The desire for companies to have access to a digital offer and expertise is leading to a change in sales techniques.
A new era in B2B sales is upon us. It is driven by the customer companies' desire to have digital access to the offers and expertise of their suppliers. Leveraging this change is challenging because it requires a shift from deeply integrated B2B sales and marketing models to data-driven, digitally powered partnerships between sales, marketing and analytics.
What is a B2B sale?
B2B sales are referred to as a commercial exchange between companies, as opposed to B2C sales, where a brand offers products to individuals.
A B2B sale occurs when:
Why are traditional B2B sales techniques no longer effective?
With the rise of the Internet and the constraints that companies have experienced with the pandemic, the B2B sales cycle has evolved in a few years.
About 20 years ago, your company probably focused solely on traditional marketing: trade shows, personal relations and print media to support new business development efforts.
B2B sales, particularly in manufacturing, have traditionally been approached as a linear process, based on a careful mapping of the buyer's journey. The first step was usually an introduction to the company and its product range, followed by an explanation of how the products would benefit the potential buyer. The linear sales process starts with the assumption that the prospect knows very little about you.
This process is now obsolete. B2B buyers are indeed more knowledgeable and the sales process does not start with an introduction, but with an assessment of what the prospect already knows about you. This is due to the rise of the Internet and the ready availability of information about your offers - and those of your competitors. The linear sales process has been replaced by something much more efficient.
Moreover, half of B2B buyers are millennials, whose preference for digital interactions is rapidly reshaping the customer journey and the way buyers communicate with suppliers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced B2B buyers and sellers to go digital en masse. Video meetings and live chat have become the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers, while face-to-face meetings and related sales activities have dropped precipitously. B2B decision-makers around the world even say that online and remote selling is as effective as face-to-face engagement, if not more so, and they are not just talking about selling to warm prospects. Salespeople also believe that digital prospecting is as effective as face-to-face meetings when it comes to connecting with existing customers.
So what started as a response to the crisis has now become the norm.
Why should companies go digital?
Integrating digital into the B2B sales cycle has many benefits for a company.
Digital marketing is more focused on helping potential customers find solutions to their problems, rather than the traditional approach of focusing solely on product data and specifications.
Unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing and marketing automation software provides a relatively easy return on marketing spend. Furthermore, it has been widely reported that digital marketing achieves results at one third the cost of traditional marketing.
In addition to investing in analytics, building a strong brand and digital presence will require staff and, in many cases, digital marketing specialists to support your B2B marketing and sales teams.
The dramatic increase in digital adoption presents a major opportunity for B2B organisations. The move to virtual sales is helping sales organisations to reduce their cost per visit, extend their reach and dramatically improve sales efficiency while delighting customers who demand these new ways of interacting over the long term and who are likely to reward suppliers who do it well.
B2B leaders who commit to further digitising their go-to-market models should gain competitive advantage in the form of more and more loyal customers than their slower peers.
How to integrate digital into your strategy?
Digital business models will inevitably dominate the near future of B2B sales, but many companies will find the transformation difficult. Use the tips to minimise the challenges and successfully transition from analogue to digital B2B sales processes.
Identifying emerging technologies and adopting them early is the key to successful transformation. It is fairly straightforward to identify emerging technologies with high potential early enough to stay ahead of the competition. But you need to understand the existing technology and its shortcomings and be open to new ideas or ways of doing things.
Adopting something new is the hard part. You can invest in software and implement it in your company, but that is not the same as adopting it. You achieve enterprise-wide adoption once your entire organisation adopts and uses this new technology on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these obstacles.
Trusting data and its sources is a major obstacle on the road to successful digital transformation. However, the data and information provided by digital technology are two of the main benefits of digital transformation.
Firstly, B2B sales are about building long-term, trusting customer relationships. Building these relationships is easier when sales have access to digital information about customer behaviour, buying habits, interests, challenges, etc.
CRM solutions store a lot of data that salespeople can use to build relationships with customers. CRMs with marketing automation features such as customer journey mapping allow salespeople to know where customers are in their decision making and what resources they need at each stage of that journey.
In addition, sales managers and B2B executives can leverage this data to make more informed, data-driven decisions. This is essential because the right data gives decision-makers insight into untapped opportunities for business growth.
For a digital transformation to be successful, B2B sales managers must be committed to supporting the endeavour. They also need to apply new sales practices and consistent use of new technologies when interacting with their teams. It may seem easy, but it can be a challenge.
There are tactics that sales managers can use to ease the transition to a digital business model. One is to communicate clearly to their teams that this is a priority. If salespeople realise that there are consequences for not following new processes and constantly using new technologies, they are more likely to align themselves.
Ongoing checks during the initial implementation of new technology help business managers ensure that their teams are on board with the changes.