Forward from Brett Bonser: As a new member of our team, I am delighted to allow Claudia to share with you her findings – on key B2B sales trends that are shaping the future. Don’t let your sales be left behind. Read on, to prepare yourself for the changes ahead.
As a business leader, you need to keep up with the rapidly evolving B2B selling environment.
Your customers are continuing to change the way they engage and buy. To make things even harder, digitally aggressive new competitors will be entering into the market, intent on disrupting the industry with innovation and radical change. Not surprisingly, technology and globalisation is at the forefront of fostering this move.
Let’s take a look at 3 B2B sales trends that are shaping the future of sales, and how they might affect your business.
Top sales challenges from 2016
Firstly, let’s look at what the cold, hard data has to say…
The Sales Performance Optimisation Study – 2016 Key Trends Analysis, conducted by CSO Insights, highlights that:
- 3% of 500 firms worldwide stated the inability to develop qualified leads as their top challenge. This is a 9.7% rise from the 2015 study.
- Low sales process adoption rates was the second-most pressing challenge, with 51.5% of firms in the study troubled by it.
To overcome these challenges, sales cannot just putter at the margins of their current approach. Equip yourself with what is emerging ahead, adapt nimbly, and you will thrive with a sustainable competitive advantage.
Drawing from 3 additional sources; namely, Harvard Business Review, The Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey & Company, I would like to share with you 3 significant movements in sales. So let’s explore these further.
Three key B2B sales trends, shaping the future
#1 | B2B sales trends
Using real-time data to understand the entire buyer’s journey
There is no doubt that big data and digitalisation can help you deeply understand your customers. The role of data in sales and decision-making is not going anywhere. In fact, in 2017, we expect the role of data in driving and forecasting sales to become more significant than ever before.
The next generation of sellers will move from merely knowing their clients’ buying behaviour to developing a complete view of their customer’s journey.
This begins with their first interaction, followed by continually building on the data gained with each touchpoint. Indeed, the blurred line between sales and marketing is increasing. Now more than ever, it is evident that sales and marketing need to be aligned.
The key is to gain real-time data about how your client engages online and offline. This can be captured with sales and marketing automation software, and other related technology. This enables you to respond promptly, with tailored information directed specifically to each individual prospect.
This approach captures more qualified leads. Also, it identifies gaps between the intended and actual customer’s experience.
At align.me, when we build sales and marketing strategies for our clients, we intensively map out the entire buyer’s journey, and hand-pick tactics for each stage. We then monitor the buyer’s progression through every stage – monthly, quarterly, and yearly. In this way, we proactively:
- Discover gaps;
- Eliminate barriers;
- Catch demand; and
- Create a seamless experience for your customer.
Ask yourself, are your sales becoming more managed by real-time data at every step of the buyer’s journey? If not, contact us here.
#2 | B2B sales trends
Using artificial intelligence to optimise your sales process
By 2020, it is forecasted that existing technology will automate 40% of sales activities. As an example, IPsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) agent, Amelia, can manage up to 27,000 conversations in multiple languages. Amelia will answer your customer questions, determine their needs, and solve their problems.
Contrary to the fear that it will replace salespeople and sales leaders, it is believed that AI will maximise the productivity. It will enable sales efficiency, achieved primarily through automating sales. Sales executives can then focus their time more on gaining a deeper understanding of their customer.
Tasks to be automated include:
- Initiating contact, qualifying and following up with a lead;
- Collecting customer information;
- Processing sales transactions;
- Ordering products; and
- Preparing sales contracts.
AI will be able to source, qualify and capture a significantly greater number of sales opportunities than could, otherwise, possibly be achieved. Companies that have pioneered the use of cognitive agents in sales have stated an increase in leads and appointments of over 50%. This is in addition of a decrease in costs of between 40% and 60%. These are significant increases in productivity, and savings in cost!
Although AI is currently being pioneered by leading companies, how fast/slow this will actually be adopted in different markets is up for question. But, the figures so far certainly suggest that AI can enable sales efficiency.
#3 | B2B sales trends
A swing to Inside Sales to improve the sales process
The old B2B face-to-face sales model of visiting a client to deliver a presentation consumes a lot of time and is difficult to scale. B2B firms are increasingly switching to a new paradigm and reaping the rewards.
Inside Sales have traditionally been viewed as just a support resource for Outside Sales. But data suggests that Inside Sales is now gaining 10 times more high quality conversions in a day compared with Outside (or field) Sales.
An Inside Sales specialist team is organised centrally to work with multiple small-to-medium sized clients, via phone, email or online. In this new model, they work independently from Outside Sales, and are responsible for closing business.
HubSpot has grown exponentially since its start in 2006 to a revenue of greater than $180 million in 2015. And its main sales channel is inside sales. These centres have been so successful that the company has expanded them internationally.
Hewlett Packard is also reaping the rewards of moving to this new model, as are many other leading sales organisations. Such businesses are now better able to serve a much greater volume of customers.
In-person relationships are still important. But, such companies are finding that it is crucial to satisfy a client’s demand for quick answers. This is achieved through a very accessible inside-sales specialist. A close relationship can be developed quickly and more conveniently than may otherwise be possible through a field visit.
As an SME, you too can adapt this approach. We’ve helped many Australian SMEs streamline their sales process in just this way. If you’d like to know more about how we can help, reach out here.
I hope that you have enjoyed the above post by Claudia. Unquestionably, buying and selling processes are changing at rates previously unforeseen; innovations like machine learning will only lift the pace of change. You can profit from these changes or be left wondering what might have been.
During our Funnel Camp workshops we assist companies to build blisteringly clear sales and marketing plans that enable you to stay ahead of your competitors.
Let’s talk, contact me now.
- Baumgartner, T, Hatami, H, & Valdivieso, M. 2016, The new world of sales growth, McKinsey & Company, http://bit.ly/2eYKjb6
- Baumgartner, T, Hatami, H, & Valdivieso, M. 2016, Why salespeople need to develop “machine intelligence”, Harvard Business Review, http://bit.ly/2eYKjb6
- Bianchi, R, & Johnson, C. 2016, Inside sales, outsize impact: An interview with Alice Coatalem of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, McKinsey & Company, http://bit.ly/2bfLBye
- CSO Insights, 2016, Sales performance optimisation study – 2016 key trends analysis, The Miller Heiman Group, http://bit.ly/2gbsKq5
- Premo, R, Anderson, P, Wenstrup J, & Taneja, V. 2016, Five selling secrets of today’s digital B2B leaders, The Boston Consulting Group, http://on.bcg.com/1UVFQFI