Key points Customers have become more savvy and demanding more, sales are becoming more digital and operating models more hybrid. The current recessionary environment only increases the urgent need for change. Some companies are using the macroeconomic environment to their advantage to leapfrog their competitors. Their insights are illuminating and help us understand the new era of sales, from which four themes emerge : 1 – Put the customer at the center of growth Capture your customers and build their loyalty and trust by offering them value propositions and personalized experiences that meet their needs. 2 – Break the channel mentality The single channel no longer works. Hybrid is the new standard – offering powerful opportunities to connect with customers the way they want to. 3 – Build a scalable sales engine A successful sales organization is able to iterate on its best practices over and over again, leveraging agile data, technology and operating models. 4 – Rethink commercial skills A new sales world demands new sales skills, when hyper-informed customers expect more. Put the customer at the center of growth Customers’ expectations of how their vendors serve them have changed dramatically: They want omnichannel engagement that’s simpler, on demand, and puts their needs first. They expect to have informed conversations with suppliers who demonstrate expertise on the challenges of their industry, product and market. Otherwise, they have little qualms about moving elsewhere. Three customer-centric practices support the gradual approach of the customer at the center of growth: find customers by leveraging comprehensive customer data and insights, Attract customers by offering personalized B2C-grade content with tailored value propositions, delight customers by delivering on promises. 1 – Find customers by turning 360-degree information into sales Companies are turning to analytics to help them more accurately predict who their prospects are, their pain points and their next moves, and then proactively engage with them as soon as possible. The outperformers: defined here as companies that exceed the average growth rate for their industry, already use analytics extensively and successfully, are 1.5x more likely to grow rapidly, and can drive earnings increases of more than 15%. -25%. Top performers point to two key customer analytics drivers that can unlock growth: data and decision making . Outperformers use them in the following ways: search for unexpected sources of customer data at a granular level, data sharing along the distribution chain to promote smarter approaches to the market (Go To Market in short GTM ) and strategic partnerships, Actionable recommendations for frontline salespeople. Move from predictive to prescriptive decision making. Predictive insights are of little help unless combined with prescriptive data-driven recommendations on where to engage, what to offer, and how to message. This goes for preventing churn just as much as it does for customer acquisition. 2 – Capture customers’ attention with personalized content B2B companies are moving away from the “boring” one-size-fits-all product list approach to offering solution-based personalized marketing to reach the right executive with the right message at the right time. Content marketing has raised the bar for B2B content: it’s visual and exciting, conveys complex ideas in a simple format, and meets rapidly changing customer expectations. Trust is also an important issue: great content shows credibility and deep expertise, convinces the customer that they are going to find a partner from start to finish, and anchors in the end results rather than individual characteristics or capabilities. In B2B,content surpasses both sales pitch and timeliness as factors in customer purchase . Realizing that end users are increasingly influential “option makers,” B2B companies are organizing purpose-driven, tailored events where the decision maker takes center stage to talk about new initiatives and topics. And it works: they are turning these users into influential champions for their products – solutions (LEARN) and, build trust with them too. 3 – Impress the customer with a seamless buying journey Years ago, B2B customers had around five distinct marketing and sales touchpoints during their shopping experience, now they may have up to ten. This journey can be complicated, and ensuring consistency across touchpoints can be challenging for B2B marketing and sales. In fact, streamlining the experience as customers move seamlessly from touchpoint to touchpoint requires introducing new criteria based on measures of a customer’s readiness to have a conversation . People-oriented companies are moving from a “sales funnel” mindset to a “ customer journey ” mindset“, with sales and marketing working together and geared towards where the customers might actually be. This allows marketing to play a deeper role in the customer lifecycle, instead of pushing leads that may have little interest in buying. For more information on customer centricity , click to read the article. Break the channel mentality B2B customers use up to 10 channels in their buying journeys. Customers no longer think about channels; they want intuitive, seamless and personalized experiences that meet their shopping needs. Major B2B sales organizations are reacting to changing buyer behavior in three specific ways . First, they take hybrid as the default approach. Second, to make the hybrid work for customers, companies optimize the channel experience for each step of the customer buying process. Finally, leaders find creative ways to integrate traditional sales channels , thus discovering new sources of income. Take the hybrid approach More and more companies prefer remote and digital interactions and are investing in hybrid roles: representatives are no longer seen as “in the field” or “in”, but a mix of the two, adapting to customer needs at every stage of the sales process . To be successful, sellers must become proficient at both distance and in-person selling . There are several ways to achieve this. First, learn to judge the right form of interaction for different contexts and situations at each stage of the customer journey. Second, learn to read both physical and virtual settings and understand what drives shoppers into each one. Third, master hybrid orchestration, where some clients may be physically in the room while others are scattered around the globe. While challenging, the benefits of the hybrid approach are clear : it allows for a more consistent and personalized level of engagement; salespeople can interact with customers more frequently; and they can easily access information when they use digital in remote channels, while not losing the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings and demonstrations. The hybrid model also allows traditional in-person salespeople to use technology to streamline their sales efforts . Meet your customers where they want to meet you With customers wanting personalized buying journeys, experience-based (looking into customers’ previous buying journeys and needs) and