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In our digital world, technology is the key to scalability, and scalability is the key to sustainable growth. That’s why digital transformation is the hot topic across industries and sectors. But what does it look like for sales — the function at the heart of scalability and business growth?
It’s a question more and more business-to-business (B2B) leaders are looking at closely. For good reason: the buyer’s journey has changed, and B2B companies are missing their forecasts because they aren’t providing a modern buying experience.
For the most part, the B2B space has lagged behind the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment when it comes to selling to customers in the way they want to buy. Increasingly, this means engaging customers through digital channels, sharing thought leadership, and personalizing interactions by providing context about how the customer can use and benefit from the products and services being offered. Put simply, customers want buying experiences with companies that solve their challenges; they want sales and marketing people to “help them buy” instead of “selling to them.”
It’s a fundamental shift driven by the internet. For the first time, sellers are no longer the only or even the primary source of information about products. The modern buyer in the B2B world has access to volumes of credible information, putting them in control of the buying journey. They are using this access to knowledge to do a significant amount of research before connecting directly with companies about their products. In many cases, they shortlist vendors of interest before ever speaking with a salesperson. According to global research and advisory firm Gartner, 83 per cent of the buying journey is completed before purchasers meet with a salesperson. Traditional sales methods, which focus on selling features and functions, simply do not work for today’s modern buyer.
Plus, B2B buyers are used to the ease, convenience, speed and high level of customer service they receive in their personal lives as consumers, so they demand that same experience in their work lives. B2C companies changed expectations by re-engineering the selling process to make it seamless, hyper-responsive and highly efficient. It’s time for B2B companies to do the same.
Sales transformation is about reimagining and completely changing the way people work in sales, how they generate leads, the type of content they provide, and the nature of the conversations they have with potential customers.
Focus on selling. Help customers solve a problem. It’s about leveraging technology and processes to enable sales teams to better connect with modern buyers on their terms. A modern sales transformation puts the customer first by giving them what they need to help them buy. At its core, it’s a change in mindset that can only happen when people, processes and technology are aligned to the same objective: helping customers solve a problem. Getting it right will drive revenues, profits and growth.
Today’s buyers buy differently. They are taking control of the buying journey and doing most of the legwork themselves, evaluating solutions well before talking to a salesperson. Tried and true
don’t reflect this
change. And when they do, they want advice, not product information. Tried and true go-tomarket sales strategies don’t reflect this fundamental change. Yet, many sales organizations are still selling and not helping buyers buy. Adopting a digital approach to sales will help you win more deals and take advantage of higher-impact, lower-cost sales strategies. This is a real opportunity and one that can help set you apart in a hyper-competitive marketplace. Let’s make the most of it. Here are detailed action steps you can take to help you gain competitive advantage.
The traditional sales and marketing approach has these departments working in silos and interacting with customers separately. Their focus has been on pushing products and the company brand instead of considering the customer’s unique challenges and needs. This is a missed opportunity.
That’s because the majority of B2B buyers (81 per cent, according to research from global B2B research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions) base their buying decisions on their buying experience — not product or price. Aligning sales and marketing will help ensure they are focusing on the same customers and that these buyers receive timely, consistent, relevant information — critical to ensuring a positive buying experience and ultimately driving growth.
Identify one target company or market segment and develop a deep understanding of them and their buying journey. Align sales and marketing to go after it — together.
Gaining that alignment will involve identifying the customer’s goals and challenges, where they get their information, their comfort and preference when it comes to digital versus personal interactions, and how they make their buying decisions.
It will also require sales and marketing to establish a plan with clear, shared goals and metrics that measure performance against revenue generation, and to focus on ongoing improvement. As a company, you can then repeat the process and apply the learnings to the next target. Transformation is not an all or nothing proposition; it’s iterative.
Old school, top-down structures create barriers to responding quickly and decisively. The new buying journey creates an opportunity for leaders to rethink their organizational structure so it better reflects today’s environment and the accelerating pace of technological advancement and disruption. For example, the emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS) and subscription models have replaced one-time purchases.
This involves knowing how your buyers make their purchasing decisions, and the profitability and cost metrics associated with each buyer.
For example, a general guideline suggests a healthy ratio of Lifetime Value (LTV) to Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) is 3:1 or better. So, every $1 to acquire a new customer generates $3 of profit.
How does this work in the context of sales transformation and organizational design? This information will help you allocate resources where they will drive the greatest impact.
