What sales was and will be in the future.

This article is a personal one. I have written about exciting facts in business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing. I have also shared our thoughts about the sales of the future.

In this article, I would like to list my personal choice. What are the most interesting things about sales and marketing in B2B?

About me: I studied electronic engineering and started a career in sales more than 20 years ago. I worked for Festo, Omron and Belden-Hirschman before founding Qymatix. The fax was ubiquitous in sales. Other technologies were appearing. I sent my first electronic mail in 1999, got a mobile phone a year later.

The sales profession changed dramatically in the last two decades. Some points are, for me, fascinating. For me, the evolving and long-term relationship nature of the job and how high-tech is shaping both are the most exciting thing about marketing and sales in B2B.

Let’s review them together.

The changing nature of the job

Business to business sales has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Especially in the last decade, the transformation has only accelerated. Experiencing first-hand this evolution is the most exciting point to share.

Buyers and management are consequences and catalysers of the change. Sales management needed to adapt to new methods, technologies and behaviours. Before every salesperson had their laptop, they used to fill customer reposts manually, on paper. Nowadays, sales teams use CRM Systems to share activities and document customer interactions.

CRM systems are a productivity booster, sometimes also a burden. Sales managers are now managing 68 % more salespeople each. Without a digital tool, this feat would not be possible.

Customers have access to information and thus more power. Almost nine out of ten purchase managers use the internet for their research. Content and digital marketing are essential to reach them and influence them.

Lastly, in Germany, three-quarters of all B2B companies are already employing social media for sales. Twenty years ago, I could not have foreseen how much my loved profession would have changed.

The long-term nature of the relationships

Many things have dramatically changed in B2B sales; others have not. One of the most interesting aspects of the profession remains well alive. B2B sales is all about long-term relationships.

Although nobody will expect today that a sales executive spends her entire career in the same company, staying in the same industry is entirely typical. In sales, you will meet again and again many of the same colleagues, customers, vendors, and partners. Technology will not erode shared trust.

Building on personal trust does not mean that sales will get easier the longer you are on it. Sales cycles in B2B keep getting longer. According to the American statistics website Biznology, sales decisions take on average 22 % longer than 5 years ago.

One of the most exciting things about B2B sales and marketing is that relationships will keep playing a central role, notwithstanding new dynamics in the job market and how long it takes for customers to buy. Ignore this at your peril.

Sales? Yes, but high-tech.

I find it funny that there is still the misconception that sales are not a high-tech endeavour. Yes, sales it’s about personal relationships. Those relationships are of long-term nature. Today, B2B sales is, however, a high-tech game. Allow me to illustrate my point with three examples.

What is social media nowadays is not high-tech? Reps employ networks such as LinkedIn and XING to build sales connections. New technologies enabled both social networks. More than 3/4 of companies use social media for their B2B sales and marketing activities in Germany alone.

Second example. Years ago, if you were a sales representative of a wholesaler, your intuition and maybe some business intelligence would help you sell more. Nowadays, Predictive Analytics Software gives you recommendations for action for every individual customer and product. Using AI-based software, sales representatives can reduce churn, increase cross-selling, and improve pricing. Predictive Analytics is a defining technology in CRM.

And using AI in CRM brings tangible benefits. Recently, researchers in the B2B field demonstrated that a company could boost profits by 10 % using AI. Yael Karlinsky-Shichor (Northeastern University) and Oded Netzer (Columbia University) propose a hybrid pricing strategy using AI: automatically mixing machine learning with human expertise. This arrangement produces better profits than either AI or salespeople alone.


The most interesting thing about marketing and sales in B2B – Summary

There are three things I find fascinating about marketing and sales:

1. The constant change.
2. Long-term customer relationships.
3. The technology underpinning them.

CRM with Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Social Networks are new technologies re-shaping the sales and marketing functions. Although change has been accelerating over the past years, successful key account managers and sales reps invest in their customers.

When everything around you is changing, trust and technology are two valuable foundations for success.

What are your most interesting things about marketing and sales? Share them now in the comments!


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