Five key transformations to create a successful B2B business in 2020

During the 80s and 90s, the telco sector was dominated by incumbent, state-owned monopolies. These providers had a mind-set of engineering-led products with a take-it-or-leave-it approach to marketing and sales.

However, as many of the state monopolies were broken up in the 90s and early 2000s, this introduced additional competition. That, in turn, brought about a shift towards products that addressed customer needs and has resulted in a solution-led sales approach.

In the last five years much has changed again. There has been an important shift in emphasis from purely fixed and mobile products to unified comms solutions. This hasn’t been restricted to the large corporates but has extended all the way down to micro businesses that have embraced the possibilities on offer. This product shift has driven two huge changes: an increased focus on user experience and a shift in the way these solutions are sold, leading to a greater focus on the needs of the customer and, more importantly, to the benefits that they could enable.

Over the next five years this focus on customer experience will expand to cover all aspects of the engagement with the customer, which means that enterprises need to find new ways to differentiate themselves in the market and rise above the competition. Together, the five transformations listed below are a good place to start.

Shift from product selling to solution selling

Firstly, if you haven’t already, make the shift from product to solution selling. This means coming to a customer with an opinion rather than simply asking them what their problems are. Show them you know their industry, their business and what the future holds in terms of the technology.

Being able to articulate the benefits to them will build the trust they need to believe you can really help them. To make this a reality, sales teams must be equipped with the right data, insights and tools to effectively engage, prove they are well informed and be able to have the right conversation with the customer.

Resolve the disconnect between sales and service

Once you’ve started down this path, ensure the handover from sales to service is seamless. This is often where things start to fall apart. Joining up sales and service requires a cultural shift within the organisation. Operating models need to reflect the two different focuses of the business: delivering projects and delivering service. While it might be okay for new solutions and services to be aligned to individual technologies, the underlying service cannot be delivered in the same way.

Gartner calls this a bi-modal operating model and it requires a shift in thinking within your technology teams, support functions and across the entire business. This comes from the top-down, with a customer experience-led approach, and bottom-up, through redefining operational processes to support internal and external service level agreements.

Meet the highest customer expectations

Cultivating an organisation-wide focus on customer experience across all touch points (marketing, sales and service) and across all channels (whether direct or indirect) needs to be driven top-down. For example, ensure you leverage analytics to obtain a holistic view of customers’ needs for information, sales and service. This enables you to understand what is important to customers and where you’re not getting proper adoption of services, so you can educate customers, offer alternatives or re-address the proposition.

Partner and divest for focus and performance

Yesterday’s technology ecosystem was simple to understand and manage whereas today’s ecosystem is anything but. We are faced with multiple services, systems, applications and an accelerating need to deliver new solutions to customer problems. And the pace of change is increasing.

That’s why many organisations are recognising that continuing to deliver fast-paced innovation and business as usual within the same organisation is becoming increasingly difficult. Using best-of-breed partners – either outsourcing or fully divesting the more commoditised services – will let you focus on higher-value differentiated services, innovation and customer experience.

This bi-modal approach requires C-level buy-in and a grown-up approach to partner management that focuses on outcomes rather than micro-management and cost alone.

Harness the data to drive greater customer intimacy

Finally, you must harness customer-shared data to create greater intimacy and prove that you really do understand them and their business. That means you need to capture every piece of information that customers give you from every interaction and use it to inform future conversations and recommendations. It also means you have to develop your ability to make use of the data. As technology performance increases you can use greater amounts of automation to pre-empt customer needs.

By embracing each of these five transformations, you will enable your marketing, sales and service teams to change the customer conversation and create a customer experience that is fit for 2020.

Tim Bardell, Client Partner, NTT DATA

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens