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All of the action & insights from B2B digiSalesFEST APAC ‘24

On the 28th, 29th & 30th of May Arktic Fox, together with our sponsors Seismic & Six Degrees Executive, showcased the latest thought leadership in B2B digital selling. Attended by many sales and marketing leaders in industry, the 3-part thought leadership conference tackled three key trends and issues facing B2B brands; 


  • The changing B2B buyer behaviour and evolving preferences; 

  • How digital is fundamentally re-shaping what good experience delivery looks like and how brands can deliver best in class digital experiences; 

  • The evolving MarTech & salesTech landscape, how AI will change the tech landscape and more. 


With a stellar cast of speakers and a series of juicy topics to unpack – we were fortunate enough to glean an enormous array of insights from those at the coalface of the industry. 


Each session included a 15-minute briefing, combined with the expert panel of speakers. 

 

Key Day One Briefing Outtakes 


We kicked off the mini thought leadership conference unpacking the changing B2B buyer.  A generational shift is now upon us, with Millennials and Gen Z now making up the vast majority of the workforce. It is believed in fact that by the end of 2024, Gen Z will overtake Baby Boomers in the workforce for the first time and we are only 6.5 years away from Gen Alpha joining the workforce.  For B2B brands that now means for the most part, B2B buyers are millennials are Gen Z’s who are largely digital natives and expect brands to deliver experiences in line with those they interact with in their personal lives.  


chart showing b2b buyer by age

 

As a result, B2B brands are needing to rapidly evolve their organisations and in the first session 3 key shifts were explored; 


  1. The importance of driving sales and marketing alignment being more important than ever before; 

  1. The shift to hybrid selling models; and 

  1. The rise of sales operations and sales excellence to drive an improvement in performance and the need and value of sales ops to support re-orienting sales and GTM to build new capabilities and enable the sales team to be more effective.  

 

Day One - Musings from Our Guest Panel 


Day 1 saw Vanya Mariani, Commercial Director from carsales mediahouse and Alicia Kearns, CMO of Render Networks, take the virtual stage and share their wisdom. So what did we learn from these two seasoned marketing and sales leaders? 


With Vanya, we explored the concepts of hybrid sales teams, B2B brands need to shift to a self-service model and more. 


Vanya shared the journey carsales mediahouse has been on, to shift to adopt a self-service model for their clients. Mariani shared the key insight which led to their need to adapt to a changing market being “close to 70% of the dollars being spent in market for digital advertising was done via platforms”. Meaning clients were logging in online through a tool to plan, buy and measure campaigns. As the rest of the market had set the expectation, carsales mediahouse knew they needed to offer self-serve capabilities. Mariani added, however that “adopting a self-service platform wasn’t enough, there needed to be significant differentiation and value in the proposition to encourage usage”. That meant for carsales mediahouse, adopting a “me too strategy” wouldn’t cut the mustard.   


With B2B buyers increasingly less likely to desire face to face sales engagement, Vanya Mariani spoke about the need for B2B brands to lead with value in the sales process.  Mariani still sees a desire from B2B buyers to engage with a salesperson, but counters that with the knowledge that the next gen buyer “doesn't want to be sold to” said Mariani. Mariani expressed the need for B2B brands to shift their mindset to being one which is “educate first not sell”.  


For carsales mediahouse, the introduction of self service, required the brand to also adopt a hybrid selling model.  During the session Mariani said “we are now six months into our hybrid sales model. This model allows buyers to purchase directly from our sales teams, through our self-serve platform Ignition, or a combination of both (via a managed service). The results have proven to be very promising. Our goal is to drive at least half of our bookings via Ignition over the next 18 months and scale from there.  She added “one of the key benefits witnessed by carsales mediahouse is the benefit of reduced administrative work by the sales teams, those tasks that don’t add significant value to the exchange, this means the carsales mediahouse sales team can spend more time adding value in the selling process.  


Off the back of the many insights shared by Vanya, Alicia talked about the role marketers need to play to drive a shift in the way the organisation engages the next generation B2B buyer. With B2B marketing teams at times finding it difficult to play their role and add value beyond tactical GTM activity, Kearns provided some sage advice on many fronts. 


