The fast pace of technology innovation makes selling B2B software all the more challenging.
Salespeople work tirelessly to understand their product’s features, integrations, and competitors because there are always new innovations in the product and markets to learn and adapt to. Tech companies are also vying to stay at the forefront of technology and innovation, so sellers have to stay on top of the latest news to keep up.
How did we get here, and what does the future hold?
To understand where B2B sales is going, we first need to understand how the last ten years of technology advancements changed the game and opened doors to using technology—including chatbots, texting, and machine learning—in new ways for sales.
The 2010s were a decade of massive growth and change in business. The symbiotic relationship between technology and sales is a poetic example of causality: the rise of new technologies changes the way that same technology is sold, and vice versa. In other words, as technologies—including social media, cloud computing, and sales engagement platforms—became more advanced, B2B selling strategies benefited from these advancements and contributed to further innovation.
The rise of social media increased customer expectations for personalization when it came to marketing and communication. LinkedIn Sales Navigator officially launched as a separate sales enablement product in 2014, and B2B salespeople have relied on it as a primary source for prospecting and personalizing ever since. Data had always been important in sales, but social media made it easier than ever to access customer data, and new automation tools made it easier to analyze, leading to a focus on analytics and data-driven sales.
Additionally, cloud computing ascended to the stratosphere in the last decade, and this has profoundly affected how software salespeople position the products they’re selling. By 2018, 77% of enterprise companies had at least one application in the cloud, and making sure that a platform, product, or service fits in with a company’s existing technology stack is often one of the first concerns.
The flood of new tech, new expectations, and new mediums for communications paved the way for 2014, when Outreach pioneered a revolutionary new technology: the sales engagement platform (SEP). SEPs help companies connect with prospects by bringing CRM data to life and identifying the right message to send at the right time.
Companies continue to evolve the innovations from the past decade. Market analyst firm IDC forecasts that worldwide spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation will reach $1.97 trillion in 2022, a growth rate of 16.7% between 2017 and 2022. Many of the B2B technologies that were developed in recent years are already well-integrated into forward-thinking selling strategies, including chatbots, texting, multichannel marketing, and machine learning.
As the demands for personalization and immediate communication continue to increase in today’s on-demand economy, chatbots are becoming more common and more sophisticated. The industry is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024.
Chatbots were relatively common in B2C during the 2010s, but companies like Drift and Manychat are bringing them to B2B.
Texting buyers, prospects, and customers is now common practice for many sales and customer success reps, and for good reason: texting has nearly a 100% open rate, compared to email with only a 22% average open rate. In addition, most texts receive a response within 5 minutes.
We recently introduced texting in Outreach to address the potential lack of visibility into text message exchanges. Using Outreach to send and receive messages is the best way to keep track of critical details, valuable data, and replicate best practices across your team.
While machine learning is not a new concept, its applications for sales are still being explored and we expect several more time-saving, revenue-boosting innovations to become available this year. For example, new capabilities for Outreach Amplify came out just a few months ago, including Intent Reporting (which classifies email replies as positive or negative), Guided Engagement (automatically prompts the rep with the next best action), Guided Email Template A/B testing, and Email Phone Number Extraction.
We’re constantly releasing new features, so follow us on LinkedIn to be one of the first to hear about product updates and new machine learning capabilities.
“Today’s tech can already understand if a reply is positive or negative, or what your next best course of action should be during the sales process. It will only get more sophisticated throughout 2020 and beyond… With neural networks, deep learning, and advanced learning algorithms — it’s changing the game.”
With how fast technology changes today, it’s hard to tell what B2B technology sales will look like in 2030. It’s safe to say, however, that the robots are not taking all our jobs, and there will be no Death of the B2B Salesperson.
It is becoming clear that digital transformation will change the landscape of B2B sales as we know it.
Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester, predicts that 1) sales engagement will increase by more than 10% as B2B sales becomes increasing digital, and 2) sales enablement will move to the marketing org.
““As business buyers continue to embrace digital routes and tools, they also now seek more interactions with their sales reps.””
Analysts at McKinsey & Company state that the following principles will define the next five to ten years of B2B sales:
Machine learning, automation, and a focus on personalization are likely to remain important in the future. However, if you’ve been paying attention, there is one thing that sales tech has in common throughout its history, and that’s change. The more ready you are for change, the better prepared you will be.