If you’re in B2B sales, you’re probably tired of listening to the doom and gloom reports: A.I. and bots are going to replace salespeople, customer service reps, and countless other positions.
Not to mention that the impending depletion of these jobs is directly related to the fact that modern buyers refuse to engage with salespeople because they prefer to gather information independently. And in response to these shifts in buyer behaviors, B2B sellers rush to abandon traditional sales strategies and hastily implement digital platforms to sell their offerings.
Although it’s easy for some to chalk these concerns up to hyperbolic headlines on the part of tech writers and analysts, there’s an increasing amount of data that indicates these trends are already market realities.
To glean a clearer picture of what’s really happening to B2B sales, we’ll review some of the research surrounding why the B2B sales landscape is changing, some suggestions for helping your sales team evolve to the new realities of the market, and highlight the technologies that are easing the transition towards a more consultative B2B sales team in this age of the customer.
Identifying Two Distinct Types of B2B Buyers
If you haven’t already heard, the preferences of B2B buyers have changed. We’re going to assume you’re already aware of this (if you need to get caught up, check out some of our previous postson the subject) and skip ahead to the part where we break these fickle, picky, and incredibly lucrative buyers into two camps.
1. Small Fish (the small to medium-size purchase)
These customers tend to exhibit less loyalty, are often looking for the best deal, and can be a burden to your sales team that spends its time catering to these customers who don’t deliver much value for the time, effort, and expense of keeping them around.
That doesn’t mean B2B sellers should ignore these buyers. But instead of exhausting your sales team on these buyers, shift them online and let them complete transactions on their own. Chances are, they’ll be happier for it and your sales team will appreciate the opportunity to focus on more lucrative clients.
2. Big Fish (the “keepers” or high-value customers)
Although many businesses are obsessed with shifting buyers online, the fact remains that for B2B sellers offering complex, costly, and configurable products and services, buyers still require and desire some handholding on the path to purchase.
That being said, these buyers don’t fit into the typical linear sales cycle. These buyers may find your business online, do independent research, engage with a vendor and eventually find their way to your business and your sales team.
Catering to Both Buyer Types
A key takeaway from these B2B buyer distinctions is that firms need to cater to both types of customers. According to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting and FPX, the ideal balance between traditional sales channels like indirect and direct sales and a robust ecommerce solution is about 50/50.
This means that sales teams and customer service reps aren’t necessarily going to be replaced entirely. Rather, their roles will be more focused and their customers will be better defined, aligning with the “big fish” as opposed to the less lucrative customers that can be better served via ecommerce portals.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be any reductions in traditional sales staff, but those who can adjust to the new market realities and adopt a consultative approach to working with buyers will likely be successful.
How Are You Going to Become a Consultative Seller?
According to Forrester’s report, “B2B Consultant Sellers Reign In The 21st Century”, there are some primary considerations B2B sellers should note when building a modern sales organization. With strategies that incorporate the latest technologies and an understanding of what motivates today’s buyers, sales teams can become more efficient and better suited to attracting and retaining customers.
Cut through the clutter.
Getting the attention of modern buyers is a challenge. For salespeople, the challenge goes both ways as they must cut through the clutter to reach buyers and must wade through unfiltered content and data to identify which buyers to pursue.
A new and improved B2B salesman.
According to Forrester, B2B sales is no longer about cold calling, taking clients out to the golf course or chasing down leads. Instead, the game has changed and today’s salespeople need a different set of skills. Forrester states that your ideal salesperson will be “empathetic, have an operational mindset, and possess digital acumen.”
The right tools don’t replace salespeople, they empower.
While many worry about AI and other emerging technologies replacing salespeople, the fact is that these tools can relieve a sales team of the countless menial tasks that keep them from meaningful engagements with customers. With the right tech tools, sellers can collaborate with internal teams, work alongside the customer to develop a solution, and deliver the personalized experience that buyers expect.
Connecting Your Organization to B2B Buyers with CPQ
For sales teams, CRM and other resources are invaluable tools when synthesizing information and mapping to modern buyers. But for many, these tools just aren’t enough. That’s because these technologies are often siloed, disconnected from other resources across the company (like ERP and the CMS).
Today’s Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) applications have been trending up for some time and will only continue to do so as B2B organizations restructure their sales departments to meet the demands of today’s buyers. With CPQ, organizations have a tool that sources, synthesizes and distributes the data and information from various other tools like CRM, ERP and elsewhere into a single source.
With access to up-to-date product, pricing, and customer data, sales teams can confidently pursue high-value customers and guide them through the non-linear sales process, delivering value in the form of data-driven recommendations for products, upsell, and cross-sell opportunities, guided selling, bundling, and optimized pricing that keeps customers coming back time and again.
With CPQ, sales teams take on newfound confidence and core capabilities. Mundane tasks are relegated to automation and sellers can focus on nurturing meaningful connections with the right customer, at the right time, via the right medium. With increased efficiency, sales teams become more effective at bringing in the “keeper” clients.
FPX Connects B2B Sellers & Today’s Buyers with CPQ
As the B2B buying and selling landscape has evolved, FPX has been there with our leading CPQ application to help companies alleviate complexity and embrace more efficient and effective methodologies.
To learn more about CPQ, join us for our upcoming webinar during which you'll learn how CPQ can help your organization harness the power of the modern customer journey.