COVID-19 has triggered a digital inflection point in B2B Sales. We explore some of the lessons for B2B sellers if they are to successfully reimagine sales for the “new normal”
COVID-19 is undoubtedly changing how B2B buyers and sellers interact. Savvy sales leaders are learning how to adapt and survive now, planning for recovery, and most importantly reimagining B2B sales for the “new normal”.
According to a new report from McKinsey, sales leaders must now adjust how their organisations sell in the face of new customer habits, trying economic times, and an acceleration of digital trends that were in motion before the pandemic hit. McKinsey believes that B2B sales is at a digital inflection point and in order to survive, B2B sellers must adjust their operations for a fundamentally different post-pandemic future.
So what lessons do B2B sellers need to learn now, if they are to successfully reimagine sales for the “new normal”? Bringing together the findings of the report with my own experience in both sales and customer success, I believe there are 7 key things B2B sellers need to act on now if they are to calibrate their response and navigate their way through what McKinsey have identified as the three phases of the COVID-19 response:
- Navigating the current crisis with resolve and resilience
- Planning for the recovery
- Reimagining the next normal
7 tips for a successful B2B Sales pivot
The Self-Service Model will become increasingly important
The McKinsey survey demonstrates that the increasingly strong preference towards self-service channels across every stage of the customer decision journey will accelerate, particularly when it comes to the research and evaluation stages. If you’re not meeting buyers head-on and providing the content and insight they crave, you’re going to be overlooked.
Sharing content and insight with buyers builds awareness, establishes thought leadership, forms the foundation of credibility and trust, and solidifies value.
Use intelligence and insight to create compelling content, that weaves into the B2B buyer journey, lightens their burden, and demonstrates your expertise in addressing their main issues and concerns – important triggers for getting buyers to engage with you.
Rethink how to better use tools and capabilities to connect with customers
COVID-19 is accelerating the shift to digital and increasing the urgency when it comes to investing in digital tools and capabilities, in particular predictive analytics, virtual sales, sales acceleration and sales effectiveness. Accelerating your ambitions for digital has the potential to substantially improve your ability to personalise interactions, prioritise sales pipelines, and improve sales activities.
Insight-driven businesses using more advanced technologies will steal revenue from their less-informed, less well-equipped peers both now and during the recovery phase, and will be ahead of the curve as B2B sales adjusts to the new normal.
Put the ways of the past behind you, and instead look to the future by adapting to changes, investing in technology and developing sales behaviours.
Provide B2C-like experiences
B2B Buyers are no longer willing to accept less from their professional experience than they are accustomed to from their personal experience as consumers. McKinsey’s research suggests that sellers providing outstanding digital experiences are twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier.
The most successful B2B sellers will be those prioritising areas such as understanding customers’ evolving behaviours and preferences, addressing pain points and frustrations, and anticipating their needs in order to deliver more meaningful interactions.
As we move towards the new normal, think like Amazon – be relentless in your pursuit of customers, be vigilant to their needs and use technology to deliver a personalised sales experience.
Maintain the human touch
Traditional face-to-face interactions have already given way video conferences, webinars, phone calls, chat bots, and other means of communication. In this remote and digital world, however, there is still a crucial role for the human touch.
McKinsey suggest that it will be important to look for opportunities to enhance customer intimacy when interacting remotely. It’s vital that you personalise digital interactions thoughtfully and with the customer clearly at the centre – address their needs and pains, demonstrate an understanding of their entire ecosystem and predict their needs in order to support and guide them.
Help customers navigate uncertainty and maintain a growth mind-set
McKinsey point out that in B2B, nearly 50% of companies have cut their short-term spending in response to the crisis, declining demand, and huge market uncertainty. However, companies that emerge from economic downturns as market leaders are often those that continue to invest in seeking out emerging opportunities.
As a B2B seller you have a critical role to play – by utilising market intelligence and company insights, machine learning and predictive analytics, you can anticipate customer needs, pains, market challenges and opportunities – before customers themselves even realise what lies ahead. In doing so you will help them maintain a growth mind-set and plot a path that will set them (and you) up for future success.
Redesign front-line sales processes for a remote working environment
The sudden and massive shift to remote working prompted by COVID-19 will have profound implications for how companies sell to and buy from one another now and in the future. This shift may even be here to stay – Twitter recently became the first major company to announce that all employees could continue to work from home indefinitely.
B2B companies need to start investing in how to maintain the team dynamic and how to deploy their sales teams to best effect. You’ll need to embrace digital interaction channels to keep in contact with customers, and invest in tools to advance your customer understanding, prospecting, and segmenting. Alongside this, it’s important to embrace digital collaboration to keep sales teams connected.
To maintain a collaborative mind set, teams need the right tools – ones that enable intelligence and insight sharing, prospecting and CRM dashboards, meeting preparation and so on.
Keep a focus on self-development and measuring success
McKinsey point to the importance of measuring progress – churn rate, loyalty score, rate of customer satisfaction, performance during interaction and more. It’s important to keep a constant eye not just on day-to-day performance, but on continuous self-development – addressing strengths and weaknesses and adopting new behaviours to compete in the “new normal”.
Sales enablement tools make this easier – measuring sales behaviours and the quality of those activities used to engage with customers and prospects.
Sales training can also act to reinforce best practice, and reset any areas of complacency that can come into play after long periods of time, particularly when working in remotely.
At the moment of inflection don’t just adjust to the “new normal”, help shape it
Although the full implications of the pandemic are far from certain, B2B sellers must act now to adjust how they sell in the face of new customer habits and trying economic times, and they must invest in keeping pace with the acceleration of digital trends that were already in motion before the pandemic hit to ensure that they survive.
Artesian can help you move quickly to navigate the crisis, and make the targeted changes needed to weather the storm and start preparing for the recovery. But more than this, we can help you lead the pack by not just reacting to the “new normal”, but instead shaping it.