For the past few decades, solution-based selling was the dominant theme in building sales organizations. Solution-selling methodologies and training proved to be a big business. B2B organizations reworked their sales organization and invested heavily to be more consultative with buyers.
B2B entities are finding it hard to let go and prepare for sales transformation in the new digital era of commerce.
In the last few years, we have heard plenty about insights-based selling. This should not be confused with the imperative to undergo insights-driven sales transformation. Insight-selling places emphasis on sales reps delivering helpful insights to potential buyers. Complementing existing solution-based selling.
Insights-Driven Sales Transformation Is Different Than Insight-Selling
Insights-driven sales transformation calls for organizations to align sales and operational processes with key insights and understanding about buyers. This statement, alone, is nothing new. However, what amplifies this call for insights-driven sales transformation are several variables that create urgency for transforming by 2020.
By 2020, digital disruption will be affecting every major industry. Industries such as manufacturing, transportation, logistics, healthcare, financial services, and more will be affected by the introduction of additional new digital technologies. For example, in a recent buyer insights study completed for the ride-hailing entity Lyft, it was found that several industries are adopting digital means of managing enterprise-wide transportation at an accelerated rate than anticipated. This will prove to be extremely disruptive to many transportation services organizations.
Meeting New Customer/Buyer Engagement Expectations
With digital disruption and new digital technologies comes new engagement expectations. Ushering in new expectations related to communicating, conversations, and engaging. B2B organizations can appear antiquated if, for example, they find themselves unable to be responsive in ways buyers have come to expect due to digital disruption. The following from an interview subject says it all:
“It was weird. It was like I was stuck in some time warp from the 1980’s or 1990’s when I dealt with them.” – Director, Media Operations
I do not think any entity wants to be perceived in this way. While this may be an extreme example, the risk of being perceived in this way is ever so present.
Customers, as a result of digital disruption, are being exposed to new experiences every few months. Transforming sales requires knowing how to become part of shifting experience wants and desires on the part of buyers. B2B companies can find themselves out of synch on the experience front if they fall behind on being able to provide an experience that customers are receiving from competitors or from other similar industries.
Buyers and Customers Are Armed With Data and Analytics
It would be a fallacy to think that buyers and customers will not be in possession of data and analytics that are influencing their choices. In performing research for a leading analytics firm, this particular comment from an interviewee stood out:
“They came to the table with nothing. We were ready with at least some data on what we were seeing and how we thought we needed help. It was disappointing.” – VP, Client Services
Sales transformation will mean that sales representation must possess not only data and analytics but also the skill sets to communicate and convey meaning to buyers and customers. This variable will be especially problematic for B2B companies who are burdened heavily with legacy database systems and cannot respond in an agile way.
Different Buyers and Roles In The Future
As markets and industries metamorphize due to digital disruption, it will alter previously understood relationships and interactions. There will be new roles involved. Some will have the word “digital” in them. Meaning new buyers and customers will have different ways of thinking, networking internally, and making choices. If not prepared for these significant shifts in decision-making roles, B2B organizations and their sales team will be caught flat-footed.
Perception of Sales
As we head towards 2020, how buyers and customers perceive a B2B organization’s sales function is going to matter very much. With facing uncertainty, themselves, buyers perceiving a sales team as being out of date and out of touch will be detrimental to any chances to establish a relationship. Confidence in working with a firm who are making strides to adapt and advance in the face of digital disruption is going to be on the checklist.
Time To Act Is Now With Buyer Insights
Failing to gain insights into these variables creating a sense of urgency respective to sales transformation will put an organization significantly behind on transforming. The consequences could also be unpleasant. Lost customers, lost revenues, lost market leadership, and an inability to match customer engagement and experience expectations. Resulting in a shortfall in resources to invest in sales transformation.
As noted, being unprepared can begin a downward spiral that will be hard to reverse. The speed at which changes in buying behaviors and digital disruption is occurring will be like a runaway train. Leaving companies little chance to catch up and recover.