For customers to have a good buying experience, sales teams need to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right customer and in the right channel. Customers expect an informative and efficient buying journey, so pressure is on B2B sales organizations to deliver an equally satisfying experience to their business customers.
An omnichannel approach to sales is effective and value-creating because it delivers a unified voice, brand and messaging across channels. By integrating all channels (including face-to-face (retail), remote and online interactions), an omnichannel experience gives customers a seamless buying experience.
However, an omnichannel approach requires more than the additive tactic of merely introducing different communication channels, (as omnichannel means the seamless experience across all channels) which is known as the multichannel approach.
In order to grow and be successful, sales organizations must connect authentically with buyers, create trust and demonstrate ongoing value. These priorities are clearly driving the growing appeal of omnichannel.
The most recent Pulse research from McKinsey & Co. found that 94% of B2B decision makers view omnichannel as being as or more effective than pre-Covid processes. And more than a third of B2B buyers are willing to spend up to $500,000 in a single remote or online channel.
Unfortunately, enterprises are often overwhelmed by deploying and maintaining an effective omnichannel approach in the face of rising expectations. The earlier-referenced McKinsey study also found that today’s B2B customers report regularly using 10 or more channels to interact with suppliers — a doubling of the number of channels in just five years. Such drastic shifts within the sales process have led to many well-intentioned but poorly-executed omnichannel attempts where channels are added but not integrated.
As you implement omnichannel sales, avoid these four costly mistakes:
1. Not customizing content on every channel
Certain approaches, applications and tactics that make sense when meeting face-to-face may not translate as well to virtual and self-service realms. The McKinsey’s Pulse research shows that less than one-third of sales interactions across every stage — from researching and evaluating new vendors to ordering and reordering — are now conducted in person.
This major shift away from in-person sales means that reps in remote and online interactions need to create trust and communicate value even more quickly and effectively, often without the time or opportunity to provide context. That’s where content automation and personalization come in.
Content customization is a highly effective, targeted method in which reps can present useful information via a premium experience across any channel. Custom micro-sites, automated ordering forms, personalized assets based on industry and role segmentation and targeted chatbot links are just a few examples of the ways you can lean into the strength of every available channel. Seek to provide an uninterrupted, personalized journey that is enriched with every customer touchpoint.
2. Not supporting technology with training or time
Too often, enterprises looking for digital transformation end up with a patchwork of tools and technologies. Reps are burdened with managing extensive integration, worried about putting compliance at risk and annoyed by a steady cadence of app-switching to get their job done. Juggling complicated tech stacks and layered applications often leaves your teams disincentivized to use them.
Effective omnichannel isn’t possible without channel fluency and competency across the entire organization. When implementing omnichannel, teams must be sure to implement commensurate training programs that communicate not just the how but the why.
Ultimately, all channels should maintain compliance without requiring extra effort from reps; new applications for sales enablement should be able to seamlessly integrate into existing tech stacks without adding any friction for your team.
3. Failing to fully integrate data and analytics
Data capture is good. Failing to transform it into usable insights or siloing data in discrete channels, though, prevents critical data transfer and undermines the end goal.
Creating a single data stream through an omnichannel approach unifies sales, marketing and field teams while generating better customer insights, driving higher engagement and ultimately leading to increased and repeat sales.
Just as e-commerce and retail captured consumer history and preferences across channels to continuously improve the buyer experience, so too can B2B firms connect analytics with CRMs, data lakes and more. B2C firms like Best Buy pioneered effective analytics integration, offering B2B firms some templates to build from or mimic.
4. Using a piecemeal approach
All too often, organizations limit their own possible success when they try to implement omnichannel without committing to wholesale transformation. To do omnichannel well requires buy-in not just from leadership but from sales, customer success, IT, marketing and product development.
Without it, initiatives fall flat. Brilliant content marketing creation means little if sales reps aren’t aware of it or are relying on their own trusted assets. KPIs defined by executive teams may lose something in translation once divvied up without intentional focus on collaboration.
Just as the goal is to create an integrated experience for customers, the goal should be to similarly integrate vision, values and execution for a smooth experience on the sales side. Microsoft has approached centralization through the creation of a demand center, centralizing digital customer engagement by aligning sales, marketing, data science and marketing. Create a team of digital strategists with broad expertise to ensure cohesion across companywide operations.
Personal experiences as a consumer are sure to have offered plenty of insight into what makes a sales experience engaging and pleasant — or unnecessarily time-consuming and frustrating.
When implementing omnichannel sales for your own organization, turn to your firsthand knowledge to avoid what may be the biggest pitfall of all: ignoring what’s in the best interest of your customers.
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