In our article on why the industry of the future is forcing sales organizations to change, we concluded that the industry has undergone enormous changes. The industrial buyer thinks differently and 5 major trends accelerate the development drastically. With this article, we want to give you an insight into the transitions you need to make and present you with a roadmap for sales organizations of the industrial future.
This article is an abbreviated excerpt from our whitepaper “The industry of the future – Why the sales organization is crucial for your company’s survival” and you can easily download it by clicking here.
What changes need to take place?
There are three overall changes that need to take place within the sales organizations. They need:
- Become more customer-oriented
- Carry out more follow-ups and demonstrate clear results
- Support the customer practically in the implementation of the solution.
Most important of all is to create a more customer-oriented business because customer needs and priorities have changed. This means that the seller needs to understand all the decision-makers perspectives and also create a high level of trust.
There are higher demands on proven results and then sellers need to conduct better follow-ups with their customers to identify the results of the collaboration. In addition, a signed agreement is only the first step in collaboration, and customers today want the supplier to contribute practically. The reason it’s so important is that you can’t get any results without successful implementation.
The seller and the customer need to be able to evaluate the achieved results together by asking questions such as:
- What are the concrete results and what is their significance from the point of view of business operations?
- In what way has it contributed to streamlining operations?
- What challenges, if any, are there and how do you solve them?
Producing value requires close collaboration between both parties, where they complement each other’s expertise and go from being suppliers to partners for real.
Your roadmap to succeed in making the transition to the industry of the future
If your business is to have a chance of survival, you need to use the sales organization. Not only because it generates revenue, but because it is the key to transition to the industry of the future and also achieving success in the meantime. Here is a roadmap for sales organizations on how to succeed with the transition.
Map the potential of your existing customers
Traditionally, many sales organizations have categorized their customers based on the volume they trade annually in a classic A, B, and C categorization. To be successful in the major transformation that is taking place in the industry, it is more important than ever that you choose to focus on the right customers. It is both about identifying customers with potential and customers who are willing to create a partnership with you.
An effective model for categorizing customers is the opportunity diagram below:
Customers who are not profitable and where you do not see any potential. You should ensure that you streamline these customers as far as possible and apply self-service where possible.
Customers who are not profitable and where you see a greater potential for increased purchases based on the customer’s future goals. Here you should ensure that you prioritize follow-ups to identify created results and perceived values. Through this, you can create the conditions to achieve better profitability.
Customers who are profitable and who already buy everything from you where you do not see any increased potential based on the customer’s future goals. Here you should ensure that you do not take these for granted while you need to value the time invested. Ensure that there are clear and value-creating actions on these customers and continue to follow up the collaboration.
Customers who are profitable and where you see the continued potential. You should ensure that you spend most of your time on these customers. It is important that you become partners for real and that the seller takes a position as a trusted advisor with these customers.
Match the sales strategy with the customer’s buying logic
Customer buying behaviors have changed. Digitalization has made it easy for us to obtain information, ask for advice and evaluate products, services, and suppliers.
As a result, customers increasingly want to obtain information, evaluate and order goods and services on their own without the involvement of sellers.
Our behavior as consumers rub off on how we act as professional B2B buyers. Simplicity, speed, and affordability are increasingly replacing traditional volume sales of simple services and standardized products.
We need to understand our customers’ behavior first and adapt our sales strategy accordingly.
Background purchase logics
10 years of research provide insights into how the customer’s buying logic determines the choice of sales strategy. The purchase logics look like the following:
A transactional purchasing logic means that purchases are almost automated. These are routine purchases that have a low risk. No advice is required, the purchases are made completely on their own based on standardized offers. Many products that can be sold directly on the web fall into this category. In this case, the purchase decisions are made in minutes and the business complexity is low.
A traditional purchasing logic means that purchases are no longer possible to automate. It can still be about routine purchases where the difference is that in this case, you may need some advice. You still make purchases based on standardized offers. It often takes a few hours or days for the decision to be made. The complexity of the traditional business has increased somewhat.
The complex buying logic means that purchases have now become more complicated. They require a lot of consulting and include custom solutions to suit your organization. Usually, it takes you anywhere from a few days, to a few months to make a decision. Now the complexity has increased significantly.
The distributed purchasing logic means that we are now talking about strategic purchasing. Often it involves several experts as support and the solutions are completely tailor-made. The decision-making process becomes significantly longer and we are now talking about everything from months, to years before a decision is made. The distributed purchase logic is the one with the highest complexity of all purchase logic.
