We're going to be talking a lot in the coming years about sales transformation.
B2B sales is a dynamic industry. New products and processes are constantly springing up all year round that want to give you a run for your money, especially in the software/technology space.
Even established salespeople and companies need to update their processes in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Let’s also not forget that 2020 was the year that changed B2B buying and selling forever. This past year proved that sales organizations need to prioritize agility and adapting to customer needs.
The good news? With 53 percent of white-collar workers now working remotely for the foreseeable future, timing could not be more ideal for tech and software companies.
So, what sales practices are going to be trending this year?
What should you look out for?
Will you need to update your sales process?
Here are our predictions for this year and beyond.
B2B Sales Trends 2021
1. The complete customer makeover
In both the B2B and B2C markets, the power play between buyers and sellers is nearing its conclusion, and buyers are winning.
In a world dominated by buyers, B2B sellers must respond to key changes:
How Buyers Are Changing
The Effects On B2B Sales
The buying process for businesses involves more (6-10) decision makers
B2B sales cycles are getting longer and more complicated.
Corporate decision makers demand high levels of personalization during the buying process
(similar to individual consumers)
For enterprise sales, account-based selling is the new normal.
More decision makers are millennials who
want online access to information about
your company (without talking to someone).
They also tend to trust peer recommendations, referrals, and reviews
Customer reviews are gaining more weight, while B2B influencers are beginning to emerge.
B2B sales has ceased being an opaque, transactional interaction between buyer and seller.
Customers now know a lot more about your product and your people than you might expect. They now look for authenticity and genuine empathy before granting their trust.
2. Organizational revamp, retraining, and realignment
The game is skewed in favor of sellers who keep their skills and performance in a constant state of shine through continuous training and development.
In fact, McKinsey reported that serious investments in talent acquisition and sales training separate world-class organizations from the rest of the pack.
Never before in the history of selling has the bar for sales excellence been higher. Today, you need to get your sales skills, traits, and abilities reflected in closely tracked and data-driven performance metrics.
The digital economy favors highly optimized organizations whose component units have well-defined specializations.
Sales Operations and Sales Enablement are two teams that forward-looking sales organizations can’t do without. Propped up by technology and best practices, these support elements enable sellers to perform at their peak and generate optimal revenue for the company.
Sales Ops and Sales Enablement can also handle talent acquisition — hiring, on-boarding, compensation, and training — so that salespeople and management can stay focused on their goals while the team is growing.
Furthermore, all customer-facing teams — from sales and marketing to tech support and customer success — can no longer operate in silos. Instead, these units should share and execute a single customer engagement strategy.
3. The next tech update
Tech is arguably the strongest change agent and enabler in sales.
To meet the needs and expectations of buyers in today's digital first society, advanced technology is becoming the lifeline to any sales operation.
Marketing automation, chatbots, B2B sales lead generation software, data analytics, and machine learning are just some of the varied applications of technology in sales. AI capabilities now include computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), deep learning, and intent classification.
Some of the more recent entries into the field of sales technology include sales engagement platforms that can understand and classify the intent of customer emails, then make lightning-fast recommendations on the best action to take and the best reply template to use.
Amplify Your Sales Team
4. Every channel matters
B2B customers want to be engaged in the manner and venue they prefer. And because there are multiple channels that B2B decision makers use, sellers should establish their presence in these channels to ensure every potential touch point is covered.
While voice calls and emails remain the staple communication tools of sales organizations, it doesn’t hurt to try other channels like mobile and social media.
Smart sales organizations optimize their content and messaging for mobile because they know B2B decision makers spend quite a lot of time on their phones.
Meanwhile, social selling is on the rise, with businesses and employees watching and commenting on LinkedIn and Reddit posts about their industries and brands.
The type of content that you're sending or posting through each channel also matters in sales. Some messages can be sent via email, voice, or text. Others generate more impact when delivered as videos, infographics, interactive reports, and other formats.
5. A tactic for every team and terrain
In the shifting world of sales, there’s no such thing as a tried-and-true approach that will work in every situation all the time. An email sequence or call script that works for one company might not work for another, even if it is near-identical in terms of product features, company size, or target market.
This is where sophisticated technology also makes a ton of difference. The field of A/B testing makes it easier to verify which selling approaches work for your ideal customer (and which don’t).
Using A/B testing, sales teams can optimize their playbooks and overall B2B sales strategy on the fly.
Another trend we’re seeing is the increased need for giving buyers more focused and curated experiences (similar to what they experience with B2C transactions). This is another reason why one strategy will not necessarily work for two similar companies.
This means that sales professionals need to rely on advanced technology to truly understand their buyers and to cater deeply personalized experiences to them. Then, use A/B testing to determine the level of personalization needed for highest conversions.
6. Respect for data privacy
Since personal data can be both monetized and weaponized, the ethics of using and sharing user data must be more clearly defined from now on.
In recent years, we saw new policies enacted in Europe (GDPR) and California (CCPA) to protect individuals’ data privacy. These measures will hopefully reduce the number and scale of the hostile data breaches we’ve seen affect several companies in the last few years.
The bottom line is: to improve data security, partner with businesses who share the same data mindset, and always approach customer data from the vantage point of diligent stewardship.
The Future Is Now
This year, we will continue to see technology, talent, and transparency fuse in B2B sales in order to solve the problems of corporate buyers.
Driven by customer behavior and technology, the tide is shifting towards account-based selling and digital transformation.
It's time to make an honest self assessment and identify the elements that will lift your sales organization with the rising tide, and what could drag it under.
Learn more about B2B Sales