Why B2B sales must ride the digital wave

16 June 2021: Recent research by McKinsey on B2B decision-making and behaviours globally has revealed that the big digital shift is here to stay – it is the wave of the future, and a wave that B2B sales must ride.

We are on the pathway out of coronavirus restrictions, likewise, there are blue skies on the horizon for B2B sales thanks to the acceleration of businesses’ digital transformation timelines. With the old ways and means of doing things simply not possible in 2020, forward-thinking and fast-acting companies embarked on digital transformation exercises that would’ve been hard to imagine pre-COVID-19 – and certainly not at the pace that they’ve done so far.

And it turns out to be popular. 

Digital sales pivots may very well become permanent. According to McKinsey, both B2B buyers and sellers prefer the new digital reality, with only 20% of respondents saying they hope to return to in-person sales. 

It’s great to see optimism so rife – rather than reflect on the adverse effects of the pandemic. COVID-19 appears to have been the ultimate testing ground for how digital transformation can have a positive impact on B2B sales of the future and 2021 is the time to put those learning into practice.

Belief in the efficacy of digital continues to grow

According to McKinsey, 75% of sales leaders are realising the effectiveness of the new sales model in reaching and service more customers.  

New business growth may still be hard to come by, with so much caution in the air. But sales leaders embracing the new sales model are thriving, because they’re set up to capture market share and grow new business rather than waiting for the big recovery to begin.

Riding the digital wave means being agile, identifying the right prospects, and focussing efforts in the right places. Digital sales tools using real-time customer dynamics in tandem with advanced prospecting, targeting and segmentation functionality are providing enlightened sales leaders with first-mover advantage that the unenlightened cannot match.

B2B buyers are willing to spend big using remote or self-service approaches

At first glance this statement may seem like a worrying trend; suggesting that buyers are propelling towards digital over face-to-face, starting right from the pre-purchase process. 

In actual fact, it offers an opportunity, especially for B2B sales leaders adapting to the new sales model and digital ways of working.

Whilst traditional outbound sales strategies still have a place in the B2B landscape, inbound is on the rise – for B2B sellers, being found by potential buyers is as important as going out to find new customers. Inbound selling is about harnessing intelligence and insight to tailor the path the buyer takes to become your customer, not forcing them through the traditional sales funnel, but rather aligning your sales strategy to their purchase journey. You need the first brand interaction to be unforgettable. Top-quality insight and intelligence rich content leave buyers equipped with all the information they need to proceed.

If customers want to self-serve, then help them self-serve in your direction. Sales intelligence platforms can help you create compelling content that weaves into the buyer’s context, deliver thought leadership that lightens their burden, make a well-timed outreach that addresses their issues and concerns, and provide contextualised touchpoints that build credibility and trust making it easier for them to buy.  

Remote engagement successfully supports both selling and prospecting

McKinsey’s research points out that ¾ of B2B decision-makers say online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, perhaps even more so. And they are not just talking about selling to warm leads. B2B sales leaders also believe digital prospecting is as effective as an in-person meeting to connect with customers.

First and foremost the role of every B2B sales leader is identifying prospects and building trusted long term customer relationships. Those riding the digital wave already know that doing both of those things is infinitely easier when they have access to digital insights on customer behaviours, buying patterns, interests, goals and challenges, etc. 

Furthermore, those same B2B sales leaders are leveraging this data to make more informed, data-driven decisions, to access previously untapped opportunities, and perhaps most importantly to personalise buyer experiences and connect with them in more meaningful, relevant and value-driven ways.

Video and live chat have emerged as prominent channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers

According to McKinsey, B2B buyers also made it clear that, given the choice, they prefer video to the phone. Sales processes are swiftly moving to video, whether that be new business meetings, product demos, customer catch-ups, training, and support sessions. 

Whether you use Zoom, Google Meets or Microsoft Teams, can you imagine how great it would be if you could augment every video engagement or live chat with useful and insightful anecdotes at the vital moment? 

Those riding the digital wave can.

Digital sales tools help with vital meeting preparation, pulling in news, social, market and financial insights about your customer’s business, as well as the individuals you’ll be ‘meeting’ with. 

