The New-Normal in B2B Sales
New Year – New Normal? What has changed in B2B sales due to the Corona crisis, and what should you know about it? Learn the four most essential insights from the crisis year here.
The year 2020 was a turbulent year with many ups and downs that will go down in history and produced one thing above all: Change. A “new normal” (also: next-normal) was predicted early last year for the post-crisis period.
The findings from the first quarter of 2021 show that, of course, not everything in the company is different than it was before the Corona pandemic. However, new ways of working and thinking have developed over the past year. And they are changing many things, including B2B sales – for the better.
To ensure that your sales organization is ready for the next normal, we present below the four most important lessons for B2B sales from the year 2020.
1. From Salesperson to Helper
The circumstances last year forced salespeople to take on a new role. The adaption to the unknown situation was the only way they could adapt to their customers’ changing needs and the significantly slowed pace of sales.
To fully understand the professional as well as the personal situation of the buyers and to be able to derive the resulting challenges, it was essential for the sales force to put itself in the customers’ shoes.
During this time, sales representatives changed from being a salesperson to being a helper and overcame emerging difficulties together with his customers. This was only possible because he recognized B2B customers’ needs for immediate, personal as well as networked buying experiences and served them promptly.
Meeting these expectations for open and intuitive experiences along the customer journey is the basis of a sustainable customer relationship, even in the new normal.
The last few months have clearly shown us how crucial such long-term and stable customer loyalty is.
A single interaction with one of your customers today can determine how high loyalty and churn rates will be in highly competitive or crisis-ridden times.
That’s why you need to understand what your customers need today and recognize that your company possesses a unique position to provide it.
2. Sales from anywhere
Digitalization in companies was also driven by the pandemic and the resulting situation in which many employees only worked from their home offices.
A study by Bitkom, for example, shows that almost one in two of the professionals surveyed in Germany worked entirely or at least partly from home since the start of the pandemic.
This new circumstance hit the customer and provider sides equally. For this reason, maintaining and safeguarding close communication with customers was essential.
As a result of this situation, companies increasingly discovered digital tools that support the sales process and replace personal contacts as much as possible.
The resulting digital B2B toolbox and a more relaxed working way made it possible to conduct sales independent of time and location. This increased efficiency and pushed the boundaries between office and field sales staff increasingly blurred.
Digitization will continue to play an important, if not the most important, role in B2B sales in the new normal.
To fully address the needs of customers, there is no way around the dismantling of analogue structures and the establishment of digital infrastructure.
3. B2B Sales – Turning Art into Science
Successfully selling to diverse customers with diverse needs in various environments requires a deep understanding of who the (potential) buyers are and what motivates them. Creating such an experience can be supported by analyzing data through software solutions.
Salespeople can enrich information from face-to-face interactions with data from digital exchanges and, in this way, obtain a fully comprehensive picture of the customer. In the crisis year 2020, companies generated more sales in online retail than ever before. At the same time, this brings with it more (online) data than ever before.
Smart technologies such as predictive sales software can use this data to make predictions and recommendations on handling customers.
In this way, salespeople can predict customer attrition before it happens, price smarter, and discover hidden cross-selling opportunities.
These forecasts help to maintain security and stability by making sales more reliable, predictable, and efficient.
4. Priority planning
Last year made it impossible for B2B salespeople to fall back on familiar routines and strategies from previous years. Circumstances were so different from those in the same periods of the last year that new ways had to be found, and innovative tactics tried.
What initially sounds like a strenuous extra effort ensured that entrenched companies could revive their business after years by breaking out of dusty routines.
The hotel industry can be cited as an example here. Heavily threatened by competitors (such as Airbnb) before Corona, the industry discovered a new business segment for itself during the first lockdown in 2020: Renting out hotel rooms as for home offices. This offering might be a new business strategy that some hotels might maintain after the pandemic to attract guests from their region (depending on legal circumstances).
Retain this knowledge and do not only fall back into familiar workflows in the new normal. Instead, integrate regular evaluation phases in which you check the appropriateness of your standard planning processes.
Prioritization should be a particular focus of this planning.
Some companies whose target industries were particularly hard hit by the Corona crisis had to re-evaluate the market segments they serve and assess their future viability. It makes sense to regularly review the crisis-proofness of your target group and, in parallel, to look for new growth areas.
In this way, your company will be optimally prepared for the new normal and ready for possible future crises.
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The New Normal in B2B Sales – Conclusion
As difficult as last year was, it taught us not to stick to routines and forced us to arrive technologically and economically in the digital age. Use these valuable lessons to future-proof your sales force. That way, you can serve your customers’ needs efficiently and sustainably.
See the new normal as an opportunity, not a threat, and change what has been planned for years.
What does your “new normal” in B2B sales look like? Share it, and feel free to discuss it in the comments.
Do you have any further questions on this topic? We are happy to help!
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Pauly, B. & Markert, L. A. (2020): Corona-Pandemie: Arbeit im Homeoffice nimmt deutlich zu. Ed.: Bitkom (German language)
Pregler, Mike (2020): What 2020 Taught B2B Sales Leaders And Teams. Ed.: Forrester (German language)
Ross, Jennifer (2020): 2020 B2B Marketing Practices That You Should Keep (Or Adopt) In 2021. Ed.: Forrester (German language)
Statista (2020): Brutto-Umsatz im Online-Handel in Deutschland vom 1. Quartal 2015 bis zum 3. Quartal 2020 (German language)