“What Salespeople Need to Know About the New B2B Landscape” is a terrific article published in 2015 in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

HBR released it in the background of a peaked interest in analytics and big data. It discussed how these new technologies would change the B2B sales profession.

Authors Frank V. Cespedes and Tiffani Bova argued that sales had always been more about the customer than the seller. They also pointed today that rather than moving sequentially through a classic sales funnel, buyers walked through four parallel ways to make a purchase decision. Here play big data and analytics a critical role, while radically redefining the job of a sales executive.

Cespedes and Bova offered three specific pieces of advice for sales leaders. We believe these are still incredibly relevant today. Let’s refresh them.

Effective sales force remains a critical key to the B2B customer.

People first. Regardless of advances in technology, big data and predictive analytics, the first-line sales force remains decisive in Business-to-Business. Salespeople visit the customers, communicate value, and are responsible for making optimal use of available sales opportunities. They are still the dominant criteria in influencing the buying decision.

B2B sales managers should, therefore, increase their sales force efficiency. Key account managers must have all critical customer information available at any time.

Nowadays this information includes possible quick wins, customers at risk of churning, pricing strategies, online marketing engagement, emerging customer’s trends, etc. Software tools should assist sales executives to set the right priority.

To make a sales force more effective, sales managers should implement and track the most appropriate sales measures, such as the overall status of existing customers, segmented turnover, profitability and new customer acquisition. Analytics is here a no-brainer.

No just Big Data, Analytics or Social Selling. Exclusive choices are often false.

Despite what you often hear, no single tactic — e.g., a given selling methodology, “big data”, “analytics”, “social selling”, “challenging the customer”, or more “value-based selling” — addresses this new Business-to-Business reality pure on its own.

Aligning buying and selling should be a daily exercise, not a one-shot deal. Sales managers in B2B must, consequently, apply tools, software and processes that allows a continuous and incremental agile selling.

The most important job of a sales leader is to understand how buying is working today in her industry. Understanding how customers buy is the foundation to allocate resources better, grow profitability and increase sales efficiency.

Everyone is using social media, but do not just fall for the hype.

The authors discussed how, notwithstanding rising popularity in B2B, social media are not yet convincing the buyer of a purchase decision. However, customers will increasingly connect with each other using the internet and read unedited versions of others’ reviews.

There are other sales tools still more relevant than social media: events, white papers, and the own vendor website. These used to be part of marketing’s turf, not sales. Now they are critical for both.

Sales in B2B will not work without the internet. The company website of a provider remains the most used source of information by buyers. Also, industry forums are highly prevalent among customers and the most influential social sources of information. Social Media alone is the last prominent criteria in the B2B buying decision.

What Salespeople Need to Know About the New B2B Landscape
Was Vertriebsleiter über die neue B2B-Landschaft wissen sollten

What Salespeople Need to Know About the New B2B Landscape – Summary

With big data and analytics gaining in relevance, in 2015 Cespedes and Bova gave in their fascinating paper three detailed suggestions for sales executives. Their article was linked and share more than a million times, and it is today unquestionably pertinent.

There are three critical things any sales manager in B2B should know today. First, regardless of big data and analytics vital role nowadays, your team remains your most critical sales resource.

Second, sales in times of artificial intelligence and big data are about a process, not a “one-shot” method. And third, sales leaders should build online capabilities, but do not buy a headless social media hype.



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Further Read:
Cespedes, Frank und Bova, Tiffani, 2015 “What Salespeople Need to Know About the New B2B Landscape”.