B2C companies have evolved into customer-centric organizations by investing in digital technology that boosts operational efficiency and profitability. Now, B2B leaders are following suit. They're adapting B2C trends to meet their own customers' growing expectations for a personalized, relevant and friction-free experience. This means product information needs to be on-demand, and sales reps must be equal parts experts, advisors and facilitators.
High-growth B2B companies are the quickest to adopt these new ways of operating across marketing, sales and service. While these early adopters tend to be smaller, nimbler B2B enterprises, we see their investments as a leading indicator of how large companies will embrace these growth accelerators going forward.
Point B’s Perspective
Point B helps B2B companies capture the full potential of their teams across marketing, sales and service. In the process, we've found five growth accelerators that B2B companies can leverage to make a real impact on the bottom line.
Accelerator 1: Everyone's responsible for revenue growth. Revenue has historically been the responsibility of sales, with little accountability from marketing and service. Now B2B companies must address customer acquisition, retention and expansion as a team effort. This team approach helps retain existing customers, which costs less than acquiring new one. What's more, according to "The State of Customer Success: 2017" report from the Technology Services Industry Association, increasing retention by as little as five percent can boost profitability by 25 to 95 percent.
A billion-dollar provider of print and label solutions developed a strategic roadmap to centralize, integrate and align its design service, field client care, and order fulfillment. The company reduced its overhead expense by $2.4 million, with an 18 percent increase in sales force effectiveness and a five percent increase in quality scores—all within 18 months.
Accelerator 2: Reconsider the value of outside sales. Companies have historically invested heavily in outside sales teams, assuming that face-to-face meetings are crucial to closing deals. Now, according to a recent buyer survey by Sales Benchmark Index, in nearly 75 percent of sales situations, the customer would prefer not to spend time meeting face to face.
B2B companies are rethinking their strategies and investments around outside and inside sales. Some have transitioned their go-to-market model to focus on inside sales. One digital marketing agency flipped its ratio of outside:inside sales reps from 10:1 to 1:5—a shift that created 20 percent lift in net revenue. The agency found that inside sales maintained sales revenues and cycles that were similar to outside sales.
Accelerator 3: Don't fear niche technology. The sheer number of point solutions is growing fast, and B2B companies find that existing enterprise technology solutions lack the niche capabilities to fully enable marketing, sales and service. As a result, small and new technology companies are developing point solutions to augment existing technology platforms in order to meet the changing needs of B2B sales teams.
The Technology Services Industry Association forecasts that B2B companies will invest $30 billion in sales enablement technology in 2017 alone. In addition to technology, B2B companies are also expected to make similar investments in marketing and service operations and organizational design.
One digital agency that markets to the legal industry invested in a niche customer contact platform for its inside sales team. By automating operational processes, the platform increased productivity by 200 percent. The agency also equipped outside sales with a scaled-down version of the platform; cost of sales decreased as over 80 percent of outside sales changed from face-to-face to phone and emails.
Accelerator 4: Align sales and marketing to deliver together. Many companies experience friction in the hand-off of a sales qualified lead (SQL) from marketing to sales. This hand-off is the toughest stage to define in the sales cycle, with different steps to defining the criteria for qualifying a lead.
The solution? Start by putting sales and marketing in the same reporting structure. Next, create a function dedicated to owning SQLs that lives between sales and marketing. Some companies call this team Demand Generation. A 2015 study by SiriusDecisions shows that B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve faster three-year growth in revenue (24 percent) and profits (27 percent).
One marketing services company created a demand generation team by integrating its outbound lead generation team and inbound marketing team. The move increased the number of SQLs by 34 percent and decreased labor costs by 12.5 percent.
Accelerator 5: Differentiate your customer experience with exceptional service. High-growth B2B companies embrace the concept of service as a differentiator—and they invest in people, process and technology accordingly. They capture, analyze and share customer feedback with product development, marketing and sales teams. The feedback helps identify which customers may be at risk of leaving, and why.
A financial services company sought customer feedback to complete a win-loss analysis. One key finding was that when customers were not ready to buy, there was no follow-up on future sales opportunities. The company also found that a competitor was spreading false claims about its product. Equipped with this new understanding, the company resolved the issues and increased its win rate by 18 percent— 6 points over its closest competitor.
The Bottom Line
Not every B2B company falls into the high-growth category. But nearly every company can increase net income, operational efficiency and profitability by becoming more customer-centric. Along the way, you'll delight your customers through your sales process, deliver differentiated service, and maximize the lifetime value of your customer relationships.