B2B Sales after COVID-19 : What changes and what doesn’t?

b2b sales

Although the entire implications of the pandemic are far away from certain, it is already clear that its economic consequences are dire…

How B2B Sales changed during the pandemic?

For B2B sales leaders foreseeing how to react, taking care of their prospects or clients must be a top priority. 

They need to adjust how their B2B organizations sell in the face of new client habits and trying economic times. In a lot ways, the changes in customer behavior are an acceleration of digital trends that were in motion before the crisis hit. 

We believe we are at a digital inflection point, where B2B sales operations going ahead will appear fundamentally different from what they were before the pandemic.

Sales leaders are already accelerating to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, with the best ones focusing on how to make targeted changes that help their B2B businesses weather the storm and start preparing for the recovery.

So the question remains – What changes and what doesn’t in B2B Sales after the pandemic settles?

Let us answer this for you. 

What changes?

1. Get proactive with client outreach  

When B2B sales leaders hyper-personalize their client outreach, they can increase the pipeline by as much as 70% – or run up against a hard reality.

Success in business lies in creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner — spanning marketing, sales and client service — aimed at resonating deeply with prospects so that they feel valued and appreciated.

“Now” is not the time to sit back and wait for warm qualified leads and deals to come to you. 

You need to put your head down and start working. 

Begin with developing a comprehensive approach for client outreach and lead generation from all possible channels: outbound lead generation (cold calling, email marketing, direct mail) and inbound lead generation (search engine marketing, social media, PPC ads).

Further, get more proactive at asking for referrals from existing clients. Ask everyone in your sales team to brainstorm and make lists of potential leads from their own professional and personal networks. 

It is an apt time to pull out all the stops and figure out where your potential clients are, and how to reach them.

2. The importance of revisiting your cold sales leads more frequently

There are far too many companies who overlook the value of their “cold” sales leads. 

If you have B2B sales prospects that haven’t received a follow-up call since before the crisis started, now could be a good opportunity for you to check in with them. 

Even if a prospective client was not ready to buy, or was even struggling with a crisis of their own a few months ago, their circumstances might have changed for the better by now. 

Some B2B organizations haven’t stopped spending, but are shifting their spending into different areas, or spending differently with multiple vendors. Whereas, some might have changed their procurement process in a way that is more favorable for their business.

Whatever the situation is, it’s a good idea to revisit your list of long-term sales leads and check in with the “cold” prospects, even the ones that might not have seemed like high priority leads 6 months ago.

3. The gradual shift to a virtual sales model 

A gradual shift in the importance of digital interactions is reflected in client’s behaviors these days. 

When researching products, clients’ preference for digitally enabled sales interactions has jumped significantly, with suppliers’ mobile apps and social media or online communities showing their steepest increase since 2019. 

For instance, mobile apps are twice as important for researching products among Chinese buyers as they are for those in the UK or Germany.

More interestingly, the importance of a supplier’s web page did not change much, likely because consumers were already actively using supplier websites for this part of their journey.

This carries on a pronounced trend of preference for self-service channels across every stage of the client’s decision journey.

4. Your adaption to dynamic environment 

It seems like the entire world is shifting wildly from one day to the next, and it’s true that now more than ever, the only constant is change. 

Be prepared as your prospects’ needs will change. 

All of the B2B companies that you’ve tried selling to before, are also navigating this same environment of uncertainty and unpredictability; the solution that you sell might suddenly be a better fit for what they need now. 

Even your prospects might get acquired by other companies. Or your prospect’s vendor might go out of business, creating a need for a new vendor (you!) to get on board with the prospect’s organization. 

Every sales conversation you have needs to lean into this spirit of dynamism and resilience. 

Ask yourself: 

How can you help your clients’ businesses get stronger, leaner, more efficient, lower-cost, or lower-risk? 

How can you adapt your sales pitch to the unique concerns and challenges of this specific moment of crisis?

This might sound premature or naively optimistic to talk about COVID-19 having a “New Normal.”

But the B2B business world, especially in the world of major account sales, seems to be shifting in the direction of something resembling normalcy. 

So, make sure you can adapt your sales strategies accordingly. 

5. Empathy will be the need of the hour

Most frequently, the first step to empathy is assuring employees and clients— “We are here for you.” 

And later, asking them — “What can we do to help you in these times?” 

Show them that you care and be honest and transparent about it. No one expected the pandemic. 

But now that it’s in our core, a compassionate response from a business leader can go a long way in putting his or her employees and clients at ease and helping them coast through the work-life disruption.

During uncertain times, compassion means having greater empathy and flexibility.

