We’re entering a new era of B2B sales. Driven by a combination of changing buyer habits, economic disruption and necessity brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, sales teams are having to reinvent themselves – and quickly.
Although many things have changed in recent months, arguably the biggest hurdle to have come out of the forced changes to the way sellers work is the loss of the in-person interactions they have long relied on to build connections with customers and drive sales. The regular face-to-face catchups with long-term customers and opportunities to meet new prospects at conferences are gone, highlighting a clear and urgent need for sales teams to adapt to a digital-first environment.
This is emphasized in research from McKinsey, which found that the preference for online sales over traditional sales interactions doubled in the months following the onset of Covid-19. In fact, 64 percent of B2B companies believe remote selling is just as effective, if not more effective, than their previous go-to-market models. This is prompting nearly a third (32 percent) to say that they are “very likely” to sustain these shifts 12+ months after Covid-19.
With this all in mind, the age of in-person sellers – the traditional ‘road warriors’ – appears to be coming to an end. But what does this mean for sales teams and how can they effectively reinvent themselves in order to make in impact in an online world?
We can’t overlook the value of in-person contact. Going for impromptu drinks with your main contact the night before an on-site meeting, chatting with a new stakeholder over a cup of coffee before the meeting starts, answering questions that may only come up during informal conversations such as a lunch break – these scenarios are all extremely valuable in helping sellers gain a deeper understanding of a customer’s pain points and concerns.
However, the first thing for sales teams to keep in mind is that the current shift to remote selling can present plenty of opportunities, rather than just being a disruption. For example, it can help teams increase operational efficiencies and connect with prospects in new and more effective ways, potentially putting them in a stronger position for when the business climate improves in the future.
If approached in the right way, the loss of in-person interactions and physical events can be offset by digital gains. Businesses have an opportunity to equip sellers with the tools, processes and capabilities to thrive remotely and drive business growth from wherever they are. At a practical level, less time travelling means sellers should have more time to focus their efforts on activity that supports new lead generation and accelerates existing buying cycles. This alone could have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.
Unsurprisingly, technology is at the heart of this shift. As connecting online is likely to remain the primary sales method of choice for some time, sales leaders have a responsibility to look for and invest in tools to compensate for the sudden lack of person-to-person meetings and events. Viewing forced change as an opportunity for improvement is the key to empowering sales teams in today’s digital era.
Sales teams must take the time to evaluate the digital customer journey and understand ways to move deals through the pipeline by replacing in-person methods with online ones, while differentiating themselves from the competition. Adopting a digital-first culture is no longer optional – it’s become essential in order to engage buyers in a meaningful and effective way, while also increasing productivity and improving operational performance.
The key to thriving in a digital world is embracing sales enablement tools that empower sales and marketing teams to use content in the most effective and efficient way possible in order to shorten the buyer journey. This will help businesses consistently execute digital storytelling, in turn improving the buyer experience and setting them apart from their competitors.
Content is key to driving sales online, which is where digital storytelling takes centre stage. There is now so much content being created, that businesses have to find ways to cut through the noise. Giving sellers the tools to discover and curate content that is targeted to their buyer’s needs and preferences drives deal conversion, as sellers can quickly and effectively demonstrate that they understand a specific customer’s situation and needs. Sales teams are empowered to share personalized and customized content – such as relevant case studies or industry insights – thereby providing an effective way to meaningfully engage with buyers virtually.
With the right sales enablement tools in place, sales teams will have access to a single source of content that makes it easy for them to discover, personalize and deliver the right information to their buyers at the right time, no matter where they are in the sales cycle.
This measurement aspect has a central role to play. Data is becoming increasingly important for sales and marketing teams, as illustrated by LinkedIn’s recent ‘State of Sales’ survey which found that B2B sales departments are using data analytics more than ever. There is a range of reasons for this, including prospecting (56 percent), assessing performance (51 percent) and evaluating patterns in lost business (48 percent).
The value of data is particularly clear when it comes to gauging customer engagement. What content is the customer spending time on? Which pieces of content are resonating most in specific industries? What kind of information are buyers at a certain stage of the customer journey looking for? Integrating data analysis systems that provide the answers to these questions is vital to helping sellers cut through the noise online and make an impact with customers remotely.
But this is just the beginning for today’s sellers, as these market shifts will continue to gather pace in the future. By embracing sales enablement tools that centralize content management, automate content curation, and incorporate data analytics to provide insights into engagement, sellers will be able to reinvent themselves and drive online sales. Your digital warrior is in there – now is the time to set it free.
Kevin O'Regan, VP EMEA, Seismic