Corona pandemic accelerates digital B2B sales

Purchasing and sales managers now largely rely on virtual interactions. But despite the high acceptance of this channel, many companies often still fall short of their own expectations, a study by Bain & Company shows. […]

The corona crisis is also changing sales between companies. In its study” Virtual Selling Has Become Simply Selling”, the international management consultancy Bain & Company determined that 92 percent of B2B sales managers surveyed now prefer digital business relationships. This is 17 percentage points more than in May 2020

.Purchasing has also discovered the benefits of digitalization. For example, 79 percent of the employees there recognize the performance of virtual sales, compared to only 54 percent a year ago. In particular, it appreciates faster and more frequent communication, more cost-efficient transactions and the possibility of reaching more potential contacts. Around 250 sales and purchasing managers in the B2B sector participated in the study.

“The transition to digital B2B sales has accelerated noticeably due to the effects of the corona pandemic,” explains Dr. Eric Zayer, Bain partner and expert for commercial excellence in the B2B sector. “What used to be seen in many places as a low-cost option has now become the preferred channel for most buyers.”The increasingly powerful and affordable virtual solutions have allowed B2B companies to continuously virtualize their activities even with more complex transactions.

Comprehensive strategy instead of small steps

“In view of the rapidly increasing use of digital B2B sales, however, the associated expectations are also growing,” says Dr. Tobias Umbeck, Bain partner and sales expert. According to the Bain study, there is still room for improvement in practice, according to respondents. In fact, the companies report increasing closing rates and sales of the virtual sales channels, but these still fall short of their own forecasts. For example, managers and sales staff were set for a win rate that was in some cases significantly higher than was actually achieved on average.“

In order to exploit the full potential of virtual sales, it is not only necessary to make individual digital adjustments,“ emphasizes Umbeck. “Rather, leading companies have adapted their strategy in all dimensions of the virtual B2B market.”Overall, five factors are decisive for success:

1. Win customers early

According to the Bain study, around 80 percent of corporate customers already know exactly what they need before their first contact with sales staff. More than 35 percent even have a clear preference for a provider. Digital information channels are now more popular with purchasing managers than exhibitions or trade fairs. When researching online, the desired product categories should therefore be found quickly and application examples should be easily accessible, for example through demo videos. If there is interest, it is advantageous to contact the provider as easily as possible-via chatbots, live chats or the personal conversation.

2. Adapt virtual services to customer expectations

Efficient B2B companies only provide product and sales managers with personal advice if the corporate customers explicitly request it. Specialist personnel are deployed in a targeted manner to answer questions or demonstrate products. This makes the sales process leaner and costs lower.

3. Develop scripts for sales scenarios

With the help of sample templates, sales and the department can prepare themselves precisely for the different customer interactions. For example, who contacts interested parties in which situation and provides which information? In addition, sales scripts enable better training and performance evaluation of their own workforce and thus increase their efficiency.

4. Intelligently strengthen sales teams

The systematic, data-driven analysis of customer behavior complements traditional sales training. Machine learning helps sales staff convert potential deals into actual sales and create new cross-selling opportunities. In addition, when hiring new employees for virtual sales, the focus is on their digital competencies, which increases the talent pool.

5. Special software solutions for specialist areas

The flood of product and marketing tools overwhelms many teams involved with sales and customer contact. Leading B2B companies therefore use specially tailored software solutions for data analysis, sales processes or customer service in the various specialist areas. Not least because of the time saved, the sales staff can finally take care of the central revenue generators for their own company more intensively.

“Virtual B2B sales has become a matter of course for all parties involved, regardless of whether the pandemic continues to subside or whether a new crisis occurs,” notes Bain expert Zayer. “Those who are now resolutely adapting to the new market conditions and customer requirements are using the crisis as an accelerator and improving the impact of their sales.“

* Daniela Zimmer has turned her passion for shopping into a profession and is responsible for e-commerce at INTERNET WORLD Business. She also likes to get up at 5.00 a.m. on weekdays to write the e-commerce trend newsletter. Prior to joining INTERNET WORLD Business, she gained around 17 years of e-business experience at trade journals such as iBusiness, Business 2.0 and “werben und verkaufen”. Recently, after endurance shopping, she has also been practicing in another endurance discipline: in summer, the first half marathon is on the program.

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