The B2B sales environment has never been more challenging, with economic forecasts predicting the loss of B2B sales roles over time with the introduction of intelligent technology. But what’s really going on in B2B sales and is there reason for concern?
Here are some key challenges the B2B sales profession must understand and respond to if they want to succeed in the age of digital enablement.
BUYERS ARE WELL RESEARCHED WITH EASY ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Buyers can easily research online, meaning they have access to a wealth of information and know what’s out there. Little more than a decade ago, buyers relied on the knowledge and expertise of salespeople to work out what solutions were right for their business challenges.
But now, online research arms them with information not previously available. They can read online reviews, find comparison sites that have done a lot of footwork for them and browse company websites for the latest tutorials, FAQs and content. This means many buyers have already made a decision on which way they’re going before their first contact with a salesperson.
A SiriusDecisions survey found that 67 per cent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally meaning when the buyer does engage, it’s to ask specific questions and process the order.
INCREASINGLY COMPLEX CORPORATE BUYING PROCESSES
Corporate buying processes have become more complex with the introduction of stringent guidelines and buying committees.
Significant purchases are now often part of a change process for the buyer’s company, so there may be a variety of people involved in decision-making.
Stats from CEB reveal that, on average, there are around seven people involved in each corporate buying decision – up to 17 in complex enterprise-level decisions. Unfortunately, this means salespeople are generally not dealing with a single buyer. Now, very few individuals are empowered in decision-making and most purchases require “decision by committee”.
This means sales teams need to meet the relationship management and product-selling skills criteria to meet their market.
Any sales market is competitive, and in a world where items are increasingly cheap to make and replicate, it’s becoming more difficult to maintain a competitive advantage and point of difference in most markets, especially technology.
No longer will a brand or “unique” feature be enough to win a deal on its own. Customers see very little difference in various company offerings and find multiple vendors that meet their needs. Therefore, it’s crucial to differentiate your offering through the perceived value you add according to the buyers. Failure to do this means the key decision-making factor becomes price.
Customer experience (CX) is key
Before we know it CX is expected to overtake both price and product as the key brand differentiator. A Walker Research survey found that a whopping 86 per cent of buyers will pay more for an outstanding customer experience.
Buyers are becoming incredibly discerning and have high expectations when it comes to CX during the buying journey. And rightly so, with companies investing more in research and allocating more resources into CX than ever before. Businesses are designing their sales processes and marketing materials around an exceptional customer experience – and this is becoming an expectation in the market. Buyers are using their “buyer experience” as an indicator of what they should expect as a customer.
With B2B businesses focused on delivering great CX, it’s becoming harder for them to bring new customers onboard and to win from incumbent suppliers.
With an increase in the use of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots and other intelligent digital technology, buyers are receiving the information they want in real time without having to speak to a salesperson.
Depending upon the type of product or service they’re selling, some organisations are looking to replace the sales function, or part of it, with technology – as it’s seen as more cost-effective and efficient than having teams of people.
But the sales teams that will survive are those that effectively integrate with technology. Done right, they’ll increase productivity and value exponentially. Those that don’t won’t stay relevant for long.
To excel as a leader in the technology enabled sales environment, it’s imperative you understand these challenges and work on solutions to address them.