Digital transformation has been a hot topic for years, but 2020 surely accelerated it. And one of the areas of business most directly affected is B2B sales. The loss of in-person trade shows, conventions and simple face-to-face meetings has presented significant challenges. B2B sellers have had to get creative, turning to virtual options to connect with prospects, provide assurance through the buying process, and landing accounts without ever being in the same room.
While sales teams’ shift to digital may have been involuntary, it became apparent that most buyers actually prefer it. At the start of the pandemic, McKinsey studies showed that 54% believed omnichannel was as or more effective than traditional methods. In February 2021 that number had risen to 83%.
So, what’s working with these new sales methods and what’s not? A recent article from eConsultancy highlights results from the 2020 Sales Effectiveness Benchmark Report by Conversica, which commissioned independent researchers to secretly shop with 1,177 companies. The article discusses how B2B sales teams have adapted, as well as how technology is moving the needle for business growth. The Conversica study assessed companies in four key areas: Promptness (speed of initial reply); Persistence (how often sales teams followed up); Personalization (how responses and outreach were tailored to the individual buyer); and Performance (how effectively their messages managed to reach their target). There were many interesting points on how sales teams are excelling—and how it varies by industry—and the areas that need improvement.
Here are a few of my insights on how B2B sales teams can lean into data, technology and new strategies to embrace the current business environment.
As buyers’ expectations increase, fueled by the hyper-personalized consumer ads we see every day, B2B sales needs to keep up. But it only works if you know your prospect and are able to reach them specifically with the right message. And while sellers already have contact information for their prospective accounts, third-party data can support sales efforts by filling in the gaps for a more complete picture of the prospect. Additionally, sales teams can utilize a data cleansing service to remove and, when possible, replace invalid contact information from typos, organization changes, etc. This is especially important with all the job shifts due to the pandemic and the Great Resignation of 2021.
Personalization has always been important in B2B sales, but it’s harder to achieve in the digital sphere, especially at scale. Additionally, buyers these days are conducting more research across multiple sources, including webinars, social media content, review sites, industry experts and peer recommendations. The average number of buying interactions during the pandemic jumped from 17 to 27, according to Forrester.
Responding to a prospect’s engagement with triggered emails and display ads allows sellers to get in front of them again to remind them of that interest and offer additional new information that pertains to how they’ve previously engaged. Buyers expect you to know who they are and they want to receive messages that make sense to them, personally. Utilizing triggered emails or retargeted ads—within reason—can aid in this process, as long as you don’t lose the personal touch buyers expect.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has risen as a priority for B2B marketers. By concentrating efforts on targets that have the highest promise and treating them as individual “markets of one,” it’s easier to create personalized outreach that addresses specific needs, which leads to a better chance at converting them to customers.
And the same applies for sales teams, especially since research shows that more B2B purchase decisions are being made by “buying groups” rather than independent buyers. Even with many people still working remotely, 63% of purchases have more than four people involved (compared to 47% in 2017), according to Forrester’s 2021 B2B Buying Study. But it’s important to note that you can’t just lump all the leads from an account together. Forrester advises that multiple opportunities can exist within the same company, with different groups having different needs. Sales teams should consider the prospect company and all members of the buying group to address both the specific and collective interests. With this mindset, leads can move through the funnel based on opportunities, not just by lead or account.
Buyers today may prefer digital self-service or virtual interactions, but they also expect a customized, responsive experience. Which is a hard combination to deliver.
Marketers and sales teams need to keep the buyer in mind from the start. That means working together to identify the right leads, provide the right content at the right time, and support them through the buying journey. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, everyone wins.
Outward Media’s proven data cleansing services and targeted, accurate B2B data can enable you to achieve better digital marketing ROI and, ultimately, convert more prospects into customers. Go here to find out about leveraging our SMB and medical market data on the LiveRamp Data Marketplace.