B2B Sales is Changing – Here’s What You Can Do To Keep Up
If you’re operating and selling products in a B2B environment, chances are you’ve heard these before:
- “B2B buyers are B2C buyers too”
- “B2B buyers have become more demanding”
- “Online B2B buying experiences are lagging compared to B2C buying”
- “Your buyers expect an experience that is similar to consumer experiences”
- “Be more digital”
You’re hearing this so often, because transforming your business and offering better digital experiences is where you’ll find the competitive differentiator for most companies and the most promising way to influence future profitability, customer satisfaction, and speed-to-market.
McKinsey reported in “How B2B digital leaders drive five times more revenue growth than their peers” that B2B companies aren’t on par with B2C companies in terms of digital maturity. The average digital maturity score (DQ) for 50 surveyed B2B companies was 28, compared with 35 for B2C companies. But that’s not the most striking part about this research, given that B2B companies are operating in a much more complex environment with longer deal cycles and decision-making processes involving many different stakeholders and influencers.
What’s most interesting is that B2B digital leaders in the top quartile generate 3.5% more revenue and are 15% more profitable. Improving on the digital front must become a strategic priority:
You may say that you are already embracing digital. You have digitized back-office workflows and resource planning and modernized your IT infrastructure. While you may have managed to reduce your internal cost and increase process efficiencies, these initiatives are not impacting the areas where the real growth is: sales and the customer experience.
But what exactly can you do to deliver on the new expectations in B2B commerce? We have 3 tips:
1) Develop a Comprehensive Digital Self-Service Strategy
According to Forrester, six out of 10 B2B buyers would rather use your website than talk with your sales force. They expect the same level of ease and convenience that top B2C portals offer them. Yet, most B2B selling models still primarily rely on offline interactions.
Ask yourself: Is my business dependent on sales tactics executed by sales pros to turn a profit? Am I working to transform key selling tactics into a digital experience? Are we leveraging technology advances to expand our company’s ability to serve our customers and improve the efficacy of our sales resources?
For a seamless digital B2B experience, buyers need to be able to navigate through the crucial stages in the decision-making journey on their own. They need to be able to familiarize themselves with your business and products to almost reach the point of purchase without your personal input.
B2B companies are increasingly offering Digital advice as self-service solution on their websites to inform, educate and move leads through the sales funnel.
Download the free Guide – Digital Advice for B2B Commerce
- Reduce the overall cost of pre-sales activities by educating prospects and turning them into informed, sales-ready and qualified leads
- Understand business needs and personalize the buyer’s experience accordingly
- Minimize social friction and improve the B2B buyer experience to break through the noise and forge meaningful relationships
- Start value communication and price negotiation online to reduce sales cycles
2. Provide a Compelling Experience – Online and Off
Omnichannel is another requirement for B2B companies to keep buyers moving seamlessly through their decision-making process. B2B buyers today are much more comfortable conducting research, finding information and making purchase decisions online. An average B2B buyer uses six different channels during the course of their buying journey. They switch between online and offline channels, moving smoothly from face-to-face interactions to the online environment and vice versa.
Suppliers with rigid selling models that rely on disjointed channels need to take account of this shift in behavior and be more flexible in how and where they interact with prospective buyers.
The demographic change is playing a major part in this behavioral shift. You’ll find that your buyer is increasingly the “mobile millennial”. According to The Economist, millennials occupied 34% of business positions in 2015, compared to 29% for baby boomers.
The millennial generation of B2B buyers is way ahead on the digital curve. Not only do they use mobile for most of their online interactions, it is also notable that in most cases, mobile is the first step in their buying journey. More than 90% of B2B buyers use a mobile device at some point in their decision-making process. Yet, less than 10% of B2B companies have a compelling mobile strategy.
- Streamlining the process of moving from online to offline interactions and providing a seamless mobile experience leads to a more convenient sales process.
- B2B buyers who interact with multiple channels, such as field sales, websites, social media, and so on, spend more than those who only purchase from a single channel. In the first year after launching its omnichannel strategy for retail and corporate clients, ING grew profit by 23 percent, increased its share price by 15 percent, and won EuroMoney’s “Best Bank” award.
3. Empower your Sales Force
One of the most significant area where digitization and sales process automation supports your business is in empowering your sales executives. The role of a B2B sales executive has undergone a paradigm shift in the wake of technology, so much so that Forrester predicts the death of a (B2B) salesman in the upcoming years.
What it really means is that the age old tricks of conventional salesmanship will no longer be effective in this digital scenario and sales executives will have to take on a more sophisticated role in a customer-centric environment.
B2B buyers expect simple, fast and inexpensive transactions during procurement. At the same time, there is a demand for highly complex solutions that can meet the needs of sophisticated, international buyers. Today, sales reps must be Jacks and Jills of all trade and Master of all. They need to able to sell different products and become specialists.
Empowering your sales force with Tablet Assisted Sales (TAS) solutions allows them to proactively assist the buyer with relevant information on demand and display more accurate product knowledge to inspire trust and drive buying decisions. After all, trust must be the foundation of your B2B digital ecosystem.
- A tablet’s success in B2B isn’t just based on portability. As products become more and more complex, the difficulty for salespeople to effectively convey core product features and benefits is exacerbated
- Decrease lag time when conversing with potential clients, since sales reps will have the ability to provide them with product or service information on the spot
- A Huthwaite Global Survey found that 70% of individuals with a company-issued tablet hit their sales target in a given period versus only 62% of sales reps overall. Also, 90% of salespeople surveyed said the devices improved their productivity as tablets allowed them to focus more on buyers rather than search for information.
- They shift the experience from ‘presenting information’ to ‘engaging and driving discussion
There is no doubt that B2B buyers now demand a top-notch service experience that is on par with B2C providers. While most B2B companies have been a little sluggish in this area, they are catching up. More efforts need to be made towards digital and mobile adoption to keep pace with the transforming B2B ecosystem.
A good strategy is to take one step at a time and gradually make B2B digital improvements. You will get faster results with small wins and will be able to build on that momentum.