experience-led (demonstrating expertise in things like customers’ industry or geography) approaches could be the best choice. way to go. Leading companies meet with customers where they can ensure consistent messaging across channels and thus structure a GTM based on the complexity and size of the customer request. Simple transactions for all customers are handled by inside sales or digital channels, while field salespeople cover more complex purchases, by engaging remotely, experts from a centralized team. This GTM accelerates time to market, increases customer satisfaction and reduces costs . Customers also like self-service channels : downloadable demos, virtual webinars, digital marketplaces, video libraries and online communities, providing B2B customers with the content they need when and where they want it. Drive sales through unexpected channels The customer service provided by the B2B organization is part of the GTM of the companies. However, some companies are building innovative channels to capture revenue from unexpected places. One frequently used model is influencer marketing , which uses powerful customer testimonials to turn shoppers into “ambassadors.” Other companies go further and create buyer communities : platforms where buyers interact without intermediation and can find answers or ask for help, accessing relevant data and content. Communities include self-service portals that provide support and feedback (for example, FAQs and discussions with other customers). These channels offer multiple benefits to the supplier, allowing you to share relevant information while reducing sales and customer service costs. Understanding how to integrate these non-sales functions into channel strategy is a hallmark of successful sales organizations. Create a unified and scalable trading engine In sales, what distinguishes normal performance from excellent performance is not just striking the perfect deal, but being able to replicate it again and again. The excellence of sales organizations is achieved with two tactics . First, using cross- functional teams where offerings are continually resolved and refined to meet customer needs. Second, by investing in a narrow set of tools and technologies they actually need, focusing on getting results for customers. Create cross-functional teams A cross-functional team comprised of sales associates and a combination of marketing, product, delivery, finance and technology (and other functions as needed), all working together in a structured cadence to focus on closing deals. This rigorous approach can be used for both large and small businesses with a few differences. For large businesses, the goal is to create a perfectly tailored solution for a particular key customer – the right design at the right price, with the right level of support. For smaller offerings, the goal is to design and test several experiments and scale the ones that work well. Choosing the correct enabling technologies Many sales organizations subscribe to expensive technology solutions designed to make sales people’s lives easier and help management track performance. But then they realize that few vendors are using them and the productivity gains are marginal. Those who take a results-based approach use the right sales technology and can achieve transformative results, but a good technology strategy isn’t just about “more technology”. User adoption, change management, and data should drive any decision to add another tool. There are four imperatives common to companies that have truly transformed their sales productivity : 1 – Emphasize quality over quantity : Fragmentation of solutions is a challenge: Vendors can help avoid the proliferation of forms (different databases, layered interfaces, etc) that makes vendor inefficient and disrupts adoption. 2 – Start with the result, not the technology : There seems to be an automated tool for every stage of the sales value chain. But rather than being distracted by the latest technology, successful sales organizations start with the specific outcome they want before exploring what tools are available. 3 – invest in data : Few companies make the necessary investments in the databases that allow the tools to perform at their best, thus leading to poorer results and a frustrated front line. 4 – Prioritize change management : you need to communicate why you are using certain tools and new governance methods and what added value you intend to achieve. For more information on the unified trading engine click to read the article. Rethink people’s strategy in the era of uncertainty While technology underpins the ability to perform many tasks at scale and efficiently, selling remains a people-driven function . The need to attract and retain people has become more important than ever. Effective talent development strategies traditionally include competitive compensation, an excellent incentive structure, learning and development opportunities, and specific messages in purpose-oriented organizations. How to empower your sales force using two key levers : rethink which sales skills are most relevant and use analytics to create customized training programs. Rethink the perimeter of the sales competency Today’s salespeople are no longer just agents selling a product. They need analytical, strategic and technical skills; they must be able to work with data and derive insights, stay ahead of the customer, strategize on next steps, deliver the best solution, and keep an eye on the customer’s business with regards to goals and operational results. “If you can’t tell a customer what you will do to increase their operating results, then you have no reason to exist as a salesperson.” Use analytics to define training Sales data analysis is the basis of continuous improvement using: psychometrics, behavioral data, performance and team or relationship analysis, B2B organizations can build targeted interventions at each stage of the seller competence journey . Advanced sales organizations tailor learning to salespeople’s observed needs, deliver it in small doses via virtual platforms or CRMs integrated into customer relationship management (micro-learning), and reinforce it on a regular basis. Companies with the best sales talent demonstrate four to five times the market growth and increase the lifetime value of salespeople by 10%. Call to action Sales have changed more in the last couple of years than they did in the previous decade and are unlikely to slow down. Customers expect tailored rather than generic response, channel silos are shifting towards hybrid, analytics is at the heart of all GTM approaches, and companies need to rethink how they get and retain qualified salespeople. There are three questions that sales executives are now being asked to answer: What topics do you want to prioritize? Where are you already ahead and what problems will affect your business the most? How fast do you want to embrace change? Are you confident managing a large-scale transformation or a series of integrated changes would make more sense in your context? What capabilities are most critical to your organization? And how do you know it?