Managing Change in B2B Sales

01.11.23 11:10 AM
Throughout our lives we inevitably must address and accept change in both our personal and professional day to day existence. In order to achieve success, we need to both embrace and manage this change. B2B organisations in particular need to recognise the effect of cultural as well as economic changes in a business environment that evolves quickly.

In this edition we consider how sales teams need to emphasise their efforts more and more to become a sales team that promotes and provides value. We also focus on some of the new challenges the sales manager faces, and how to build a culture within the team that not only accepts but embraces change. 

Change in B2B Sales

In this edition we consider some of the key challenges facing a B2B sales manager and their team and some thoughts on how these can be addressed.

It goes without saying that sales in a B2B world have changed dramatically in recent years. Technology has created an environment where buyers are not only more knowledgeable, have greater choice and research detail. This has meant that salespeople enter the buying cycle much later. Today’s buyers have access to a huge amount of information that enables research allowing them to compare, read reviews and really gain an understanding of a product before entering the sales cycle. Some even decide not to interact with a salesperson until a decision has been made.

It is interesting to ask why is change important and when does it stop. 

Winston Churchill said, ‘To change is to improve, to be perfect is to change often’. 

This identifies as if you want to succeed you must accept change. It is vital that you are never satisfied with the status enjoyed or feel that now it is ok to relax. This is especially true in business.

Managers should realise however that some find change difficult and that’s only a natural state for many. We often need to change embedded habits, sometimes accepted with enthusiasm but often creating varying reactions from individuals. This is where managers need to explain and create a realisation for the need to change in order to develop and grow, both as individuals and as a company. It is important to demonstrate change is not about the destruction of the old way but the building of the new.

When considering staff training initiatives, individual agility, innovation and an entrepreneurial attitude can be measured to be considerd for future development. 

Thoughts of/for a Sales-Manager

The sales process is often complicated as more and more people are involved in the buying process. Now often Finance, IT and more and more often Legal departments take an active role in the sales cycle. When sales and marketing interact in considering actions within the sales cycle, the needs and concerns of these should be addressed in advance and taken into account in all sales activities. 

 Where a sales team could previously consist of universal sales reps offering all products available from their companies, today is different as sales individuals become more specialised, dedicated to a specific product and even customer demographics. To this end sales managers must consider individual capabilities, product expertise and personal characteristics of each rep.

In today’s world it is vital that within companies there is a major focus on the development of a united team. In particular, sales and marketing should be closely aligned. These teams should, having identified the target audience, orchestrate activities. Now as a large part of the buying process can take place without any contact with the client, often through digital channels, then the narrative must be mutually agreed and supportive. 

The need for sales and marketing cooperation cannot be overstated. They need to understand each other’s goals and ensure common ground. Both teams value must be accepted fully by the other with the development of a common vision and strategy.

All the potential touchpoints should be considered and highlighted, and every individual within the sales cycle must focus on how to promote maximum value. All must fully understand the end game plan, their own role, the key message, the value proposition and understand the whole sales cycle.

Digital tools

More and more the use of technology tools replaces the traditional face to face sales meeting. The days of long meetings and the subsequent exchange of information are gone. Now interactions are often very short and reduced to the clarification of key points of understanding, often very impersonal. These online meetings may be shorter; however, they are also vital in building a connection. This must be always borne in mind by the sales team as the perception of them by the buyer still counts. 

Buyers are still Human

No matter how much we accept and understand the role of technology in the modern world, one thing that stays constant is the understanding that ‘People buy from People’. Especially those they trust. This ability to build trust is still a constant in an effective sales team. 

As the buyer utilises technology and its uses so must the sales and marketing teams. From Google to CRM dashboards, it is of interest to consider how many different platforms are available, and then consider the most effective use of all. CRM in particular is no longer just a reporting tool to report activity to management. Now it allows effective proactivity based on data captured and demonstrates how this data can be utilised to meet company goals. It aids efficiency and productivity whilst building strong relationships, in short working smarter. Consider sales teams often focus on the short term, they need new leads now, whilst marketing takes a long-term view developing a brand and its positioning. Achieving these together guarantees the sustainability and consequent success of any business. 

Now as we are discussing software, a painful topic is user adoption. Any system relies on the activity of those using it. To this end it is vital that the systems are easy to use. The tools must be intuitive and easy to understand with managers emphasising the value they offer. 

In Conclusion

To survive the challenges of the modern economic business environment all B2B sales teams need to acknowledge how its customers needs, values and attitudes are changing. They need to be open to change and accept that this change is inevitable. The term team has never been more important when addressing how we work. 

Now salespeople need to utilise and accept technology and the advantages offered. Now they need to be more than sales individuals, now they need to act as experts and educators when discussing their products. 

It’s a new world in which we live.