…and it’s not because of COVID-19.
Very few businesses have escaped the collateral impact of Coronavirus and sales fronts are reflecting that.
Business survival currently means adjusting value propositions, restructuring teams, investing in critical tech, overhauling processes, and rolling out lighter commercial models.
These are war-time revenue lines and when sales confidence does return – which it will – it’s likely that the way we sell will be permanently changed.
Seventeen years ago the SAARs epidemic kick-started China’s e-commerce evolution and opened the internet up as a sales medium.
It was a watershed moment for Alibaba and set them on a path to become the $470bn company they are today.
The financial crash of 2008 fed our appetite for SaaS, introduced us to welcome alternatives from banking with fintech, and changed traditional contracting with the gig-economy.
However, the biggest shift in b2b sales wasn’t started by a bat, it was started by the customer and has been gaining momentum in recent years.
How we sell has changed because of how businesses now buy.
COVID-19 wasn’t the catalyst, but the tipping point. Sales are competing over the experience of the customer and the ability to enable the buyer.
It’s certainly shifted gears, but it’s something of an overnight change that’s been ten years in the making…
The informed customer
We know more about the customer and have more sophisticated ways of engaging with them than ever.
By 2025, cognitive brands are expected to use 45 data sources to create cohesive experiences for the customer.
More importantly, the customer knows more about your business.
The rise of peer-to-peer selling in b2b means that most of your prospects can go directly to your customers to determine whether it’s valuable for them.
Word-of-mouth still carries a lot of weight and businesses need to be mobilizing that for their buyers.
Tripling down on Capterra, G2, Trustpilot, case studies, testimonials, references, advocates, influencer marketing, network referrals, accreditation, etc….
It matters if you can market well, but it matters more that you’re enabling your customers to market for you.
Salesforce suggests that 52% of b2b decisions are generally made before the first engagement with a sales rep.
Forrester goes further to suggest that customers will be anywhere between two-thirds and 90% of the way along in their decision before they even reach out to a vendor.
And yet, selling is harder. There are more ways to sell, but it’s harder to buy.
Sales cycles are longer, more decision makers are involved, there’s a constant presence of market competitors and information peppers buyers at every channel.
We’ve become so great at connecting with customers and selling our products that they’re paralysed by choice in the market.
Gartner suggests that the typical buying group involves six to 10 stakeholders, each of whom have consulted four to five sources of information that they must then “deconflict together”.
Sales and marketing efforts can rarely be drawn out in straight lines because the decision process isn’t linear.
What can you do?
Enable the buyer.
Bring the decision-makers together and thread their individual engagements into a cohesive experience.
Find a way to maintain visibility and effectively tie those engagements with customers across multiple touch-points, decision makers, and reps, into one narrative.
Remove the fluff they don’t need and collectively educate them with the information they do, to where they digest it.
Target the right people at the right stages and nurture those relationships for when they’re ready to buy.
In the current climate, you’re going to need a financial head engaged and the conversation is going to need to be business critical.
Lower the barriers to entry, the commitments, the selling on needs and pains, and make it an easier decision to buy.
Buyer empathy is the strongest weapon in your arsenal, so think like the buyer and what would make their decision easier.