B2B Digital Sales Amid the Pandemic: 6 Points

January 6, 2021

Altimeter B2B Sales Response COVID 19 Jan2021The majority (55%) of B2B sales professionals think that their business will recover from the pandemic and resultant global recession, and for 78% a digital selling strategy will be instrumental to recovery. So finds Altimeter’s latest report [download page] on the state of digital selling.

Here are some key points from the report.

1. No Surprises: COVID-19 Has Had a Positive Impact on Digital Selling

Fortunately, the majority of respondents were able to agree or strongly agree that they had experienced a number of positive effects on their trajectory to digital maturity since the pandemic. For nearly 8 in 10 (78%), the pandemic has clarified where they need to focus their digital selling strategy moving forward, and an equal share feels that this digital strategy is instrumental to their recovery.

Encouragingly, the majority (55%) also either strongly disagree or disagree that their business may not recover from the pandemic and global recession.

2. Customer Experience and Tech are Top Challenges

The very idea of digital selling calls into question how businesses can maintain the human side of sales. As such, among 4 challenges presented to respondents, the largest share (29%) said that their top digital selling challenges was providing buyers with the most effective digital experience while maintaining a relationship quality typical of personal interaction.

For one-quarter (26%), technology poses the top challenge, defined as the need for sellers to have effective technology to sell digitally, trust data and be confident in actions to take based on tools. Interestingly, respondents identified as top performers over-indexed on this challenge, cited by more than 4 in 10 (43%). These top performers, conversely, were less likely than average to point to the customer experience as their biggest obstacle.

3. High-Touch, High-Value Sales Deals Are Most Common

When asked to describe their typical sales deals as high-, medium- or low-touch, a plurality (43%) of respondents shared that their typical sales deals are high-touch, high sales cost, long lead time, low-frequency and high value (>$100K), requiring a well-coordinated team and unique sales planning with marketing. An even larger majority (63%) of top-performers said the same.

That said, while top performers leaned more heavily toward the above deal-type, a fair share of respondents overall shared that their typical sales deal is medium-touch, medium sales cost (<$100K) requiring no more than a few team members or partners to execute (33%). Fewer (24% share) pointed to a low-touch, low-sales cost, high-volume deal type that can be handled either completely online, on the phone or at most through the involvement of a few staff.

4. Digital Selling Generally Organized Around Industry Vertical

As for sales roles, the largest share of overall respondents (27%) and top performers (47%) indicated that their sales role is primarily focused on industry vertical.

According to respondents, it is less common for sales roles to be organized around named accounts (14% share), geographically based territory (18% share) or inside sales role (14% share).

5. Top Performers Are Planners

Asked whether their sales process aligned with a number of statements, top-performing respondents over-indexed across the board compared to respondents overall.

For example, the most common facet of the planning process for both groups – that the sales process is defined around the customer journey and informed by rich data analytics – was strongly agreed with by 73% of top performers and just 39% of all respondents.

The same was true for all other statements, including that sales teams plan sales territory (e.g by company size, industry, geography etc.) through analytics and computer modeling to optimize results (top performers: 64%; all respondents: 34%).

6. Sales and Marketing Are Generally Unified, but a Minority Think Marketing’s Value Is Essential

Presented with statements about teamwork between sales and marketing, respondents were most likely to strongly agree that they regularly assess the effectiveness of their teamwork to meet sales plan objectives, including sales, marketing, service and external partners (43%), and that operations/enablement teams supporting marketing, sales and service are either well aligned or unified in one team (43%).

However, a minority of both top performers (44%) and respondents overall (31%) strongly agreed that as a sales professional, the value they receive from marketing is essential.

Read the full report here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 506 sales professionals from brands and organizations with at least 1,000 employees. Respondents are from North America, Europe and China.

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