Future of B2B Sales
B2B sales and the impact of social media, data, connectivity, and technology are bringing a step change in how companies sell. These changes will help companies take a giant step that will take them way beyond all the traditional selling tactics.
B2B sales are about to evolve like never before by embracing the advantages digital technology provides. In fact, leading companies are already pulling away from their peers in both sales growth and sales productivity improvement.
There is no doubting that B2B buyers have moved the selling goalposts as they seek out information and content on products using the internet and social media.
This has led to a rise in challenges for sales leadership, challenges such as:
- Re-evaluating their products and services to meet buyers changing habits
- Combating new entrants, alternative business models, and pricing pressure
- The acceleration of commoditization and substitution due to buyer education
- Far greater transparency and increase in buyer purchasing knowledge
- The shift in seller-buyer control in favor of the buyer
The reality is that dealing with these challenges in B2B sales is here and now, but also that they will become more magnified in the near future.
If we add in the buyer’s preference for subscription-based models then the challenges listed above become even more pronounced, leading sales leadership to rethink how they go to market and engage with customers.
The Future Focus in B2B sales
Research into B2B sales practices being deployed by leading companies have found that they focus on 3 core strategies.
Strategy 1: Making the buying process easier.
This applies as much to the more complex sales as it does to selling commodity type products. Leading sales organizations are focused on making their product offerings, sales touch points, access to information and internal systems as easy as possible for customers and prospects. Acknowledging the change not just in buyer’s preferences but also buyer profiles (millennials are becoming the largest demographic in B2B buying), the sales interactions need to be more rewarding, informative and fulfilling.
Sales leaders are seeking out a sales strategy and methods to maximize sales touch points to improve the value buyers receive by make the sales process:
Transparency. Buyers are demanding a more open approach to purchasing, so companies will utilize new sales tools, new systems and processes to deliver a far greater transparent sales experience for their customers. The added bonus for the sales organization is this change can result in a more leaner and more flexible sales force.
Multi-Channel Unified Experience. B2B sales offerings will closer resemble the B2C sales experience. This entails the provision of 24/7 access to specs, pricing, information, ordering etc through all channels, but mostly digital or social media. It’s about connecting all the company’s channels to ensure a transparent experience across the different sales touch points.
Highly personalized interactions. Again, as with B2C selling, the concept of “my B2B sales preferences” is on the rise. Transparency and the multi-channel experience will lead to increased buyer trust, leading to more data becoming available. This data and information will give companies the ability to anticipate and adapt to B2B customer needs. At a practical level it will allow customers to receive customized and highly relevant interactions where they are presented with personalized value propositions aligned to their specific challenges.
Tools that let customers self-configure a customized product solution, quotation and a virtual implementation will grow in deployment.
Strategy 2: Focus on longer term customer value.
It’s no longer the seller V the buyer. Companies will focus on really understanding the “what, why, and when” of the customer needs. Buyers will be invited to participate in the ecosystem that serves them so they can self-generate their own value. Selling will become more collaborative and sales people will create more real sales opportunities by allowing buyers to bundle and unbundle products or solution themselves, based on their needs.
Adding Value. Companies will broaden out their offerings to include a more complete customer solution (maybe via partners) that lowers the overall cost of product acquisition, to make it easier to implement or to improve business results. The divide between products and solutions that a business offers to customers will be fluid depending on customer preferences.
Selling becomes more intelligent. Sales people will use the multi-channel approach to become a trusted advisor to a core group of buyers. B2B sales organizations will invest in up-skilling the sales teams to educate their customers on needs they did not know they even had. Apart from nurturing and educating the customer, the salesperson will engage the different stakeholders and decision makers within the buyer’s organization to discover and highlight the need. They will make buying easier.
Strategy 3: Using Data and Analytics to create customer value.
The use of data and analytics will help many organizations to reframe how it defines customer value. These tools and insights will uncover greater opportunities to expand the value delivered to customers.
The future of B2B sales will to go beyond the traditional role of customer interactions, they will create value for the customer via:
Science in Sales. Data, analytics and the resulting insights will make it easier to offer the customer products and services that matches their actual assessed needs. B2B sales organizations will use deep customer and market intelligence to create value beyond what customers are able to self-educate on themselves via channels such as social media.
AI and the Virtual Experience. Engaging customers will evolve to include the use of sales tools such as AI, a virtual experience or simulated environment that will allow customers to truly absorb the potential value of a companies offering.
Sales and the social business. Companies will embrace the concept of a social business, using not just sales but other functions to reach and connect with a larger number of buyers. Social media, social selling and digital connectivity makes it increasingly easier to engage with a larger grouping of B2B buyers and influencers cost effectively.
The B2B Salesperson of the future.
The three B2B sales strategies provide some insight into the future of B2B selling. Combine these with market knowledge, the right sales training and sales motivation will provide the necessary ingredients to take B2B sales to the next level.
The future of B2B sales will see salesmen and saleswomen contributing to the overall business success with a set of modern sales practices that is focused on customer success not the companies. Sales leaders should be thinking about how they can take the next steps:
- Implement sales tactics to simplify, enrich, and elevate B2B sales.
- Utilize the digital influenced B2B sales practices as competitive business opportunities, to reach and engage a far great pool of potential customers.
- Ignite sales transformation by adopting the social business mantra.
The future of B2B sales is about involving, empowering, and enabling salespeople to perform and change how we do business. This will generate a sense of excitement and fulfilment. So, start the future day, in striving today to shape the future of sales in a more collaborative and participative way, for the customers benefit.