As we have begun chipping away this year, 2022, it’s clear that the pandemic has permanently changed the way customers prefer to buy. Organizations that adapt to meet their clients’ expectations will be more competitive next year — and the companies that do the best job of leveraging technology and data to sell smarter will be the most successful. The need for digital investment is clear: 80% of B2B sales engagements will happen digitally by 2025. Here are the B2B digital sales trends we expect to prioritize and deliver strong results in the year ahead.
Invest in technology that improves B2B buying experiences
Pre-pandemic, the B2B buying model was built on one-to-one relationships between buyers and sellers. Now — after nearly two years of travel restrictions, social distancing requirements, and massive leaps forward in digital B2C customer experiences — B2B sellers must rely on technology to provide an efficient and personalized service to meet their buyers’ changed expectations.
Rather than calling or emailing their sales rep, buyers now want to engage digitally across channels. To deliver, sellers need to embrace integrated selling platforms, harness Al and analytics to create and refine personalized buyer experiences, and create a unified data structure that eliminates silos.
These are technology investments that consultants have been encouraging companies to adopt even before the pandemic began, and now buyers are more tech-savvy than before. They’re also educating themselves more before they engage with sellers.
To meet buyers where they are now, sellers need to embrace technology that helps them move away from a piecemeal, product orientation to a more value-based, consultative selling practice. Integrated or guided selling platforms let sellers meet buyers wherever they are in their research and buying process.
Do more with AI in sales
AI-powered platforms require data science and analytics in place, working with clean data to determine customers’ propensity to buy and generate the next best offer. For example, there’s a lot of work being done in face recognition so that when you are in a virtual meeting with a customer, you can understand their intent based on their facial microexpressions and body language, as well as the content of your conversation.
Because every engagement with the customer creates more data, and because there are so many channels for engagement now, removing silos and creating a robust data infrastructure is critical for managing, safeguarding, and leveraging that data.
Investments in AI and automation can deliver additional benefits to sales teams. For example, sales tools that capture and automatically upload buyer and seller engagement activity to CRMs relieve sellers of having to enter that data manually. That frees up time to conduct deeper customer research, gather AI insights from data, and create more meaningful interactions with buyers.
Over time, as buyer-engagement data increases, AI analytics can generate increasingly precise recommendations to improve sales forecasting, customer engagement, and sales effectiveness, in addition to creating hyper-personalized product suggestions to drive upsells cross-sells, and retention.
Embrace self-service options for your customers
Even before the pandemic, research by Forrester indicated that the U.S. B2B e-commerce market will have a value of $1.8 trillion by 2023. Moreover, because most of us have spent much more time making consumer purchases online since early 2020, B2B buyers now expect the same kind of seamless, omnichannel shopping experience.
Because buyers have so many channels that they can use to educate themselves — social media, digital communications, blogs, videos, podcasts, and peer interactions — they can often complete their decision-making without ever interacting with a salesperson.
This might sound like bad news for sales professionals, but it offers a new series of possibilities for adding value. For one thing, a well-designed self-service experience can deliver the kind of consistent, friction-free interactions that create customer trust and build brand loyalty — all without any work on the sales team’s part.
Just as important, self-service automates the education processes and simple sales that don’t need human engagement to succeed.
Focus on guided selling
Self-service frees sales teams to offer more highly personalized, one-on-one white-glove service, cross-sell and upsell recommendations, and guidance for customers who are researching more complex purchases. In addition, AI analytics can guide the sales team through each buyer’s journey, giving team members an in-depth view of the buyers’ questions and needs.
That process allows sellers to create more personalized and engaging interactions with customers — exchanges that quickly answer customers’ questions and help them meet their needs.
With a guided selling platform in place to provide customer insights and more time to focus on customer needs thanks to self-service and AI analytics, sales teams can develop and strengthen customer relationships faster. They can also provide upsell and cross-sell recommendations with more authority and execute sales more quickly. These changes can increase revenue and reduce the cost of sales.
Train for consultative skills
Sales teams may need new skills to fill the more consultative role that technology creates for them. For example, they may need to know how to get the most value from meetings with customers in digital sales rooms to answer questions in real-time as buyers move through immersive digital experiences that educate them about their choices.
The old approach of asking the buyer a series of questions to identify their needs may not apply in these situations, significantly when AI can help answer those questions before the buyer and seller even engage. Sellers may also need coaching on how to sell more complex deals for their organizations.
With new technology to support buying experiences, sales professionals spend less time on rote tasks and simple transactions. With more personalized information to guide sales consultations, your sales team can create more value and drive revenue while delivering the experience B2B customers want in 2022.
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!