According to a recent Gartner report, there are three main pieces to the future of B2B sales strategies that contribute to an evolving B2B sales approach. These are: digital scalability, artificial intelligence (AI) and hyper automation.
Each piece of this new approach is linked to a specific aspect of B2B selling, from lead generation to the discovery, identification and routing of prospects, to reducing time spent on non-sales-related tasks so that reps can focus on the act of selling.
In this post, we’ll unpack what all of this means for sales leaders and how the adoption of these technologies may impact B2B sales strategies in 2021 (and beyond).
Digital scalability and the B2B sales force
Thanks to COVID-19, B2B sales in all industries have been affected by the evaporation of certain key sales channels, such as in-person meetings and events.
In April 2020, McKinsey surveyed B2B businesses to get a better understanding of the way sales and marketing teams were being affected by the virus. Respondents indicated that they expected digital interactions would be 2-3X more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.
The same survey found that 90% of B2B sales teams had moved to a remote or virtual sales model, with video conferencing, phone calls and email powering the process. More than half of respondents felt this approach was equally or more effective than pre-pandemic sales models.
This data suggests that virtual selling won’t go away once things get back to normal. B2B companies can prepare their sales teams to scale quickly and effectively by addressing automation and new technology when creating a sales enablement strategy. Choosing the right tools and technology make all the difference here, which brings us to the second piece of Gartner’s trifecta of B2B selling—machine learning and AI.
AI is the gateway to sales enablement
A study by global B2B research firm Sirius Decisions, found that more than 80% of B2B decision-makers are not prepared to have a productive conversation with a customer.
Preparing your sales team to interact with modern B2B buyers is contingent on many moving parts and includes equipping them with the right information, aligning sales and marketing goals (and teams) and (last but not least) implementing the right tools. Tools are important when you consider now many balls sales reps must juggle these days.
One 2018 study of more than 700 sales reps revealed that nearly 65% of a rep’s time was spent on non-revenue-related activities, including administrative tasks, interoffice communications and research. That leaves a mere 35% of a rep’s time for actual selling. One of the key time-wasters in the sales process is tracking contacts via a CRM platform or (in many cases) a spreadsheet.
Here’s where AI truly shines. AI-powered sales tools like Drift, a “revenue acceleration platform” and Marketo, an AI-driven account-based management (ABM) platform, incorporate AI functionality that minimizes tedious, time-consuming and repetitive tasks.
Drift is a conversational marketing platform that uses AI-driven chatbot technology to intelligently respond to sales inquiries in real time over chat or email. Marketo uses AI to apply predictive scoring to account lists, enabling sales teams to quickly identify their most viable prospects. These are just two of the many AI-based tools that sales teams can utilize to free up their valuable time for selling.
Hyper-automation for the win
The third piece of the Gartner puzzle is automation, something that’s baked into AI and machine learning technology. Automating the entire B2B sales process goes beyond identifying viable accounts and streamlining contact lists to include all aspects of the sales process.
Sales automation helps minimize time spent on rote and repetitive tasks. The goal here is to increase and improve sales productivity, accuracy, efficiency and (ultimately) business growth.
Here are some aspects of your sales process that can be automated:
- Email—With automation, you can send time- or action-triggered emails, nurture leads and be more responsive overall. Email automation reduces the chances that prospects will slip through the cracks and makes it easier to schedule meetings and follow-up calls.
- Lead prioritization/scoring—Use CRM, sales and other data to better identify and score leads based on a pre-determined model. Automated lead scoring assigns a numerical value or score to each lead, a process that is tedious and time-consuming when done manually. Automating this process with the help of AI will reduce not only the time spent on identifying the best leads, but the time wasted on reaching out to poor-quality leads that likely won’t convert.
- Lead assignment and distribution—Lead routing and distribution is another task that can be automated using rules and technology to ensure the right leads get assigned to the right sales reps. Salesforce and other sales platforms enable rules-based scoring to route leads appropriately.
- Administrative tasks—There are many administrative tasks that can be automated with technology, including logging calls, updating your CRM, scheduling appointments, setting appointment reminders and even invoice generation. It pays to research which platforms and integrations will work for your specific needs and build them into your sales enablement strategy.
- Analytics and reporting—Last but not least, analytics tools can help automate the reporting and sales optimization process. Many ABM platforms such as Engagio have an analytics component built into their suite of features. Engagio’s account-based analytics provides insight into account engagement, the customer journey, account prioritization/scoring and territory analysis (for example).
The future of sales is automated
Digital transformation is channel- and industry-agnostic. It’s driven by the changing behaviors of B2B buyers, the high expectations for customer engagement and personalization, and (more recently) an increased emphasis on virtual selling.
The McKinsey survey revealed that most sales reps believed that virtual selling was as effective (or more so) than in-person selling. This puts even more importance on Gartner’s future-of-B2B-sales trifecta—digital scalability, artificial intelligence and hyper automation.
While it can be overwhelming to plan for a future that is more digital than manual, developing a sales enablement strategy that incorporates the right tools, approach and talent will not only make it manageable, it can help your sales team more easily adapt to whatever challenges and changes they encounter in the future (even ones caused by a global pandemic). Looking for help from the experts? Contact Elevation Marketing today to see how we can help you build a strong sales enablement strategies that aligns your marketing and sales teams.