Kearns reinforced the shifts in B2B buyer behaviour we are now seeing in market. She referenced a far more discerning buyer, and one which is hungry for information and intel. Kearns spoke about the importance of B2B brands therefore needing to go beyond defining USPs and key messaging.  Buyers want proof beyond brand messaging and often they don’t just want to hear directly from the brand, they are influenced by third party sources, making online communities and peer recommendations key. Kearns reinforced “there is nothing more powerful than having your own customers tell your story rather than telling it yourself”. Kearns however also believes marketers need to play an active role in enabling sales teams and reps to add value and solution sell in market.  “Providing competitor intelligence is one way to deliver extra value to the B2B buyer, and marketers can play an active role in better surfacing that for their sales teams”. 


To drive alignment between marketing and sales, Kearns suggested teams adopt and agree on a unified methodology to engage the market. She believes it is paramount for teams to align their thinking and ethos around their selling approach and for marketing to play an active role in shaping this. In many ways, Kearns also advocated for salespeople to embrace their inner marketer.  With more of the buying journey occurring online and content becoming critical to engage through the funnel, sales need to lean into engaging online to meet the buyer where they are at.  

 

Key Day Two Briefing Outtakes 


We kicked off day two of the session unpacking digital experience and the shift in customer expectations.  With 75% of buyers now preferring a rep free sales experience, B2B brands need to re-think how they deliver experience through the funnel pre and post purchase. We outlined four key principles which are hygiene to deliver great digital experiences in this era which are; 


  • Experiences must be digital & human – best of breed experiences consider the role of sales in the process and the two should be complementary not compete; 

  • Experiences must be simple and convenient; 

  • They need to be oriented around the buyer; and 

  • They should focus on value affirmation. 



images showing b2b selling experiences

 

Speaking of value affirmation – B2B buyers are far more likely to experience buyers regret when only engaging with digital channels.  This is in part because B2B brands need to consider how to deliver value affirmation as a core part of the B2B experience.   

  

Day Two - Musings from Our Guest Panel 


Day 2 saw Tony Blamey, a Sales & Executive Leader ex Domain & :Different and Divya Gupta, Head of Digital Sales at Maersk take the virtual stage and share their wisdom. So, what did we learn from these two seasoned marketing and sales leaders? 


Tony shared a bit about his journey to embed customer centricity at Domain. Blamey shared the very sound advice “don’t mistaken good customer relationships with customer centricity” stating that to be customer centric we need to do far more than we have historically done to understand the customer and meet their needs.  At Domain, Blamey and the broader business implemented a number of strategic initiatives in order to embed a customer centric approach.  This included moving from an ad-hoc approach to capture customer feedback to understanding customer needs to embedding VOC to be more deliberate and consistent in soliciting feedback from customers. To make VoC actionable they established a VoC committee which consisted of sales, marketing and product. They mapped out all of their customer interactions to identify service issues and determine opportunities for self-service, they embedded a customer advisory board to gain feedback from customers on important product changes and more.  Domain realised that value was not delivered through educating on products but more about adding value through unique insights as a result during his tenure Domain, empowered the sales team with key insights including monthly market data packs to empower sales reps to add value to conversations in the sales and account management process. 

 

Divya Gupta shared a bit about the Maersk journey of digital transformation, outlining that even though they ship one in every 4 products around the world today, the very successful organisation is still in its early phase of undertaking digital transformation. They embraced | adopted a digital sales model just 2 and a half years ago. Gupta outlined that initially the sales team were not convinced about the shift to a digital sales model but overtime the sales team has come to embrace the model.  Gupta stated that “a digital sales model is crucial for the brand to be able to more effectively manage the long tail” and it has allowed them to free up their sales representatives so they can spend more time with their higher value contracted clients.  

 

When it comes to lead and demand generation, Gupta shared that their approach is multi-faceted. They still see a lot of value in events but digital also plays an important role stating that “we have seen huge value in offering webinars as part of our lead generation strategy, we invite guest speakers who add value to our customers and prospect businesses which drives interest and engagement”. Gupta also stated that when it comes to lead gen and demand gen, test and learn it a must. “We assign 20 – 30% of our budget to testing and trialling new channels and techniques ongoing” and have been trialling an array of things.  One thing Gupta spoke to was the opportunity to trial and test Meta even though it’s a B2C platform, many of their prospective long tail customers are leveraging the platform and so it was the perfect opportunity to test and learn and they saw great success from doing so.  

