How has selling changed?

With the wide range of available technology and resources, the sales process should be getting easier, right? Many B2B organizations are finding that this isn’t the case. Technology has been evolving at a faster pace than sales practices. Your target audience has more tools to research different vendors and product offerings, which makes it more difficult to convert leads into prospects. Your company may need to implement an online marketing system to keep up with new developments in B2B selling.

In November 2013, Harvard Business Review surveyed 100 vice presidents at technology companies and business service providers to determine how the structure of sales teams and the practices employed to close deals were changing. Nearly half of the respondents reported their organizations are undergoing a fundamental change. Selling has stayed the same for the past few decades. Many companies had a structure where salespeople in the field met with prospects and current clients. These representatives were supported by inside sales representatives who handled many of the day-to-day office tasks. Currently, this sales structure is shifting to a new model where companies primarily maintain inside sales reps who are responsible for everything between cold calling and closing deals. This may put more pressure on sales teams because employees are required to juggle a larger variety of tasks, which could open the possibility of warm leads being lost in the shuffle.

Increasing complexity in the sales cycle

It isn’t just internal changes at B2B companies that are impacting the sales model. Depending on the type of product you offer, your company will face a different type of sales cycle. The majority of B2B buyers now start their research online, which gives them greater access to information. However, this has made potential clients less trusting. Buyers are more likely to view customer reviews, commentary from industry experts and recommendations from colleagues as more credible than content brands publish about themselves. Because customers are more savvy about their options, businesses need to implement new ways to reach them.

In addition, the VPs had different opinions about the relative skills of field sales workers compared to inside representatives. Some of the executives though outside sales professionals were better versed in these strategies. They viewed internal sales reps as the ones who were responsible for Internet lead generation efforts and building an ongoing relationship. However, this model may not be the best choice for companies that rely on strong relationships to win deals. Shifting to inside sales can ensure the same sales reps work with leads throughout the sales cycle. It also helps companies prepare for the empowered customer. In addition to having access to more resources, a higher number of people are typically involved in making a decision today. Your sales reps no longer have to impress just an executive – end users may involved in the purchasing process as well.

Business-to-consumer sales have a stronger influence on trends in B2B, according to a blog post for Salesforce written by Dan Waldschmidt. For example, discounts and special offers play heavily into retail sales. This is especially true when it comes to e-commerce purchases – consumers can wait and get great deals on the products they want. The Internet allows shoppers to easily compare prices. Some savvy B2B buyers have adjusting their purchasing processes to account for when vendors will give them the best discounts. This means that B2B salespeople need to prepare for this timing and change how they are communicating with leads. However, you can’t just highlight discounts – there are still a number of other factors in the decision.

B2B companies need new tools to deal with challenges

To contend with longer sales cycles and more selective clients, B2B brands will need to adapt to attract new customers. Adopting new technology such as marketing automation can help firms manage their data, nurture prospects and boost effectiveness. These platforms can be integrated with your customer relationship management software to gain a better sense of where prospects are in the revenue funnel, Waldschmidt wrote. This data can better inform sales strategies.

Marketing automation helps you refine your sales funnel and use it to your advantage. If your salespeople know which stage of the buying cycle prospects are in, they can identify more opportunities to engage with potential clients using the right message, according to Waldschmidt. Having greater visibility can also help your team reengage previous clients when they may be considering another purchase. Additionally, if a lead resulted in no decision, the individual may pick the process up again. If you have the right tools in place, you can see this information and take advantage of the opportunity. The sales process won’t get any easier on its own, but an online marketing system can ensure that you’re growing revenue.