Being prepared will ensure you enter the video meet or live chat ready to tackle their challenges head-on, understand with more confidence what they need and why, inspire them to think differently, meet their expectations and anticipate their questions.  

What will the future of digital B2B sales look like?

The McKinsey report highlights how COVID-19 has been a seminal opportunity for B2B sales. It’s accelerated the future of digital B2B sales and offers reasons to be optimistic as new sales models and learnings from the pandemic become embedded. The shift to virtual sales has not been devastating to the industry, instead, it’s been an opportunity for sales leaders to extend their reach more efficiently whilst still delighting customers demanding digital experiences.  

But whilst the opportunity is big, so too is the pressure to capitalise on it. 

It’s important to not just ride the wave but to keep thinking with the future in mind, and keep augmenting the core of the great B2B sales skill set. B2B leaders that commit to futureproof digitisation will derive a significant competitive advantage over their slower-moving peers:  

Where gains will be made:

  • Single view of the customer – The implementation of AI, ML and NLP cutting through copious amounts of complex raw data from corporate information, news, social media and IoT interactions to build a 360° single view of the customer, filtering, and triaging intelligence and insights into one shared platform.  
  • Deeper understanding – Identification of ‘propensity to buy’ based on a deeper understanding of buyer personas and sentiment analysis, along with the best time and way to contact them, and which product or service will resonate most. It will also help enhance personalised engagements by tapping into data on needs, pain and aspirations.
  • Tapping into data – New technologies and new analysis techniques digging deeper into diverse connected data sets to profile, categorise and analyse the customer base and surface the actionable insights of greatest value.  
  • Hearing the voice of the customer – The opportunity to understand experiential factors based on the news, discussions and opinions of customers, informing many diverse aspects of the seller’s role and helping visualise the gap between customer expectations and actual experiences, and therefore how best to fill it.
  • Getting personal – the delivery of optimal customer experiences by harnessing intelligence and insight to make the customer feel like they are in a community of one – that they’re remembered, treated with attention and consideration, and that their needs are being addressed throughout their unique customer journey.
  • Need Selling – No longer make judgment calls about what customers need and want, but harnessing a deep understanding of to reach out at the opportune moment, keep one step ahead of needs, pain, market challenges and opportunities perhaps even before the customer themselves realise what lies ahead – not just optimising the customer journey but influencing the direction of travel.

Prediction – Foresight replacing hindsight. 

Advanced data analytics gathering patterns of events, market dynamics, customer attributes, trends and relationship insights and use of predictive learning models to uncover possible outcomes and consequences which previously could only be learned via hindsight. 

  • Armed with this information sellers will intuitively know the actions they need to take to move the customer towards a sale, identify risks, predict success (improve forecast accuracy) and avoid failure, uncover the secrets about their customers that they probably don’t realise themselves yet, and pinpoint new opportunities
  • Upsell/cross-sell – Cognitive solutions to profile, categorise and cross analyse the customer base. Cross-reference insights and behavioural patterns with the wealth of information already held about customers to ensure any upsell/cross-sell approach is relevant to need, how an enhanced or new product/service will make a difference to the customer, and that it is delivered at a time when the customer will be most receptive. Predictive modelling will also map likely responses from customers and the probability of success of any upsell or cross-sell approach.

Ride the wave with Artesian and gain the know-how advantage

The success metrics that count as we move forward into the future will be the ones that get sellers closer to the customer quicker, even when operating remotely. Investment in digital sales tools that augment the B2B sales leader’s ability to interpret data, discern its story, identify opportunities and capitalise on them, gain insights on the most fruitful sales activities, and make informed decisions will become even more critical to success.

In January we launched our new platform, Artesian Connect™.  Using what we term the Know-How Equation, Artesian ConnectTM combines everything your business knows about its customers, business and market, and leverages an advanced data science engine that ingests millions of structured and unstructured data points to layer on top of that know-how the impactful insights needed for next-generation smarter B2B sales decision-making.  

Intelligence and insight is the transformative energy of your business. When you tap into, and more importantly optimise the power of your collective know-how, you are poised to innovate, grow, overcome risks, rise to opportunities, and make smarter, faster decisions – in short, you’ll be ready to ride the digital wave.

Why not put Artesian Connect™ to the test and find out how we can put the Know-How Equation for your sales team?  Get in touch with one of our experts today