May 10, 2021 9:13:02 PM
Principal Consultant, Marketing Technology
In recent years, the standard for business to business sales has been transformed massively. Especially the expectations for the ways in which buyers want to interact with companies have changed fundamentally. We now use digital services in our everyday life and expect to have flawless user experiences, the possibility to assess options transparently and to make immediate buying decisions wherever and whenever we are ready.
The everyday life expectations of buying experiences have been rapidly making their way also into the world of B2B sales. B2B digital services need to be designed from the perspective of what problems the buyer wants to solve. In many cases, the offerings are complex, similar to the problems that the buyer company is looking to solve. Traditionally, at this point of the buying process, professional salespeople and sales engineers would help the buyer find the perfect customised solution, even if the awareness and consideration phases would have been solved with digital marketing, content and automation. But this is now changing as well.
Unravelling the complexity of selling a B2B offering with digital tools is a tough nut to crack, but many progressive companies are making giant steps in this. These companies understand that in, e.g. customer service, some people will want to interact with “someone”, whether it is a well-educated bot or a service agent. Some will prefer self-service to the extreme. Sales channels will need to be developed to cater for the changing and varying buyer expectations.
Automating digital sales with configuring, pricing and quoting (CPQ) tools has been one of the more common discussions we have had with our B2B customers during the past years. CPQ tools have for a long time most commonly been used in the space of industrial, complex-to-model and high-value products. Now we see them being applied to use cases like professional services modelling, products with a high degree of personalisation, and traditional use cases.
Like many things, COVID has changed this as well. Suddenly, we see a vast amount of discussions and initiatives around the need to move complex buying into digital. This is entirely logical. Previously technical salespeople had the opportunity to sit down with the client team to forge a mutual understanding of the solution requirements. Suddenly this has to a large extent disappeared. Now companies must, and many have, speed up their attempts to create the tools needed to try, compare and buy in the digital world.
A sales configurator is not an IT project. The IT solution will most likely have a relatively high degree of complexity. Still, the main goal must be to add value for the buyer. To ensure this, following good practices for launching any digital service is crucial:
Understand what part(s) of the customer journey the digital service will play a role in. Create clear and logical pathways between different touchpoints – online and offline.
Creating an excellent digital service will provide value only if it gains traction. Salespeople will most likely be the most crucial stakeholder in making sure the service gets a flying start, so they must be motivated, knowledgeable and committed to the service.
Support launching the service with nurturing models to onboard the customers and educate them on its benefits. Give new users more information on value-adding features and activate customers who are not using it actively anymore.
With a complex offering, you will most likely need to make trade-offs between covering all possible variations and keeping your service easy to use. Focus on the prominent use cases and problems the buyer is looking to solve and create a great user experience for them. Extend the solution once you find out what are the things the buyers need to ask for separately.
Your digital sales tool should not be built merely to acquire specifications for customer needs while expecting technical salespeople to follow up. It should be geared towards forming the best possible understanding of the customer's problem and offering the customer an assessment with actionable options. The customer should have a clear understanding of the possible solution and a clear description of the offering, financials and important factors such as availability so that all information is at hand to move to the next stages of buying and ordering.
In the end, B2B sales is usually a complex endeavour between understanding the customers’ problem and gearing your offering to match it. With an increasing number of digital touchpoints, B2B sales is an intricate interplay between traditional and digital sales.
It is clear that in order to continue to be successful in the art of B2B sales, one must combine the old and the new, whether it is regarding the organisation, technologies or ways of working. Watch our on-demand webinar, B2B Digital Commerce Revolution, to discover how leading companies are embracing this challenge.
The webinar includes a discussion with Marta Dalton (Global eCommerce Director at Unilever), a global digital B2B sales thought leader. During her time as the Director of eCommerce at Coca Cola, she took the B2B ecommerce business from pilot to nearly $400M in 3 years. In addition, you will hear interesting success stories from industry forerunners — Framery and hallon.
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