The prolonged COVID-19 context has created a new normal to which both our clients and their customers need to adapt. New behaviors, needs, and expectations have arisen. For B2B as well as for B2B2C, our clients must accelerate remote selling and reinvent their interactions with customers, offering the right phygital mix. It’s more important than ever to truly understand end customers and better anticipate their needs using AI and data. At the same time, new sales approaches continue to emerge due to competition and budgetary issues, such as ROI-based selling, new solution-based business models, (servitization such as subscription models) and a new channel strategy with the development of direct to consumer (D2C).
B2B Sales x marketing : Illuminate the dark funnel
With social distancing, trade show cancellations, and overall client adaptation to the COVID situation, sales reps need to reinvent their tactics to understand and address existing and new customers.
Meanwhile, influenced by B2C’s behaviors, B2B buyers want greater anonymity, are marketing-resistant after years of email harassment, and use more digital channels in their purchasing journeys.
That’s why it’s so important to align B2B buyer journeys with those of B2Cs by increasing the number of touchpoints in the early stages of the B2B buyer journeys and collecting more data to identify, preempt, and seize business opportunities and adopt the sales strategy accordingly with new products/services and business models.
Now more than ever, demand comes from the prospect. Therefore, marketers and B2B sellers need to work together to uncover or even generate this demand and turn it into opportunities, engaging prospects and customers in a linear journey. For this, B2B companies have to illuminate the “dark funnel,” which covers the initial stages of the B2B customer journey, from problem identification to solution exploration and requirement building. The challenge is to identify and qualify the journey while introducing sales at the right time to engage with prospects and increase lead generation and wins.
Intelligent market monitoring solutions can increase acquisition potential by capturing business opportunities and getting ready-to-use leads thanks to social listening, lead generation tools, and enhanced account management. Companies such as Schneider, General Electric, and BNPP are already well engaged in this approach.
COVID-19 had a huge impact on the traditional sales journey. First of all, sales reps needed to reinvent their way of working to engage remotely with clients and prospects. Besides, it has become more difficult for them to reach their quantitative objectives due to markets uncertainties and new level of competitiveness unleashed by the pandemic. As a result, budgets for both buyers and sellers have had to be readjusted and lowered. Therefore, B2B companies need to readjust their sales performance models and focus on measuring and optimizing sales efficiency.
Successful B2B companies have reinvented their sales journeys by focusing on efficiency in this new normal. In this respect, we are seeing a new sales approach develop around ROI-based or Business-case selling which consists in envisioning the impacts of sales for your customers and committing to them.
Besides, B2B companies have started implementing AI-based solutions in order to enhance the productivity of sales reps using solutions such as NBA and intelligent-guided selling based on contextual best practices, reducing time spent per customer while offering their customers relevant solutions and improving hit ratio. Data and AI solutions can also help to better target and predict customer demand, optimizing effort spent on customers. Moreover, B2B companies have revised their compensation models by adding qualitative objectives such as digital prospection, social network activity, or customer satisfaction measuring its related ROI impact.
Voice of Customer
- Now more than ever, it has become critical to qualify and quantify customer sentiment and perceptions in order to proactively understand and adapt to their needs.
- Thanks to Voice of Customer and associated customer feedback management solutions, companies can bet on higher customer satisfaction (up to +25 pts in the Net Promoter Score), a +20% increase in additional spending per customer and accelerated growth.
- VoC is now emerging in B2B industries. Although VoC is nothing new in B2C, there are more expectations in terms of customer/consumer understanding and getting valuable insights from direct and indirect channels such as social networks.
For optimal use of Voice of Customer, companies need to:
- Listen carefully to customer feedback at each touchpoint of the customer journey.
- Analyze and understand the data to turn it into valuable insights for future projects.
- Revamp their continuous improvement processes to integrate and act on insights collected through concrete action plans across the organization.
- Engage with the customer in continuous dialog and ensure that their voice is at the center of the organization.
In this way, companies are able to identify concrete actions to correct an issue in the customer experience together with their clients.
Sales team transformations to support new business models
- Emergence of new technologies and high connectivity
- COVID-19, lockdown, social distancing impact distribution models and customers behavior
- Higher competitive tensions on the markets.
For the above-mentioned reasons, we are seeing the emergence of new business models, including:
- Servitization – shifting to pay-per-use and pay-per-output, in which customers do not pay for the actual product but for the benefits that the product brings.
- Direct-to-customer – when a company decides to create a direct distribution channel for one or many products from their portfolio in order to directly reach the consumer with no intermediary (wholesalers and retailers).
Companies need to adapt and transform their customer service solutions to provide best-in-class customer experience, ensuring that the new business model promise is honored and meets high customer expectations.
For instance, sales reps will use social media more intensively to promote their products and attract new prospects and will directly engage their customers on chat.
Similarly, they will have to adapt their speech and behavior with clients. For instance, for outcome-based services, sales reps will have to switch from a “product-seller” position to outcomes advocate to support their customers and help improve the product to best meet customers’ needs and expectations.
Customer Experience, Europe SBU.