During and following the COVID pandemic, B2B businesses have had to transform not only how they sell, but to find and connect with customers in new ways.
The move away from face-to-face selling to digital selling has meant that while sales teams are saving money and time on travelling, they are having to connect in new and different ways, and the number of connection points available has amplified.
This permanent shift in sales approach has meant business and sales strategies have had to evolve to more buyer-centric digital approaches, which has also meant that sales processes, tools, and intersection points have also had to evolve.
Sales has finally had to catch up with marketing teams and move to a more digital way to connect with customers, not only at the end of their journey when the sale happens, but throughout the customer lifecycle. But this has meant that businesses have had to invest and change, and it's just the beginning.
Multiple research reports point to a majority of B2B customers preferring virtual buying and digital service over traditional face-to-face: for a seamless buying experience, in fact 80% of B2B customers prefer virtual selling (Gartner).
Gartner talk about the B2B sales imperatives as digital scalability, hyper-automation, and artificial intelligence in their publication 'The Future of Sales in 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report'.
With buyers preferring virtual interactions and digital sales becoming the new norm, what are B2B organisations doing? And even better - what can B2B organisations be doing to better enable their teams to be equipped for the change upon them?
Sales & marketing teams are getting closer
To influence the customer experience, marketing and sales must work more closely than ever. If you look at the traditional funnel from lead generation as it moves through to conversion or "the sale", there are multiple touch-points that can dictate what the customer can and will do next - and these now mostly sit digitally.
Customers are spending more and more time researching and reviewing businesses and products long before they become a customer. They are also bombarded by your competitors trying to reach them - most likely at the same time. There is a huge opportunity for marketing to influence the customer to move them into the sales process – i.e. the use of a lead magnet by offering a thought leadership piece that relates to their area of interest, in the form of a whitepaper, in return for contact information.
What we are also seeing is sales and marketing teams sitting down to align themselves around the customer journey, mapping the micro moments taken by the customer to maximise impact and ensure the experience is seamless and effective. This may include multiple touch-points with the prospective customer before it moves into the sales or “deal” process, once again most of which occurs within digital.
To optimise this process ongoing, marketing teams are gaining access to sales data to inform strategies to assist with conversions. Where these departments usually sat in silos, they are now heavily relying on each other to achieve success.
Getting lead generation right is the golden ticket
With the increase in digital adoption by customers, digital lead generation by businesses has been growing in popularity for the last 10-15 years, but the COVID pandemic has really accelerated this trend. As more companies have discovered the value of generating leads from digital and the internet, interest in lead generation strategies has more than doubled since 2017 (HubSpot).
A report by Cience shows that B2B companies with effective lead generation strategies achieve 133% more revenue than those without one.
We see that having the right strategy and approach to lead generation can be the difference between success and failure, directly impacting revenue and growth, and often being a combined effort between sales, marketing, and product.
The transition from marketing-qualified to sales-qualified leads is a critical handover point that business areas are not only defining, but optimising. This is why we are seeing shared goals on lead generation and sales KPIs across sales and marketing teams, to ensure both teams of the business are playing their role.
Lead generation is more popular than ever, and therefore it’s more competitive and complex than ever, so investing in getting it right can get you the Golden Ticket.
Greater investment in salesTech
Just like marketing teams, digital has meant that sales teams are needing to doing more with less, navigating multiple channels and multiple data points, which has meant an increased reliance on tech.
CRMs have long been used to manage customer data and sales activity, but we are seeing them expand to integrate with marketing automation platforms, sales automation tools, lead scoring and customer intelligence platforms - in order to enable the customer journey as described earlier, and make sales professionals more effective.
Lead scoring and nurturing tools are being used to provide better and more qualified leads to sales. According to Marketo, businesses implementing lead scoring and nurturing strategies generate 50% more sales-ready leads.
Customer intelligence tooling to record conversations and understand what customers are saying is also rising in popularity – which is helping to shape and evolve scripts and product offerings on an ongoing basis, to ensure they remain relevant and current across all customer types and all stages of the customer journey.
But the list does not stop there, salesTech is now available to manage the entire ecosystem and its overwhelming! It comes down to quality over quantity and from experience starting small with what you are trying to solve for can help guide where to start. It is a journey and an ongoing evolution, your SalesTech will evolve as you do as a sales business.
Rise in AI and automation
The buyer journey starts long before a sale actually happens and there are multiple touch-points that all can be measured. Gartner talks about the rise in automation and AI, and various other sources describe it as the number 1 enabler in driving efficiency and effectiveness for revenue streams. Every part of the sales process can be highly technology-enabled through AI.
Some applications in sales include:
Predicting which prospects are most likely to convert via techniques like lead scoring.
Forecasting sales based on past performance and average deal size / value.
Providing real-time insights to sales reps, product teams and management about performance gaps and customer issues.
Recommending the next action to take in a variety of circumstances.
Video and live chat are now channels influencing the sale
As touched on previously, the buyer’s journey is more digitally enabled than it has ever been, and digital is playing a vital role in the decision making processes and closing the deal. A report by McKinsey describes how video and live chat are becoming the most dominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B prospects, while in-person meetings and related sales activities have dropped precipitously.
It's important, however, to keep in mind that video and live chat should be used where relevant and may not relate to all stages of the lifecycle or all customer types. A deep understanding of your customers needs and behaviours can help you decide when these channels and engagement strategies are appropriate to leverage and when.
Sales and support resources are evolving
As sales evolves and becomes more complex due to multiple interaction points, so does support for teams and resources supporting sales, and we are seeing lots of B2B businesses transform and expand these in order to make sales more efficient.
Over the last 5 years I have seen the growing amount of CROs replacing traditional sales directors to manage the revenue generation process end-to-end, which sometimes includes lead generation, revenue operations, customers success and go-to-market. They also influence other teams to support sales including product and marketing.
Sales and revenue operations is another area of the business expanding in size, with all touch-points now trackable. It is critical for sales leaders to have access to data and insights to drive and predict results, and to also ensure sales are focusing on the right areas for growth. Sales and revenue operations is also key to establishing and improving the sales process - which is why sales enablement tooling can sometimes sit in this area of the organisation.
Other areas include: sales enablement, go-to-market and product marketing all contributing to driving consistency and higher performance / greater revenue outcomes from sales through training, coaching and sales messaging.
Need help with your salesTech strategy? Talk to us to find out how we are helping brands to build maturity and deliver a scalable sales organisation.