When you understand the buying logic of the customer, you can shape the sales strategy in the most optimal way.
What phase are your existing customers in?
Once you have categorized your customers, you also need to rate how the customer views you. You can easily do this based on identifying which phase the customer is in. There are four customer phases:
Customer Phase 1:
You are a try-out. The customer tests you and investigates if you can be someone to collaborate with. They have not gained any trust in you and the chance that you are the first customer turned to is low.
Customer phase 2:
You are a complement. The customer has given you repeated trust and buys intermittently from you. They still only buy part of their need from you even though they can make recurring purchases.
Customer phase 3:
You are a supplier. The customer has given you repeated trust and buys their entire need from you.
Customer phase 4:
You are a partner. The customer sees you as their first choice and is happy to come to you to discuss the best solutions. You are a clear advisor to the customer and the price has slipped down the priority list.
Organize your sales organization in the smartest way
How do you organize the sales organization in the smartest way going forward? The first thing we need to start from in order to create an optimized organization that is ready to face the future is the buying logic and customer categorization.
- Customers that you want to keep and who have a complex purchasing logic are handled by the KAM organization
- Customers you want to develop or renegotiate and who have a complex buying logic, are handled by the outfield sellers.
- Customers that you want to retain and develop, who have a traditional buying logic, are handled by the inside salespeople.
- The presale organization becomes important to involve even earlier in complex business. They become extra important to include in the process when it comes to distributed business.
- Customers that you want to streamline need to be trained in how they can buy via self-service. For example, customer portals or e-commerce are good solutions to continue selling to customers, while making the best use of your internal resources.
Smarketing: Both for potential and existing customers
The first and most important step in the smarketing work is to set common goals. Goals should always be linked to revenue. The reason for this is that the departments can otherwise easily start working in silos. A silo mindset is the exact opposite of smarketing work and the risk is that it creates both frustration and dissatisfaction in both departments. When departments are measured on revenue, it will not only promote better collaboration but also better results.
1. Identify the right customers
When the common revenue goals have been set for both the sales and marketing team (or revenue organization). In the next step, you need to map and identify where the new business opportunities are. A hot tip is to start by “digging where you stand” and look at your current customers.
Bunes & Ferenczi, which helps other companies identify their ICP with the help of data, can state with 95% certainty that:
- 50% of your total market is no match for your business
- 30% of the companies that your salespeople process, will never buy from you
- 25% of your current customers and 25% of your pipeline are no match for your business.
2. Create a smarketing strategy to expand customer potential
To expand customer potential, sales, and marketing need to collaborate on the smartest way forward. This means that sales and marketing together need to work with both “outbound” and “inbound” activities.
What is also important to mention is that the potential can be found both in companies that buy from you and in companies that do not yet know about you. That’s why it’s important that the strategy ensures that you’re top of mind with both existing and potential customers.
3. Engage your audience with smarketing
Engaging your target group means both working “outbound” and actively seeking contact with companies that you want to work with. At the same time, you can work “inbound” and act as a magnet for your ideal customer. By understanding your potential customers, you can create material that they are interested in and that they are happy to share. The material can be both “offline” and “online”.The goal of this step is to get on their radar and to start initiating dialogues.
4. Represent your company through ambassadors
The first step in working with ambassadors is to identify who they are. Remember that an ambassador is not necessarily just a paying customer. It can just as easily be someone who is a supplier to you, a relative of an employee, or someone who has had a positive experience in dialogues with your company.
Your ambassadors are your unofficial salespeople. If you want them to continue to be ambassadors, you need to nurture, thank and entertain them so that they feel seen.
Linkedin: One of the most important smarketing channels in B2B
As many as 91% of buyers in B2B are active and involved on social media today. Of the buyers who are active, 52% of these rank LinkedIn as the most influential channel in B2B buying. This makes Linkedin an extremely important channel in the smarketing work.
The benefits of working with Linkedin as a platform are many. Including reaching decision-makers all over the world, building awareness of your business, and most importantly when it comes to smarketing: You can increase collaboration between sales and marketing through social selling. Studies show that companies that work with a consistent social selling process are 40% more likely to reach their revenue goals compared to companies that do not work with social selling.
The company page on Linkedin vs. Linkedin Personal branding
The main difference between the different account types is that the business page is passive. You have a much more limited opportunity to increase the number of followers and this requires that you are connected with the person you want to invite to your business page.
