What B2B sales enablement looks like in a post-COVID environment

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30-second summary:

  • We spoke with Seismic’s VP of Market Growth, Heather Cole, to get her thoughts on what B2B sales enablement will look like in 2021.
  • Even before COVID, B2B buyers were showing a preference for a largely remote selling process. Gartner research from 2019 revealed that just 17% of buying activities involved buyers actually meeting with suppliers.
  • Platforms like Seismic help companies facilitate the distribution of marketing and sales content across distributed sales teams who must also sell remotely.
  • Looking ahead, Cole’s advice to businesses in the go-to-market ecosystem is to adopt the seller mentality of continual outreach with a focus on helping customers better understand the new digital world.

The pandemic changed everything about how salespeople interact with prospects, with lockdowns and social distancing requiring sales teams to rely on selling technology while connecting remotely.

Remote selling will likely continue throughout most of 2021, and an effective sales enablement plan must factor in the logistical difficulties that sales teams face when they can’t meet with prospects in person. The good (and perhaps surprising) news is that 75% of buyers prefer remote or digital interactions according to a recent McKinsey report.

ClickZ recently spoke with Seismic’s VP of Market Growth, Heather Cole, to get her thoughts on what sales enablement might look like in 2021.

Seismic is a sales enablement platform that connects sales teams with the right content at the right point in the sales process, enabling reps to tell more effective stories.

With years of experience as an analyst at SiriusDecisions and Forrester, Cole provides a valuable perspective on what B2B sales enablement will look like within a largely virtual sales environment.

B2B sales enablement post-COVID

Even before COVID, B2B buyers were showing a preference for a remote selling process.

In 2019, Gartner broke down the B2B buying journey into five key activities, with buyers spending most of their time performing independent research online and offline, meeting with an internal buying group, and performing other (non-buying) activities.

Just 17% of buying activities involved buyers meeting with suppliers, as the following chart illustrates.

Source: Gartner

Says Cole, “There has been a transformation in how B2B buyers think about how they do procurement that’s not coming from the procurement department, but from the people who have a vested interest in purchasing.”

Cole notes that B2B buyers prefer to have virtual interactions with sellers, but are also willing to make large investments without meeting a rep in person.

“This is being heavily accelerated by COVID,” explains Cole. “The willingness to make a large investment without ever meeting with a rep is dependent on three factors: the size of the investment, if it’s a purchase they’ve made before, or if the product or product category is new to them.”

A Q3 2020 study of B2B decision makers by McKinsey revealed that 70% of respondents were open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases that exceeded $50,000 and 27% would spend more than $500,000.

Buyers value interactions with reps during the research process and that’s when human interaction is the most impactful. This is an important consideration from a sales enablement perspective, since it’s tied to the type of content that can help sales reps influence buyers.

“From the perspective of B2B marketers and sellers, you want to find buyers as they’re doing their research because they’re much more likely to be further along in the sales process,” says Cole. “Seismic’s role is to help our customers find those buyers and get the right content into their hands so that the sales rep is the one educating the buyer.”

Personalization at scale

Platforms like Seismic help companies facilitate the distribution of marketing and sales content across the distributed sales teams who must also sell remotely.

They do this by aggregating the content within one central location and employing technology such as AI and machine learning to ensure that sales professionals have better, more meaningful conversations with prospects and customers.

Digital interactions provide data that can help tailor content to the specific sales interaction and need, creating personalized experiences that complement B2B selling strategies.

Says Cole, “Enabling personalization at scale gives sales teams the ability to automate. That’s what we do from a content and interaction standpoint. We partner with ABM platforms and are hooked into all the major CRM platforms, which gives us the ability to watch what works and replicate it.”

Seismic helps sales teams identify different personas and then recommend a cadence of conversation and content that’s been proven to be effective in similar situations.

The pandemic has forced businesses to become much more digital. The ability for platforms such as Seismic to watch what happens behind the scenes in this new digital landscape gives B2B sellers a much better understanding of their sales interactions and how to leverage them.

Navigating the post-COVID B2B sales environment

Looking ahead, Cole’s advice to businesses in the go-to-market ecosystem is to adopt the seller mentality of continual outreach with a focus on helping customers better understand the new digital world.

“You have to be excellent at executing digitally,” explains Cole. “And that means being able to find the right customers for the sales reps. It also means being able to sell in a way that’s doesn’t compete with face-to-face selling, but makes it better.”

B2B sellers that are succeeding post-COVID are maintaining contact with their customers in ways that are meaningful. That includes providing information to them when needed, having more effective conversations online, and navigating the sales process more effectively.

Says Cole, “Sales enablement makes customer facing roles as effective as they can be in every interaction that’s happening. It’s not just about the sellers, it’s about everybody interacting with that customer. A good sales enablement tool helps provide reps with the right ‘what to know’ and ‘what to show’ every time they’re having an interaction with the customer. They have the competence. They have the context of the conversation. They have the confidence to be able to execute on it, and they have the content.”



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