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B2B sales: Survival in the times of change

B2B sales

B2B sales have changed dramatically over the last years.

The entire sales cycle has transformed, as potential buyers have become more knowledgeable, spoiled for choice and technologically-savvy. This led to salespeople entering the process at significantly later stages.

As prospects do their own research and make their decisions early in the cycle, salespeople face difficulties in gaining access to affect buying decisions.

To shine a light on what is happening with the B2B sales today and what challenges affect the development of B2B sales in the future, Mathias Sognefors, CCD of SuperOffice Denmark & Sweden, talked to Brian Andersen, Partner at Kvadrant Consulting.

They discussed the new challenges a B2B sales manager is facing today, what direction sales are heading these days, what a B2B sales leader should pay attention to when creating a strong team, as well as the best ways for sales and marketing to cooperate.

Here are the main takeaways.

1. More participants added to the buying cycle 

The current transactional sales are more complex than ever before because there are more participants in the buying process. Instead of the traditional buyer vs. seller, we have finance, procurement, IT, or legal teams entering the game. This complicates the process.

2. Buyers are smarter

Today, buyers have access to a wealth of information. They do their own research, compare, read reviews, and overall – they know much more about a product before they meet a sales person. Therefore, it’s more difficult to impress a prospect who knows a lot about your industry and your product. Some of them even avoid meeting sellers until they have made up their minds.

3. The rise of salespeople’s specialization

Sales teams used to consist of more or less universal sales reps who sold everything that needed to be sold. They would work with all the prospects, only divided into geographical areas, such as regions or countries. Today, the situation is different. Sellers are more specialized, dedicated to specific industries, product and even customer types. That’s why it has become important for sales managers to look at the individual capabilities, attitudes and personal characteristics of each individual sales rep.

4. The importance of sales/marketing fine-tuning

Behaving as a united team plays a big role today. Once you know your target audience your sales and marketing team should be fine-tuned. What they say and do should be well-orchestrated. 67% of the buying process actually takes place without any physical contact with a prospect. Therefore, both sales and marketing do a lot of work via digital channels. You can’t sound different, but rather support the same narrative.

5. Highlighting value in all touchpoints

Through the buyer’s journey, the value proposition should be highlighted at all main touchpoints. Every participant of the sales cycle needs to deliver maximum value, and every touchpoint should hand over a unified experience to another – from start to finish. To be relevant, every B2B salesperson must be aware of the general game plan, their specialized role, main message and value proposition, know the audience, and be aware of the next step.

6. Shorter sales interactions

While in the past, salespeople had long sales meetings during which they had to present a lot of information face-to-face, today the interactions are short and fragmented. And most of them are impersonal. The first ones happen online: on LinkedIn, over a webinar, a message or via an email – all these smaller interactions build a connection. The physical meeting may only happen at the very end.

7. The use of digital tools to facilitate sales

The use of technological tools is growing. Both marketing and sales depend on them. From Google analytics to CRM dashboards, we may use as much as 5 to 10 different platforms. The days of “analog” selling are gone. Gone are also the days when a CRM system was viewed as a reporting tool where a sales rep logs in their sales opportunities for the manager to check. Today, technology makes sales efforts more effective. It’s not just a database to pull quarterly reports from.

8. LinkedIn is a powerful sales outreach platform

LinkedIn is a great outreach tool that salespeople can use today. It helps them break the stereotype – that sales reps are only about closing deals. Salespeople are now able to position themselves as industry experts, though-leaders, and knowledge bearers. Not the people who are trying to sell you something, but the ones who are genuinely trying to help you achieve your business goals.

9. CRM is a tool that helps you sell smarter

A CRM system today is a sales rep’s efficiency and productivity helper. It reduces manual work, and helps salespeople spend more time on actual selling. It also helps them reach the right people. Giving a 360-degree view of customer data and all previous and ongoing interactions, CRM helps salespeople take value-enhancing steps, create a cohesive experience and build stronger relationships. Having all the information at your fingertips allows you to optimize the entire sales process and make it smarter.

10. User-adoption can be improved with the ease-of-use

When we talk about software, user-adoption is one of the painful topics. In the end, any system is only helpful when the people are actually using it. The same applies to salespeople adopting technological tools for work. To make sure sales successfully adopt new technologies, it’s important that the new tools are easy to use. After all, salespeople want the same smooth user experience with technology as the users of mobile phones today. Therefore, sales tools should be intuitive and easy.

11. People still buy from people

No matter how widespread digital technology is today, at the end of the day people buy from people, especially the people they trust. That’s why the ability to build trust is still very important in sales. It’s still super relevant to show empathy and be human. One way to build trust is to engage with prospects via social media, before meeting them in person. Show yourself, make yourself heard, disclose your personality in online communication first to build trust and familiarity gradually.

12. Acknowledging authority and discussing competitors

The other ways for B2B salespeople to build trust is to do things differently: instead of being a preacher and avoiding talking about your competition – become an equal and be open to talk about your rivals. First, acknowledge that your buyer already knows a lot and maybe even more than you. Show respect for that and offer your input. Second, don’t shy away from discussing your competitors and their offers. Acknowledge that there’re lots of players and suggest working together to choose what works for the prospect best!

13. Be clear what you are and what you’re not

To win the right customers, you need to be super clear about what you are and what you are not. This way the customers will choose you for the right reason and get the true value out of the deal. This is a great way to create long-lasting relationships with those who really need your product and are serious about their investment.

14. Navigating the complex sale and marketing cooperation

Sales and marketing cooperation is like marriage counseling: you need to hear each other and find common grounds. First, it’s acknowledgement that sales and marketing are great at doing different things. Second is clear understanding of a common vision and strategy, i.e., both of you are still trying to achieve the same goal. Third, there must be joint initiatives: not only working together, but also being active together, planning and setting goals together.

15. Short-term vs. long-term game

B2B sales often focus on short-term gains, meaning – they need leads now. Marketing is mostly playing the long game of strategy through positioning and branding. To be efficient, both sales and marketing need to have a common view of positioning and messaging in terms of the ideal customer profile (ICP) and reevaluate the ICP regularly together.

Concluding thoughts

To survive the challenging economic climate of today, B2B sales organizations need to be aware of the changing nature of buyers. They also need to embrace a major mind shift – instead of being a “team of sellers” they should become a “sales team”.

By using modern technologies and social media channels, B2B salespeople should get in front of buyers before the sales meetings in the form of experts, speakers and educators.

Finally, modern salespeople should not only pursue closing deals at all costs. Their primary motivation should be to drive value. They need to be genuinely interested in the well-being of their future customers.

To keep up with the changes – B2B sales teams need to embrace change, be proactive, and understand that sales is a team sport in which if the customer wins, you win too!

To listen to the entire webinar and get even more insights into the future of B2B sales, click the link below. 👇

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