 

Key Day Three Briefing Outtakes 


In the third and final session we unpacked the rapidly changing marTech and salesTech landscape as well as took a closer look at genAi.  We started by looking at the investment levels and adoption rates of tech which demonstrated that whilst tech is supporting us in key ways, we may not be deriving the most out of our tech investment.  


Some of the key insights shared included: 


  • $92.4bn is now spent on salesTech (of the over $500 bn spent on salesTech & marTech; 

  • 66% of sales professionals are overwhelmed by the number of tools in their tech stack; 

  • Sales teams are now using 10+ tools to manage buyer acquisition; 

  • 66% of all sales interactions will leverage genAI by 2028. 


images showing b2b stats

 As a result much of our panel discussion centred around marTech & salesTech utilisation as well as the adoption of genAi. 


Day Three - Musings from Our Guest Panel 


Day 3 saw Justin Meyers, The Head of Corporate & Mid Market Sales at (creditor)Watch take a virtual stage. Justin stepped us through the salesTech transformation journey they are undertaking at (creditor)watch and provided several of his key learnings having gone through the process which are; 

  • Clarity around the problem you are looking to solve. At (creditor)watch they are very clear as a sales team that they have four levers to drive growth, and all decisions related to tech need to enable the delivery of those objectives in order to ensure they don’t get caught up in the new and shiny.  

  • Meyers also reinforced following on from the briefing that sales team members are overwhelmed by the tech and the need to grapple with the change. He shared that when buying a platform, it is not uncommon for platforms to offer an array of features that you may not need as you may already have another tool in your stack providing that feature. It's important to buy what you need and not get distracted during the procurement process. 

  • Meyers also talked about the fact that when buying and embedding tools it is really important for all parts of the business (relevant ones) to be KPI’d on its success (not simply the sales team).  This is more likely to garner adoption and success as team members are measured on adoption and utilisation. 

  • And finally, Justin spoke to the importance of ensuring that brands invest in capability build as much as they are investing in the tech platform as it is the people who make or break success. 

 

Having witnessed so many failed and successful tech implementations, Daniel Lodge, VP of Sales at Seismic, believes that culture is the difference between success and failure. As he reinforced “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  Adoption comes from the culture that is set within the team.  He also believes to be successful change management needs to be a very big part of a brands approach to effectively embed a platform/s.  


During the session we unpacked the role of GenAi and its use in sales.  


Meyers started by cautioning sales professionals on utilising genAi as a replacement for engaging with the end customer.  It is not a “replacement for picking up the phone and having a conversation to build a relationship” he stated.  Meyers however acknowledges the value and use of genAi to drive efficiency in the sales process – to improve management of data, to capture meeting minutes from clients, using it to generate a response to a client or prepare an email but his view and philosophy is it should be there to support not do the job without oversight.  Meyers even referenced the role genAi can now play to customise coaching sessions to individual sales rep needs.  


During the session we unpacked the importance of ensuring there is governance in place to effectively manage genAi adoption and Meyers advice is to engage your internal experts before procuring a platform or utilising genAi platforms to ensure it meets internal standards and is in line with internal policies.  Meyers stated that given how new genAi is, organisations are still working through the governance approach to effectively manage it.  


We finished up the session exploring Sales Enablement and the rise of sales enablement tools.  Daniel shared his insights into the evolving sales enablement space and the dramatic rise over the past 8 years, which is fuelling the rise and adoption of sales enablement platforms. He shared that in 2017 if you searched for enablement on LinkedIn there were about 300 results. Today that has grown 100X as businesses grapple with the changing landscape there are more people undertaking enablement roles and there is a much greater need for platforms and solutions to underpin sales operations as a result of AI, more competitive market etc.  


And that’s a wrap….up.!


If you are yet to download our Sales in Focus study, which took a closer look at the changing Australian sales landscape you can do so here https://www.arkticfox.io/sales-in-focus-2024 


Alternatively, if you are grappling with evolving and transforming in the B2B space across Sales and Marketing we can help.  Find out more about our services or get in touch for a chat or visit https://www.arkticfox.io/advisory-and-consultancy to see how we’re working with brands to create and deliver growth in a rapidly transforming landscape. 

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