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Evolution in 2019 impacting B2B marketing and sales trends

6

DECEMBER, 2018

Recently we have given speeches to marketing and sales professionals of B2B companies (be it at our recent Marketing and Sales Performance Summit or at events organized by Showpad or our partners).
Across these events we see a strong demand from participants is to learn about how marketing and sales landscape will evolve in 2019 and how companies can best get organized to win, gain profitable growth in this increasingly changing B2B market. Here is some guidance:

EXPAND YOUR CLASSIC GOALS

In addition to the typical growth goals of

1) Attract & get new customers
2) Keep and grow existing customers
3) Manage well the mix/offer to optimize profits.

B2B companies need to also set the goal 4) Leverage customers as social brand ambassadors – meaning getting your customers to become more active for your company in social media communities, social networks, and taking an active role to educate and influence communities. 2019 questions for B2B leaders will be  ‘How can our business increase the engagement of our customers ?’

ADAPT HOW YOU SELL TO THE MODERN BUYERS

Clearly the buyer profile and buyer decision making process has changed. Today B2B companies sell a majority of their time to Modern buyers where the environment has gone from offline to digital in past few years, but now evolving further as it goes from digital to social (connected, faster exchanges, influencing real time). All this fueled by the growing importance of the Millenials generation (those born between 1981 and 1996)

The Millenials now represent over 46% of total B2B buying decisions* and growing.The Millenials’ decisions are largely influenced by the

The Millenials’ decisions are largely influenced by the ‘F factor’ (Friends, family, and Followers on Social Media channels)

In 2019 we will continue to see growing importance of buying committees (having to sell to even more decision makers) and having to keep in mind the external influences on decisions outside the C-suite (hence the power of social selling and gaining engagement with larger number of key contacts of a company we want to sell to).

Social selling and employer branding will continue to play big roles in 2019 as companies and individuals ensure well positioned, seen as credible and engage with relevant content on professional social media and influence the buying or decision processes.

Over 90% professional doing research online – be it at different stages of the buying process, going from a few searches to on average 12 searches online* and concentrating on the one or two companies/products that provided relevant and engaging content with valuable insights (using different formats, namely videos).

HOW YOU WILL SELL WILL BE INCREASINGLY DRIVEN BY HOW YOUR CUSTOMERS BUY

No surprise that prospects and customers progress through different stages of the buying journey. Some of the stages include  becoming interested about a particular topic, confirming that they have a pain point (or need), or seeking alternative solutions, and/or evaluating options to make a decision

But as customers or prospects progress from stage to stage, your company and front facing teams (sales, service, digital channels) need to ensure stay present and relevant. The earlier the better.

A very important force is that B2B customers don’t just buy a product, the ‘how’ they buy and the related experiences they get have huge impact on their decisions – and in many cases these ‘how’ factors have more weight on decisions than the factor of price to be paid. This is especially true in long / complex B2B sales cycles.

The ‘How’ elements that influence a purchase decision include 1) Type of insights that the potential buyers will get during stages of their buying journey 2) The quality of the interaction(s) with a sales person (be it via social media or face to face or phone/conference) and the uniqueness of the content received from sales 3) The relevance and timing of the content they obtained

In the future, will be important for sales persons to find ways to engage their target buyer / prospect earlier in the buying journey. Importance to leverage digital sales enablers to cover a larger base of stakeholders, having relevant interactions and get call to actions such as getting a face to face meeting, agreeing to meet you at an event, getting the introduction needed, etc

In 2019 sales enablement will continue to be hot, with companies ensuring that the digital marketing and sales platform well integrated into the organization and part of commercial processes. This requires change management, it will be less about the tool, but more about adoption of the tool and how used (once again the ‘how’)  resulting in effective customer interactions and create relevance to modern buyers.

IF MARKETING AND SALES NOT ALIGNED THIS WILL SHOW EVEN MORE in 2019

  • In a digital and social environment, companies can’t afford to have misalignments internally (be it between marketing, sales, service teams). Customers and prospects will see this when they interact with the different digital and physical channels, the content they get and experiences with key points of contacts.
  • Today technology platforms (especially sales enablement) help marketing & sales departments to work more closely together and ensure become more relevant to customers.
  • Success factors to effective alignment include: alignment as to the goals, alignment as to what is the ideal customer profiles to serve, alignment on what are the buyer stages and personas, and the quality time spend between departments.

BUILDING EXPERTISE IN CONTENT, AUDIENCE, DIGITAL CHANNELS 

We will see in B2B companies to further formalize the specialization within marketing and sales roles. General marketing communications roles will evolve to cover different areas of expertise such as 1. Content expert roles, 2. Audience / target expert roles – ensuring the content is relevant, 3. Digital communication channel experts – ensure relevant channel per the tart audience (i.e. our web site, LinkedIn as a channel, Facebook, Digital advertising, ..) and 4. Technical experts (i.e. maintenance of content management systems, data management, search engine optimizations SEO, ..). 

Within sales teams also evolving – 1. formalization of Sales Enablement roles (beyond sales operations, and covering digital tools, processes, training, learning & development, coaching)  2. Sales person evolve more towards consultative roles to deliver higher value interactions. Whereas the simple, transactional sales role will over time become more facilitated by digital automation, rules based AI or apps.

SALES ENABLEMENT AS A UNIQUE CAPABILITY

Sales enablement will become a key capability for a B2B organization. we don’t mean sales operations which today is an element of sales enablement (reporting, CRM, data). Sales enablement is something larger that encompasses having relevant content for sales teams to use, learning and development enablers, sales training and coaching enablers, digital platforms & tools for sales to use. Sales enablement will also help organizations to better onboard and keep their sales talent and will be necessary to equip sales to compete better in the future. There is still a scarcity for good sales professionals and sales enablement will help make this job attractive to Millenials.

Sales organizations will be actively implementing social selling in 2019 to profile themselves well, find contacts/enrich contacts, engage in virtual interactions leading to actual meetings and sales opportunities to pursue.

Digital Marketing and sales digital platforms will continue to gain importance – per our October 2018 survey ** (Minds&More, Showpad, Kynetec) of over 2000 companies contacted, a zoom in on the 100 companies that said had a digital platform in place for sales and marketing – 72% of them said that they gained revenue growth, and 78% of respondents stated achieved sales productivity improvements.

However we need to recognize the people change factor (roles, structure, mindset, ..) to get the most out of these digital marketing and sales platforms. 48% of respondents said they made a minor structural change, and 28% made important structural change. Good news is that 69% said the platforms improved the collaboration between marketing and sales.

For a copy of our study** contact us.

(* source: Google research in B2B. ** October 2018 Minds&More/showpad/Kynetec Study on digital marketing and sales platforms, people and processes)

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