When B2B sales teams faced a landscape reshaped by the pandemic of 2020/2021, many enterprises shifted to virtual sales channels out of necessity. However, the transition had actually been gaining steam throughout the industry well before March of 2020.
The default (and erroneous) assumption is often that B2B sales are conducted primarily through face-to-face interactions because that’s what buyers want. Not true. B2B buyers have long indicated a growing preference for virtual sales. In fact, the overwhelming majority of B2B buyers say they prefer virtual sales interactions.
This isn’t just for small deals. Buyers report they plan to spend six figures or more digitally, and 11% said they’d spend over $1 million through digital sales channels.
For enterprises, a successful omnichannel approach means offering a mix of in-person, remote, and digital self-service options. It also means enabling communication across video, phone, chat, and messaging services – all in addition to standard face-to-face visits. This approach requires these touchpoints to be implemented without adding complexity for the sales rep or increasing the cost per engagement.
The transition toward personalized and customer-centered engagements has been steady over the past few decades. Mass-produced collateral has been replaced by customer segmentation. New approaches and technology have emerged delivering premium, personalized, and highly effective customer engagement.
Despite data that shows customized virtual selling works, however, many sales reps still lack confidence (and perhaps comfort) in their ability to effectively leverage virtual channels for sales. Gartner found only 23% of reps say they are as effective selling virtually as they are in person. But the days of selling through just intuition and experience are over. As enterprises try to futureproof by leaning into omnichannel selling strategies, they must also consider how to best empower reps to sell across all channels, simply and effectively.
Asked how they would prefer to interact with sales reps, two-thirds of B2B buyers said they prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service. As buying groups include more digital native stakeholders, sales teams need to provide the same flexibility, speed, and personalization buyers have come to expect from their personal consumer experience. Customers should be able to conduct online research on a product or category and have access to potential suppliers quickly.
Once they’ve narrowed down options, buyers should be able to have clear communication about how an offering fits their needs. If they have questions or are ready to proceed with a purchase, they should be able to find a potential supplier quickly, find an offering that fits their needs, and experience the product or service through Web-based demos and videos. Contacting sales should be easy, through a chat bot, a live chat, a phone call, email, or text. And for existing customers, whether they need to re-order or to expand product lines, having a rep – virtual or otherwise – at their fingertips should be standard.
Because of reps’ limited time with prospects or customers, teams need to maximize every second. In part, that’s about automating content inside individual presentations – not just showing a recommended slide, but one that’s personalized to the customer based on pre-filled attributes (first name/last name, agenda items based on the last meeting, sample data or calculations based on data captured elsewhere, etc.).
The other part is ensuring reps can access information and share it across every potential point of contact. Pricing sheets, product videos, and compliance requirements are just a few of the materials that should be optimized for mobile, desktop, chat, and video delivery – ensuring reps can deliver requested or suggested information instantly.
Sales reps already have to engage across multiple channels. For one interaction, a sales rep might need to:
The number of digital channels reps must now navigate is accelerating, and enterprises must consider how to anticipate cutting-edge channel adoption while remaining secure and compliant. The consumerization of B2B sales means apps like WeChat, Facebook, Viber, Telegram, and others offer familiarity for buyers who have little time (and little patience) for being locked into communication channels dictated by vendors. Integrating these new apps increases the impact of customer interaction and can help sales teams and customers achieve compliance. Businesses can manage all communications through a central hub (e.g., Acme WeChat) but route messages to and from individual sales reps (e.g., Acme WeChat, John Anderson) to log information into a CRM while staying fully compliant.
Better data from reps leads to increased customer engagement, value, and sales. Capturing all relevant data points for analysis – interaction notes, effectiveness scales, response to individual materials, preferences, competitive feedback – unlocks the most opportunity to approach sales with data-driven insights and objective influence.
Since data capture can be cumbersome, especially at scale, enterprises must prioritize a seamless experience that shifts complexity from sales reps to applications that can manage it behind the scenes. Simplifying the process of recording information is a virtuous cycle. More data leads to more accurate analysis, which leads to better interactions and customer experience. And the data analysis process offers instant rewards; a sales rep could go into a manufacturing site and, by the end of the visit, offer a detailed audit and competitive pricing that’s highly personalized, accurate, and ready to sign.
Businesses adapting to the new digital sales model recognize that each customer requires a specific balance of phone, digital, and field sales. By pursuing an omnichannel approach, sales reps can be in the best position to deliver the right message, to the right person, on the right channel, in the right way, at the right time.