The Evolution of B2B Sales

The Evolution of B2B Sales - Blog Image for Shade's Mills Group

Now is the time to be thinking about your approach to sales!  The world is rapidly changing and amongst those changes are shifts in how business to business (B2B) customers are looking at salespeople.  I share some shocking statistics from a study published by Forrester Research:

60% of B2B Buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep. [1]

68% of B2B Buyers prefer gathering information online on their own. [2]

How is that being reflected in the effectiveness of sales professionals?  Check this data out from Salesforce Research:

57% of Sales Reps expect to miss their quotas this year. [3]

66% of a Sales Rep’s time is not spent on selling. [4]

What is the implication for B2B vendors?  B2B Vendors very much need to look at the character of what they are selling. 

Are they complex solutions that need the expert guidance of a sales consultant or are they simple transactions such as items ordered every week?  You really need to be aware of how your customers want to transact with you around these routine purchases.  Forrester found:

Simple or transactional orders are increasingly being routed through self-service, online channels.  This must be offered or the risk will be losing these orders to pure web plays. [5]

Other than customer retention there are further advantages to routing these orders to self-serve, online options.  Forrester also shares:

Shifting low-consideration purchases to self-serve, online options results in:

The potential for much lower cost-per-interaction
An increase in incremental revenue
Improved customer satisfaction [6]

So, what is the future role for B2B sales people?  Once again, consulting Forrester:

B2B Buyers want skilled consultants for their high-consideration purchase scenarios. [7]

How do you interpret all of this?

To me, this says that a buyer’s time is precious.  If they have been sold on your company and the value that you provide, they would very much prefer to utilize a time-efficient
self-service option for their routine purchases.  There are advantages for your organization with this shift such as the lower cost per interaction identified, increased order accuracy, a greater opportunity to cross sell or expand the product bundle and ultimately a committed, loyal customer.  But with this comes a challenge.

The challenge is that you need to have a self-service portal/ecommerce platform that your customers like to use (simple to use, easy to navigate, convenient and time efficient).  If you cannot deliver this, then they will look for competitive web options that fulfill that need.  What is becoming more and more apparent, they will not be looking for a sales representative to help them with these purchases.

What do you do with your sales people?

They still have a role but they have to be focused on providing consultative support on your most complex solutions.  This may take the form of ongoing support, perhaps it is on-site demonstrations but above all the hope is that capacity has been creating so that your outside sales resources can focus on qualifying and selling high value new customers! 

Another important consideration is that increasingly, complex or expensive sales are being approved by a committee within a customer. Your sales representative is not likely to be able to address the entire committee but they can identify a champion or advocate and then coach them and provide information that will facilitate them selling your proposition internally through the committee.

The need is for a skilled consultant who adds value to the interactions which is an absolute requirement for a buyer who has precious little time.  They do not need an order taker taking up their time on simple, routine transactions.

It can be very intimidating and disruptive to contemplate these changes or shifts.  There are ways to plan out an evolutionary transition.  Feel free to contact us for help on this journey!


[1] Death Of A (B2B) Salesman: Two Years Later. 2017 Forrester Research Inc. Page 3

[2] Death Of A (B2B) Salesman:  Two Years Later.  2017 Forrester Research Inc. Page 3

[3] State of Sales, Third Edition.  Salesforce Research. Page 8

[4] State of Sales, Third Edition.  Salesforce Research. Page 9

[5] Death Of A (B2B) Salesman:  Two Years Later.  2017 Forrester Research Inc. Page 2

[6] Death Of A (B2B) Salesman:  Two Years Later.  2017 Forrester Research Inc.  Pages 5-6

[7] Death Of A (B2B) Salesman:  Two Years Later.  2017 Forrester Research Inc.  Page 4

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