“McKinsey’s research on B2B decision makers confirms that omnichannel is not simply a trend, nor a pandemic workaround – rather, it is a critically important fixture for B2B sales globally.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have confirmed that omnichannel interactions – already a growing trend – are here to stay, and will be the de facto standard for B2B sales as we move into the third decade of the 21st century.
Buyers demand access to multichannel communication modes, covering in-person, remote and digital self-service options. According to research released by McKinsey & Company in the first quarter of 2021, “roughly 2 in 3 buyers prefer remote human interaction or digital self-service.”
On the supply side, an average of 4 out of 5 business leaders working in B2B industries view omnichannel selling as better than the traditional, in-person-only approach, leading to more effective prospecting and greater success in closing new business. It’s a pattern that holds true across geographic boundaries, with South Korea’s business leaders the most enthusiastic about omnichannel – 93% prefer an omnichannel approach.
The same McKinsey study reveals that over the six-month period between August 2020 and February 2021, there has been a 50% increase in the number of consumers who prefer digital self-service as a primary channel for finding and researching new suppliers. A similar shift towards digital self-service was also recorded for consumers comparing and evaluating potential suppliers.
This is not restricted to lower-value goods and services. Users are confident in using digital channels, even for big-ticket items, with 20% of B2B buyers saying they would be willing to spend more than $500,000 in a fully remote/digital sales model – i.e. with no face-to-face interaction during the sales process.
Towards a hybrid sales model
Businesses are responding to these trends by moving towards an increasingly hybrid sales model, where sales reps are expected to interact with prospects and customers across video, phone, email, instant messaging, and occasional face-to-face visits, and while only under one third have such systems in place today, 85% expect to be implementing it in the next few years. Indeed, only 15% of B2B leadership expects in-person sales meetings to be the default option in the future.
This doesn’t come without challenges – with more reps working from home or remotely, it’s vital that businesses preserve the consistency of the brand and customer experience while maintaining the personalized service associated with in-person meetings. On a practical level, reps need to have rapid and consistent access to up-to-date digital sales materials which offer prospects the same insight that an in-person interaction would.
This is reflected in the increased adoption of sales enablement solutions, such as Pitcher, which provide a single solution to manage multichannel communications as well as a digital repository, accessible from any device, for approved sales and marketing content which can be customized and automated to each potential buyer and stage.
Change is already underway. In February 2021, ecommerce overtook in-person sales as the most popular route to market (for B2B companies) for the first time ever. It’s clear to see that the organizations that succeed in this new era will be the ones that are able to embrace the omnichannel challenge in the future. Sales enablement is key to this, enabling innovation, agility and competitiveness, while driving efficiency to ensure the best possible return on investment as businesses transition to omnichannel sales models.