Remote work, stalled deals, shrinking budgets — the challenges faced by businesses everywhere in the first half of the year aren’t going anywhere.
This puts sales leaders in a precarious position. With limited resources and mounting pressure, how can you build a strategy that’s sure to succeed? Luckily, the trends that will come to define the future of business-to-business sales are already taking shape.
From the death of traditional sales team structures to the accelerating adoption of revenue team enablement strategies, here are five trends that are defining the future of B2B sales, with insight from new Forrester research.
Going All-In on Digital Engagements
Don’t spend too long mourning the loss of on-site meetings and events — they’ve been on the downward trend for some time now.
In fact, Forrester reported that buyers have long turned a skeptical eye towards in-person engagements: “As early as 2017, business buyers were disillusioned with the onsite sales meeting, as one in five buyers stated they preferred not to meet with a sales rep in person. In a May 2020 Forrester Analytics Business Technographics® study evaluating the efficacy of various B2B sales and marketing methods and routes post-COVID-19, 38% of respondents said the in-person sales meeting had decreased in value.” (The Democratization of B2B Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., August 3, 2020).
This means that while the occasional deal may have been cinched by a face-to-face meeting, sellers can — and should — effectively engage buyers virtually. Boost your digital interactions with simple behavioural changes: instead of sharing slide decks via web conferences, encourage sellers to keep their video front-and-center to maintain eye contact and keep buyers focused. Additionally, push sellers to observe buyer reactions during calls and use them to draw them deeper into the conversation — validate ideas, offer tailored insights, and ask tactical questions.
With a strategic re-thinking of your sales tactics, you can ensure that regardless of the medium your sellers are making customer conversations count.
Shifting Sales Structures
Businesses leveraging entirely remote or hybrid teams are also seeing the opportunity to shake up traditional, hierarchical sales organisation structures. This shift reflects a convergence of digital-native sellers and buyers in one place: as buyers increasingly engage online, the typical digital prospecting activities of ADRs and SDRs suddenly seem perfectly suited to closing deals, rather than just qualifying accounts.
As a result, leaders are rethinking the siloed sales approach. Forrester found that “sales leaders can use relationship analytics to identify the account manager who has the best and deepest relationships with an account or key contacts within the account, buyer behavioural data to match account- and contact-level preferred buying motions with sellers who can deliver those experiences, and pod structures to deepen an account team’s expertise and increase overall buyer responsiveness” (The Democratization of B2B Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., August 3, 2020).
In short, don’t hold back a deal because the person most likely to close it isn’t an account executive. Breaking free of the traditional hierarchies that have long defined sales organisation structure can be an effective method of maximising your sales output per head.
Reskilling and Upskilling Existing Salespeople
Closely related to the above is a trend toward a renewed focus on sales training and coaching efforts. This is an area that can be quite expensive for businesses to maintain; as such, it is typically first to the chopping block whenever uncertainty looms.
But Forrester recommends doubling down instead: “Training is typically one of the first budget items to be cut in tough times, but that’s a mistake in this setting. If you don’t have the funds, reallocate them from elsewhere” (The Democratization of B2B Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., August 3, 2020). Considering the conversational techniques sellers will need to master to thrive in all-digital sales scenarios, combined with new responsibilities due to shifting organisational structures, this recommendation comes as no surprise.
Make your renewed investment count by focusing on reskilling and upskilling sellers to deliver flawless omnichannel interactions. Think about the tactical behaviour shifts that sellers will need to close deals and build training around those changes. Some solutions may be as simple as refreshing your sales guidance; others may require a larger initiative to implement. In both cases, investing in your sellers’ skills now will ensure they are prepared to meet every challenge in a shifting sales landscape.
Expanding Revenue Streams Beyond Sales
Sales isn’t the only organisation that can expect change. Marketing, especially post-sales functions like customer marketing and customer success teams, should expect to be tapped as a source of revenue.
In fact, some businesses are already attaching revenue streams to post-sales organisations: “In a recent study, 35% of respondents told Forrester their post-sale marketers identify and execute upsell and cross-sell campaigns, among their other customer engagement responsibilities” (The Democratization of B2B Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., August 3, 2020).
The reasoning behind this trend is clear. Businesses recognise that sales is not the only function that engages with the customer, nor is it the only function that can do so effectively and authentically. The key is to think about how you can leverage these teams, their networks, and their unique skills to drive revenue — whether that be expanding variable compensation to other teams, or looping them into your reskilling efforts.
Capitalising on your full revenue team’s ability to boost your bottom line is an effective way to grow your business using the resources you already have.
Deepening Investments in Revenue Team Enablement
It comes as no surprise that as businesses look to post-sales functions, so too are they exploring revenue team enablement. The idea behind this trend is simple: each organisation responsible for revenue will require the content, training, and guidance to succeed, just as the sales teams do.
The key to your success here will be the strength and usability of your enablement platform. If you haven’t made an investment in a comprehensive enablement platform yet, it may be time to reconsider: Forrester reported that “in a recent survey, 97% of respondents stated that sales technology was important or very important.”
Armed with content, training, and guidance in a solution that is accessible everywhere they work, teams will be able to effectively meet customers across multiple channels — and elevate engagements to close deals.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Use these early indications of what the future of sales will look like to your advantage: it’s never too early to make a strategic investment in your revenue engine — especially if it will protect your business from uncertainty and secure its success in the long run.
Looking to dive deeper into the trends highlighted here? Get Forrester’s full brief in this free copy of The Democratization of B2B Sales.