/ B2B sales – Changes and challenges resulting from COVID-19

B2B sales – Changes and challenges resulting from COVID-19

One of the longer term changes in behavior resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has been the change in the way people shop and make purchases. Depending on your type of business — either selling to consumers or to other businesses — the way in which people interact with your products will be a lot different than before.

 

 

B2B sales typically have a longer decision making process, for a variety of reasons, with many stakeholders to consult. This greater level of involvement means that sales professionals in this market have historically relied on high levels of in-person interaction both before and during the sales process — face to face meetings, networking events and large scale conferences were everyday activities.

Since the shelter-in-place orders led to the temporary closure of business premises, B2B sales has had to rapidly modify its behavior to keep delivering results. Whether your sales operation is flourishing or floundering, we’ve taken a look at some of the leading advice for B2B sales to help you see new ways to adapt to global trends and best practice, and find out ways you could improve your post-Covid sales process.

 

Reconsider the customer’s situation and challenges

Just like your organization, you can safely assume that your customer’s operations have been massively changed by the pandemic. As a result, activities which you wouldn’t have considered before might now be beneficial to growing and nurturing relationships. Accenture recommends “throwing out the old rule book” and reaching out with empathetic, custom messaging to understand your customers’ current needs. Similarly, McKinsey suggests sales teams schedule short videoconference check-ins with the entire book of business so that every relationship is updated.

 

 

A reason this is so important is that the pandemic response has been very different between industries and countries. Data from McKinsey shows that more than half (55%) of businesses in a recent survey said that they were seeing reductions in their overall budgets, but the remainder (45%) were either maintaining or increasing budgets as a response. Geography plays a role in this, with US companies more likely to be maintaining or increasing their spending in response.

What does this mean for sellers? There’s an almost 50/50 chance that previous data about customer opportunities will be outdated, incorrect and needs to be refreshed. With companies still adapting to these changes, now is the right time to understand their needs and update your understanding of your customers’ needs.

 

Consider digital approaches as long-term solutions

With no option for face-to-face meetings but an ongoing need to keep the sales process moving, B2B sellers have moved to digital methods at a rapid pace. McKinsey reports that around 90% are now working either via videoconference software or by phone.

Beyond this relatively obvious and essential switch of communication methods from sellers, there are also emerging ways that B2B sales can adjust using technology to help new customer habits.

McKinsey has tracked B2B buyers’ preference for self-service options as part of various stages of the purchase process (research, evaluation, ordering and reordering). Since 2016 there has been a significant swing in popularity towards self-service by B2B buyers, especially in the research (35% in 2016 to 65%) and evaluation (19%) stages.

Since COVID-19, digital enabled sales interactions are now seen as twice as important as traditional sales interactions: 66% of respondents rated digital-enabled interactions as most important to their customers compared with 34% for traditional sales interactions. This is likely to remain the case during the medium term but could also become a longer term trend to prepare for.

The good news about this for B2B sales is that self-serve systems produce data that can be used to better predict and respond to opportunities. Accenture highlights these emerging customer data sources as “dark data” which can be measured and used with AI or predictive tools to improve customer targeting and offers.

 

New ways to motivate and support sales teams

Sales journeys and models that were once painstakingly developed and promoted within the organization may now have stopped working altogether. For example, a spike in online visitors would once have been a signal for high sales demand. Not necessarily any more: data from Accenture showed that across the US, UK and EU that sales fell by 17% despite a 32% rise in traffic YoY.

Sales teams need new support and guidance to help them succeed in this new environment, and leadership which recognizes that can make a big impact on results. One area is performance measurement and goal setting; for example, instead of simply replacing a traditional metric like booked meetings for its online equivalent, look at the new customer journey and build targets around online-first behaviors like customer outreach activities or online engagement in social networks (which can also be measured in real-time).

Sales also needs high quality, recent information to help direct their attention to the most valuable leads. Work with Marketing to understand these new customer behaviors and update lead scoring criteria to make sure that the right opportunities are being fed through to sales teams.

There is a lot that leadership teams can do to support their teams during this time. The most important is a focus on supporting and enabling them, and being ready to adapt to feedback on the new customer needs

 

 

Help when you need it from Domo

On Domo, leadership and sales operations can stay in sync and adapt to the changing environment without friction. By connecting to existing or new data sources the whole team will be able to monitor forecasts and stay focused on the most important opportunities automatically. You can learn more about the way Domo integrates with your existing CRM and data sources on our website.

Check out some related resources:

'Future of Work' E-book: How to Safely Reopen the Workplace

Get Back to Work: 9 Success Factors in Returning to a Physical Facility

Enterprise contact tracing: crawl, walk and then run

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