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Your burning questions answered from B2B DigiSalesFest APAC ‘24

It's hard to believe that it’s been just over a month since B2B DigiSalesFest APAC ‘24.  For those of you who missed it, on the 28th, 29th and 30th of May, together with our partners we showcased the latest thought leadership in B2B digital selling tackling three key trends and issues facing B2B brands.  


The key trends covered were:

  • 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.  

 

 

For those who attended there were many burning questions asked of the panel and speakers.  In this article we aim to answer them all and add a bit more flavour to the topics at hand, as well as share some of the outtakes and additional thoughts shared by our guest speakers.  

 

Question 1 - What are examples of “traditional sales methods”?

 

Traditional sales methods include cold calling, direct mail, print, networking, referrals as opposed to digital methods and channels like webinars, virtual calls, chat, blogs, social media, and search engines to create awareness and interest.  Overtime businesses are using these methods not only to engage with the new buyer but to align with the buyer's journey, offering personalised solutions and support that guide buyers through the decision-making process. This approach is more customer-centric and emphasizes building long-term relationships around value and trust. 

 

Question 2 - With the move to less human connection in the buying process together with the changing and more informed buyer; does the complexity of the service/product being considered determine the purchasing behaviour of the buyer? i.e. do they preference self-service/research vs connecting with the sales team? 

 

Buyers want choice, and they want an experience that is mirrored and is shaped by their B2C buying experience.  The data shows that even complex sales can increasingly be managed through self-service, particularly when the buyer experience is intuitive, trusted and well supported. The shift toward digital transformation and the availability of extensive online resources enables buyers to independently navigate complex purchase decisions at various stages of the buyer journey. Detailed resources, case studies, video tutorials, and robust customer support forums can empower buyers to self-educate and make informed decisions without direct sales interaction. However, the decision to opt for self-service versus engaging with a sales team still depends on various factors, including the buyer's familiarity with the product, the level of trust in the brand, and the complexity of their specific needs. Trusted products with a strong reputation and comprehensive self-service resources can facilitate complex purchases independently, while others might still require personalised support to address unique requirements or mitigate perceived risks.  

 

Question 3 - Where do you think we are at with work from home and remote selling and where is it going? 


As reported on in our topline briefing on day 2, the simple answer to this question is that we are already there!  As WFH has become sticky behaviour for both sellers and buyers, demand for digital and virtual selling experiences has increased and there is a host of innovation and tech at our fingertips to reinvent the selling experience. 


Meetings and demo’s are also increasingly becoming more immersive and interactive through advances in VR and AR, enabling virtual tours and showrooms as well as providing the ability to run virtual meetings to replicate the experience of being physically together, prototyping and the list goes on. 

We are seeing the emergence of digital collaboration spaces and the rise of digital sales rooms for more complex transactions and engagements, providing tools to co-create and annotate documents with buyers as well as provide for a more transparent buying process. 


GenAI has also ushered in an era of virtual assistance and as B2B buyers expect immediacy in response to customer service queries it is becoming much easier to bring to life virtual assistance experiences that instantly pull information from your internal knowledge base and serve this to buyers in a natural, conversational way to further support and aid virtual selling experiences.


And finally on the self-service front, technological advances are enabling more intuitive self-service experiences, helping buyers to automate re-ordering, track orders and gain more customized sales interactions and journeys based on their individual needs and requirements - which limits the need for human to human sales interactions.


Question 4 – How do you segment your prospects on what channel they prefer to buy from? For example, your self-service platform versus via a seller.  

 

Both self-service platforms and traditional sales methods still play crucial roles in modern business. Vanya Mariani from Carsales Mediahouse shared insights on how digital advancements have empowered their self-service platform to efficiently “manage the many”. This shift has allowed their sales team to focus on higher-value activities that require a more personalised approach. Although specific data on the volume and quantity of sales through the self-service platform was not disclosed, it is evident that the platform has generated significant interest and streamlined many repetitive processes. This dual approach not only enhances operational efficiency but also ensures that customers receive the appropriate level of service based on their needs. By leveraging digital tools for self-service and reserving human interaction for more complex tasks, businesses can optimise their sales strategies and build stronger, more productive relationships with their clients.  Divya Gupta, Head of Digital from Maersk shared a similar approach. Their digital sales approach enables the business to reach smaller scale clients, whilst sales is still playing an important role to manage key accounts.


 

Question 5 – What is a use case / example of community access to connect and nurture potential buyers online? 


