, it also slows down revenue recognition, with almost half (47%) of APAC sales decision-makers experiencing delays in routing and obtaining signatures in the correct order.

Digitising Document Processes

From a business standpoint, adopting end-to-end digital processes enables easier collaboration, guarantees better document security, and improves overall productivity. More importantly, it allows businesses to reduce administrative tasks and better meet their customers’ needs.

Document workflows and processes underpin a vast array of interactions within these businesses, and thus represent a prime opportunity for improving efficiency. For instance, e-signatures halve the time required to sign contracts, and eliminates inefficiencies across departments, alleviating the pressure on IT teams.

Digital documents and e-signatures can also decrease security and privacy risks. The Forrester research revealed that 40% of APAC respondents found it difficult to maintain security and confidentiality when using paper-based document processes. Therefore, using a digital document solution can allow sales teams to encrypt, password protect and share documents with only the people who need to provide a signature.

Moving forward, businesses across the APAC region must work towards accelerating their transition from paper-based to digital workflows. There is also a greater need to move away from a transactional approach to a journey-based mindset to drive innovation and profitability. An omnichannel strategy, which incorporates the efficiency of digital processes with offline customer relationship building, will be the key to future-proofing sales strategies.

By addressing business resilience and understanding how to work in new hybrid working environments, investment in digitising document processes will bring both immediate and long-term advantages, helping APAC businesses stay competitive, agile and productive.

Yew Hwee Ng is Digital Media Enterprise Managing Director, Asia, Adobe.

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