How COVID-19 Has Altered B2B Sales for the Better
The phrases “COVID-19” and “better” don’t usually belong in the same sentence. A world-changing pandemic and improvement? The thought sounds nonsensical, and for most concepts, it is.
But the world of B2B sales has actually improved as a result of the pandemic and the distance-based remote selling environment it forced upon the industry.
“Exactly how are things better now?” you may ask.
There are a few major reasons that, if understood, can be used by enterprising B2B sales reps for even more wins.
Remote Selling Has Led to More Access for B2B Sales
You would think that in a distanced world – one dominated by Zoom meetings and staying away from people – that sales would suffer. However, the opposite has been true for one key area: gaining access to prospects.
Everyone you need to talk to has some sort of remote communication app, whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or any of the dozen or so that popped up in 2020.
Everyone also became a lot more accustomed to having most of their discussions over email, phone,Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other communication platforms. Some businesses are even using Discord, previously the province of gamers.
COVID-19 increased access to potential customers. It forced us to tear down (or at least reduce) many of the barriers that impede communication from the outside in. This wasn’t intentional, of course. Business leaders are focused on making sure their organizations can operate, and they’re finding new pathways for internal communication.
But sales teams are benefiting as well. As a result, it’s easier to reach B2B customers virtually because that’s where so many of them now live and work.
Prospects Have Become More Comfortable with – and Dependent on – Technology
A sales rep who sells anything even remotely related to technology is also benefiting. B2B buyers are more accustomed to tech in general, both in using it and having it demonstrated for them.
SaaS providers in particular are flourishing. Customers need software platforms and cloud-based services to do their jobs. These services have gone from “nice to have” to “must have” because everything else is so remote. So, not only has demand increased, but familiarity has increased as well.
In short, these new digital routines and behaviors are becoming normalized and will form a part of the sales world moving forward.
The end result? When these sales teams have conversations with buyers, they don’t have as much of a burden to educate prospects and demonstrate value. The inherent value of their products, in many ways, has been validated by the needs of the pandemic.
It’s Easier to Build Consensus and Generate Referrals
In line with what we talked about earlier regarding more access, remote B2B selling also makes it easier to do two things critical to any sales process: build consensus among stakeholders and get referrals.
During the course of a B2B transaction of any significant size, you’ll have to get multiple stakeholders on board with your solution before it closes. The COVID-era remote environment has made it easier to get consensus, for a couple of reasons:
- Online communication is now the status quo ; and
- It’s easier to have one contact refer you to another.
Referrals in this case don’t just refer to (pun intended) having a customer give you an “in” to another potential lead. They are pathways that lead to conversations.
There are three types of referrals, or person-to-person connections, that are easier to obtain thanks to our new remote environment:
- An outside connection to a contact within your target account (someone who has a personal/professional connection to the contact who can give you an in)
- One contact to another contact in the same organization (i.e. a stakeholder)
- A customer to another outside connection (i.e. a potential lead)
You can see how sales professionals can reap massive rewards from this new paradigm. The result is a faster sales cycle, a smoother sales process, and a higher close rate. Plus there are more opportunities created from one account to another via what we traditionally view as referrals.
Digital Content Is More Useful – and Important
Since everyone is online anyway, digital content is more important than ever. It’s also easier to send and have people actually read or watch.
Sales reps are reporting that customers are viewing videos and downloading digital assets at higher rates than they were before COVID. Why? Buyer research is taking place almost entirely online, versus via in-person conversations, trade shows and conferences, and other, more traditional avenues.
Put another way, buyers want to watch more videos, attend more webinars, and read more collateral. They were doing this anyway, but they’ve come to expect it from B2B sales reps.
Reps who place a premium on creating and personalizing digital sales content – and sales leaders who place a premium on digital content management – are the ones getting the most benefit from this shift.
How Remote B2B Sales Teams Can Capitalize on This Bountiful New World
Sales leaders who want to make the most of COVID-era B2B sales need to adapt their sales strategies to account for these new truths. They also need to adopt the sales enablement technology that makes remote selling success possible.
One realization you need to have is that much of this change is likely permanent. A strategy that depends on everything “going back to normal” is doomed to failure because, as we said above, remote selling is becoming normalized. This new normal is going to be the standard moving forward.
From a sales enablement standpoint, teams need sales tech and remote resources that make it easier to find those referral pathways we discussed. You need to more quickly identify relationships and connect the dots from person to person. You need ways to bring together all this data we’re collecting from everyone being virtual in one place. This way you can plug it into your process seamlessly.
A CRM like Salesforce is even more invaluable than it was before (when it was merely a must-have necessity). Apps that enable account-based selling and relationship mapping augment Salesforce’s core abilities and help you connect those dots to identify those referral pathways faster and more efficiently than your competition.
The combination of a new strategy and new sales tech is the key to capitalizing on all these opportunities that COVID-19 has given the B2B sales world.
As with anything, however, opportunities are only valuable if people take them.
COVID-19, weirdly enough, has made B2B selling better, but that’s just potential. It’s up to sales teams to make it happen.