A future of B2B sales without salespeople?
B2B is different from B2C in many ways, however, the 2 are growing towards each other more and more. Especially now that the decision-making unit becomes younger and millennials are a large part of the buying committee:
This changes the buying process completely, especially if you take their skepticism towards salespeople into account. A recent Harvard Business Review article even goes as far as stating that ‘Traditional B2B Sales and Marketing Are Becoming Obsolete’.
The majority of them prefer a Rep-Free experience. Generally speaking, the younger the people, the less likely it is that they will appreciate the ‘interference’ of salespeople in their buying journey. That is, in the discovery phase of it at least:
So, whether B2B marketers and sales professionals want to or not, the buyer is basically dictating a new process.
3 Major research firms recently published interesting reports on the future of B2B Sales and Marketing with a ton of background on this topic. In this blog, I’ll highlight the findings and share our thoughts and advice. The 3 firms have summarized them in 3 reports, which I list below and you may download on their websites:
- Gartner: the future of Sales
- Forrester (for Outreach.io): Generational Shifts Fundamentally Change B2B Buyer and Seller Dynamics
- McKinsey: Hybrid is the future
In this blog, I’ll highlight the key findings and share our take on them.
The future of B2B Sales is hybrid and asks for a different approach
Traditionally, B2B sales has always been seller-centric; account managers, BDRs, and SDRs reach out to prospects that are on their target list and/or have filled out a form on a website. With the adoption of inbound marketing, this has partially changed, but still, there was a high focus on getting contact data as early as possible in the buying journey as possible in order to reach out to or nurture them. Gartner expects that by 2025 around 80% of B2B Sales interactions will go through digital channels and 60% of organizations will adopt data-driven selling. This will ask for a merge of the sales process, applications, data, and analytics into a single operational practice.
Especially with younger buyers in the DMU, it’s important to realize the changing needs. These buyers don’t want a sales rep involved in every stage of the buyer journey. they want to explore on their own across various channels. Once a salesperson is involved, the younger buyers prefer on-the-spot answers and are less interested in follow-up calls or meetings that lengthen the cycle. 2 important findings in the Forrester report:
- Buyers don’t want to engage with sales immediately.
- Buyers conduct their own research before accepting a sales meeting
Before speaking to a salesperson, B2B buyers would first go to the supplier’s website, conduct research, attend webinars and evaluate review websites. In fact, the number of channels has doubled over the past 5 years (source: McKinsey).
In practice, this means that your goal should not be to acquire a prospect’s email address as soon as possible and/or try to schedule a demo or discovery call as soon as possible, but rather focus on giving them the needed information in the discovery phase in an easily accessible and low barrier format. Also, it requires marketers and salespeople to recognize immediately when people are in the explore phase and make sure that they assist and simplify the sales process for the customer. Buyers expect sellers to collaborate with them and expect them to be data- and technology-savvy.
Technology will be an increasingly important part of the buying process
All of the findings above are requiring you to rethink your strategy and your B2B buying cycle first. However, to enable the altered buyer journey and demands that younger buyers have towards selling processes, technology will be an increasingly important part of the buying process. To enable sales reps, SDRs, and BDRs to be those tech-savvy and consultative partners for buyers, a sales enablement platform will help them massively. It helps them to get the right message (content), to the right people (members of the DMU) at the right time (buying phase). Read all about sales enablement in an earlier blog that I wrote here.
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