The ability to effectively draw insights from data to prioritize leads, produce accurate forecasts and build strong, personalized customer relationships are fast becoming critical competencies for top-performing sales teams and, by extension, companies. Yet, according to CSO Insights, 50.5 per cent of salespeople say their training around customer marketplaces needs improvement, while 20.4 percent say their training needs to be rethought.
If you want to scale and grow today, it’s all about making sure your people have the digital skills and competencies that will meet the needs of the modern and highly demanding buyer. SiriusDecisions reports organizations with a competency-aligned and measured onboarding process are more than eight times as likely to generate pipeline faster, retain new hires for more than 23 months, and consistently attain quota in the first year.
Create competency maps by role, defining the technical and enabling skills necessary from foundational to intermediate and advanced levels, and integrate them into job profiles.
Use these requirements to guide recruiting and to develop personalized training programs and tailored, real- time coaching to prepare salespeople to successfully engage with buyers.
higher team sales quota attainment
better individual quota achievement
higher lead conversion rate
When it comes to evolving and scaling your demand generation engine, take a cue from your buyers. Use the same digital channels they’re using to deliver the value-add thought-leadership content they’re looking for to make their purchasing decisions. This is why a deep understanding of buyer personas and their buying journey is key.
SiriusDecisions’ 2019 B2B Buying Study reports that, on average, a buyer consumes 2.9 different types of content at the education stage of the buyer’s journey — a stage that is largely self-directed; independent of any meetings with sales or business development representatives.
This is the point in the journey where you as a vendor have an important opportunity to influence the buyer, but only if you’re able to offer the type of insights that will help them. It’s not just buyers who want information. High-performing salespeople are reading all they can to build the deep knowledge necessary to both understand and educate their target buyers. It’s up to companies to both produce the content their buyers and people want, and to make sure it’s easily accessible.
Companies that recognize this is the age of the customer also know it’s all about meeting their needs. Salesforce’s State of Sales report found that customer satisfaction is the number one measure of sales success. Achieving that success means sales Winning a sale means
helping your customer
win, too. professionals have to know the problems their customer is trying to solve, and then offer solutions that work specifically for them. In other words, winning a sale means helping your customer win, too.
This can only happen if your sales approach is buyer-driven and based on how buyers want to buy, not how you like to sell. This is a key element of modernizing sales. Top-performing companies take it a step further and tailor how they sell to the individual decision-maker level. They anticipate customer needs and deliver value by providing the right content, insights and advice at the right time — all in the service of helping buyers address their unique priorities and challenges.
Use customer journey maps to redesign your sales processes to create opportunities for a great customer experience at every stage of the buying journey. Huspot has a great template you can use here.
These maps are an important component of understanding your customers, the information they use, and how they like to interact. This understanding can then be used to customize your sales approach to meet their needs. Don’t stop there. Ask for feedback after you’ve connected with them to improve the customer experience and act on it.
The goal, at the end of the buying journey, is that not only does the customer choose your solution, they advocate for you, too. In today’s social world, where everything is being shared online, that’s exactly what you want: customers getting the word out about how great their experience was with you.
How much time do your salespeople spend prospecting, following up on leads, responding to and converting potential customers, and closing sales? Apparently, not nearly enough. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report , salespeople only spend 39 per cent of their time selling, and it’s hurting growth. New research from SiriusDecisions shows the availability and responsiveness of sales representatives was the top internal reason for the buying journey stalling.
As part of modernizing sales, it’s important to identify opportunities to drive productivity, and it starts by understanding and removing the barriers to salespeople being successful.
Identify exactly how and where your sales team is spending their time. Then find the right technologies, tools and processes to help your salespeople to work smarter. For example, investing in systems that automate workflows, reduce administrative work and enable internal collaboration will allow salespeople to spend less time on low-value repetitive tasks and more time on core selling activities.
Data analytics tools can help track performance and skills gaps so you can identify areas for improvement with each team member.
Buyers in the B2B world are more empowered — and more demanding — than ever. Thanks to the internet, they have access to massive amounts of information that allows them to research and compare solutions before ever having to connect to a salesperson. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. This newfound power has changed the buying journey and put them in control.
Traditional sales approaches just don’t cut it with today’s modern buyer. Sales has to evolve from selling a product to helping buyers buy. It’s a change in mindset that will require organizations to rethink strategy, organizational structure and what it takes to be productive.