To stay competitive in the new normal and achieve sales growth, a virtual world where most selling interactions take place in digital channels, companies need new ways to win.
Being able to respond swiftly to constant market changes and evolving customer needs by leveraging digital transformation enables agile companies to apply deep expertise and stay ahead of competition.
There are three things your sales teams need to do in 2022 in order to grow: know your customer even better, optimize internal workflows and prepare to win the talent war. Skimping in either of these areas will result in stagnation at best. At worst, you’ll fall behind your competition and find it difficult to catch up.
Band-aid solutions and quick fixes were all companies had time for in the middle of the pandemic. According to Forrester’s principal analyst Julia Bullock, the big shift for 2022 is moving from “short-term thinking and last-minute, individual heroics to insights-driven, sustainable performance improvements”.
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Show your buyers you know what they need
It’s not enough to know who your buyers are. What is imperative now is anticipating buyer needs, including what information buyers want, when they would like to receive it and via which channel... before they even ask.
Bullock writes that “buyers want sellers to demonstrate a deeper buyer and customer understanding in every interaction. They want a partnership in making more informed decisions”.
The big shift is that now, buyers have a strong preference for developing this relationship on their own terms. More and more buyers are millennials, which means that while they are happy to gather information without interacting with your sales team directly, they also expect those interactions to be as personalized and as useful as possible.
Meet buyers where they are
A big part of knowing your buyers is understanding the environment in which they are working. Compared to just ten years ago, the buying process in 2022 is extraordinarily complex. Quite simply, buyers are overwhelmed.
A Gartner report about B2B buyers in 2022 describes the situation:
“The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group. At the same time, the set of options and solutions buying groups can consider is expanding as new technologies, products, suppliers and services emerge.
“These dynamics make it increasingly difficult for customers to make purchases. In fact, more than three-quarters of the customers Gartner surveyed described their purchase as very complex or difficult.”
This complexity is part of the reason buying interactions jumped from an average of 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021. For sellers, this is excellent news. Why? Because it gives sales enablement software enough data to predict what sort of information or interaction the buyer will want next.
Bullock suggests that companies should “help reps build their credibility and fully align with buyers by leveraging tools and processes that allow sales to gather information, data, and content and sharing these assets with prospects and customers to create engaging interactions”.
Optimize internal workflows
Companies that experience growth know that a series of small efficiency gains can be more effective than one or two large ones. In the context of a sales team, the most valuable resource is time. It’s non-renewable and very easy to waste.
Think of it as eliminating busywork, or becoming more agile. Whatever you want to call it, the idea is to automate or at least streamline low-value tasks so your reps have more time to spend on high-value tasks.
Forrester’s Sales Activity Study found that reps spend, on average, nearly two hours per week on internal communications and emails. This may not seem like much, but it’s a problem when writing internal emails takes more time than reps usually spend on opportunity and account planning, product research or pipeline management.
Automating low-value initial interactions at the beginning of the sales cycle not only allows better data collection for predicting future actions, but it allows the sales rep to spend more time on personal interactions.
In her predictions for 2022, Bullock writes that despite their preference for self-service information gathering, buyers are still “looking to partner with sales to get more in-depth answers and solutions to their business challenges and fully expect content shared with them to reflect an understanding of their business, industry, market, and job role”.
Prepare to win the talent war
If you’ve had to do any hiring in the last year, you know that it’s a mad scramble for people. “There is an all-out war for talent,” says Bullock. Current demand for sales reps is far outstripping supply, which means everyone is fighting for the best of the new talent while in danger of losing their top contributors to a better offer.
To stay competitive in the new normal and achieve sales growth, a virtual world where most selling interactions take place in digital channels, companies need new ways to win. Throwing money and perks at the problem is one strategy for attracting and retaining talent, and in the right circumstances, it’s effective. Most of the time, though, it’s a temporary fix.
HR professionals across all industries know very well that salary is no longer the only or even primary consideration for the best employees.
According to Gartner:
- 65% of employees said the pandemic made them reevaluate the importance of work in their lives
- 91% of HR leaders are worried about turnover
- 50% of new hires had at least two other job offers
To win this war, companies must adopt a much more strategic approach to acquisition and retention. In companies aiming for growth, sales departments must play the long game when it comes to talent – much like sports teams drafting young players!
Bullock says, “If you’re not strategically aligning role-specific recruiting, onboarding, and ongoing learning and development with your business objectives, you’re leaving sales performance to chance. Top-notch sales talent wants to join organizations that set them up for success.”
Companies that have a well-resourced coaching program designed to help all members of the sales team become the best versions of themselves have a huge advantage.
Joe Perera writes in Forbes that “training should be a longitudinal investment in employee development aligned with your strategy”. For example, chief financial officers (CFOs) are now commonly involved in deals. Your salespeople now need to build a new muscle for handling CFO objections and holding strong on price through tough negotiation stages. This requires not just a “one and done” training, but a holistic approach of just-in-time training reinforced with continuous coaching.
In a highly competitive job market, it may seem counterintuitive to pour resources into your reps. They could leave at any moment for any reason and all that time and money will have been wasted. It’s true that this may happen anyway, but if you don’t prioritize coaching and company culture, it will definitely happen.
In the last three years, the B2B selling landscape has changed immeasurably. The rate at which products and technology are changing, how we connect with buyers, who the buyers are, what they expect from sellers, how buying decisions are made – it’s all in flux and is unlikely to slow down any time soon.
Companies that take a reactive approach to change in 2022 will remain stagnant. Those that choose to be proactive, anticipate, optimize, develop talent internally and fully use the tools available to them will see a tremendous amount of growth.
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