The B2B marketplace is evolving faster than ever. In an increasingly automated world, sales representatives must leverage technology and analytics to adapt to changing customer needs and drive higher-value strategic sales. Emerging research from McKinsey shows that B2B sellers often struggle between choosing a great sales force and great digital capabilities. In today’s digital age, they will need both.
Business to Business (B2B) sales operations is drastically changing. Sales personnel now have access to exceptional amounts of data. Combined with machine learning and other applications of Artificial Intelligence, sales and marketing personnel can use an array of tools to identify opportunities for growth.
According to data collected by Mckinsey & Co, Sellers that have adopted digitization– characterized by end-to-end, data-driven operational processes–realize:
In the past five years, B2B sales productivity declined by 14% despite billions invested in sales operations.
Digitally advanced B2C companies such as Google, Amazon, and Uber have forever transformed customer interactions , and those changes are spilling over into B2B world.
Now more than ever, B2B buyers expect the same level of personalization and frictionless interactions as do B2C customers. The new era of B2B sales is defined by digital selling, the integration of AI technologies and/or predictive analytics that enhance the productivity and effectiveness of a company’s sales team.
Digital selling technologies give companies new opportunities to add value in customer experience and overall business growth as more traditional outreach channels become obsolete– 92% of B2B decision makers do not respond to cold calls and 53% of B2B buyers prefer going online to interacting with salespeople.
Providing consistently high-quality customer experiences is now a key competitive differentiator in the B2B market. Ultimately, digitization has become a sales team’s key to managing sale profitability, optimizing customer analytics, and prioritizing actions based on insights about top priorities.
The B2B digital selling experience is relatively low in maturity, especially when compared to B2C businesses.
While 73% of companies recognize that new and returning customer expectations for more meaningful services and sales experiences are much higher than before, only a little over half of companies have initiated efforts towards digital strategies that address customer acquisition and retention in the past three years.
Furthermore, only 10% of companies surveyed by McKinsey stated that digital was a top investment priority. The continued reliance on a sales rep’s personal client relationship puts incumbents at a disadvantageous position compared to digital natives who prioritize customer expectations.
The fastest-growing companies will harness the power of advanced analytics and machine learning to address fundamental strategic issues: new high-value sales opportunities, effective resource allocation to existing clients, actions that directly result in sales productivity, etc.
These digital leaders are expected to generate 3.5% more in yearly revenue and average 15% more in profits than the rest of the B2B field.
The emphasis on digital selling can be attributed to a disconnect in buyer needs and seller actions, which can compromise even the strongest of B2B relationships. Sellers who solely focus on digital updates can find themselves disconnected from long-time customers; those who solely focus on traditional sales cycles lack initiative on digital investments critical to modern commerce.
To be successful, it is important for Sellers to leverage both human and digital capabilities to provide an intelligent, personalized level of service.
A 2019 Accenture study found that Sellers who adopted this service-over-sales mindset saw quick benefits, with over 95% reporting higher profitability or increased market share.
Additionally, Sellers were almost 20% more likely to employ new technology platforms to help overcome service barriers, and twice as likely to store centralized data sets that personalize customer offering and engagement across omni-channel selling.
Digital selling strategies can complement B2B companies by standardizing a sales approach that provides more control over allocating resources and investments to high-value opportunities.
The rise of service-first and self-service selling can not only give buyers autonomy over the sales experience, but also optimize the usage of customer data in the sales process. Combining these digital tools with traditional sales intuition can modernize a business’s process in a constantly changing market with shorter product life cycles
The top two priorities that are driving B2B sales growth are empowering customer-facing sales teams and integrating digital technologies. AI and data analytics are common denominators in both of these processes.
Digitization gives customer-facing sales teams more data—and consequently more information—on how to better acquire new clients and engage existing customers.
This shift towards human-AI collaboration enables sales teams to pivot towards higher-value opportunities by automating tedious and repetitive activities. Sales reps can then use advanced analytics to help potential customers understand how products or services provide added value by augmenting their knowledge on successful sales tactics–an example is the use of deal analytics to enhance pipeline and opportunity management. Through these processes, Sellers can harness customer data about sales efforts and modify behaviors to better optimize revenue growth.
Advanced analytics also helps sales teams achieve results in an increasingly crowded market. Propensity modeling and automated forecasting can intelligently identify where high-potential sales opportunities are for new and existing clients. On a higher level, analytics support the evolution of new sales models. By understanding the profile of high-margin digital sellers and identifying their strong points, companies can change employee experiences to see results in recruitment and compensation KPIs.
Digital technologies are the gateway into developing new business models and empowering sales teams to drive higher-value strategic sales. Again, the greatest benefits are realized when both human and digital capabilities are used to their full advantage.
Search-engine marketing activities, performance analytics, and digital assistants can be used to collect a “Golden Record” view of customers that continuously feeds into AI and machine learning algorithms. Information is then reanalyzed to make targeted marketing automation offers, such as personalized landing pages.
With the potential to cut a sales rep’s time spent on sales admin work by 60%, significant reductions in cost per sale can be achieved.
True digitization in the new era of sales is a continuous process and faces the strong challenge of legacy paradigms.
However, it is imperative for companies who have not prioritized digital to begin now. The B2B sales process is defined by digital selling, and those who have already invested in digitization will continue to do so at a more aggressive rate.