As we head into 2023, many business leaders resemble fatigued soldiers returning from years of battles. From lockdowns, the great resignation, remote working, supply chain breakdown, and now increasing inflation driven by overheated economies and global instability – it has been exhausting.
It is already clear that 2023 is not going to be any easier, which is why organizations must face the truth that if they’re going to be competitive into the future that the answer lies in much-needed restructures to their B2B sales functions.
B2B sales functions are already heading in a different direction in response to the changing business climate and a market that has shifted the way it interacts in the B2B sales space.
According to McKinsey, the future of B2B sales is hybrid – part face-to-face, part remote, citing their research which indicates over 90% of enterprises plan to continue with this part face-to-face, part remote customer engagement.
McKinsey also found that the confidence levels of organizations are either the same or higher with this hybrid customer engagement model.
There are four primary financial reasons organizations must change the way they structure their B2B sales model:
- To drive greater levels of revenue
I call this unlocking revenue by reimagining the sales function beyond simply being hybrid to include all revenue-generating gateways across the organization so that there is congruence in approach, and in the customer experience and momentum is built faster.
Such gateways obviously include the traditional field and inside sales but also extend out to online portals, pre-sales, after-sales, customer service, lead generation, and marketing.
The customer experience must be at the forefront so that regardless of where the customer starts their journey with the organization, there is congruence across the embodiment of the brand – the lived experience of the brand across all gateways so the customer feels immersed in the organization and emerges knowing it’s been for their benefit.
- To reduce the cost of sales
The days of having dozens of sales reps driving around in cars prospecting and seeing customers are on life support. Most organizations now know they will suffer if they continue with a high-cost-of-sales model at a time when there are additional cost pressures.
One client I provide advice to is not only increasing the size of their inside sales team, they are also reducing the size of their field sales team, as well as increasing the size/value of managed accounts for their inside sales team. This ensures that their field sales team looks after the top 20% of new opportunities and provides existing customers with a better ‘Return on Expenditure.’
In addition to realigning the size and structure of your B2B sales team, there are other initiatives that must be explored as ways of further reducing the cost of sales:
Better planning: type and size of the opportunity and stage in the selling/buying process will illuminate the type of contact strategy. Ask yourself, is your B2B team really adding value by meeting in person with a customer for an update so they hit their KPI’s when that contact can be more efficiently managed with a sensible balance of zoom/phone/in-person calls? Remember that relationship strengthening is always best done when a sale is at a critical point.
Being prepared: does your sales team know what they need to achieve in every meeting or conversation with a customer or prospect? Is their conversation structure and discussion pillars aligned with achieving that outcome?
Educating the team: is your sales team educated about the true cost of discounts and how much more they need to sell every time they offer a discount? Do they have the skills to know what the customer’s hardest questions are likely to be and how they’ll handle them? Do they know what their walkaway point is and how to steer the conversation to the outcome most favorable for both parties? Are they clear on the impact of timing and getting outcomes in shorter sales cycles?
- By reducing the Cost to Serve
If we have AI built into our CRM we may be able to pull a report to enable our salespeople to identify who, where, why, and how to proceed – yet they still need to be able to behave well once in front of these opportunities, but the principle of measure twice cut once isn’t lost here.
Considerable time and energy can be saved by having clarity over where to focus activity that will generate a higher likelihood of sales success. Access to data such as ZoomInfo enables sales teams to clarify paths to decision-makers, triggers that could open up opportunities such as organizational role reshuffles and growth, and changes in strategy. ZoomInfo also allows automatic updates in a CRM when things change.
Data alone won’t hold the gold: it’s how our sales team utilizes those insights that matter.
To do that, they need to learn how to coach and not just manage. Training is one of the best investments to make in sales leaders and their people as it reduces sales cycles, maximizes conversion rates, improves share of wallet, and right sizes the way an account is managed ongoing.
- Increasing efficiencies
Education is key, but knowing the commercial impact of each sales action isn’t where education should stop. Helping our people to make the shift from order-taking to the consultation is the difference between reactive selling and proactive driving of revenue.
What is your organization doing about scaling the B2B channel for growth?
Is there a curated B2B portal for customers to use where the experience is congruent to the interpersonal ones?
According to Forrester’s 2022 B2B E-Commerce Forecast, 24% of all US B2B sales will be online by 2027. Making it easier for customers to access information, services, scheduling, ordering, price information frees up the interpersonal interactions to higher levels of communication: negotiation, questions, listening, connection.
If you are going to move in this direction, then you must arm your people with improved communication skills so they can connect, influence and deepen commercial relationships effectively. The days of simply being a “nice” person who is reliable are long gone.
How willing an organization is to make the changes it must be the difference between success and failure in 2023. Targeting investment in the areas that will have the greatest levels of impact: increased revenue, reducing the cost of sales, reducing the cost to serve, and improving efficiencies will pay dividends sooner than later.
Having the right training, technology, structure, and support will enable you to thrive where others don’t. The opportunity for success is yours, so do not waste it.
Written by Ingrid Maynard.
Have you read?
Learning to Make a Difference by Leo Bottary.
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This Simple 4-Step Process Keeps Remote Teams on Track by Tamara (Tam) Sanderson.
How A Gift Changed Design History by Brian Wallace.
Over-Reacting In Business – A Tennis Ball In The Butt by Sarah Cordiner.
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