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IBM ramps up digital efforts for bigger presence in nation

US tech giant set to better service with more advanced tools and technical skills

United States tech heavyweight IBM Corp is doubling down on its digital sales strategy in China, as digital channels are expected to play a greater role in facilitating business-to-business sales over the next five years.

Alain Benichou, CEO of IBM Greater China Group, said: "Digital sales experience has become more important amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And China is one of the most digitalized markets in the world. We need to adopt a more digital and agile way to interact with customers."

His remarks came during the one-year anniversary celebration of IBM's China digital sales center. Amid the pandemic when Chinese companies stepped up efforts to embrace digital transformation, the Beijing-based digital sales center has worked to quickly respond to demands of local small and medium-sized enterprises to help them meet challenges.

Benichou said that this year IBM proposed a new "go-to-market" strategy, and the digital sales center aims to use more advanced digital tools, solid technical sales skills and agile response speeds to meet customer demand.

Specifically, the center will pay more attention to exploring business opportunities for customers' digital transformation needs, and will bring IBM's hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence technology to more customers, the company said.

The move comes as market research company Gartner predicted that 80 percent of business-to-business sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur via digital channels by 2025. This is because 33 percent of all buyers surveyed by the company desire a seller-free sales experience-a preference that climbs to 44 percent for millennials.

Cristina Gomez, vice-president for the Gartner Sales Leadership Council, said: "As baby boomers retire and millennials mature into key decision-making positions, a digital-first buying posture will become the norm. As customers increasingly learn and buy digitally, sales representatives become just one of many possible sales channels. Because of this, sales organizations must be able to sell to customers everywhere the customer expects to engage, interact and transact with suppliers."

Gartner said buyers typically spend only 17 percent of their time meeting with potential suppliers when they are considering a purchase. With less customer face time, virtual selling via digital channels will predominate. Moreover, the pandemic has accelerated this trend.

In response to the buying habits of Chinese customers and industry trends, IBM's China digital sales center has also used video livestreaming to attract customers in the business-to-business domain. Dozens of sales and technical experts at IBM displayed a variety of the company's flagship software, hardware, service products and solutions online in an easy-to-understand manner.

Zheng Dong, general manager of the system security strategic business unit at Digital China-one of IBM's business partners-said earlier that the Beijing-based digital sales center integrates products, solutions and services for customers and brings new opportunities to companies such as Digital China. That is especially vital amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

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