If you are still relying only on traditional face to face selling methods as the primary driver of your B2B sales strategy, then you are doing it wrong. Traditional sales methods are becoming increasingly ineffective. According to Forrester research, if organisations don’t start to change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020. We believe that trend can be reversed and that B2B sales representatives play a very valuable role and the use of a few digital tools to complement current efforts will have enormous overall impact.
The fact is simply that the B2B purchase funnel has changed. In fact, according to Salesforce, the funnel has died. Buyers are perfectly capable of self-servicing their purchasing decisions through online search, social media, online reviews, the proliferation of online content, and peer referrals. In fact, 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral. They no longer need to rely on a salesperson to walk them through their options or educate them on the offerings. 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reached out to sales.
But, just because the sales funnel is dead, doesn’t mean your sales force and B2B sales strategy needs to follow. The shift to the digital space presents an opportunity to increase efficiencies, optimise your prospecting strategy, know your customer better, deliver on improved service, and ultimately optimise ROI. Three digital tools have emerged as key to an effective B2B digital sales strategy and include social selling, eCRM and Marketing Automation, and interactive sales content.
Social selling is the process of developing relationships and making connections with your customers through social channels. With social selling, your sales force will interact with potential prospects on key social platforms (particularly LinkedIn) directly. Your sales force will listen, gather insight, research, respond, and generally network with potential prospects and leads. LinkedIn has defined four key pillars of social selling; create a professional brand, focus on the right prospects, engage with insights, and build trusted relationships.
According to Harvard Business Review, social selling is an answer to the current shift away from the outbound sales method. It is the online answer to cold calling. A recent survey found that it takes 18 or more calls to develop a prospect, call back rates are less than 1%, and only 25% of emails are even opened. On the other hand, social selling is seen as far more effective. According to Hubspot, 61% of organisations engaged in social selling report a positive impact on revenue growth. Additionally, 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media.
With 450 million people on LinkedIn, you have immediate access to all of your potential buyers through this channel. In fact, Ireland has one of the highest rates of LinkedIn users per work-force capita (after Holland and the US). LinkedIn is currently catering to social selling through key tools such as their Sales Navigator which is designed to help sellers find their prospects by making the right social connections. To help quantify the value of social selling, LinkedIn has produced the Social Selling Index (SSI) to help you gauge success and measure against your larger sales goals.
eCRM / Marketing Automation
The idea of online customer relationship management is certainly not new. But, while this is true, 22% of salespeople don’t know what a CRM is. Of those who know what it is, many salespeople feel that eCRM and/or marketing automation is a complex and difficult to use software and therefore not for them. But the reality is, for sales professionals, maintaining an effective eCRM system is key to maintaining valuable relationship with their clients. An eCRM platform will allow your company to individually tailor its messages to each client based on their buying patterns, how long they’ve been a customer, and other key information that could influence their buying power. Marketers using automation software generate 2X the number of leads than those using blast email software and are perceived by their peers to be twice as effective at communicating.
There are many existing eCRM solutions, some of the more prominent solutions platforms are offered by Hubspot. Salesforce, and currently from Microsoft Dynamics in partnership with LinkedIn. Essentially though, they all are designed to do the same thing, store all of your customer data and interactions in one central database. By integrating all customer activities into one cohesive database, you are able to send personalised emails and communications based on needs, interest, position in purchase funnel, or based occasion of last interaction. For example, you would certainly address a loyal customer of 10 years differently than you would a new customer or prospect. You can also track overall online and social activity by integrating email open rates and actions taken on the website and through social.This information will help to identify opportunities for engagement and allow you to send the right message at the right time to the right client.
Interactive Sales Content
Interactive sales content has been used within the pharmaceutical industry for almost a decade now. It is known as eDetailing and has transformed the way pharmaceutical sales reps currently interact with health care professionals. E-detailing in the pharmaceutical industry is defined as a broad and continually evolving term describing the use of electronic, interactive media to facilitate sales presentations to physicians. Today, e-detailing remains a welcome tool for pharmaceutical reps looking to connect with physicians in an enhanced way via an interactive platform.
Interactive sales content should not be reserved for the pharmaceutical industry alone. All industries can benefit from use of this tool. There are a few reasons organisations should adopt this solution for their salesforce. One being overall brand impression. Presenting a tablet and interactive content gives the impression that your organization is savvy, technologically advanced, and modern. These attributes help to build trust and ultimately speaks to the value of the product and/or service you are selling.
A second reason is that it allows for a fully tailored experience. Since users are already accustomed to self-service and independent learning, many customers have already engaged with the product or service independently and are therefore already familiar with some of the key features. Interactive sales content allows the salesperson to only surface the content that the buyer is interested in in a seamless and interactive way.
Lastly, presenting interactive content in a sales meeting as opposed to the traditional printed presentation will also allow you to track and analyse interactions. For example, you can track which slides get the most attention and interaction by tracking time spent on page. Likewise, you can track pages and content that is not used and delete or optimise accordingly.
GE sales representatives currently utilise interactive sales aids through the Brainshark platform. “We needed an easy-to-implement and comprehensive solution that works flawlessly with Salesforce, to increase sales productivity and success,” explains GE Digital’s chief sales officer, Jay Barrows. GE rolled out a sales accelerator tool in 2015 to enormous success and sales rep engagement. Now they can more easily track the progress they’re making and optimize accordingly, close in-field sales quicker, and streamline operations between sales and marketing. McGraw-Hill Education also utilises interactive sales aids for their B2B sales efforts. Previously, their sales reps would travel with a trunk full of textbooks that they would present to instructors during their visits. Moving to the tablet platform created enormous advantages for the sales reps and organization as a whole. The sales reps are now unburdened as they no longer need to carry around a large inventory of books, the finance department is pleased with the ability of the Salesforce system to provide forecasting, and business analysts can now look at sell-through and assess what is driving sales.
The B2B sales approach, unlike B2C, is heavily reliant on an one size fits all approach. It is important that B2B transitions to a more personalised selling model that allows for each call to be tailored to the needs of the individual client. Through the use of social selling, eCRM and marketing automation, and interactive content, you can bring your sales team into the digital era, improve overall ROI, reach your prospects more effectively, and gain further engagement during crucial sales meetings.
Author: Tara Hitlin