John Lennon wrote, “So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.” Well, it’s the 53rd annual celebration of Earth Day and what have we done (and what should we be doing) in sales to support our organization’s sustainability mandates?
Sales leaders who are looking for meaningful ways for the sales organization to contribute to sustainability efforts must consider:
1. Leveraging sales as your sustainability ambassador. Sellers and sales leaders have a significant influence on how buyers experience an organization’s brand. Sellers must become engaged and informed about the company’s green initiatives to avoid the perception of greenwashing. In Forrester’s Workforce Survey, 2022, 51% of respondents said that sustainability has improved their organization over the past two years and 52% reported that sustainability is a critical factor in their plans to continue (or discontinue) working at their firm. Organizations that “walk the sustainability talk” internally will more effectively communicate those beliefs externally.
What can you do?
- Communicate your sustainability mission, vision, and values, and offer tangible examples of how the organization is applying those mandates. In Forrester’s Workforce Survey, 2022, 19% of buyers said increasing the transparency of their sustainability efforts was a key action to improve environmental sustainability.
- Map your buyer-aligned sales process. Sellers must understand the influence that sustainability issues have during the sales process and address them.
- Partner with the product organization to understand if your organization embraces circular economy business designs such as renewability, sharing platforms, product as a service, product-life extension, and resource efficiency and recycling. Incorporate these efforts into your value proposition and champion them with buyers.
2. Selling smarter (and more sustainably). A report published by the World Economic Forum found that only 30% of companies surveyed have a sustainability policy that includes business travel. Gen X and Baby Boomer sellers often default to the in-person meeting for most of the sales process, while Gen Y and Gen Z prefer to sell digitally/remotely. Personal selling preferences must be balanced with efficiency and effectiveness. By leveraging sales technology to understand the correlation between key buyer and seller activities, sellers can make better data-based decisions regarding the activities that have the greatest environmental impact, such as travel and travel-associated activities.
What can you do?
- Assign sales territories to minimize the need for travel by aligning sales reps to local accounts.
- Deploy digital sales rooms to connect sellers with clients. Create personalized spaces that offer buyer intimacy without travel. In Forrester’s Q4 2022 Global Environmental Sustainability IT Buying Survey, 73% of decision-makers saw a positive impact from investing in collaboration tools to reduce business travel and improve their organizational sustainability.
- Allocate a carbon budget to each team and encourage the consideration of carbon-neutral options by incentivizing employees to patronize sustainable vendors through a point system or recognition program when traveling.
Creating a strong sustainability value proposition will enable sales to win in markets where your organization’s sustainability stance might be the deciding factor. In Forrester’s Q4 2022 Global Environmental Sustainability IT Buying Survey, 59% of respondent companies said they are increasing supply chain efficiency. Twenty percent of respondents in Forrester’s Workforce Survey, 2022, said their organization is launching new green products and services, with 16% adapting business operations to be more sustainable. Read more of Forrester’s Earth Day blog series to learn about opportunities to hit corporate targets while working toward improving the outlook of our planet.