New buyer preferences and demands have forced B2B professionals to make much-needed changes in their go-to-market strategies. With B2C brands like Amazon and Spotify shaping expectations in their personal life, B2B buyers are now expecting a more intuitive customized experience in their professional engagements. And it’s not just marketing teams that have to adapt to new expectations — sales teams are also being forced to adapt and evolve.
This “sales revolution” was the key theme at SalesLoft’s annual Rainmaker event in Atlanta, Ga., where experts from Forrester, Informatica, Gong.io and more took the stage to help address the sales experiences B2B buyers are now demanding.
“On top of the digital revolution, we’re seeing massive changes in buyer behavior,” said Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, during his keynote address at Rainmaker 2019. “[It’s time to] elevate the profession of sales to focus on delivering customers world class experiences. With that, you can maximize revenue. A sales experience must be authentic, engaging, relevant, human, one-to-one and, most importantly, it understands buyers’ needs and solves their problems.”
Today’s B2B buyer expects sellers to know who they are and what challenges they face at work. In another session presented by Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester, she discussed the “consumerization of the business buyer.”
“What this means is that the bar is being raised dramatically and quickly on sales reps,” she said. “In many cases, they are not prepared to engage the way the buyer expects. Amazon knows me as a person. I never sat down with a sales rep and told them what keeps me up at night and I never had a sales meeting about critical issues. But Amazon knows what sports I compete in, they know when my race is, my nutritional intake, injuries and the ages of nieces and nephews. But I don’t talk to Amazon. This is the experience your business buyers are bringing into the business world.”
62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. “We have to have a very strong digital content strategy that links extremely well with a sales strategy.” -@sheaforr at #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/l9CnwiwXeC— Klaudia Tirico (@klaudiatirico) March 12, 2019
To illustrate these new realities, Shea shared the following statistics from Forrester:
- 68% of B2B buyers prefer to research online on their own — up 15% from 2015. “This is a trend that I expect will continue to build more momentum in the marketplace,” said Shea.
- 67% of B2B buyers say they prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information. “It’s about amplifying, supporting and helping the sales rep engage in a way that makes sense for the buyer.”
- 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. “We have to have a very strong digital strategy that links extremely well with a sales strategy.”
Aligning The Entire Organizations As One Team
Another common discussion during the event was the alignment across the entire organization.
“If sales and marketing aren’t aligned, the business isn’t aligned,” said Sydney Sloan, CMO of SalesLoft, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “The question I ask is, ‘Is it better to be right or to be aligned?’ I would argue that it’s better to be aligned. If two people fight to be right and you’re not aligned, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s better to be aligned and getting that sales and marketing alignment around the strategy of go-to market.”
Informatica, an enterprise cloud data management company, is an example of a team who innovates internally to help transform the organization.
“We needed a ‘one team’ approach across the board — to do our own Digital transformation before we helped our customers do a digital transformation,” said Nick Mike-Mayer, VP of Corporate Sales, East at Informatica. This shift in culture helped to bring all the teams together to work collaboratively to help deliver on company goals, pipeline and transformation.
“Sales is a copycat success program,” Mike-Mayer continued. “People want to see how others find success. So, bringing different cadences and reps to gather on one team meant a lot to the team. With the SalesLoft platform in place, we easily saw who was having success with the right message by title, industry, person and by other reps copying what the successful reps were doing. We found that people had success more quickly by learning from others.”
A little healthy competition (tracked through a sales engagement platform like SalesLoft) also helped the Informatica team reach their goals. The company would communicate small successes across the organization, which led people to want to emulate others’ success. With SalesLoft, Informatica was able to track what each rep was doing to either make small tweaks to the platform and other teams “to make sure everyone was successful across the board,” according to Teri Turner, Global Enablement Program Manager for Informatica.
Traits Of The Modern B2B Seller
The current martech landscape if proof that every space is exploding with competitors. Therefore, a unique product does not cut through the clutter and with Millennial buyers taking up a large portion of the B2B workforce and doing a lot of research before talking to sales, reps must provide more inspiration than information to close deals.
Really great session by @Chris_Orlob of @Gong_io — so many insights in just 15 mins! “What your sellers say, do and write during the sales process is where your competitive advantage should be. It’s not about product features anymore.” #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/zSNNdJiKkV— Demand Gen Report (@DG_Report) March 12, 2019
“The source of competitive advantage is shifting,” said Chris Orlob, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Gong.io, a conversation intelligence technology, during his session at Rainmaker. “The perception of uniqueness happens in a sales conversation. What your sellers say, do and write during the sales process is where your competitive advantage should be.”
During her session, Forrester’s Shea shared six traits of the modern B2B seller:
- Engages with networked selling;
- Embraces multiple social selling;
- Shares new ideas (via digital content or customized microsites);
- Leverages digital tools;
- Prefer collaboration; and
- Turn data into insights.
But as buyer behaviors change, the modern B2B seller must keep up. Future attributes of B2B sellers must be an empathetic partner, flexible and adaptive, a master storyteller, adept to digital, have an operational mindset and advocacy focus, according to Shea.
“Modern B2B sellers must also differentiate with how they sell, rather than what they sell. “It’s not about product features anymore,” said Orlob, who shared three principals around what to say, do and write during customer conversations:
Principle 1: Decrease Time To Value
“Eliminate the fat from any message and get to the valuable part first,” Orlob said. “Instead of building up anticipation and ramping up, doing it last — which is intuitive but does not work — show what you planned on showing at the end of your demo, email or presentation… on the top. Flip it on its head.”
Principle 2: Use Tribal Social Proof
“The opposite of tribal social proof is generic social proof, which is what your competitors are doing,” Orlob said. “[At Gong,] we analyze a lot of sales conversations with AI and we figure out what’s working and what’s not. The use of social proof techniques counterintuitively correlates with deals lost. What should not conclude from that is social proof doesn’t work. What you should conclude is that it’s spectacularly misapplied and if you do misapply it, you alienate your potential buyer.
“Competitors rattle off list of impressive logos without any concern as to whether or not those logos will resonate with buyers and they talk about customer stories that marketing just generated hot off the press. This is the effect it has on the buyer… They say, ‘I don’t care if Google is your customer, we’re nothing like them.” Not only did it not work, it was actually counterproductive.
When you’re talking about current customers in an attempt to influence the buyer, this is the question that’s going through their mind: ‘Are they like me? Are they in my industry? Do we share a similar problem?’ There’s got to be something in common.”
Principle 3: Make Buyers Value Your Uniqueness Before You Deliver It
When you’re talking to prospects, they’re thinking, “are they like me?” Don’t rattle off a list of impressive companies you work with because they aren’t the same as the prospect. @Chris_Orlob #Rainmaker19 pic.twitter.com/GVwdRWqnRw— Klaudia Tirico (@klaudiatirico) March 12, 2019
“We’re all familiar with ideas that you should sell the problem before you sell the solution, but we forget to do that in the micro scenario that is competitive differentiation,” Orlob said. “We sell the broad problem and we deliver the brand solution, but we don’t sell the micro problem that our unique product advantages solve. So, the buyer doesn’t have the context to land.”
At the end of the day, modern sellers must develop authentic relationships with prospects and be a true partner.
“Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer,” said SalesLoft’s Sloan. “It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour, it’s the people I want to work with in partnership and at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with. I’ll pick a company because of the relationship. The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.”