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Effective B2B Selling in a Virtual, Digital-First Age

Founder of Orchid Agency
Mariya Finkelshteyn
July 12, 2021
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Business-to-business (B2B) selling, especially to an enterprise audience, is highly driven via relationships. However given the pandemic, most B2B sellers had to pivot and learn how to sell in a digital-first, virtual setting. 

The Challenge of Selling Effectively

The year 2020 was the year the B2B sales teams needed a change. It’s the time when businesses have faced more pressure to clearly identify and pursue best opportunities, without wasting time and effort on long-shot deals. Sellers want to hit their quotas, while businesses want to achieve healthy revenue growth. Selling effectively means having all the resources, such as salespeople, channels, and information, to build strong and lasting customer relationships.

B2B Buyers Are on the Lead

B2B buyers have had wide access to a wealth of resources and information online through the years. Salespeople have been the primary source of information on the products and services they offer, however, their influence in educating customers has dwindled. Buyers are now spending more time online to research potential solutions and at the same time keep up on the latest industry trends.

The Miller Heiman Group’s 2018 survey of the B2B buyers defines the most frequently used sources of information in the decision-making process. It also highlighted that the B2B buyers tend to involve the vendor salespeople later in the process. More than 70% of the buyers identify their needs initially and 44% find solutions first.

Here are a few key customer expectations that shape B2B buyers’ perceptions of sellers:

  • Listening (not simply talking)
  • Offering useful insights and perspectives
  • Understanding of the business and the individuals
  • Concentrating on post-sale relationship

Nonetheless, sellers play a crucial role in shaping and maintaining customer relationships. While they may no longer be the primary source of information, they still establish the trusted customer relationships that win or lose deals. For B2B buyers, sellers are still the embodiment of a business’ goal to have long-term relationships with them.

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B2B Sales Management in the Time of COVID-19 

Since the start of the global lockdown in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, B2B sales teams have had to quickly adapt. There are no more industry physical conferences, trade shows, as well as customer visits that were mainly used as tools for businesses. Now, they were replaced by virtual conferences, video calls, and social media experimentation.

Making a sale depends on the sellers’ ability to assess quickly the buyer’s needs and use all the administrative tasks required and trade-off options to comply with all their needs. The better insights about the customer’s circumstances and the business, the more chances of success for the sellers. Without the physical interactions, sellers must use only the available means to get those insights.

More so, sales leaders had to create major shifts, too. No more traditional approaches, like lengthy process review meetings, to sales management. Working style has been focused more on customers’ needs, emphasizing outcomes, communicating regularly, providing guidance and help, working with customers and internally to get the right resources, identifying potential obstacles, and determining the most effective ways to achieve good results. Everyone now values team communication that is centered on sharing information and lessons learned. 

Defeating the CRM Enigma

Amidst the shifts in B2B sales, CRM systems are supposed to make things easier. CRM provides the central place and system of record for both opportunities and customer accounts. It is a daily tool that helps sellers organize their information and manages the pipeline for the executives. Nevertheless, CRM systems haven’t addressed the basic needs of sellers or the struggles of helping them sell effectively.

In order to overcome this traditional CRM systems problem, businesses should acknowledge the realities of how successful salespeople choose to work. This highlights the interdependence between meeting the needs of a seller and supporting the executives.

How it Works

Apparently, seller enablement tools differ from most CRM systems, because they are designed for sellers and the way they get work done. Instead of being organized around a database, they show recommended actions and reminders based on the flow of work in a seller’s day. They gather relevant information through automation and machine learning (ML), decreasing manual work load for the seller.

This is the difference between systems that are typically used and the ones that need threat to enforce least compliance. The adoption and usage of this determines the timeliness, usefulness, and accuracy of information in the system. An interest on the seller’s part helps them do their job efficiently and ensures usage of the tool.  

Developing Operational Flow

Once a seller gets immediate benefit from using a seller enablement tool, they have a significant incentive to do so. And when many sellers benefit from their shared usage of the system, then the business profits. The quality of information increases and as a result, the executives can make more accurate predictions about business outcomes based on better data with algorithms that improve pipeline planning and add historical performance patterns.

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Defining Seller Enablement Capabilities and Tools

Truth be told, the market for seller enablement tools is now crowded. This is mainly caused by a rapid expansion of the set of capabilities and the improvement of artificial intelligence (AI) models. A lot of different approaches to solving similar set of problems for specific audiences also result in this. Thus, there may be a short list of competitors in the market.

All seller enablement tools have automated data capture as a core capability. It consists of a plugin that leverages ML to get specific data from emails and uses this to populate and update CRM systems automatically. Additionally, internal and external data sources can be integrated in seller enablement tools. These can add crucial insights and information to your business.

If you are considering seller enablement tools and evaluating available options, then check out the following recommendations especially made for you:

Know which interface or user option that is most likely to drive adoption.

Take into consideration where most sellers spend most of their time nowadays. By offering individual users the option to choose for themselves, you can definitely make this a powerful initial strategy. 

Determine needs and priorities.

It is also necessary to have a clear understanding of your needs and priorities. The key factors are sales priorities, sales structure, sales philosophy, as well as maturity and experience of sellers. These then will truly identify the most significant interface options.

Begin with a pilot.

An initial pilot has the benefit of seeding buy-in among a larger group of sellers. Generally, these tools are used and received among sellers. Demonstrating success with an initial pilot team shows the competitiveness and successful strategies within the group.

Combine a number of tools.

Different teams have different needs. Depending on the size and complexity of the sales organization, a combination of tools can be a great choice. There may be some challenges for the managers and leaders, but integration and coexistence commonly present few major problems.

Create an honest circle of sellers, managers, leaders, and customers.

The implementation and adoption of the seller enablement tool ensures that all the needs of everyone is met, particularly the customers. They should see the benefit of enhanced communication, better coordination, and closer attention to their needs and priorities.  A healthy relationship will also follow when you form a virtuous team.

Work within the existing CRM system.

This option offers the lowest barrier to entry and the best adoption. Although the CRM tool has gained a not-so-good reputation internally, working within the system can still be advantageous for your business.

Hence, the B2B sales environment changes over time. To address the seller’s needs, you can count on seller enablement tools as mentioned above. Explore the available options out there and learn how you can incorporate these to your business. Talk to us today and learn how your sales teams can be more effective in a digital-first, virtual age.