B2B changes the role of sales drastically

Digitization is drastically changing the role of the sales employee in the B2B sector. Is there still a role for sales? And if so, what does it look like? The relationship between the sales employee and customer changes. The process of geographically or through old-fashioned lists qualifying and approaching prospects to then make an appointment and needs analysis, through digitization much more effective

Digitization is drastically changing the role of the sales employee in the B2B sector. Is there still a role for sales? And if so, what does it look like?

The relationship between the sales employee and customer changes. The process of geographically or through old-fashioned lists qualifying and approaching prospects to then make an appointment and needs analysis, through digitization much more effective. Making an offer manually, shielding the prices spasmodically and then closing the order is of course no longer of this time. And if that is not enough, the competition is also fiercer. Where previously only the last link in the value chain delivered products to end users, the distributor or wholesaler now also sees a chance to sell online.

However, this change does not lead to the loss of the position of sales employee, confirmed an investigation by SiriusDecisions. For example, the number of interactions from person to person has remained the same for the past two years. And in sixty percent of the researched purchasing processes, a sales employee from the company has been speaking at the earliest stage, which ultimately can close the deal. More than half of the buyers indicate that discussions with product experts contribute positively.

Contact continues to pay wages. It will never disappear in the B2B sector, but the process can be smarter and more efficient. This can be done with the help of data released by digitization, but how can we organize the sales process? And do this in such a way that it connects with the current digital world and exploits its potential?

  1. From qualifying (now) to detecting (future-proof)

New business

First of all, putting together the desired target group can be more precise. Based on personas, a target group profile can be created, supplemented with knowledge about a person's job, specific behavior, motives and interests. Through LinkedIn, prospects can easily be mapped: by using social networks and tools for data analysis, it becomes possible to get to know people before anyone has spoken to them.

With a smart analysis tool like Salesfeed - preferably with the aid of artificial intelligence and marketing automation - prospects can be detected that are in the purchase mode. It can also be seen with other (digitized) companies that sales have an excellent picture of the potentially increased interest. We look at behavior on social media and the website - whether a knowledge article or how to video has been viewed, whitepapers have been downloaded or a product has been searched for. But also whether afterwards more attention has been shown for messages on social media.

Existing business

Numerous data-driven algorithms can be devised to increase the average spending pattern of existing customers. The data from an ERP system helps enormously. If a customer leaves a specific product category from one day to the next, the sales employee concerned would like to get a signal about this. But what if there is little change statistically due to the fact that average order data and quantity remain unchanged? An algorithm that intelligently signals the changes and forwards them via a feed to the CRM system offers a solution.

  1. Approach Prospects

Marketing tries to use exactly those channels and thus fill with content that the most important prospects are achieved. A marketing automation package then compiles sales lists based on lead scores. In this way, sales will see the customers who, given their behavior, are worthy of approach. This makes the random completion of prospect lists a thing of the past, and the efficiency and chance of conversion increases enormously. The increased knowledge of the customer buyer journey and the monitoring of behavior in practice means that sales have fewer phone calls with indifferent prospects.

We have replaced the reminders traditionally from a CRM tool with so-called 'sequences': a standardized set of actions that succeed each other. For example, a marketing automation algorithm automatically starts sending personalized e-mails or activates sales employees to send a message. When making an appointment the role of the sales employee is and remains essential. In this process, he benefits enormously from smart tooling that points to the 'hot' prospects, but it comes down to his skills. Is that person liked and is he able to sell the business case, service or product?

  1. Appointment

Because we have already worked smartly with data when it comes to detecting and approaching prospects, the first appointment is different than before. The product or service has already been put in a positive light with the customer. In particular, reviews and customer videos in this phase have an extra large impact on the chance of conversion.

  1. Analysis needs

The actual analysis of needs remains the domain of sales. The role only changes. The seller will have to profile himself as a real 'consultant': also called 'consultancy selling'. It is about having genuine interest in the customer, the business model and additional needs. The focus is not on sales, but on (anticipating) important developments.

  1. Offer

This leads to the alternative to the quotation: offering a comprehensive business case. This is tailor-made, supplemented with cases and the recommendation of other customers. By sending the offer with smart software such as Pandadoc, you can accurately monitor how the customer experiences the offer.

  1. Protect and sell price

B2B companies have traditionally been secretive about their prices, but due to the advance of e-commerce, transparency is increasingly becoming the standard. The digitization enables companies to include the prices of the 'web' in their pricing model. Presenting customer-specific prices - a custom for years in the B2B world - is slowly changing to dynamic prices. The next step is that systems based on artificial intelligence choose what the 'best price' is, taking into account the customer and organization.

For the sales employee, it means that when communicating their own prices, consideration has been given and the competition has been charted. The expectation is that he can translate the dynamic pricing into investment versus benefit and return. By having a good picture of competitors, the sales employee has the necessary ammunition.

  1. Order

The step from quotation to order is of course digitized. For many companies, the digitization of the underlying logistics process is even part of the proposition: it delivers a considerable cost saving.

The profile of the new seller

Does this new time also ask for a new kind of seller? Previously, sales was responsible for sales. But certainly companies that deliver products will have to deal with links from the same chain that will compete for the same customer. Selling alone therefore provides no right to exist.

Sales employees will therefore increasingly be responsible - expressed in the targets - for the development of the customer. The added value lies in digitizing the customer-supplier relationship, increasing the average order value and ensuring customer ambassadors. All this again increases customer loyalty.

In terms of content, a sales employee will have to feel more connected to companies and the people who work there than they used to. Expertise within the relevant field also becomes even more valuable. As a result, the person is much better able to identify opportunities and, together with marketers, respond to them.