There’s no question that the introduction of technology has dramatically changed the contours of the B2B sales journey over recent decades. Just 20 years ago, customer relationship management (CRMs) and Salesforce introduced acute customer segmentation and a focus on individuals in the buying circle. As the industry evolved, sales analytics and new tools shifted toward a focus on KPIs and numbers, and most recently, machine learning, AI, and personalization have become more central in delivering increased engagement and boosted sales.

The digitalization of sales is part of a continuum. Within the next three years, 60% of B2B sales organizations estimate they’ll transition from experience- and intuition-based selling. Leaning into digital transformation makes sense; remote interaction and digital self-services is now the preference of B2B buyers. It’s a big opportunity for sales teams, as 20% of B2B buyers said they are open to spending more than $500,000 in a fully remote or digital sales model, and 11% would spend more than one million dollars.

This change in B2B buying models demands a similar change in how B2B sales organizations operate. The ROI of the longstanding model of talking at customers continues to diminish. A modern B2B environment requires a more collaborative approach, one that sees customers as partners along the sales journey. It requires building trust, an intense focus on customer needs, and articulating value and solutions quickly and regularly.

For reps who trained in traditional models of in-person sales, adding technology to navigate the sales process may be viewed with suspicion. Tools may be seen as a potential for displacement, or ushering in a new sales landscape where reps are replaced or their skills deemed irrelevant. However, the future of sales builds on the past. It merges intuition and experience with data, analytics, and innovation to create a new, prosperous, B2B sales cycle. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Technology is not a panacea

Technology can be transformative, but your implementation strategy must be sound. Consider that 37% of reps’ time is actually dedicated to sales activity, while nearly 62% is spent on managing sales technology. Throughout the course of their days, reps are involved with analytics for compliance and reporting, data for prospecting and integrations, integrating CRM and coaching systems and more. Adding tools to their to-do list without smart implementation risks introducing new and unnecessary friction to sales organizations. Complicated applications and tools and added administrative burden will often lead to sales teams avoiding the unfamiliar and looking for workarounds. When evaluating new technology, ensure that it’s not creating extraneous steps, it’s not adding a new process where there’s not a need for one, and that it’s not replacing familiar and effective tools without a clear and demonstrated value of benefits to the rep and the greater organization.

Give customers control

Customers have never been more interested in self-service options. In fact, today’s buyers report that they only spend 17% of their total purchase journey with sales reps. Nearly half of millennials, who are quickly growing their representation in buyers’ circles, prefer to spend no time at all with sales reps. Given these changes, the imperative to deliver the right message, in the right channel, at the right time, is critical. Perhaps counterintuitively, sales teams can achieve this by embracing the buyer’s preference for self-service. Artificial intelligence, interactive technology, and guided selling through predictive analytics can empower customers to guide themselves through the sales process. By capturing, analyzing customer and industry data, and packaging content in a highly personalized manner, sales teams can communicate as effectively from behind a screen as they can in person. Through customized and engaging content, sales teams can capture audience information and create a positive cycle of absorbing pain points and customer needs and efficiently communicating about the solutions designed to solve them.

Expand communication channels

Customer experience is quickly becoming a key differentiator for sales teams looking to leverage the new hybrid or remote workplace. With an expanding number of communication tools, businesses have to pursue a communication and contact strategy that maximizes the UX for buyers, keeps their data secure, and maintains compliance in evolving regulatory environments. Omnichannel approaches need to incorporate popular applications beyond text and email, such as Facebook, WeChat, Viber, and more. To address limited face time with buyers and the likelihood of technology fatigue, sales organizations should seek to be flexible across channels of customer choice – and the sooner the better. According to McKinsey, 83% of B2B leaders report they think omnichannel selling is a more successful way to prospect and secure new business than conventional, in-person sales approaches. Accelerating that adoption isn’t just savvy, it’s essential.

The pace of innovation is swift, as is the scope of changes facing those in B2B sales. To create a solid foundation for the future, sales organizations can build on their traditional strengths and add the benefits of technological innovation. Balancing the past and the future is the ideal way to meet the demands of the ever-evolving B2B environment.

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