Continuity versus Change – The “Rope Effect” in B2B Sales
Many talk about a change or even a transformation of business-to-business sales, but some things will remain the same in the future.
In this article, I would like to look at both sides and find an answer to the question: What remains better as it is and what was not better in the past?
I, too, got my information for this post from articles with names like “The Turbo Transformation” or “The Next Level: B2B Sales 4.0” because, of course, it is more exciting to write about what is radically changing than about what is staying the way it was decades ago. But especially in times of such substantial change, we should also think about what will probably remain as it is right now in ten or even 50 years.
The food for thought on this topic came from the successful German podcast “Gemischtes Hack”. In one of the more recent episodes, the two hosts, Felix Lobrecht and Tommi Schmitt, talk about what they call the “rope effect.” This paraphrase refers to objects, methods or practices, such as the rope, which has been used for thousands of years and is unlikely to find a dangerous substitute for decades to come.
In the following chapters, we will look at which sales areas are undergoing radical change and what these enduring ropes of sales will be.
1. Sales in a state of upheaval
Due to increasing digitization, sales is currently in a phase of upheaval between analogue and digital channels. This change should not be ignored and requires adjustments in all areas. Consequently, you can find extensive and essential advice everywhere on how a company should best face this change. I will summarize these aspects in the following three points:
1. Dynamic Sales Strategy:
In periods of change, the sales strategy must adapt to this change. To achieve this goal, the potential of new digital tools must be fully exploited. Also, facilitate collaboration between teams by breaking down departmental barriers (e.g., between marketing and after-sales). Always keep open opportunities to use new technologies where appropriate and necessary to maintain a competitive advantage.
Often, the change in sales also involves a change in operational workflows. Through better and better data analysis and more regular interactions, the needs and desires of customers are increasingly becoming the focus of all sales activities. Customers are becoming more informed and demanding, so salespeople should meet them with personalization and flexibility. Only in this way can modern sales meet modern customers at eye level.
3. Hybrid Sales:
The still prevailing pandemic and the global urge for social distancing have shown us the possibilities that the digital world has long offered us in the area of customer service. Since implementing the first CRM databases in the 1990s, digitization has been making its way into the sales arena. Flexibility, interactivity and multichannel management are just a few keywords that are becoming increasingly important in the field of modern, hybrid sales. Added to this are transformative technologies in artificial intelligence, which also support sales staff and increase the efficiency of sales activities. The result of this change will probably be a hybrid sales force characterized by a mixture of digital and personal support.
2. Challenges and Opportunities of Change
Depending on one’s perspective, the changes outlined above will be evaluated positively or negatively to varying degrees. Before we take a closer look at what is not changing, I would first like to argue how these upheavals can be classified.
There is no denying that the demands on sales employees are increasing overall. In addition to customer-centricity, time pressure and the amount of data available are also growing. At the same time, new sales and communication channels are being opened up through multi-media. There is also a compelling need for greater collaboration between the departments’ teams to enable seamless processing for the customer. These requirements mean that new competencies are needed, and old ones become obsolete.
But it is the third aspect of change listed above that promises to have the potential to act as a solution to many of these new challenges: new technological tools. These take over simple and routine tasks, freeing up windows of opportunity for closer customer contact (LINK). Enabling fast and reliable data availability also simplifies the personalization of the sales process for the customer.
If we weigh these opportunities and challenges against each other, the chances will definitely be classified as more serious. Nevertheless, B2B sales is facing a challenging transformation that requires a stable foundation to be successful. This consists of the ropes described above, which we will take a closer look at in the next chapter, specifically for sales.
3. The “Rope Effect” and what will not change
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, according to the podcast “Gemischtes Hack”, the “rope effect” describes things, methods or practices that were already used many years ago and will probably remain irreplaceable in 50 years. In the episode, the two presenters provide various examples from everyday life and thus also food for thought and a basis for discussions about their own area of life.
Today, I would like to take a closer look at the area of sales. Having already listed what will probably be the actual main changes, I would now like to focus on the consistent ropes of this field.
I have already touched on some of the points above. For example, the individualization of customer contact has always been essential. Technological tools make this even more accessible in modern sales, but its importance remains the same at its core. Sales has also always been customer centric. Statements such as “the customer is king” are probably as old as sales itself and yet more relevant than ever. Similar to the individualization of customer contact, the difference between this and sales decades ago lies only in implementing this concept, not in its importance.
If we look at the basic definition of sales: “The keyword sales refers to the entire sales process of a product or service”, it also becomes clear that little has changed or will change in this respect.
These are just a few of probably countless “ropes” in sales: Individualization, customer-centricity, and the specialist department’s core function. In conjunction with the significant upheavals in sales activities, these points are an essential component of successfully transforming one’s own department.
4. The real Future of Sales
The words “sales of the future” are usually used to describe what will change the most. But what is certain is that the valid sales of the future will include both the altered aspects and the tried-and-true ones.
It can be stated that the core functions and values of sales have always been unchanging and will remain so. What will change is the way they are implemented and executed by individual salespeople. The degree of support by technology and thus the efficiency are also variable.
5. Conclusion: B2B Sales between Continuity and Change
The truth is probably, as so often, somewhere in the middle of extreme change, and everything stays the same. B2B sales will continue to change, and new technologies, in particular, will contribute. With all the change, it helps to continually reflect on what remains at the core as it has been for a long time.
Think to yourself, “What are the ropes in my business?” and “What can we rely on during drastic periods of change?” This will not only provide you but also your employees with security when it is needed most.
Feel free to let us know in the comments what your personal and professional ropes are that you hold on to when things get a little stormy in your environment.
Hildebrandt, A. & Landhäußer, W. (2017). CSR und Digitalisierung: Der digitale Wandel als Chance und Herausforderung für Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Management-Reihe Corporate Social Responsibility) (1. Aufl. 2017 Aufl.) [E-Book]. Springer Gabler.