Digital sales rooms (DSRs) belong to a class of innovations that can only be understood when you use them. The disruptive value of the innovation isn’t obvious from the outside, but once experienced, it becomes viral. Apple products are a classic example.

In 2001, the first iPod was launched. Able to store 1,000 songs, it revolutionized how listeners interacted with music. Yet at first glance, it wasn’t obvious that this little box would change the music industry forever. In 2010, the first iPad was unveiled. Laptop users (and manufacturers) had a hard time understanding why an iPad would be all that different — until they tried the iPad and realized that they would never go back.

DSRs are a lot like this. They show up in a number of sales technologies under various names and seem to be these broadly defined, nebulous “collaboration spaces.” They describe enormous rewards as if they were assured, and some customers do get those rewards — thus the hype. But what is the reality?

At Forrester, we define DSRs as centralized locations or microsites where sales reps and buyers can collaborate. Buyers and sellers can co-create value and transparency throughout the sales process and (in some solutions) throughout the customer lifecycle by interacting within these spaces.

What’s The Hype?

DSR vendors offer a one-stop shop with unprecedented insights for buyer and seller interactions. In theory, DSRs will offer:

  • Seamless buyer journeys. DSRs can provide “white glove” experiences that offer a frictionless buyer journey.
  • Personalized experiences. DSRs deliver hyper-relevant content to engage each buyer role and advance the sale.
  • Secure and private interactions. DSRs offer secure, protected spaces for buyers and sellers to coordinate and collaborate anywhere in the world.
  • Ease of use. DSRs are easy to set up for sellers and quick to adopt for buyers.
  • Aggregated and actionable insights. Organizations receive detailed insights into buyer and seller activities, buyer preferences, and seller next-best actions.

What’s The Reality?

Among our clients and across the market, we are seeing DSR experiences that remind us of the Apple disruption described above. Those who “get it” are obtaining some remarkable results, and overall, the capabilities feel like a logical and overdue response to modern buying habits. But like any other business change, DSRs are not a magic wand. Several dynamics can mitigate the results:

  • Sales and marketing must align to create that seamless buyer journey. In the most successful DSR implementations, marketing works hand in glove with sales and sales enablement to optimize the experience for buyers and sellers. If that alignment is absent, DSRs can feel like a boat without a rudder.
  • Effective personalization relies on effective setup. To achieve the promised rewards, DSRs should be integrated into sales motions, sales processes, coaching, and analytics.
  • Privacy concerns must be addressed. Current and impending privacy regulations may inhibit buyers and sellers from fully using DSRs and their engagement insights, even though, in many cases, they provide more security than traditional methods of file sharing and the insights are not designed to be shared or sold to third parties.
  • Easy-to-use tools must be put into context. Sellers and buyers need to be acclimated to DSR features, functions, and value. Without proper onboarding, seller adoption will be random, buyer engagement low, and value mostly unrealized.
  • To deliver real value, insights must lead to action. In the recent Forrester Wave™ evaluation from Q4 2022 covering sales content solutions, engagement insights from DSRs were among the most popular and transformative analytics for organizations that followed best practices for turning insights into improved customer and employee experience.

Interested in continuing the discussion about the hype and reality surrounding digital sales rooms? Wondering how you can join the ranks of those who have solved the dynamics and are reaping the rewards? Reach out to us for help separating the hype from the reality and give you practical steps to decide if DSRs are right for you and turn them into a win for your organization.