Fresh from virtual national sales meetings with new quotas and strategies in hand, many sales and marketing organizations are also still catching up from all of the changes brought on by 2020. As we linger in some sort of mid ground between pandemic lockdown and whatever the end of it looks like, it’s impossible to plan for reaching buyers in 2021 without looking back on how we got here.
Where is here exactly? According to LinkedIn's 2020 State of Sales, today's B2B marketplace challenges sellers with less responsive, risk averse buyers with smaller budgets—who are slow to make a decision because they are looking for concrete reasons to do so. Keeping sales going strong in 2021 is going to take continually dynamic efforts, not just from marketing and sales reps, but everywhere we touch buyers. Most budget holders are putting much more focus on data to make purchasing decisions, so stories of proven ROI must inform all seller conversations and content messaging.
The New Meaning of Up-To-Date Data
Depending on the business your buyers are in, your pre-2020 data might not be fully relevant anymore. Having up-to-date information for the current state will be more powerful, and resonate more with buyers, if they’ve been affected by Covid restrictions and other logistical or economic difficulties. This focus on current data leads us right to the true north of those of us working in customer experience: what is the value being provided to customers, and is it proven?
This means a lot of work in content messaging, and seller talking points, and customer-facing teams need to work together to get the stories. Once we have those golden case studies about helping customers improve or sustain profits over the last year, the challenge becomes getting the word out. Even though we may have begun this exercise to reach new buyers, customer expansion often becomes an additional—and potentially even more important—focus.
The Concept of Sales Expands When the Focus is on Buyers
I'm seeing this play out in a number of ways for some of Modus’s larger machinery customers. Several of them are strategically shifting priority to service sales, rentals, and used equipment. This may not be as sexy as new big deals on fleets or innovations in engineering, but this is the bread and butter of the organization—which in some cases has been neglected too long. This means that the traditional way of reaching buyers only through sellers has expanded to include more service and support teams. In many cases, this requires updates to communication channels.
Here at Modus, we’ve seen this with traditionally non-sales teams, onboarded to the Modus Sales Hub. This proves it’s not just for sales content. Anyone needing up-to-date information as they talk to customers (aka buyers) can benefit from the same tools provided to sales networks. Our solution has even been added to some pretty impressive tech stacks via API integration, to help service teams retrieve and move information from remote locations for quick, helpful customer support.
Polishing Up Sales Rep Soft Skills
Marketing during this pandemic has been a balancing act of adjusting—so as to not seem tone deaf to the challenges—while continuing to focus on an overall positive impact you can make. Value-add data, that worked for the last five years, needs updating—especially for seller conversations. The same Linkedin study saw buyers valuing good old-fashioned active listening skills as the #1 trait in sales people they eventually buy from. This means your sellers absolutely need data that reflects sales trends from the most recent year. And even more than data, they need to be able to speak intelligently to buyers as they talk through needs and business problems. If they haven’t brushed up on these soft skills recently, training is in order.
Not only do sales reps need to focus on soft skills, both sales and marketing leadership must have a relentless focus on shifting with the times to keep up with all these needs. This means managers have to have specific skills and a vision to keep people updated. Technology also obviously plays a role here too, better played with barriers and silos removed. Maybe it’s as simple as your service teams having access to the same databases as your sales team, or maybe effective content management and delivery needs to be re-done from the ground up...
Whatever the challenge, it cannot be ignored.
Content is Still Queen
Conversations need to change and include up to date relevant data. Keeping messaging cohesive across your sales and service teams, as well as your online presence, is crucial to reach your risk averse buyers—especially those who don’t already do business with you.
According to FocusVision as seen on Martech Today, buyers are consuming your content much more than they are talking to your teams. For example, buyers used peer reviews in all stages of the buying funnel and consider them as crucial to making a decision. If we read between the lines, this means buyers likely aren’t taking the word of salespeople as truth without checking for themselves. Buyers also rated product comparisons and success stories as the most useful in making these decisions, and consumed them throughout the sales funnel.
The New Constant is Change
Sales trend predictions from late 2019 focused a lot on improving technology reps use to win deals. This resoundingly rang true as remote work took hold, and that continues to be overwhelmingly true as a slow return to normalcy creeps its way closer. But there is more to the story.
Across the board, most buyers are still being careful and conservative with resources, so the use of data in sales processes being on-the-rise only makes sense as belts are tightened. Decision makers want real, exact and relevant data-driven reasons for accepting change. To reach these buyers where they are, marketers and sellers need to constantly adapt to the market trends in all of their messaging channels.
This type of agility will continue to be necessary as we navigate through the return to a non-pandemic world, whenever that is and whatever that will eventually look like. Effective leaders will need to lead these charges, make bold decisions, and plan for continued re-evaluation of strategy as a strategy. You cannot ignore tools and technology. The role they play will continue to evolve for that ever-important end of reaching and engaging buyers.