The company page needs to be updated and active, but most work needs to be put on your employees’ personal accounts. There you need to make sure that the profile is attractive to the target group. Employees continuously expand their network with the right people. That they build personal brands by interacting and sharing valuable content.
The creation of valuable content is a super opportunity for sales and marketing to collaborate. Sales reps often talk more to customers and potential customers than marketers do. At the same time, marketers are often somewhat sharper at formulating messages and communicating digitally. In order to produce truly value-creating content, both the seller’s insights and the marketer’s expertise are needed.
The possibilities of e-commerce and digitalization
In the section on customer categorization, you have hopefully got what it takes for you to create qualified customer lists based on profitability and potential. With it, you will be able to organize the sales department in a way that allows them to spend their time on high-priority customers. What this means, is that many of your less prioritized customers, who still want to buy from you, will have to make their purchases without support from either an inside seller or an outdoor seller.
Here, many companies have already begun the transition to ensure that such purchases are made via e-commerce. The reason is that it increases efficiency and reduces costs while improving the buying experience. Customers will always have access to the latest discounts and stock balances and they have the opportunity to place their orders themselves when it suits them, not when a salesperson has their planned “coffee meeting”.
E-commerce is not only for smaller purchases and low-priority customers but for all customers. Much due to the cost savings companies can make. For example, e-commerce reduces the costs of manual orders, data entry, printing/printing/distribution of catalogs, and the like. It becomes easier to handle order issues related to out-of-stock items and the handling of order errors and returns is easier.
The challenge in the transition to e-commerce is linked to the implementation and buying through the platform. Here it becomes important to develop the skills of sellers so that they can guide customers through the ordering process in a trustworthy way. A manual and outdated B2B ordering process is likely to limit the company’s growth. Imagine how much better salespeople and customer service can perform with modern technology that provides the conditions for a smooth purchase — 24 hours a day, all year round.
Develop gender equality work
According to a 2019 study by Xactly, 86% of women manage to reach the budget compared to 78% of men. The changing landscape in sales and marketing is to the advantage of many women.
What can we do to attract more women as salespeople in the industry?
- Raise awareness of what an industrial job actually means.
- Highlight female role models in the industry.
- Make sure that old macho culture disappears and that there is an absolute zero tolerance for all types of sexual harassment.
To give you a real example, we at Salesonomics work with a major industrial company that operates in the Nordic market. The company has gender equality as an item high on the agenda and specifically in the sales department.
In their work, the Swedish part of the company realized that one of the neighboring countries had a significantly more even gender distribution in the sales department than they themselves had.
The HR manager in Sweden naturally began to speculate on what they did differently. When the Swedish HR manager contacted the neighboring country’s HR manager, he expected a long exposition on how many changes they had implemented, and what enormous work was behind the more even gender distribution in the industry.
Guess what shock the person experienced when the answer was short and simple? What, then, would the neighboring country have done differently to achieve a more even gender distribution? It had made a clear change and that was to abolish the requirement for experience from the industry. This significantly increased the number of potential candidates and also got more women to both apply and eventually also be employed as salespeople.
Work with re-skilling & upskilling
The availability of skills and labor is influenced by a number of factors (including demographic developments). At the organizational level, the ability to change and skills development in combination with collaboration between employers and employees have been seen as competitive advantages among Swedish companies. Where the industry of the future faces a number of challenges with the impending transformation. As major changes take place in work, work environment, and organization, the ability to develop skills and recruit becomes critical.
The competence needs of the individual will concern lifelong learning during working life in complex systems, cross-functionality, modeling, simulation, circular economy, and life cycle analysis. In addition, the ability to adapt and change is required in agile and development-oriented organizations.
The sales organization needs to be trained to understand its customers in-depth and offer the smartest solution if they are to have a chance of appearing as trusted advisors. It is crucial for customers to want to talk to a salesperson at all when there are so many other ways to purchase solutions.
Changes ahead & experience-based selling
The final step in the roadmap is about understanding what changes will take place in the future and understanding how important experience-based selling is. To take part in our thoughts, you can easily download our entire whitepaper here.
Make sure you are ready for the future with Salesonomics:
The outside world places high demands on the industry and the sales organization becomes an important enabler in the transition to the industry of the future. Do you need help implementing the changes? Contact us at Salesonomics and we will guide you to the smartest solution. If you have come further in the tank and need to recruit salespeople or train your existing salespeople, we can of course help you with that as well.