Alyssa Chew Nair, Head of Digital Business Group, IBM Security Solutions #APACLeaders

Read our interview with Alyssa Chew Nair, Head of Digital Business Group, IBM Security Solutions, Asia Pacific and Head of IBM Commerce Marketing, Asia Pacific. She shares her insights on how the digital marketplace is helping in the B2B sales function.

What is the marketing that works for customer acquisition and customer retention? How does AI actually transform Marketing?  

Apart from my current role in IBM Security Solutions, I have also been in the Sales function right from the start of my career. I think digital tools are excellent for new customer acquisition at the beginning of the funnel.

There is a lot of digital interaction and digital science involved for new customer acquisition like search, webinar, keywords and LinkedIn as part of our go-to-market efforts. Additionally, the Cognitive Sales Advisor helps us focus on the customer’s propensity to buy and which customers to pursue. So we do use a fair bit of digital and AI around our sales prospecting. In our ecosystem, being in the digital marketplace of our Partners is also crucial for us and it’s important for them to also drive digital marketing for us. In IBM, we have segmented the organisation – there is enterprise and commercial. In commercial, it’s not so much about account management; it’s all about acquiring new customers and the digital funnel is very much a part of it.  We have grown about 30% in the overall IBM security unit for commercial customers during my tenure.

We have seen a change in the way traditional sales has been done especially with the advent of digital. So what do you think are three things that one needs to do to close sales and make sales more relevant in this age?  

The first one is – have an active social media presence and have a point of view. So you build credibility online. I think that is very crucial in this new age because before a salesperson meets a prospective customer, they search on social media about the expertise and views of the person with whom they will be doing a sales call. Networking is also very important for salespersons. And of course being part of an industry community where you need to engage is also important. Always add value in every interaction that you have,  so even clients notice your social media presence and will have in a sense, ‘met you before’ you have an actual face to face interaction.

Being on digital media also means that metrics are more visible now compared to earlier. How do you view this? Does it mean more pressure on sales? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

I think transparency and being digital is a good thing. I always believe that people buy from people at the end of the day – it’s still a relationship of trust and expertise. The visibility that digital brings is good from a management standpoint. Digital gives me tools to understand non-performance or someplace where sales people can improve on. More analysis and analytics is always good. I am all for digitization, analytics and metrics but sales should still be accompanied by one-to-one meetings.  

How do you think Data can be used meaningfully today for closing deals or better targeting?  

I think it’s a huge blessing that data can now be analysed. That’s something lots of organisations are struggling with and working through. At the core of IBM, we understand that data is a goldmine; it will help us only once we put in analytics and intelligence behind it. In IBM, we are actually doing it for ourselves for the sales organisation. So what we have is not just data but actually data that has been given context and analysis around it and I think IBM has a very good sales organisation – we use our very own tools that gives us the analysis.

How do you see the adoption of new digital tools in the customer acquisition process? And in what stage of the sales funnel would you use these tools?  

Firstly, there will always be a place for traditional offline marketing with events, account based marketing, one to one marketing, but from my experience, new customer acquisition has very much been digital led. And being a sales person, you tend to pull in info from all sorts of sources – from online and offline sources. We specifically use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator that helps us for acquiring new customers, a tool which is useful at the top of the sales funnel. Secondly the adoption of digital tools is good for validation. So you see a trail of where the customer journey is at. We have managed to build new digital footprints with digital campaigns. After that we upsell and cross sell to them by using other marketing tactics.

So do you have data on the new acquisitions that you acquired through digital means, in terms of percentage?

We have managed to acquire about 30% of new customers by the use of digital methods.

In terms of cyber security, with the world going increasingly digital, and people using connected devices, what are the steps that organisations should ensure to keep their data and footprint secure?

So there are three things – people, process and technology.

Speaking from the technology perspective; step one would be that organisations need to have visibility on where sensitive data is being stored. Even from a marketing perspective, you need to know where your customers’ information is being kept.  Because when a security breach happens, data gets stolen. A lot of times just investigating a security leak takes organisations upto six months to find the source of the leak. Obviously we have the technology to do that at IBM. But there are so many outlets that you have to look at – like with a ‘Bring your own device’ policy company information will be on employee’s private devices causing a risk.

Step two would be to raise the level of awareness about security amongst employees. So ensure that the education of your employees is upto par from a security perspective and who to go to when in doubt like an IT Helpdesk in the organisation.

These are the two steps that I would recommend to organisations for maintaining a high level of data security.


Alyssa is currently the Head of Sales for Digital Business Group in IBM Asia Pacific, focused on Security Solutions in the commercial sector within IBM. IBM is the leader for enterprise security. She helps clients improve their security posture and be confident in the face of cyber security threats so that they in turn, can face their customers. Clients come for help mainly in 3 ways (a) to detect and stop advanced threats (b) Get ahead of compliance, be in GDPR or the local regulations (c) ensure a strong security posture during digital transformation.


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