B2B in the era of Covid
The world of B2B sales changed overnight. One day we woke up and realized that we couldn’t go visit our clients, that face-to-face meetings were no more, that market conditions were decoupled from consumer behavior, and that we were going to spend more time online than we could have imagined.
According to the latest figures from McKinsey, between 70 and 80% of buyers prefer virtual meetings to in-person sit-downs, because they “hope to have a buying cycle that is satisfactory, simple and safe for their health.” This begs the question, “How are we going to grow in this new normal?” Some may say that 2020 was a year of excellent results, which is true for certain markets, but that didn’t always come down to sellers’ excellent prospecting with all their clients—the chaos and uncertainty led to opportunities.
Companies have had to retool to cope with this drastic change of scenery, implementing digital solutions to a level that would have taken years to achieve under different circumstances. The companies that adapted did so by becoming quick and agile, two characteristics that were not brought to bear in sales teams, which may be attempting to stay afloat rather than revamp entirely.
When we look inside the sales teams that we come across, the salespeople are often underprepared for what doing business virtually entails. Many B2B sellers have difficulty cold calling prospects, as they were accustomed to using their charm to seal deals in person. That period of building a relationship to close sales is a thing of the past; sellers’ efficiency and effectiveness are now much more important in business. It’s a shift that’s still emerging—the wave is still not fully formed. Companies with long sales cycles are not yet sure what awaits, while businesses with short cycles are rushing to meet demand. Meanwhile, the number of trade shows, meetings and visits has plunged, along with budget forecasts, sales, and long-term offerings.
Companies’ current challenge is to train their sales teams to keep in step with the digital shift they themselves have made. Businesses need to move beyond this phase of short-term survival and look ahead, taking all they’ve learned, because the past is not coming back—this is the new normal and the reality of B2B.
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