Over the past few years, sales teams have slowly and steadily inched toward digital transformation. Then COVID-19 accelerated the digitization trajectory. Now, there’s no turning back. So, if your sales team wants to stay competitive, this article – based on a current survey – will give you insights to help you manage the new B2B environment.
As B2B sellers prepare to manage more deals in a remote environment, they’re making changes quickly, adopting new technology, and making strategic moves to modernize.
A new research report from DocuSign surveyed more than 750 sales professionals to examine the rapidly evolving state of selling processes and priorities. The data revealed key sales trends, including the growing use of technology to deliver better customer experiences, the ways successful sales teams adapted to remote selling, and the need to digitize and automate the contract process.
Here’s a preview of some of the key findings:
Adjusting to remote operations was difficult for B2B sales teams, and it had a noticeable impact on their ability to hit targets. In years past, a significant majority of B2B sales teams exceeded their targets; in 2020, however, only 20% did so. This suggests there’s plenty of potential for teams to improve how they are operating and closing deals in a more digital and remote selling environment.
In addition to the challenge of navigating virtual work, sales teams had to grapple with long-standing hurdles over the past year, like cross-departmental collaboration. The research found that sales operations, for example – the most common collaborator for B2B sales teams – is also their most challenging group to work with. The relationship that B2B sales teams have with the legal department is complex, as well, and this is particularly problematic given that any large deal generally requires legal involvement – making effective collaboration absolutely essential.
Despite the tumult of 2020 and the challenges it magnified, sales teams continue to use revenue as their top KPI, though quota attainment and profitability were also considered important. Notably, sales teams don’t rely heavily on win rate as a key metric, even though it can be a proxy for sales effectiveness and competitive standing.
When the pandemic forced companies around the world to pivot to remote operations, just 22% say they were very prepared. Now, sales leaders are focusing on modernizing processes with technology to adjust to the new remote selling environment. This shift coincides with a significant change in priorities, too.
Unlike past surveys, where customer experience and digital transformation ranked as very low priorities, this year’s research found that customer experience is king. It’s the top priority across companies around the world, and 67% say it will become even more of a priority in the next five years.
Priorities of B2B sales teams over the next five years
|Will become MORE of a priority||No change||Will become LESS of a priority|
|Improving the customer experience||67%||28%||5%|
|Improving quality and volume of leads||66%||28%||5%|
|Maximizing selling time||66%||29%||6%|
|Closing more deals||65%||27%||7%|
Driven by these new priorities, sellers and buyers are getting more comfortable with remote sales. They’re also starting to see extra value in flexible selling workflows. McKinsey found that 75% of sales teams say remote engagement is at least as effective as traditional in-person sales, compared to only 54% early in the pandemic. This mindset is pivotal, since remote selling will only become more important for sales teams that want to continue to win.
As B2B sales teams consider new technology investment, it’s critical to acknowledge that investment alone is not enough; success is determined by how technology is implemented and used. DocuSign’s research shows that, despite overwhelmingly self-identifying as “innovators,” respondents struggle to unlock the potential of their technologies: 93% of B2B sales teams are not fully utilizing their tools. However, proper implementation of more intuitive solutions can overcome challenges such as poor integration, training, and ease of use.
Looking more closely at the actual tools sales teams use, CRM is the most common technology (used by 53% of sales teams) – leaving significant room for growth. Teams also rely heavily on sales analytics tools and performance management technology. There is, however, opportunity for them to better leverage other technologies like quote management (CPQ), electronic signature, and contract lifecycle management (CLM), especially as the volume and complexity of deals grow.
Within the sales process, one process in dire need of a transformation at many companies is contracting. The volume of contracts most teams deal with is significant: 80% of sales teams execute more than 500 contracts a month, according to Forrester research commissioned by DocuSign. DocuSign’s research shows that the value of B2B sales contracts is significant, too: 87% of contracts are over $10,000 in value, 44% are over $100,000 and 23% are over $1 million. As this value grows, it becomes even more important for sales teams to execute flawlessly and provide a seamless, efficient customer experience.
Using automation, CLM platforms can alleviate the complexity of generating, negotiating, signing, acting on, and storing sales contracts. Simply put, CLM delivers a more efficient end-to-end contract process, which results in a much better customer experience. Today, however, less than 10% of sales teams have fully automated any part of the sales contracting process – leaving room for sales teams to get an advantage.
Ultimately, the disruption caused by COVID-19 was a wake-up call – change is always around the corner, and organizations have to be ready. DocuSign’s detailed research explores current trends, the role of technology, and what leaders are changing based on future expectations. The insights should be relevant to any sales organization looking to adapt to an ever-changing future.
Jeffrey Piper is senior director, Strategic Services Group, for DocuSign, and he can be reached on Twitter or LinkedIn. For more detailed data on the state of B2B sales, key trends, and future expectations, download DocuSign’s B2B Sales Trends Report.