Sales Strategy

Death of the B2B Sales Rep?

Have you bought a car in the last 18 months? If you want to take a trip down memory lane, walk into a car dealership and buy or lease a new car - that is, if you can find one given today's supply chain-driven shortages. If the TV series “Mad Men” has taken us back to the world of 1960’s Madison Avenue and three martini lunches, buying a car today from a traditional dealership harkens back to the era of Willy Loman.

Many companies are on their way to radically changing the way they sell. For example, auto manufacturers are exploring ways to increase direct-to-consumer connections through vehicle automation. Tesla has pioneered a new direct-to-consumer model that utilizes showrooms where customers place orders online. These dealers are also increasingly focused on modernizing marketing and sales capabilities and maintaining relevance with a new generation of buyers.

How has B2B buying and selling changed?

We are seeing consequential shifts in buying (and therefore selling) at an industry level and amongst our clients. These shifts challenge sales leaders to rethink the structure, skills, and support their sales organizations need.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of virtual work and increased the thresholds of purchases, even complex ones, remotely. Much has been researched and written in the past 18 months about these changes. Our own research finds that the majority of B2B buyers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service.

What are the implications for B2B sales teams?

Based on our clients’ and our own experiences, we see the following four trends impacting sales teams:

  1. Hybrid skills are essential – in our research for our Multigenerational Sales Team book, we were seeing the early results of “digitally proficient” millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce and sales teams. The global pandemic has only accelerated the need to adopt technology in sales and customer support interactions. Who knew back in 2019 that we’d all be Zoom experts by 2022?

  2. Increased specialization and expertise – sellers must continue to develop their knowledge base and provide value that transcends the classic relationship-building profile (some may say cliché). Buyers are asking (and expecting!) more when engaging with a seller.

  3. Shifting sales enablement priorities and budgets – the strong desire to bring sales teams together for camaraderie and training remains. But annual budgets will continue to shift away from the classic sales methodology and skills training in favor of digital learning and selling tools.

  4. A higher bar for in-person meetings – across industries, our clients are expecting a much higher bar for their sales teams to conduct meetings in person. After saving millions in T&E expenses, CFOs will be reluctant for travel budgets to fully rebound – both for internal company training and events and for customer-facing meetings. On the customer’s side, sales teams will need confirmation on in-person vs. remote attendance. There’s nothing like spending the time and money to show up in-person only to discover the key decision makers are joining virtually.

To us, these trends support a continuing focus of B2B sales teams overall. It might even create GTM strategies and definitions for sales efficiency and effectiveness.

The best sales organizations are keeping a constant pulse on modern selling in a hybrid world. Contact us to learn more about the next generation requirements for revenue growth.

About The Author

Author photo Warren Shiver is a Partner at The Brevet Group, a management consultancy focused on end-to-end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Warren’s leadership has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process, and well-designed enablement tools.

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