Here, internal communication with clients, specifically emails, is an important part of crisis management. B2B organizations can set the tone — gently so — by being open about where they stand amidst all the chaos and engaging with them through frequent and reassuring emails. 

Trust and loyalty is built and tested at the time of crisis. The more empathetic we are as sales leaders in our organizations, the more willing your clients will be to show up and respond.

What doesn’t?

1. Adoption of cloud-based CRM

A salesperson’s CRM (customer relationship management) platform was one of the most used tools in their technology stack even before the crisis. 

Your CRM lets you manage client and prospect’s data which contains valuable information regarding their behavior and buying habits. 

CRMs are a key priority for enabling your business strategy as 92% of B2B sales professionals cited.

However, there’s been a recent development in the CRM world during the pandemic that’s changing the B2B selling process: cloud-based CRM platforms. 

Instead of living in on-site software systems, the CRM data is hosted on the cloud. Compared to traditional CRM platforms that require on-premise deployment, cloud-based services are deployed on the web ensuring higher availability.

2. The advent of Big Data 

All thanks to the internet, B2B companies are far more connected to their prospects and clients. 

This, paired with cloud-based CRM technology and the introduction of AI, has given companies a quick and easy way to analyze bulk of data. 

Simply put, companies have a ton of information that they just don’t know what to do with. 

But with the right tools, you can help you collect, analyze, and apply your data — effectively transforming your B2B selling process during uncertain times as well:

Enables more targeted prospecting:  71% of B2B sales professionals said that 50% or fewer or their initial prospects turn out to be good fitting leads. 

To increase the number of relevant leads, latest data-driven sales prospecting  (Big Data) can analyze your client and prospect database. This will help you uncover new prospects that match the characteristics of your best buyers for smooth selling.

Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics use raw data to forecast future sales results. B2B sales forecasting used to be largely guesswork. But with the advent of Big Data, forecasting is much closer to being an exact science.

Better data maintenance:  Working off of bad, incomplete data is a quick way to kill your sales efficiency. Big data tools keep your database clean, accurate, and up-to-date — on a scheduled basis or with the click of a button.

3. Social selling is still the growing trend

Social selling helps you reach your prospects where they’re most active. This growing trend refers to B2B sales reps using social media to interact with prospects and customers. 

Aside from the social platforms themselves, the latest social selling tools will offer a variety of features to inform and simplify your social selling efforts even after COVID times. 

Here are a few of these features:

Social listening:  Identify significant conversations and keywords that signal whether your lead is a good fit or not for your products or services.

Sentiment analysis:  Analyze aggregated lists of social conversations and their general sentiment. Know right away if a prospect is happy, mad, or critical.

4. B2B sales reps are still the most integral part of the buying process 

70% of buyers want to involve a sales rep during the exploration stage. B2B buyers expect B2B salespeople to help them work through complex buying challenges.

Most studies believe that during the crisis, sales reps have lost their importance but the truth is their overall value has not decreased. But their role is no longer limited to teaching clients about the product, but to make it suit their situation.

B2B buyers don’t actually want an “off-the shelf” product. All they want is a comprehensive, customized solution that is tailored to meet their needs. 

Because of this, the sales rep of today is more valuable than ever.

A recent research by Gartner shows that buyers no longer move through a funnel one step at a time. 

They need sales reps to guide them through the parallel processes of exploring, evaluating, engaging, and experiencing.

Top sales reps of today embrace their changing role in the funnel by tailoring solutions for their clients.

5. The growth of Account-based selling (ABS)

Buying teams these days are composed of 5.4 people rather than being the one-man-show they used to be. 

Top B2B sales organizations know that it is ten times more expensive to gain new clients than maintain an old one. These organizations adapt to prioritize an account’s health.

Loyal clients are 60-70% more likely to buy again.

Further, ABS allows smaller B2B companies to successfully sell to micro markets by focusing on “farming” to develop the client relationship.

Amidst pandemic, ABS teams are now made of 4 primary roles: An account executive, a B2B sales development representative, a marketer, and a support representative. 

ABS is responsible for 75% larger deals. 

Using the ABS system, B2B companies have reported a 150% growth in client lifetime value.

Let’s welcome the “NEW NORMAL”

“Normal” might still be a long way off, but COVID-19’s “New Normal” is still presenting unique opportunities for B2B sales organizations that are ready to take them with open arms.

Our B2B Sales & Marketing Consultancy firm can help you carve out a suitable selling path for your business during COVID recession with our especially hand-tailored digital solutions/strategies that suit you, and improve sales now & into the future.