STRATEGY

How Covid-19 Pushed B2B Sales for a Massive Change

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Written by Burcin Genc
06/07/2021
               

How Covid-19 Pushed B2B Sales for a Massive Change

 

Since the Coronavirus pandemic, the whole world is still fighting a great battle, full of uncertainties and novelties, both in terms of health and economy. While people are worried about their health, companies are deeply concerned about the future of their business. 

 

 

As time passes and the pandemic is taking longer and longer, these concerns are being replaced for companies and for individuals with the necessity of the ability to cope with the new era and to adapt to the norms of the new world. This, indeed, compels especially B2B companies to construct different scenarios for their future plans in line with the ever-changing buying journey.  

 

Pandemic Implications and Rapid Shift in B2B Commerce

 

Coronavirus has not only led to changes in buyer behaviour but also triggered a massive transformation in the way we do business. To better understand the actions that B2B companies should take during the post-pandemic period, let's first focus on how some roles, their needs, and expectations in B2B commerce have evolved due to the coronavirus:

  • Buyers: They certainly no longer want to meet the salesperson face-to-face. And it seems that they’ll willingly continue their buying journey remotely. However, during the pre-purchase process, B2B buyers are conducting more research than they did before. Raconteur reported that 51% of sales and marketing pros said their buyers were engaging in more research over the past 18 months. This habit of research and comparison also raises price awareness among B2B customers. On the other hand, in online purchasing, B2B customers now experience almost the same purchasing processes as B2C customers. Therefore, they are also exposed to a great amount of content during their online research. This makes the content king for B2B buyers as well.
  • Employees: Employees now work from home, travel less, work single shifts to avoid working in large groups or one-on-one. According to a mid-pandemic Gallup poll, 62% of employees are working remotely as a result of COVID-19. And with remote working, there has been a rapid transition to much more flexible working hours. Now, daily life and business life are more intertwined for employees. It seems like everyone is now used to hearing babies cry at zoom meetings or seeing a cat's tail passing in front of the camera. The need for strong planning and good management arose in the employees’ world, where it is much more difficult to concentrate because the distractions have increased and the workflow is often disrupted. In this case, motivating employees to work regularly from where they are has become a brand new challenge for businesses.
  • Salespeople: They, obviously, still have big roles in the B2B business, such as capturing demands, contacting customers, creating satisfaction by meeting expectations, and staying relevant. But now, they have to do this digitally, without any physical contact. And that means they need to strengthen those completely new digital skills. At the same time, as customer demands increase much faster as a result of the rapid digitalization, it is also necessary to better optimize the sales teams and their performance that were believed to be sufficient before the pandemic.
  • Business leaders: Business leaders, on the other hand, face an exceptionally challenging situation. They now have to take action against a range of extra significant issues, from employee health to handling supply chain disruptions or from customer safety to business continuity. This, of course, brings the extra labor for planning and a great need for control. 

Even if the pandemic era seems quite challenging in terms of bringing up many changes and problems in the short term and deeply shaking the entire business world, in the long run, it seems like we will also experience extremely positive effects on the way we do business. 

As the customers are now demanding a digitized buying experience, vigilant B2B businesses are striving to rapidly increase the effectiveness of their whole online sales journey. According to Accenture’s research "The New World of B2B Sales”, 46% of SMBs have invested in increased infrastructure in ways that render it more virtual, online, or contactless. And also, site traffic across the US, UK, and EU, the B2B saw a 32% year-over-year (YoY) increase in the week closing March 29. 

 

Significant Actions B2B Businesses Should Take 

 

Today, companies have to strengthen their muscles in taking quick actions, adapting to changes and creating agile structures. Because we have all seen that the whole life can tumble in just a single day. 

Thus, all companies that want to survive must have the ability to respond to the customer needs, which arose as a result of fully digitalized purchasing habits, in a timely manner. To satisfy all of these expectations, it is very important to establish an integrated business structure and build a flawless strategy correctly. 

Let's take a look at the main actions that B2B businesses should follow in order to achieve this in the most permanent and sustainable way:

 

1- Designing an Immersive External Communication 

 

An absolute external communication design leads B2B businesses to meet their existing or potential customers in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way and boost their sales. In this regard, you should be able to set effective goals or reshape your previous ones to be able to create wise strategies accordingly. 

The first significant issue here is that you should perfectly know and define your customers. Even if you think you know your target audience, remember that their purchasing habits may have changed a lot recently. Therefore, you may need to redefine their needs and expectations. Always remember that understanding to whom you’ll be talking is the key to establishing effective communication.

In addition to your target audience, if you have any communication channels and strategies that you use, it may be useful to check their validity along with all these winds of change. That means it's time to conduct or revisit your internal check-up.

After that, you can start designing or redesigning your online presence starting from your website and use some extra communication tools like emails, forms, or chatbots to boost your external communication. 

At that point, again, using immersive software, which can lead you through the way and provide each necessary tool, will prevent you from getting lost on the way and will help you to improve both your vision and your business. The most beneficial part is that you will be able to track every action you, your employees or your customers will take and save this data to reshape and better your strategies or actions.  

 

2- Improving Internal Communication

 

It is also very important for businesses to deeply understand that the purchasing experience is not a one-way journey. The internal workflow of a company mirrors itself in the external communication it has with its customers. Thus, the external communication strategy is not entirely enough to gain the trust of customers and ensure that they are permanent and loyal. 

Especially after the transition to remote working amidst the pandemic, the digitalization of internal communication processes has become more significant. Centralized and authentic communication channels are playing an important role now to avoid misinformation. 

Successful leaders are now aware that they need to use tools and services that will help them follow up the workflows or manage all the workloads from a single point. And as a return they need to offer constant support to their employees with resources and inform them about the latest updates, working policies, rules, or just give some feedback via an open communication channel. 

 

3- Aligning Sales and Marketing

 

As we have mentioned before, designing a flawless buying journey with a great external communication strategy is only possible when companies can reveal strongly integrated internal communication. They don’t have any other chance except for seeing and designing it as a whole and the only way to succeed in this is to make marketing and sales teams work in close contact regardless of the physical distance. We call this sales and marketing alignment.

Sales + Marketing = Smarketing

Since the B2B buying journey is not linear anymore, marketing teams are not only responsible for the top of the funnel, or vice versa, the sales teams shouldn’t only focus on lead management. 

Working together with your digital or growth marketing team in every stage of the B2B buyer journey is necessary for gaining the right information, providing customers with personalised and consistent information across all channels, and most importantly running an effective end-to-end sales strategy. 

Executing an effective sales strategy powered by a growth-driven marketing strategy is the first and most significant step to attract potential buyers and to help them have a seamless end-to-end online purchasing experience. 

 

Conclusion 

 

Adapting to the pandemic era and to all the changes it brought to our lives was not easy. But this situation enabled the business world to bring a whole new perspective to the way they do business and reshape their relationship with customers. Remember that, as always, visionary companies that can nurture their future plans with the right strategies, the right tools, and the right innovations will be the ones who succeed in turning the challenges into opportunities. 

 

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