CEO insights: what changes you need to make in the new remote sales world

Posted October 30, 2020

Digital transformation and organizational change have been hot topics for awhile. But they’re more important than ever in this new remote sales world.

We were lucky enough to hear from one of the world's top leaders about his perspective on how to successfully lead and navigate all the changes happening right now. At the recent Unleash Summit Series, our CEO Manny Medina spoke with Bill McDermott, president and CEO of ServiceNow, the former CEO of SAP for nine years, and author of “Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office.”

Bill shared his optimistic outlook and several leadership lessons with us. Below are highlights from the conversation. (Note: We’ve condensed and edited the original discussion for this post. You can watch the video or listen to the complete interview on

Based on what you’re seeing, how is digital transformation impacting companies?

Bill: If you look at the companies that are winning and the companies that are losing now, it all comes down to digital transformation. The companies that were non-digital before COVID-19 are suffering more now, and the companies that were digital and have progressed their agenda are doing better now than ever. Digital transformation is the biggest transformation of our generation. IT no longer supports the business. IT has become the business.

...I think we’re in a rapid move toward the digitization of everything. If companies are behind right now, they really do need to stop everything and accelerate digital transformation because within their own industry group, if they can get there first, they’ll win within their group and then they’ll consolidate others. But if they drag their feet, I can only tell you that the outcome three, four, or five years down the road will not be very pleasing.

Buyers have become more deliberate. They want immediate value, measurable outcomes, and significant ROI. What is the best way to sell to them in this new environment?

Bill: I think the first thing is realizing it’s easier to sell in this environment to customers you already have. The hard part is getting the new logos, the customers that don’t already do business with you. So, the key here is how do you keep the customers you already have super happy, super loyal, and take advantage of all the upselling techniques you have?

Your customers are going to hire your technology to do a job. What job do they need your technology to do? That’s all you need to know because once you know the answer to that question then you can fit it into their business equation, you can quantify the value, and all the things that people are very familiar with. But that simple question and an answer to that can change everything.

If you focus on your customer and their customer, and what their outcomes and intentions are, you’ll be fine.

How do you balance performance expectations with your empathy and big heart?

Bill: Well, you have to also have good instincts. For example, when COVID-19 really hit in March 2020, I was going into a blue sky strategy session with my management team. We were basically going to talk about reinventing the world and what we were going to look like when we grew up. Ten minutes into the meeting, I’m looking at the room and I’m like, “This is going nowhere because if we don’t help the world solve COVID-19, we’re not the company we were destined to be.”

I told them we’re going to be the defining enterprise software company in the 21st century. I said to do that we’ve got to help solve the COVID problem. So, we brought out an emergency response set of applications in three days and launched it globally in seven. From there we realized, wow, we have to go one step beyond.

The big idea is to spot things around the corner, move on them incredibly quick, and then do a great job. It’s not enough to have a good idea or build a great product. You’ve got to make sure that it’s easy to use, simple to consume, it’s implementable in record time, and that there’s huge value a company can derive from it. All those pieces have to come together.

What advice would you give to companies and leaders about how to get through all the change happening right now?

Bill: Lots of things are changing. But the one thing that’ll help everybody get through is the thing that always remains the same, which is optimism. It’s the only free stimulus out there. Keep your head up, and stay focused on dreams. Don’t get too distracted by the challenges of the moment because they won’t last as long as you.


Read more

Stay up-to-date with all things Outreach

Get the latest product news, industry insights, and valuable resources in your inbox.