I had my first sales job as a door to door salesman for a personalised children’s book. This was in the year 2000 after my 12th standard exams.
Since then I have sold Insurance, IT products, and Consulting services. In the last 21 years, I have seen that B2B sales has completely redefined itself. I truly wish, back then, I could have had a crystal ball with me so that I could see how B2B sales was going to change.
And now, after years of experience, I decided to create my own crystal ball by going through various analyst reports with the likes of Gartner, Forester, Linkedin who track trends within the B2B sales industry to find common patterns. These analysts gave me the crystal ball that I am going to share with you today.
In this blog, we will be looking at the 5 predictions for the future of B2B sales.
Future Prediction 1: Virtual selling is here to stay
63% of buyers on Linkedin’s state of sales report say that working remotely has made the purchasing process easier.
80% of buyers want to continue working remotely half or more of the time in the future.
Since COVID 19, there has been no other kind of selling: Virtual selling has become the new selling.
Many traditional B2B sales tools; in-person events, business trips, face-to-face meetings have become a thing of the past. Many organisations have started embracing technologies like sales enablement and sales intelligence tools.
Virtual selling is the practice of conducting meetings online instead of in-person meetings. It is customer-centric. Moreover, it provides personalized communication with customers across many channels. These might include email, web, mobile, text, video, in-app messaging, voice, and bots. IDC’s research shows that younger generations prefer digital interactions in sales more than older generations of IT decision-makers.
Organizations that fail to develop virtual selling skills in their sales team and equip them with relevant digital selling tools are bound to fall behind.
Future Prediction 2: Field sales teams will shrink.
As per IDC, by 2025, 60% of B2B Field Sales Teams will Shrink in Size by 40% as Digital Engagement gets more efficient.
I know this is bad news for people like me and probably for all of those who have spent their time building B2B sales skills but this is going to become a fact of life.
The propensity for tech buyers to buy online jumped dramatically from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, 61.1% of B2B tech buyers said they would prefer e-commerce over a salesperson embracing digital-first engagement.
Also, in IDC’s latest research, 71% of B2B tech buyers state that their larger technology purchases will increasingly go through e-commerce.
Human-to-human connection is still important. And these interactions will remain critical to building trusted relationships that help sales.
However, when and where human interactions occur has changed.
The process of marketing teams qualifying leads and handing them over to sales and sales taking them to closure might not stay relevant. It might happen so that Marketing will own a sales quota at least in some industries.
The digital medium is an always-on, always present part of the entire customer journey. B2B tech buyers will use digital mediums for self-service and also engage sales.
76% of B2B buyers say the ability to self-serve and complete purchases on their own is a top factor impacting their decision on which supplier to buy from.
Buyers will turn to in-person, human engagement for very specific complex tasks. IDC’s research shows that tech buyers turn to human-to-human interactions –
1. 49% to get answers quickly.
2. 44% to complete services agreements.
3. 42% to complete complex technology purchases.
This leaves 51-58% of buyers who will prefer e-commerce over salespeople even if their purpose is complex.
Digital sales will grow, adding new competencies.
Digital sellers will use data, analytics, mobile messaging, and virtual experiences to answer customer questions quickly and provide product information and pricing.
Where does this leave the field sales teams? Field sales teams will shrink in size to an elite team of relationship builders, subject matter experts. These relationship builders will specialize in engaging at the right moment to support more complex decision making and trust-building.
Marketing will embrace its role as the conductor of the orchestra. This will cause the field sales to shift in function as a section of the orchestra. They would be playing very specific roles at very specific times. IDC expects to see a trend of digital sales teams growing and moving into marketing, creating an integrated digital approach.
The position of Field sellers will not be that of a source of information. Rather, field sellers will become “subject matter experts”. They will help customers deliver real business outcomes.
Prediction 3: Buyers’ Journey will be as seamless as possible
Whatever the type of business—whether a commodity product or a highly specific, value-added service— it is vital to make offerings, interactions, processes, and systems as simple as possible for the customers. The sales experience needs to be seamless, effortless, and cost-effective.
Technology helps put customers in control. It gives them all the support they need to match their requirements with the most appropriate solutions.
Many companies are rolling out new systems and processes to create a much smoother sales experience for their customers. For the companies doing the selling, this often translates into leaner and more scalable operations. This creates room to invest in further improvements.
Let’s take, for example, the fleet management company LeasePlan.
Its tagline is “It’s easier to LeasePlan”. And true to it, it has systems that allow the customers’ fleet managers to self-manage their affairs. It also lets drivers tailor services to their individual needs (within the bounds of their company’s car policy, of course).
Also, processes are systematically improved with ease of usage in mind.
Another example is SurveyMonkey. It is a self-service, multimedia platform. It allows everyone from private individuals to large corporations to design and run their own surveys.
Future Prediction 4: Importance of credible Influencer in buying decision
In this omnichannel world, Sellers can’t control every channel of influence in the buyer’s journey. But when they recognize and start leveraging them, they are in a far better position.
A B2B influencer is someone customers trust to guide them as part of the B2B buying cycle.
These could be –
1. Industry analysts
2. Experts from industry bodies
3. Opinion leaders
4. Customers who have faced a similar situation and shared their insights.
A few significant, accessible, and credible influencers in the IT industry are analysts like Gartner, Forrester, IDC etc.
Other influencers gaining popularity are independent technology futurists, thought leaders, etc. All of whom are well-respected for their ability to spot trends in technology and innovation.
There is also a growing trend in users and user communities in B2B sales. These users/communities post their reviews and experiences online which influence buying decisions.
Sellers and marketers who focus on creating communities of customers who turn into influencers and advocates will be a big contributor to demand generation and influencing deals.
Omnichannel experience coupled with engaging content from credible B2B influencers will be a key factor for making a purchasing decision.
Future Prediction 5: Clear measurable business outcomes will drive sales:
10 years ago when SAAS started becoming mainstream, it gave customers more power to select/drop vendors. And that too without getting locked in a long term contract. The future of sales will take this to the next level. Business outcomes will decide customer continuation. Customer success will decide which vendors deserve their place at the customer end.
Sales relationship will extend beyond the deal’s close date.
Customers don’t want to hear about product features, benefits, or even solutions. They just want outcomes. They just want the job done.
– Simon Mulcahy, Chief innovation officer at salesforce.
There is one important metric that drives selling behaviour: quota attainment.
Organisations that will remain market leaders will have other metrics as well. These will include engagement numbers, customer satisfaction, and value delivery. So today’s reliance on quotas will be complemented by a customer outcome-based model. There will be a renaissance of soft skills and business understanding skills. Sellers who adopt these new changes will be part of the shrinking B2B salesforce in the future.
Change is the only constant thing in this world. Like everything, B2B sales is constantly evolving. The internet speeded up and eased the process of change. And most of the changes introduced have been done keeping customers at the centre of it. This trend will continue to grow with more innovation and customer success at the centre of it. Organisations that embrace these changes will sustain and grow. The rest may not find it easy to compete and stay relevant.
If you liked this article, give it a like and share it will people who might be interested. If you have any questions ask them in the comment section. I am always happy to help.
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