This article was written by Wouter Nederkoorn.
B2B sales have always been a different type of business to B2C. When a business sells services to another business, the transactions are often supported by experience, personal connections, and reputation. But, this has started to change even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past year’s rapid changes have accelerated transformations in the B2B landscape, and many of these transformations are here to stay. Even now, travel remains restricted for sales executives, and very few sales events are being planned. Many B2B sales organizations are not as well-organized to compete on experience, but smart executives must consider several changes to their approach.
Deloitte has published a useful paper entitled “Experience Selling,” and I’d like to focus on five of the steps they advise B2B sales leaders to explore. These five steps can help you operate B2B sales differently. More importantly, they should trigger the reimagination of how you interact with customers.
1. Reimagining the buying journey – Can you step back and see things from the customer’s perspective? Can you explore how new customers learn about your products? What is their journey and experience when searching for information and eventually placing an order? How are you managing this as a relationship-building process?
2. Orchestrating selling motions – You need to create the right engagement and interactions to lead customers towards a purchase. The strategy can no longer be focused on personal relationships or interactions over lunch. You need to go digital and consider a broader assessment of how B2B interactions actually occur.
3. Emphasizing the seller experience – Pipeline management and account planning are vital for success, yet many B2B sales professionals don’t use their CRM tools effectively. Make the systems work for your B2B sales team so they can sell and enjoy it, not feel surrounded by bureaucracy.
4. Doubling down on customer and sales analytics – Many customers will pay more if you can offer a personalized service, but this is unfeasible without a strong focus on data analytics. Use customer and sales analytics to find where you can improve processes and see how the data could create new services.
5. Modernizing the sales operations function – Are you merely responding to RFPs and capturing orders or undertaking anything more strategic? Can you use automation tools to reduce some administrative tasks? Can you use design thinking to plan how your sales team might function in an ideal world? Don’t wait for the right moment to arrive. Start taking steps in that direction.
The Deloitte paper says a lot more than this, but I believe these five points summarize the process well. Although B2B sales will always be about reputation and relationships to a certain extent, there is no denying that 2020 has created a wave of change that is almost certainly going to remain.
As your team is probably not traveling and with no sales conferences currently taking place, this is the perfect time to start thinking about the future of your B2B sales processes. There is a window of opportunity to use this period to build a digital B2B sales team designed for the future.
About the Author
Wouter Nederkoorn is the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Teleperformance. For over two decades, he has helped companies optimize their customer journeys and experiences globally in FMCG, Consumer Electronics, and E-retail.