The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to adjust to a new normal. As the pandemic continues to threaten millions of lives around the world, ways how we work and communicate, how and what we buy are evolving. As many “non-essential” companies are being closed with “stay at home” orders, a lot of companies have had a decline in their sales. Likewise, sales as a function, especially in the B2B sector, also witnessed one of the biggest shifts due to the ongoing pandemic.
Changing buyer behaviour and spending
Not only are consumers changing the ways of what they buy and how they spend, business buyers are also altering their spend in this pandemic. With lockdowns imposed around the world and the economy going downhill in many countries, the only choice companies have is cutting their spend. In order to mitigate losses, prevent layoffs and in a worse case scenario, avert going out of business, companies are reducing their expenses.
With the changing buyer behaviour, many companies are also changing the ways they sell. According to a survey done by Mckinsey and Company on B2B businesses across 11 countries in 7 sectors, almost 90% of sales have moved to a web sales model. While there was always a great importance of digital channels for B2B in the past, it has radically increased since the pandemic. Now, it’s more of a rule than an exception.
Adjusting to the current situations, there has been a digital adoption by companies at breathtaking rates. A lot of them have fully or partially shifted to remote selling. While some skepticism remains, a lot of the B2B decision makers are saying that the remote model is equally or even more effective than how they had been conducting their sales procedures before the pandemic. Companies are now reworking their traditional sales model and leveraging technology to engage and interact with their customers. What previously used to be a meeting in the flesh has now moved to meetings through video calls.
The crisis has definitely given birth to a new sales model where previous trends have been accelerated. Trends like omni channel selling, inside sales, tech-enabled selling, and e-commerce are on the rise. While judging the effectiveness of these trends may still be a bit premature as virtual selling track records are still surmounted by the traditional selling, perhaps these trends are here to stay looking at the current situation. The changes and shifts brought about in B2B sales are more likely to be sustained than not.
Shift in the customer preference
While companies are adopting new methods to sell adhering to the current pandemic, a change in the customer preference can also be seen. Customers are now opting for digital interactions rather than traditional interactions. Customers now want digital self-serving tools and hence for them, digital is now an essential means of doing business. There has been a significant increase in customer preferences for placing order on mobile apps. Currently, customers are more likely to choose a company providing an outstanding digital experience as their primary supplier.
Takeaways for businesses
With such shifts and swings, the new virtual environment demands the expanding skill sets of sales teams, driving efficiency with technology, all the while also adapting to the changes. Selling effectively in a virtual environment goes beyond having an understanding of how to use video conferencing tools. They need to be prepared to navigate through an environment of uncertainty and unpredictability.
Moreover, they need to focus on delivering through all sales channels with speed, transparency and expertise. Similarly, fixing top buyer frustrations at this time of heightened vulnerability is important. Customers can be distracted and self-protective more than ever and communicating to them with greater sensitivity is extremely important. Sales teams need to understand that their customers’ priorities have changed and that now would be a great opportunity to recalibrate their relationship with them.
There are many unknowns about how long Covid-19 is going to last or how long it is going to take to get back to “normal”. While every business is struggling, not taking any action against these huge shifts would be a mistake than taking the wrong one. The B2B decision makers should break the boundaries and capture opportunities the “new normal” presents them with.