The COVID-19 pandemic has changed B2B sales forever. Remote selling has become the norm, and, according to McKinsey, more than 80% of B2B professionals expect remote selling to stay with us. This is an inflection point in B2B sales. To remain competitive, B2B sales organizations can reassess their sales infrastructure and identify new strategies to promote business agility.
Your competitors are doing everything they can to build sales in an increasingly fragmented market. They are looking for ways to drive new sales quickly and efficiently, meeting the changing needs of customers. To stay ahead of the competition, be faster and more creative, collaborating with customers so everyone comes out ahead.
Here are five strategies to help you maintain sales agility:
1. Enhance your go-to-market structure
Your sales organization needs to be nimble. Restructure your sales organization to adapt to new market conditions and changing customer needs. For example, consider the case of a semiconductor manufacturer that was having trouble differentiating its chip technology in a market that was becoming increasingly commoditized. Rather than leaving sales reps to try to explain features and benefits, the company verticalized its sales approach by creating application teams that would create custom solutions based on their chip technology. By bringing together applications systems engineers and sales professionals the teams could present a clear value proposition and recommend custom solutions to meet customer problems.
2. Increase sales ROI
When sales decline the mistake most organizations make is looking for areas where they can cut costs rather than investing in improving sales performance. There are several ways to improve sales ROI:
- Shift fixed costs to variable costs that change with the market. For example, rather than adding or cutting sales staff, consider augmenting your sales team with independent sales reps. This way, you can scale sales quickly without increasing or reducing headcount.
- Improve sales staff efficiency by adopting more technology to automate routine tasks. Reducing much of the administrative burden frees more time for active selling.
- Diversify the sales channel. This can increase sales without adding costs. For example, have in-house sales reps focus on core customers and outsource lead acquisition and qualification, which is one of the most time-consuming and least cost-effective uses of in-house sales reps’ time.
- Segment your target market. Creating smaller, more manageable customer segments makes it easier to prioritize and close prospects.
3. Apply customer-centric selling
The B2B buyer’s journey has changed. Today’s prospects come armed with a better idea of what they need, and they have already researched potential solutions. They also prefer digital interaction and prefer multiple digital touchpoints over a sales call. Sales reps can be prepared to nurture the digital journey with relevant information, engaging customers at the right moment with custom information and insights to help address their unique pain points. Sales reps also have to be prepared to stay engaged beyond closing the deal, collaborating with the customer success team to ensure customer satisfaction and reduce churn.
4. Adopt a selling mindset
You can train your sales team, but you need to motivate them as well. A strong sales team is willing to pivot and embrace new ideas and procedures, adopting an agile mindset. The best way to motivate your sales team is to:
- Identify the right selling behaviors. For example, ensuring that reps balance their focus on existing customers with new business prospecting to reduce churn. Research shows that most companies earn 80% of their revenue from 20% of existing customers.
- Rethink how you approach your pipeline. With more digital channels available, B2B buyers are more self-selecting, approaching vendors after they have done their research. Rather than having reps focus on filling the customer pipeline, they can focus more on qualifying leads and elevating customer satisfaction.
- Connect desired behaviors to rewards such as linking bonuses to sales goals. For example, be sure financial bonuses are tied to products you want to sell, not just overall sales volume. If you are having trouble keeping the CRM system current, consider tying compensation to data entry.
5. Use data analytics
Mine your data systems to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Point-of-sale analytics can reveal sales patterns by industry, geography, product and other metrics to show you where you need to focus. Use available data sources to get a holistic picture of your operations and identify new areas of opportunity.
To cultivate new strategies to increase sales, find practical ways to adapt to ever-changing market conditions and customer needs. Cultivating sales agility by eliminating inefficiencies in the sales infrastructure, focusing attention on activities that yield a return, and staying tuned in to customer needs and customer experience will help keep your sales team adaptable and agile.
Gary Clark is president and co-founder of OneSolution, a company comprised of manufacturing representatives who work with suppliers in industrial/MRO, construction, safety, utility, food processing, metalworking, welding and fabrication, and other related industries. Clark has more than 35 years of experience with industrial distribution and channel management.