It’s the fact that B2B sales are going through major transformations. Prospective clients are looking for a personalized experience like never before. In some way, B2B marketing becomes very similar to B2C marketing.
It became very easy and convenient to interact with prospects throughout all customer journeys. The role of a salesperson is being replaced by a marketing department in many aspects, that is armed with sales automation tools. Will AI, bots, and automation replace salespeople?
To answer this question, let’s look at the three major B2B sales trends that will define sales enablement in 2021.
Sales Intelligence Technology
Technology has brought about significant changes into well-established B2B sales cycles. The salesperson’s toolbox is now made of many sales intelligence tools that help sales teams identify, track, analyze and interact with existing and potential clients. Salespeople can now predict and respond to the demands of each prospect and stay relevant throughout the entire sales process.
At the core of this change are data and automation. Two ingredients that allow unprecedented levels of data analysis and predictability leading to better segmentation, better targeting, better communication.
Although there are numerous business-to-business sales tools, there are those that are better than the rest, and choosing the right tools is key.
Personalization at the core of B2B sales
Today, prospective buyers have become experts at finding a lot of information online about the products and services they are looking for. So an impersonal, generic sales script will not help anymore to win them over.
B2C brands have been offering a personalized buying experience to prospective clients for a while. B2B prospects now expect the same.
So what exactly needs to be customized in B2B sales? Everything in the overall buying experience, from the communication channels and style to the insights and information delivered.
The main difference between B2B and B2C sales personalization is that your B2B prospects will not be impressed with souvenirs branded with their names or postal birthday cards. B2B personalization is about helping the prospect drive change to improve performance. The insights you deliver, the communication of these insights need to be well-timed, regular overtime and evolved from previous interactions (you don’t want a prospect to ever have to explain what he is looking for more than once, even when speaking to different departments at your company. Make sure it doesn’t happen in your sales process!).
Need for better trained and continuously coached salespeople
So are we at the point where salespeople and sales automation are clashing, like in a good old “human against robots” movie? At one end, a personal connection still means a lot. At the other end, sales automation technologies can be seen as more efficient and cheap.
But, technology has no soul. In 2021, B2B sales still need human intelligence and emotion to deliver sales [Deloitte]. But salespeople need to up their game to deliver what technology cannot. That is where sales coaching plays a crucial role as sales enablement is a constant improvement process.
Let’s look at email sales automation for example. Today, lead generation and email marketing platforms allow sending thousands of emails at once. But without a well through a selection of prospect groups and a personalized communication based on the specific needs and challenges of each group, using these tools can turn against you and damage your brand’s reputation.
Successful companies will invest even more in sales training and coaching their sales reps, and companies providing B2B sales training will adapt their programs to create modern sellers, who instinctively know how to find, engage and convert prospects month after month.
Today, the majority of B2B salespeople receive very little or no sales training and lack even the most basic sales skills from communications to sales tactics. And it has been shown that salespeople who receive continuous training achieve at least 50% better results on average.
Modern sales coaching is helping develop another significant trend which is collaboration. While in the past the “lone” sales wolf would “eat what he killed” on his own, today 77% of salespeople say selling collaboratively with other departments is important. Collaborative selling brings together sales, marketing, customer support, product, and many other departments while technology will allow making this collaboration effective by connecting processes and displaying data across the entire customer journey.
So will AI and robots replace salespeople? The reality is that the first generation of automation has already replaced simple, repetitive processes that used to be performed by junior salespeople (e.g. sending emails, aggregating data, managing calendars, etc). But AI is not advanced enough yet to provide a genuinely human buying experience. So for now, technology is not destroying but rather creating new sales jobs, helping companies execute sales processes seamlessly and at scale. In B2B sales, clients now expect a consultative service delivered by a salesperson that takes the role of a trusted advisor, so sales jobs are safe for some time to come.