B2B Sales Goes Digital: How Not to Be Overtaken by the Competition

The future of B2B is digital - yet companies continue to squander potential and cling to outdated sales structures. Yet the path to Sales 4.0 is an investment in your own competitiveness in the market.

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Sales practice has changed dramatically in recent years. In order to meet the requirements and expectations of customers, it is important to use technology strategically and creatively. The first important step is to recognize the various possible applications and their benefits in sales. The truth is: digitalization has long since made its way into B2B, while sales often continues to run analogously and according to old patterns. Those who do not recognize this and act accordingly run the risk of being left behind by the competition.

The Status Quo: DACH Companies Lag Behind

Although digitalization has long since found its way into most private lives, companies are still giving away opportunities in 2021

Especially in the B2B area, the reaction to technical developments and trends is very slow

This is particularly true of long-established companies that still largely run their sales operations in analogue form and for whom a changeover appears to be too great a feat. Often, they simply lack the necessary know-how

The frequent excuse: In B2B, customers value the classic personal contact before entering into a business relationship. The fact that more than half of all employees in purchasing are younger than 35 and thus belong to the group of digital natives is not taken into account. For this group in particular, however, modern information technology has long been taken for granted in both private and professional contexts

So if you completely forgo digitization in B2B, you automatically put yourself at a business disadvantage. It must be clear that we are only talking about the status quo here. If you think about the age at which children nowadays engage with technology and the Internet, you can imagine what the forecasts for analog sales look like.

B2B Sales Can Learn from B2C

B2C shows the way with numerous online shops and customer portals: The end customer business is already predominantly handled digitally here, while e-commerce is often used as a primary, or at least as an additional sales channel. Marketing and advertising are specifically geared to the Internet - there is usually no other way to reach the target group

But why has digitalization largely arrived here, while B2B remains analog?

Around one third of B2B companies in the DACH countries do not even offer their customers the option of ordering their goods or services online.

Business customers (as well as B2C customers) now expect this possibility. The result for digitization refusers: The company looks antiquated and thus unprofessional

Since most business customers also use the Internet as their primary source of information, the company often doesn't even appear on their radar. The outdated sales model of putting employees on the phone and then sending them to the customer with printed information material after making an appointment no longer promises success. Those who do not recognize this in B2B sales and do not follow the example of B2C companies will not be able to hold their own against the competition in the future.

Technologies for Sales 4.0

Various technologies are leading B2B sales into the future and supporting those responsible in important and often time-consuming work. The primary goal when using these tools is to increase efficiency. The following applies here: collect, structure and analyze information. This is the only way to create the basis for a functioning modern sales department. The following is about the most important developments and trends in this area.

Digital Lead Management

Generating leads is one of the central tasks of sales. The heart of this is customer relationship management, which is carried out by a corresponding CRM system. It collects and analyzes all relevant customer data and processes them into leads - completely automatically.

The sales employee receives a clear picture of the customer, with all previously recorded information. This makes it possible to forecast a specific need and then approach the customer in a targeted manner (provided the customer has previously agreed to be contacted). Technologies such as Customer Data Platform (CDP) and CRM systems thus make the entire customer and sales process more efficient and save time and effort by enabling targeted contact.

Artificial Intelligence and Its Possible Applications in Sales

It is omnipresent and inspires the nightmare scenarios of many moviegoers - yet the term artificial intelligence often creates the wrong associations. In sales, it is predominantly about software tools that support the CRM system. They automatically recognize patterns in the data records and actively participate in lead generation

In the process, not only data records of the company are searched, but also, for example, social media, which hold valuable information and can legally multiply the contact data many times over. Once the search preferences are set, the AI thus delivers potential business contacts that correlate with the B2B company's offer.

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Virtual Reality as a Showroom for Industrial Products

Up to now, VR glasses have been regarded more as a technical gimmick that has no practical benefits. However, they offer a number of possibilities for sales that could point the way to the future.

Virtual product presentations could use virtual reality to create a completely new customer experience in a realistic and visually impressive way.

With VR glasses, the potential customer enters virtual rooms to view machines or other visualizable objects up close. Although the information content does not increase significantly compared to a conventional product presentation, the viewer has an experience here that puts the aspect of the visual experience in the foreground in addition to the pure information. This unusual and sensory-stimulating experience can definitely have a sales-promoting effect.

Digital Tools for Communication

At the latest since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, digital communication with employees and customers has become standard, even in sales. Video chat also lends itself to customer meetings. You have a conversation face to face, which is not given with the telephone call, but you do without the personal appearance and the associated effort - or the health risk, considering the current situation.

Potential customers see who they are talking to, which in our experience leads to more trust than with an anonymous telephone call

Even after the pandemic is over, digital communication services such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet will remain relevant as they offer benefits to both sales and customers.

Sales in B2B Must Become Bolder ..

... and recognize and implement the opportunities of digitalization. It's not about a slow change in circumstances that has just come into effect: The change has been here for a long time and B2B sales are on the verge of missing the boat.

Conclusion

All the prerequisites for Sales 4.0 have long been in place - no company in B2B today can plausibly justify why it remains in the analog age. Yet the fear is not justified: The switch to digitized sales is no longer uncharted territory, and there are long-established and proven solutions for taking this step. What is important above all is the decision to embrace the paradigm shift brought about by digitization.

The reward is a consistently more efficient sales force that can meet the demands of modern times.

In addition to tools like CRM systems that greatly simplify lead generation and customer data management through AI, technologies like virtual reality offer promising innovations for the customer experience. In B2C, people have already figured it out: If you want to hold your own in the market, you rely on digitalization.