B2B-focused brands across all industries are feeling the technology crunch. Technological advances are changing the way sales teams operate, and companies are constantly on the lookout for solutions that will help them outpace the competition. Not only that, but contemporary B2B buyers expect their experience to be based around service that is only possible thanks to automation techniques and other technological innovations.
Modern technology is impressive, but technological programs can’t sell products and services on their own. Without the help of talented sales professionals to interact with prospects throughout the sales funnel, even the most technologically advanced companies would find themselves floundering.
Advances in technology have transformed the role of the typical B2B salesperson. We’re not going back to the way sales was before the digital revolution, and it’s important for contemporary salespeople to accept that technology makes many things easier for the customers and the organization. It can also improve the sales experience, and sales leaders and reps have to work together to find innovative ways to harness the power of new tech and the unique capabilities of people.
Easily the biggest shift has occurred thanks to the availability of information on the internet. Salespeople were once the guardians of information for a company’s product line, and learning about specific and customized solutions often necessitated a conversation with a salesperson first. Now, studies indicate that nearly three-quarters of B2B buyers have finished half of their research online before they ever contact a sales representative. When you examine statistics like these, it’s clear B2B salespeople can’t afford to operate in the same way they did 20-plus years ago.
Savvy salespeople are learning there are many ways in which they are still integral to the sales process in an increasingly automated world. Ubiquitous mobile broadband and the realities of Moore’s Law make it possible for salespeople to serve their customers more efficiently.
The cliché about people being your most important asset has been derided by some people lately, but its foundations remain largely true, and not just from a human resources standpoint. The entire nature of business still revolves around people—and not just employees. Without customers, salespeople, leaders, and every other person involved in the series of interactions that lead to a business transaction, there’s no purpose to any of it. Technological changes are causing a paradigm shift, but there is no foreseeable future where a business transaction is reduced to two AI-powered devices making an agreement without the foundation of human needs and abilities.
In sales situations, companies need to be able to respond to changes quickly and continually find ways to drive value for their prospects. Software programs can store an astounding amount of information and react according to situations, but these reactions are still limited based on their existing code structure.
Sales professionals, on the other hand, are able to adjust their strategy accordingly no matter what happens in their interactions with a client. They know instinctively how to overcome objections, which are exceedingly common in B2B sales situations. Many sales opportunities hinge on these kinds of moments, and it’s a salesperson’s job to shepherd the client through them and find ways to center the conversation on the value proposition.
Anyone who has gone to a restaurant recently and seen tables of people glued to their screens would probably tell you that most people are in a committed relationship with their smartphone. But, of course, you can’t really build a relationship with a piece of technology. You have a relationship with all the things the device brings to you: communication, media, entertainment, and so forth.
Relationships are simply too important to ignore in B2B sales, and humans are always at the center of relationships. Relationship building is a key component in customer engagement, and research indicates that fully engaged customers account for a 23 per cent premium when compared to others. The foundations of these business relationships are built on trust, and almost all B2B buyers need to trust the people they buy from. They may be putting their professional reputation or the future of their company on the line in this transaction, and dealing with a person they trust is an absolute priority.
A key factor in building and maintaining these types of relationships is understanding how the other party communicates and learning how to read what they want from an interaction. B2B buyers often have a difficult time cohesively expressing their desires, and talented salespeople excel at paying close attention to clues and coaxing this information out. They can read their prospect’s body language, notice a change in their tone of voice, or even detect shifts in language over email or chat.
These small changes in behaviour can go unnoticed by all but the keenest of observers, which is a quality that sets effective salespeople apart from others. No matter what kinds of technological tools become available, there will always be a need for individuals who can detect micro-expressions and understand how they may impact a sale.
At its core, selling isn’t about one party paying another for a product or service; it’s about the mutual transfer of value. A significant driver in this promise of value is making sure your customer actually gets what they expect from the process. B2B sales organizations can’t just accept a payment, give the customer a product, and leave it at that. They should be dedicated to making sure the buyer succeeds with the product and believes in the value they have received from the transaction.
If the customer doesn’t succeed with the product, it’s unlikely they will report a satisfactory overall experience. This is crucial because data suggests approximately 89 per cent of executives believe the customer experience will be the primary factor in market competition going forward. Ensuring their success requires the coordination of customer support teams, but salespeople are also important players in this initiative. Their unique ability to nurture relationships and understand their clients’ situations means they must be intimately involved in the customer onboarding process to achieve optimal results.
Part of running a well-functioning B2B sales unit is embracing opportunities for continual improvement. Business processes are never perfected, and ambitious leaders are always looking for ways to enhance experiences for customers and employees alike. Customer feedback is the cornerstone of this, but sales reps also have valuable information to contribute and help improve the organization for everyone involved.
Innovative technological solutions, such as sales acceleration programs, can help you track your preferred metrics easily and reliably. They can give you real-time results to help you monitor performance, and they can organize and display various categories of data readouts in numerous customizable ways. However, for data to be optimally effective, it needs to be accompanied by human observations that help the information form a complete story. Salespeople are integral in this initiative because their experience one-on-one with clients can complement your statistics and teach you more about how you can better serve your customers.
It’s impossible to overlook how important ambition is to a successful sales career. But ambition isn’t just about exceeding quotas and earning bonuses. It’s a thread that runs through all areas of great salespeoples’ professional lives. They want to help make their customers the stars of their companies. They want to prove to their leadership team that they can be trusted with important projects and decisions. And they always seek to improve their own processes in an effort to better themselves.
This kind of commitment reverberates throughout the organization, and when you groom great leaders at your company you will be positioned for long-term success and growth. Technological programs don’t concern themselves with getting better at what they do; they do what they have been programed to do until someone commands otherwise.
Technological breakthroughs are here to stay, but so are talented salespeople: You can’t build an innovative B2B sales organization without using both. This requires developing a strategy that puts the right technology in the hands of your team and enabling them to get the most out of these tools.
Great organizations aren’t looking to replace their salespeople with technology; they’re trying to make the experience better for their customers in any way they can. They understand that an effective, well-trained sales team is necessary to that end. When it comes to success in sales, technology can make your methods more effective, but it’s useless without a great team of sales professionals to engage customers.
Find out how technology helps your bottom line in our free eBook: “The Future of Intelligent Selling: How Data Will Drive Sales.”