In the world of B2B, buyer and seller are no longer remotely close to being on even footing, because digital disruption clearly favors the buyer. You may have heard this being referred to as “information inequality.” This term refers to the fact that sales reps are no longer able to gate information and force the buyer into a linear buying journey that accommodates the seller’s needs only. Sellers must instead become agile and able to communicate across multiple channels all while having a cohesive conversation that engages the buyer to purchase. In fact, McKinsey’s B2B Pulse research shows that B2B buyers now leverage 10 or more channels to engage with sellers. That’s double what it was in 2016, and this trend continues its acceleration.
With so many channels available to engage buyers, sales leaders must recognize the need to deepen their partnership with marketing and better understand how omnichannel can help them have more effective and engaging interactions with target customers. Fact is that marketing is typically engaging with buyers across multiple channels in the early stages of their journey as they conduct research, and omnichannel is something that mature marketing organizations have been familiar with for some time – mainly due to their access to more advanced digital marketing tools.
Early signs show that making this shift to an omnichannel approach is worth the effort as, in the same research, McKinsey uncovered that 94% of buyers viewed this approach to sales – blending face-to-face, virtual, and online – to be as effective as or more effective than the traditional approach used before the pandemic. So that’s good news for sellers.
Omnichannel can be defined as a strategy that aims to create a seamless buying experience from the first touchpoint to the last – regardless of the channel your buyer or customer is using. Within this strategy, the sales force serves as a channel to engage target buyers in a way that is unique and differentiated from traditional marketing channels.
While this definition seems quite simple, it is rather difficult to implement successfully, as it has a lot of moving parts and requires specialized technology. Thus, organizations looking to shift to an omnichannel approach must first master implementing a multichannel marketing strategy.
The difference between the two concepts can be confusing. However, omnichannel is not the same as multichannel. The key difference is the approach to the customer experience. And this distinction is critical for sales leaders to understand; as we learned in the Customer 2020 report by Walker, customer experience (CX) has become a more important brand differentiator than price and product.
In a multichannel strategy, the channels used are not integrated and don’t prioritize the best sequence of interactions for the buyer. The objective of this approach is to use the maximum number of channels to increase buyer awareness and engagement. Companies implementing this approach will choose several channels they think are best suited for their target audience – and then optimize for the channel (e.g., email, search, social).
On the other hand, omnichannel focuses on providing the target buyer with a personalized and integrated experience across all channels and devices. This integration is a great way to bring sales and marketing into alignment to have a more connected and seamless engagement with target customers.
Let’s look at an example of the difference between multichannel and omnichannel in the case of how a pharmaceutical company might interact with physicians to make them aware of the launch of a new drug for their patients.
While there is benefit in the physician receiving multiple touchpoints that inform him/her about the launch of product X, there are also some limitations for the company or brand with this approach:
In this example, interactions center on providing the target customer (the physician) a more seamless and engaging experience. Instead of just making the physician aware there is an upcoming product launch, the intent is to engage the physician in dialogue and respond with the most relevant content/message via the most effective channel. The core value of the omnichannel approach is the interconnectedness of the communication with the target customer and what we learn about their preferences from the overall engagement. This type of feedback is crucial to improving targeting effectiveness as well as engagement.
While a shift to an omnichannel strategy is imperative for sales leaders to stay competitive, the reality of implementing this type of strategy is extremely complex and takes time, resources, and a shift in the way the organization thinks about working together to be successful.
In a recent HBR article, the authors identify the five success factors for moving to an omnichannel sales approach:
While all these factors are important to getting omnichannel right, I believe that digitally enabling sales and marketing should be at the top of every sales leader’s list – plus, it’s a catalyst to eventually shifting to the true omnichannel strategy. To achieve this, sales leaders can leverage the Digital-First™ Selling framework shared below and outlined in detail in my article “8 Steps to Convert Your Sales Team into a Digital Selling Powerhouse.”
Step 1: Understand the digital-first buyer mindset
Step 2: Develop a 360-degree view of the buyer
Step 3: Establish cross-functional alignment on ideal customer profile (ICP)
Step 4: Orchestrate a cohesive lead-to-revenue process
Step 5: Develop buying interactions that build confidence
Step 6: Optimize digital selling tools and the revenue tech stack
Step 7: Create a digital sales playbook for reps
Step 8: Establish a formal feedback loop
To be successful in the new digital-first reality, sales leaders must help their sales reps increase their digital acumen and move toward an omnichannel approach. Adopting a framework like Digital-First Selling™ can provide your company with an edge over competitors who are still stuck in the old paradigm of just bombarding target buyers with more and more information to get their attention.
To learn more, visit our newly launched Website at joinrevengine.com.
Jeff Davis is a keynote speaker, podcast host, and author of the award-winning book Create Togetherness, a strategic roadmap to help B2B CEOs and revenue leaders accelerate revenue growth by strategically aligning their sales and marketing teams. You can learn more about his work at joinrevengine.com or by following him on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.