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B2B sales: Digitalization

Sales, especially in B2B, are becoming more and more technical! Forget the obsolete stereotype of the phoney salesman who kicks the tires to make a sale. It is all about digital capabilities. Check here some valuable aspects of the digitalization transformation, which is essential to prepare your company for the arrival of Marketplaces. 

Business to Business, (B2B), goes through the same seismic changes that Business to Consumer, (B2C), went through a decade ago. In B2B, Sales is the decisive battleground, as Marketing is in B2C. The Sales leaders of the future will have nothing to do with those of the past. Like Marketing leaders of today have nothing to do with Marketing leaders of the past.
In this second part of the three-part series outlining the way forward in B2B sales, we will refer to digitalization, the foundation of preparing for the mother of all battles: Marketplaces.

1). e-nable your salesforce.
In B2B, it is how well solutions are crafted to solve customer problems or exploit opportunities and not about product technical attributes. Assessing customers’ problems and constructing the correct solution is something that the salesforces do and that is why the teams will always be an integral part of the future.

In the previous article (here), we referred to
a) the dire need for excellent product knowledge and how each sales rep is able to offer a customer solution,
b) the role of optimized, standardized sales process and the training which will elevate sales reps’ capabilities and
c) the use of data to effectively steer customer portfolio and allocate time accordingly. We analyzed the basics

Here is about the tools they need to have when facing the customer to allow for excellent information management, when preparing for and during the customer visit.

Nowadays tablets and the powering software are a must for a Sales Force, where they present material, often in video format, about the solutions and the products. Where technical information and case studies are organized to be found easily and shared with a customer immediately. In our time of TikTok and responses measured in nanoseconds, leading salesforce cannot use photocopies and promise to come back to customers over the next days.

Just beware: the preparation and execution of a sales visit is different when using such tools.

e-nabled sales force tools support perfectly virtual selling, which will be the norm in the future. Gartner research shows that 74% of chief sales officers have recently or are currently updating their seller competencies for virtual selling. (Chief Sales Officer Leadership Vision 2022)

2). Introduce a B2B e-shop
54% of millennials buyers would prefer a rep free experience in buying. They definitely do not want to talk about regular replenishing orders.
It is the Omnichannel experience we first described in an article five years ago (here).

It is inconceivable nowadays for major players not to have an e-shop. Those which they don’t have one will not be part of the future. It is like being in the car insurance business and continue reaching customers with insurance reps.

Here, the challenge is leadership and cultural, not technical! Not that one should not find the technical solutions of uploading, in researchable format and user-friendly navigation, the data about the products or services one sells. It is necessary to also add content, rich educational material and content storytelling of how the products provide solutions.

To ensure fulfillment is geared to smaller orders and returns and check out is simple. To link all purchases, via online and offline to allow for full picture of the purchase history.

To find talent to support the marketing part of the e-com model.

To execute the difficult task of understanding the buyers’ decision journey and where direct sales force and online shop interact.
Check this graph which illustrates the complexity of a B2B buyer decision process.

b2b buying journey grey

The biggest challenge is how the e-shop will operate hand-in-hand with the salesforce or your call center. How the compensation of the sales rep will be structured that they are not afraid of losing customers and therefore boycott this alternative way of ordering.

An additional pain point is how to structure promotions for online customers and those served by the sales rep. Should they be different? How to order POP material?

A tip: get some professional support, having first-hand implementation experience. Do not rely entirely on the provider of the software, which sees things mostly from the technical side. The leadership and change management challenges are very important!

If you are a small organization, you may question these two steps. However, the technical solutions are more accessible nowadays which make implementation easier. Also, there’s no way around it. You must offer your customers the option to order directly and your sales reps to be part of the future. Otherwise, you move steadily to becoming obsolete. Do not bother at first with artificial intelligence and sophisticated rings and bells. They can be added later.

But start now. Not next quarter or next year!

If your moto is to provide value to your customers, then that is impossible without providing the option to order online. So simple.

In the next part we will talk about Marketplaces and why they will change everything we know about B2B Sales. How they change the balance between manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and B2B customers. Stay tuned.

More in this category: « Enabling Sales Forces