Alicia Kearns from Render Networks spoke about the rise of community platforms and their significant influence on buyer behaviour and the way buyers research brands. Buyers now frequently turn to a variety of online communities, including review sites, blogs, and social groups, to gather feedback and insights before making purchasing decisions or shortlisting potential providers. This trend underscores the importance for businesses to identify and engage with communities that are passionate about their industry or topic. 


Teresa Sperti, Founder & Director at Arktic Fox then expanded on this topic and noted that the approach is not one-size-fits-all from a playbook perspective. It is crucial for businesses to understand where their customers and prospects are seeking advice, recommendations and engaging in relevant discussions. In addition, engaging with these communities allows businesses to gain valuable insights into buyer sentiment, preferences, and pain points. This, in turn, enables them to tailor marketing strategies to better meet the needs and expectations of their target audience. 


Moreover, being active in these communities helps build brand credibility and trust, if engagement is executed in an authentic way. When potential buyers see that a brand is responsive and values customer feedback, they are more likely to develop a positive perception of the brand. This engagement also provides an opportunity for businesses to showcase their expertise, address concerns, and highlight their unique value.  In summary, community platforms play a pivotal role in modern buyer & customer behaviour but businesses must strategically identify and participate in relevant communities to effectively engage with their audience. 


Question 6 – Marketing and sales alignment is such a big challenge within many organisations? What are some of the practical tips you can provide to help drive that alignment? 


Vanya Mariani from Carsales Mediahouse communicated that given the nature of her work in selling advertising and media, that her team have a strong synergy with marketing.   She says:


“Our sales team are media/advertising experts whose clients are marketers, and many of us have marketing training. We understand each other, we value the role marketing plays, and this helps build a collaborative working relationship despite the fact that we are 2 separate teams”. 

We couldn't agree with this more. While our Sales in Focus study showed that reality is 50% are not quite there and 50% rated their working relationship with marketing as neutral or ineffective. As buyer behaviour and preferences continue to evolve, the experience is increasingly delivered online, the traditional boundaries separating sales and marketing functions have become increasingly blurred. Closer alignment between sales and marketing is therefore more important than ever before to drive revenue growth, enhance and streamline the buyer / customer experience and to maximise return on investment. Today's buyers and customers expect a unified and cohesive experience across all touch points, from initial brand awareness to post-purchase support. Therefore, integrating sales and marketing efforts enables organisations to deliver a more cohesive and personalised experience throughout the buyer and customer journey. 

 

Question 7 – What are you looking to invest in (or de-invest in) with regards to supporting your sales/marketing function? 


In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, companies are increasingly investing in modernising their sales and marketing teams to stay competitive and meet the changing demands of buyers and customers. When considering investments to support these functions, organisations are focusing on enhancing their digital capabilities, data analytics, and customer engagement tools. This trend was a common theme across the entire conference and also came out in our Sales in Focus Study ‘24


Businesses are pouring resources into salesTech and marTech, such as marketing automation platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools. These technologies enable sales and marketing teams to operate more efficiently, personalise customer interactions, and target potential buyers with greater precision. By leveraging AI and machine learning, companies can analyse vast amounts of data to uncover patterns and insights that drive more effective marketing strategies and sales tactics. 


Data analytics has become a cornerstone of modern sales and marketing efforts. Organisations are investing in robust analytics platforms that provide real-time insights into customer behaviour, campaign performance, and market trends. Advanced analytics also facilitate predictive modeling, enabling businesses to anticipate customer needs and proactively address them. 


Customer engagement tools are another critical area of investment. Businesses are adopting omnichannel communication platforms, chatbots, and social media management tools to engage with customers across multiple touchpoints seamlessly. These tools help create cohesive and personalised customer experiences, fostering stronger relationships and loyalty. Interactive content, such as webinars, virtual events, and interactive videos, is also gaining traction as companies seek to provide valuable and engaging experiences to their audience. 


At the same time, organisations are de-investing in outdated or less effective methods. Traditional marketing channels like print advertising, cold calling, and direct mail are being re-evaluated as businesses shift their focus to more impactful and measurable digital strategies. In summary, these strategic focus areas enable businesses to stay ahead, deliver personalised experiences, and drive growth through informed and targeted efforts. 


Question 8  – How important is it to align non-sales stakeholders (IT, Finance etc.) to support your tech decisions?


Justin Meyers, The Head of Corporate & Mid Market Sales at (creditor)Watch spoke to three areas from his experience.  Engaging the interest and support of the CFO for technology investment requires a strategic and well-aligned approach. It's crucial to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the problem statement and the desired outcomes that the technology investment is intended to drive. 


