30 second summary:
- We spoke to Heather Cole, Vice President of Market Growth at Seismic, to get her thoughts on what B2B sales promotion will look like in 2021.
- Even before COVID, B2B buyers preferred a largely distant sales process. Gartner research in 2019 found that only 17% of buying activity involved buyers who actually met with suppliers.
- Platforms like Seismic help companies distribute marketing and sales content to distributed sales teams who also need to sell remotely.
- Looking to the future, Cole advises companies in the go-to-market ecosystem to adopt the seller mentality of continuous contact to help customers better understand the new digital world.
The pandemic has changed everything about how sales reps interact with prospects. Due to lockdowns and social distancing, sales teams have to rely on selling technology while they connect remotely.
Distance selling is likely to continue for most of 2021, and an effective promotion plan needs to take into account the logistical difficulties sales teams face when unable to meet in person with prospects. The good (and perhaps surprising) news is that 75% of shoppers prefer remote or digital interactions, according to a recent McKinsey report.
ClickZ recently spoke to Heather Cole, Vice President of Market Growth at Seismic, to gather her thoughts on what the promotion might look like in 2021.
Seismic is a sales enablement platform that connects sales teams with the right content at the right point in the sales process and enables employees to tell more effective stories.
With years of experience as an analyst at SiriusDecisions and Forrester, Cole offers a valuable overview of how B2B sales activation will look in a largely virtual sales environment.
B2B sales enablement after COVID
Even before COVID, B2B buyers preferred a remote sales process.
In 2019, Gartner split the B2B buying journey into five main activities: Buyers spent most of their time doing independent online and offline research, meeting with an in-house buying group, and doing other (non-buying) activities.
Only 17% of purchasing activities involved buyers meeting with suppliers, as the following graphic shows.
Says Cole, “The way B2B buyers think about their sourcing has changed. This does not come from the procurement department, but from the people who have a legitimate interest in purchasing. “
Cole notes that B2B buyers prefer virtual interactions with sellers, but are also willing to make large investments without meeting a representative in person.
“This is being accelerated a lot by COVID,” explains Cole. “The willingness to make a large investment without ever meeting with a representative depends on three factors: the size of the investment, whether it is a purchase you made previously, or the product or the Product category is new to them. “
A McKinsey study of B2B decision-makers in Q3 2020 found that 70% of respondents were open to new, fully self-service, or remote purchases exceeding $ 50,000 and 27% would spend more than $ 500,000.
Buyers value interaction with representatives during the research process, and then human interaction is most impactful. This is an important consideration from a sales promotion perspective as it is tied to the type of content that can help sales reps influence buyers.
“From a B2B marketers and sellers perspective, you want to find buyers to do their research because they are more likely to be more advanced in the sales process,” says Cole. “Seismic’s job is to help our customers find these buyers and get the right content into their hands so that the sales rep educates the buyer.”
Personalization at scale
Platforms like Seismic help companies distribute marketing and sales content to distributed sales teams who also need to sell remotely.
To do this, they collect the content in a central location and use technologies like AI and machine learning to ensure sales professionals have better, more meaningful conversations with prospects.
Digital interactions provide data that can be used to tailor content to specific sales interactions and needs, and create personalized experiences that complement B2B sales strategies.
Says Cole, “By enabling personalization at scale, sales teams can automate. We do this in terms of content and interactively. We work with ABM platforms and are tied into all major CRM platforms so we can observe what is working and replicate it. “
Seismic helps sales teams identify different people and then recommend a cadence of conversation and content that has proven effective in similar situations.
The pandemic has forced companies to become much more digital. The ability for platforms like Seismic to see what’s going on behind the scenes in this new digital landscape gives B2B sellers a much better understanding of their sales interactions and how they are being used.
Navigate the B2B sales environment for COVID
Looking to the future, Cole advises companies in the go-to-market ecosystem to adopt the seller mentality of continuous contact to help customers better understand the new digital world.
“You have to be great at working digitally,” explains Cole. “And that means being able to find the right customers for the sales force. It also means being able to sell in a way that doesn’t compete with selling face to face, but instead does better. “
B2B sellers who are successful after COVID maintain contact with their customers in a meaningful way. This includes providing them with information when necessary, having more effective online conversations and managing the sales process more effectively.
Says Cole, “Enabling sales makes customer roles as effective as possible in every interaction. It’s not just about the salespeople, it’s about everyone interacting with that customer. A good sales promotion tool will help employees know the right thing, what to know and what to show, every time they interact with the customer. You have the competence. You have the context of the conversation. You have the confidence to do it and you have the content. “