More than two years on from the first Covid-19 restrictions and events are still being cancelled or made virtual, in-person meetings are still largely limited and buyer expectations are continuing to evolve. The battle to win big is on – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
With 2022 underway, the life of a B2B seller hasn’t got any easier. In fact, the level of complication is only increasing, with B2B sales changing much faster and more dramatically than many expected. For example, research from McKinsey shows that the number of channels regularly used by B2B customers has doubled since 2016, with more than two-thirds now favouring remote human interactions and digital self-service across all stages of the sales journey.
As a result, sellers are having to work harder – and smarter – than ever before to cut through the noise. The pressure is on to connect and build relationships with buyers that are being bombarded by digital sales content on a daily basis – all while ensuring they have the flexibility to adapt to behavioural shifts.
So, as we look ahead, what’s the solution for B2B sales teams? How can they deliver the greatest possible impact and compete to win in 2022’s digital battlefield?
The simple answer is that B2B organisations must embrace a digital-first approach to sales. But this doesn’t mean just expanding their tech stack. It means looking at key processes through a digital lens and making material changes to how sales teams operate – delivering organisational improvements that drive sustainable business growth.
By digitally transforming their core business processes, B2B sellers will be better positioned to engage prospects and customers across any channel, while minimising risks and maintaining compliance. For example, centralised data processes will enhance speed and accuracy, while technologies that capture content engagement data can help analyse the success or failure of specific content pieces at specific stages of the sales cycle.
According to Demand Gen’s 2021 B2B Buyers Survey, 80% of respondents indicated that a vendor’s content had a positive, significant impact on their buying decisions. What’s more, 65% of respondents said they chose a vendor due to content that demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and business landscape, while others put the decision down to a mix of content tailored to each stage of the decision-making process (55%) and content that was easy to consume (54%).
This clearly illustrates how important it is for B2B sellers to provide engaging content that addresses buyers’ pain points and speaks to their specific situation. When sellers have visibility into the content that most resonates with buyers based on engagement data – split by factors such as industry, persona, business problem and stage of the sales cycle – they can optimise the content they share with prospects based on what has been proven effective.
Data insights such as how, when and where buyers engage with certain types of content can all feed into a digitally driven sales operation that enables sellers to work more effectively and drive deal conversions.
Taking a digital-first approach will also enable sellers to expand across multiple new online channels such as social media. This presents a huge opportunity for B2B organisations. When sellers are supported by AI and data-driven platforms that provide real-time content recommendations, they will be empowered to develop their own authentic voice in the marketplace. This will help them build thought leadership and maintain trust at scale across all digital channels in a way that is consistent with the company’s style and tone.
The human element
But it can’t just be about technologies and channels. To be truly successful, the deployment of digital sales technologies must be combined with a culture that fosters the mindset of continuous learning and improvement among B2B sales teams.
This can best be achieved by making personal development available on-demand through data-informed, real time coaching and recommendations tailored to certain types of buyer interactions. The benefits are two-fold:
1. Interactive lessons with embedded practice sessions and playbooks based on real-world scenarios – all optimised through analytics – will help new sellers get up to speed and start adding value to customers sooner. It will also help existing sellers learn and effectively promote new products faster.
2. Ongoing guidance and coaching that is personalised based on seller performance will empower them to continuously improve. For example, digital tools can deliver in-the-moment recommendations on what to do, say and show at specific stages of the sales cycle, helping sellers develop their skills and navigate today’s complex virtual selling world in the most effective way possible.
Most importantly, it will help them deliver the engaging and differentiated experiences that buyers now expect. This will ensure that they continue to stay relevant and make an impact with prospective buyers.
Fostering a culture of learning across the sales function in this way – i.e. through timely coaching and guidance – can have a transformative effect. As well as ensuring that every seller has the foundational skills and techniques required in today’s B2B selling environment, this will also empower them to improve specific capabilities so that they can exceed their quotas and contribute to the success of the business.
Remember, people and processes can’t be looked at in isolation. They must be part of a holistic digital transformation programme that puts seller performance at the core. This is what will truly help sellers compete and win in today’s digital battlefield.