1) Clear Problem Statement and Desired Outcomes: Begin by clearly defining the problem that the technology investment aims to solve. Articulate the specific outcomes that the organisation expects to achieve. This clarity helps in framing the investment as a solution to a pressing issue rather than just another expense. 


2) Alignment on KPIs: Establish and communicate the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure the success of the technology investment. These KPIs should be shared and agreed upon across the business. This ensures that all departments understand how the new technology will impact their functions and the overall business goals. When KPIs are aligned, it prevents the new technology from becoming a “side of desk” activity for any team member, ensuring that its adoption and utilisation are prioritised. 


3) Resource Allocation: Assess and communicate the resources required to support and make use of the technology. This includes not only financial resources but also human resources, training, and ongoing support. The CFO needs to be confident that the organisation has the capacity to effectively implement and maintain the technology. 

 

Question 9 - How have you approached coaching sales reps particularly in a work from home culture? 


From my experience in sales, coaching sales reps in a WFH culture presents unique challenges and opportunities. It's important to adapt traditional coaching methods to suit the remote context, ensuring that reps remain engaged, supported, and productive, in real time. There are 4 key things I would be doing.


1) Establish regular and structured communication: Schedule frequent one-on-one meetings with each rep to discuss their progress, challenges, and goals. This helps maintain a sense of connection and support.  Hold regular team meetings to foster a sense of community, share updates, and encourage collaboration. Use these meetings to recognise achievements and address any common challenges. 


2) Set clear expectations and goals: Clearly define the performance metrics and goals for each rep. Ensure they understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured.  Use KPIs to track progress and provide a clear framework for success. Regularly review these metrics and provide feedback and get your reps to also review themselves.


3) Leverage technology.  Utilise collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom to maintain constant communication and collaboration. These platforms can facilitate real-time feedback and quick check-ins. 


4) Personalised coaching and development plans / individual development plans: Create personalised development plans for each rep based on their strengths, weaknesses, and career aspirations. Tailor coaching sessions to address specific areas of improvement and make it regular in line with performance and business activity such as before a key meeting or after a challenging conversation. 


Question 10 - Data shows coaching improves sales performance. As sales leaders, would you use genAI or AI as a sales coaching tool? If so, how would you use it? If not, why not? 

 

Justin Meyers' view is that while AI has great application in the data and analytics space he is not convinced in the sales space...yet and that AI can be a massive distraction for sales organisation who cannot or does not know how to drive sales outcomes.  So it starts with understanding what are the things that drive great sales outcomes and ultimately is getting on the phone and building relationships with people and an AI tool ultimately is not going to do that.  The same applies for sales coaching.  But what AI can do in a coaching scenario is streamline themes or areas that potentially require development and there is a huge opportunity to make organisations become more efficient using AI. 

 

Question – 11 Do you have advice for us on AI in sales? 


In the top line briefing for day 3 we covered three use cases we are seeing a lot of emerging in the B2B landscape, and for those of you grappling with AI, you could almost use this as a framework to start to assess opportunities for AI within your organisation. 


First opportunity we are seeing is to assist and improve data management – AI is being used to update opportunities and account information to maintain data in particular CRM data hygiene or for undertaking research on a customer to prepare for sales for their first discussion. This can help sellers prepare for potential buyer conversations by surfacing relevant insights and intelligence.  Similarly for marketers, AI is helping brands help sellers tailor different types of customer engagement and messaging through targeting these customers using the data with pre-written emails and bespoke content.  


Second opportunity we are seeing it to improve performance - Using data, insights and signals; brands are providing their teams with actionable guidance on how sellers can close more deals faster.  AI reduces routine workloads and enhances focus on strategic activities. Sales reps will be less focused on activities such as prospecting and cold calling, with AI’s ability to analyse data and predict customer behaviour with high accuracy.  Similarly, Managers are starting utilise AI tools for real-time feedback and guidance, making the coaching process more data-driven and personalised. 


And the third opportunity we are seeing is it being applied to improve experience management which we learnt from day two is critical to WIN at. 


Justin Meyers mentioned that there is no sales leader in the world that thinks their CRM is perfect and reiterated the need for CRM hygiene and AI to aid data and analytics, and this is where there is untapped potential.  Areas that his team are looking at and need to accelerate included what our prospect database look like and how do we engage with our customers right through marketing into sales.  These two don't particularly gel together well right now, so are looking at this deeply, especially how do have the right information about our customers and how do we look at trends. 


Daniel Lodge, VP Sales at Seismic, used the terminology we have all learnt to know... Co-pilot, AI is a co-pilot, it should be used to support not replace people.  


And... And that’s another wrap! 

 



 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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