B2B sales is witnessing a major revolution, various trends redefining the strategies needed to be a market leader over the years to come. Firms that have a competitive edge on B2B sales have adopted a three-pronged strategy for consistent achievement of above-market growth.
Sales executives have access to technology tools like advanced analytics and machine learning leveraging them to gather historically large amounts of data and computing capacity that helps predict with utmost precision, tapping extremely vital sales opportunities. Top leading marketing firms are exploiting advanced analytics to drastically revolutionize their sales productivity and achieve double-digit sales growth with minimal efforts being put towards increasing the sales force and cost factor.
In addition, radical changes in buyers’ preferences, with buyers focus shifting to content, technical acumen and adept in digital media engagement channels, has resulted in an upsurge of innovative breed of sales leaders with innate technical expertise and a strategic mind-set. This drastic shift has also led towards transformation of sales organizations facade, with an acute cut in field sales and marketing, and speedy growth in inside sales and analytics teams.
Lastly but important to mention, embracing subscription-based business models has been pivotal in redefining how customer relationships are managed. Unlike olden days sales is no more a one time “won and done” deal. Amid recurring revenues, sales tactics is a monthly, quarterly, and annual drive due to which successful customer-relationship managers are indispensable asset to a company, and sophisticated sales teams are positioning their strategies in sync with the long-term success of their customers.
Emergence of a new science of B2B sales
Amidst these disruptive changes, B2B sales has transformed to become a science than an art. Sales is data-driven, aided by digital tools, fortified by advanced analytics, and focus being steered towards comprehending “what, why and when” of the customer. Companies that have already realized the significance of “science of B2B sales” have moved past their peers in terms of revenue growth (registering 2.3 times industry average revenue growth), profitability (3-5% extra return on sales) and shareholder value (8% more than total return to shareholders than the industry average).
One of the key features of market leaders that sets them apart from the rest of the pack is that their CEOs aggressively lead the sales transformation, rather than merely rely on the head of sales. These CEOs acknowledge that while redefining their go-to-market engine, the approach should be cross-functional, ensuring direct engagement and flawless execution from sales, marketing, HR, IT, and finance.
Market leaders have realized that leading B2B sales in future requires them to fundamentally transform their go-to-market engine around three defining principles:
Engaging customers as they fancy
McKinsey research indicates that market leaders report digital investments as the cement for powerful multichannel sales strategy. Going forward, customer engagement would require multichannel sales strategy approach enabling smart digital investments, targeting the varied requirements of first-time and repeat customers.
While trying to gain first-time customers who are looking for direct interaction with sales teams, the top tier companies leverage digital tools, helping their sales teams address customer needs at every stage of the buyer journey. For e.g. they use interactive product demos that are tablets or browsers enabled to help salespeople engage customers in the research stage of their journey.
Most of them however simply use customer-relationship-management (CRM) software to track customers’ past questions, anticipate future inquiries and offer immediate response while the customer compares their product with competitors’.
When targeting repeat online customers, digital tools and inside sales are at the forefront to keep them loyal, hasten the sale process, and encourage them to spend more. For e.g. online comparison engines are created that allow customers to seamlessly compare products and services with competitors’. The data is passed on to the inside sales teams to answer customer questions via email, live chat, and video conferencing. In addition, they are using next-product-to-buy algorithms that send customers relevant recommendations of complementary products based on their purchase history to grow customer share of wallet.
Advanced analytics and Machine Learning for quicker decision-making
In future best of marketing companies will be using advanced analytics and machine learning to address fundamental strategic issues, for instance what sales opportunities to pursue, what resources to allocate to which accounts, and what behaviors to prioritize to drive sales productivity.
Next gen market leaders implement advanced analytics to build a granular account, product, and geographic profile of individual customer. These profiles are then made robust with related external data such as news reports and social media to develop a complete 360-degree view of the customer.
Lead-scoring algorithms help dwell into customer profiles to predict on specific customers, when to contact them, and what factors truly drive lead conversion rates. Fast-growing enterprises are also on with their trials with AI-enabled agents that use predictive analytics and natural-language processing to automate early lead-generation activities such as handling basic customer questions and automating initial presales questions.
While these predictive analytics might be at incubation phase yet those companies deploying them are already witnessing 15-20% improvement in their lead-conversion rates.
Invest in finding and developing Best-in-class talent
Buyers are evolving with enhanced indulgence in content and technically savvy, that required the sales force to equally become technically sharp. These leaders are “growing up” across multiple roles in their organization and come-up with a truly cross-functional and cross-geographic skill set.
Companies struggle to hire and retain best-in-class talent. Again, hiring the right talent is only work half done. The fastest-growing companies invest a good deal of time and resources in nurturing and growing their talent. Studies suggest that nearly 50% of adults remember of what they have learnt by doing in their jobs compared to 10% who remember from mere listening and classroom trainings.
This insight is driving a transformation in the sales force training format, evolving from classroom and digital modules to “on-the-job” experiential and immersive programs.
Driving market leadership in B2B sales demands unprecedented focus from the top tier executives of the management, in addition to generous investment of time and resources. However, companies that have already enforced three dimensions of the science of B2B sales are already outpacing their competitors and driving humungous growth, profitability and shareholder value.