B2B sales has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Sales methods that were once reliably successful are now ineffective, and sales teams require new skill sets to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Shifting mindsets from product sales to solution sales is a necessary step in the right direction. Smart companies recognize that if sales teams don’t adapt to changing customer expectations, they risk being left behind.
Today’s B2B Sales Landscape
Understanding the current state of affairs is one of the first steps toward determining what needs to change in your sales organization.
The Need for Connected Processes
According to Salesforce, 75 percent of business buyers say that connected processes are very important to winning their business. The sales team can’t operate in a silo that is disconnected from other departments. Customers base their judgments on their entire experience, from the moment they interact with marketing materials through to the service they receive after making a purchase. Having seamlessly connected processes is critical for attracting and retaining customers.
The Importance of Data
The same Salesforce survey indicates that 81 percent of sales reps feel that having a connected view of data across the entire customer journey is important. This isn’t surprising considering the general importance of data and technology in the modern world. However, reality has not yet caught up with expectations. Businesses do not yet have the integrated systems that link data sources so that teams can deliver the type of B2B customer experience that customers expect. The survey shows that only 49 percent of businesses say they have fully integrated systems in place. This matters because high-performing sales teams are more than twice as likely to have fully integrated systems than those that underperform.
An Emphasis on Quality
Tracking the number of interactions between a sales rep and a customer isn’t enough. Those interactions need to have a level of quality that can only be provided by individuals with adequate training and knowledge. Salesforce found that 79 percent of business buyers believe it is absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who they feel is a trusted advisor who adds value to their business. Just being a sales rep who follows a scripted sales process is no longer enough. Business customers want personalized interactions with the companies they hire. They seek more than just products—they seek solutions. The sales teams that are able to anticipate the needs of their customers and provide meaningful solutions are the ones that will stand out when it’s time to make a purchasing decision.
Preparing Sales Teams for the Current Landscape
With a focus on prioritizing connected processes, integrated data, and quality interactions, you can take the necessary steps to significantly improve the performance of your B2B sales organization.
When you develop sales training programs, tailor them to your industry, your customers, and the specific needs of your sales organization. Prepare sales reps to shift mindsets from product sales to solution sales. Include training for sales leaders to learn how to model, coach, and require the types of behaviors that contribute to a culture of customer centricity and solution-based sales. Have a retention and reinforcement strategy in place to keep training content top of mind, especially when daily pressures arise.
Break Down Silos
When it comes to providing an excellent experience for the customer, a sales team does not stand alone. Break down the barriers that exist between departments to connect processes and deliver a consistent customer experience from beginning to end. Mapping the customer journey is a good first step toward understanding how different teams can work together to create a seamless customer experience.
Provide the Necessary Resources
Integrating systems and providing the necessary training cannot happen without a commitment from leadership to provide adequate resources. Remember ... creating a modern sales team is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that must constantly adapt to emerging trends, new technologies, and evolving customer expectations. Invest in the technology that will help you manage multiple data sources across the entire organization, and develop an ongoing training program that is responsive to your industry and the B2B sales landscape.
Invest in Sales Training
Product knowledge and clear processes will always be essential for B2B sales, but this is no longer enough to satisfy today’s customers. Shifting mindsets to solution-based sales and creating a collaborative environment across teams is necessary to stay competitive. Experiential learning is a useful tool for creating conviction and developing the necessary skill set to provide a truly delightful sales experience for customers. In this type of training, participants learn skills that they can apply on a daily basis and whenever new challenges arise.