by Zameer Baber, Garrett Kephart

How will your B2B sales teams sell in a post-COVID world? Choosing digital sales tools requires rethinking your business strategy. Here’s what to consider.

As organizations consider how their operations need to change in a post-COVID world, many are rethinking how their B2B sales teams will operate as they may no longer want – or will be able – to travel to meet their customers. This is one of many reasons organizations are looking to implement digital sales tools, including:

  • Companies that appropriately adopt digital B2B sales will drive 5 times more revenue growth than their peers. 
  • 53% of companies plan to increase or maintain their digital spend despite COVID-19. In 85% of the cases, the rate of change in spend—either up or down—was no more than 25% of total spend.
  • Less than one-fifth of B2B buyers are purchasing 90% or more of their products online even though nearly 30% would prefer to do so.

Yet despite this, only 5% of B2B digital initiatives within organizations are actually meeting their goals. Many believe if they invest heavily in digital tools, their prospects will migrate their shopping online as well. While this may be the case in B2C sales, B2B transactions are very different. While e-commerce can help drive revenue and reduce costs, simply enabling e-commerce technologies will not be enough to appropriately transition your sales teams and customers online. To properly leverage digital as part of sales process, organizations need to rethink their business models to meet the rapidly changing needs of the market. In addition, once viable business models are identified, digital capabilities must be enabled in a way that ensures revenue and operational savings targets are met to reinforce new business opportunities.

Digital can be a lever to both increase revenue and reduce operating costs, providing the unique ability to test and learn new innovative ideas. Your digital portfolio should reflect the shift to the highest return strategies in the immediate and the short-term.

Revenue

Customers want an Amazon-like experience in all their digital interactions, even in the B2B space. However, B2B is significantly more complex. B2B sales requires new and different value propositions that are created and enhanced through digital methods, tools and processes. The shift to digital creates a unique opportunity to engage with customers differently, providing the channels to help create new value streams (health and safety, speed, efficiency, automation, customization, experience, etc.). Furthermore, the amount of information that is shown publicly versus after contracts are signed has a significant impact on revenue. Organizations need to understand the impact that revealing information such as product specifications or pricing will have on leverage and contract negotiations. Show too much and you risk turning your product or services into a commodity. Show too little and you risk prospects turning away from not having enough information about your products.

Costs

While digital allows for a reduction of manual work and is a great way to reduce overhead costs, not every part of the sales function can be automated or moved to digital. Environments that typically bode well include high-volume and low complexity, with repetitive transactional work; stable environments, with mature and steady technology packages; large teams that can leverage five to 10 existing full time employees (FTEs) performing similar activities; highly rules-based processes that can be measured and improved upon; standardized processes that can be executed across geographies; and operations that have typically benefited from offshoring of back-office functions.

Innovation

You’ll need to anticipate the future in the midst of exponential change, while still delivering the traditional value that stakeholders expect. Prioritizing a portion of your investments for research and development ensures that as technology and the environment change you have the foundation to roll out new capabilities as customer expectations evolve. There are a number of methodologies organizations use to prioritize capabilities that drive innovation. Create the appropriate space to experiment with new ideas.

Creating a resilient strategy with new goals for revenue, operational savings and innovation is critical when considering B2B digital sales. To rapidly adapt your digital strategy to a post-COVID world:

  • Assess the customer and market conditions to identify and evaluate new digital-enabled business models that can create new and different value for your customers.
  • Create flexibility in your plan to rapidly adapt execution to emerging conditions and uncertainty.
  • While resources may need to shift rapidly to the highest return strategies in the immediate and short-term, don’t forget the long game.
  • Extend your sales team online as a reflection of this overall strategy not just a quick reactionary measure. Develop experiences that both protect your leverage while providing enough information to entice your customers.
  • Remember that digital is a lever to both increase revenue and reduce operating costs. Your digital portfolio should reflect the shift to the highest return strategies in the immediate and the short-term.
  • Prioritize a portion of your investments for research and development to prepare to roll out new capabilities as customer expectations evolve.

The Bottom Line

Digital can be a lever for revenue generation, cost reduction and innovation. Don’t be tempted to just develop an e-commerce site for the sake of simply pushing B2B sales online. Rapidly re-assess your digital strategy; revise your goals for revenue, cost and innovation; and adjust your digital investment portfolio accordingly.