The Future of B2B Sales: Trends to Watch
Times for the sales industry have never been more unpredictable than they are these days. First, the pandemic burst out, bringing tremendous changes to the operational processes of the business. As a result, many companies have had to either close for good or restructure to keep going.
Then the war broke out, disrupting supply chains and bringing chaos to the market. Nobody quite knows what to expect next. And yet, the sales industry adjusts to the change. According to Statista, the size of the global sales market is $27 trillion in 2022, and this figure is predicted to reach over $30 trillion by the end of 2024.
All of this shows that despite the turmoil we’re all going through, the retail market continues to adapt and grow, so it’s important to be quick to embrace its trends. In this article, we’ll share with you some of the most notable B2B sales trends that you should look out for in 2023 and beyond to stay ahead of the curve! Keep reading to explore!
Although we stepped into the digital world long before the pandemic, it was only in the last few years that digital marketing exploded, spawning many new sales channels.
On the one hand, this has opened doors of opportunities for marketers regarding the means they can use to reach and interact with their customers. On the other hand, predicting which channel exactly a customer is likely to use can be a challenge, to say the least.
Some people are more into social media, others prefer to read blogs, and there are also those who would rather watch a video first before they make a purchasing decision. This unpredictability in customer behavior is one of the hurdles that many businesses in retail face.
While you can’t learn to read minds, you can certainly guess patterns by creating a greater number of touchpoints with your customers. This is a trend that will continue to grow.
So, if you’ve only been using one or two channels to communicate with your prospects, it’s time to look up for options to expand.
By and large, there are three main sales channels to consider:
- General marketplaces, such as eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, and others,
- Social media (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, Facebook),
- Your own website.
In the ideal scenario, you should establish your presence in all of them so you can catch your prospects everywhere. Even if you have a strong feeling that your audience doesn’t use Pinterest to explore items, for example, it’s best to try it to know for sure.
However, there’s one catch when it comes to omnichannel marketing. Being present across all channels is one thing, but being able to quickly respond to customer requests is quite another. The latter comes very strongly.
As a recent survey revealed, 90% of customers would walk away from a brand that couldn’t provide an instant response, so timely communication has become a priority.
In addition to establishing a strong presence across multiple sales channels, it’s equally important to optimize your communication strategy for maximum customer engagement. This includes incorporating effective HTML email development into your marketing efforts. HTML emails provide a versatile and visually appealing way to connect with your prospects and deliver targeted messaging directly to their inboxes. By leveraging the power of HTML email development, you can create engaging content, personalize your messages, and drive conversions. Remember, in today’s fast-paced digital landscape, timely and impactful communication can make all the difference in capturing and retaining your audience’s attention.
2. Personalized Customer Experiences
Another remarkable B2B sales trend that hits strong is providing customers with personalized experiences. It’s no longer enough just to show your variety in the hope that somebody may get interested in it and buy it, although you can still do it if budget is not an issue for you.
In order to stay ahead of the crowd and reach out to your prospects, it’s essential to come up with the right offer at the right time, and in the right place. This is where the power of AI comes into play. One of the most talked about trends, AI is permeating all areas of business, and retail is benefiting the most from it.
Just to give you the gist, 40% of companies involved in the retail market are already relying on AI tools to run their marketing campaigns. This number is predicted to rise to 80% by 2025, clearly showing the importance of technology adoption.
The superpower of AI is that it can predict with pinpointed accuracy what buyers are most likely to be interested in. They analyze a wealth of data, including browsing history, purchase behavior, demographics, age, preferences, and interests, which gives them the advantage of knowing customers on a detailed level.
Additionally, they can track the channels and devices through which B2B customers enter the sales funnel, providing you with valuable insights to ramp up your targeted marketing campaigns.
Some of the more sophisticated tools utilize exit-intent technology, taking the whole experience to an entirely new level. With this capability, when they identify that a user is about to leave the page, they promptly trigger a special offer at that very moment, thus piquing their interest and motivating them to take action and engage further.
This is something that’s already happening, and we’ve only touched on the potential of AI. What’s coming next, we can only guess. However, one thing is certain: personalization is at the forefront of sales, and AI is driving the process. So, embracing AI in your B2B sales process is crucial for your company’s success and staying ahead of the competition.
3. Customer Success
One of the first things marketers learn very quickly is that the process of obtaining new customers is time-consuming and expensive. On average, the cost of user acquisition is 5-20 times higher than user retention.
However, it’d be wrong to view it as a time-consuming and costly burden. Instead, B2B sales teams need to recognize the immense value of customer success in driving revenue. This shift in perspective is crucial, especially considering the typical length of B2B sales cycles and the involvement of multiple decision-makers.
With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that customer success goes beyond mere satisfaction – there’s an abundance of other stores offering the same sort of things. In order to stand out, boost revenues, and build long-term relationships with your customers, it’s essential to proactively guide and support them at every stage of their journey.
4. Digital Self-Service
In the digital world, everything starts with an online search. Whatever people are interested in, the vast majority of users, including B2B customers, would rather conduct their initial research independently. And as we move into the future, this trend will continue.
It’s not been long since Gartner published the results of its recent research, showing that 80% of interactions that occur between buyers and suppliers take place in the digital space.
To capitalize on this trend, it’s essential for businesses to ensure that their digital channels are suitable for these interactions and easy to navigate right up to the point of order fulfillment.
You can further enhance your B2B customers’ experience by providing them with personalized offers, discounts, price plans, and payment options. Depending on the nature of the product or service, it can also be a good idea to offer demos and trials.
Although we have said that most people prefer to conduct their first assessment of vendors independently, this doesn’t mean that digital self-service shouldn’t provide assistance. It definitely should. This can be detailed specifications, product descriptions, customer reviews, or anything else you think can aid your prospects’ decision-making process.
Additionally, integrating self-service tools like chatbots or virtual assistants can go a long way. It’s true that chatbots in retail aren’t as popular as they are in some other industries at the moment, with only 9% of companies using them, but it’s evident that eCommerce will enjoy a surge in the adoption of chatbots in the near future. Be the first to jump on this bandwagon!
5. Digital Rooms
Along with digital self-service comes the need for digital rooms. A digital room or, to be more precise, a digital sales room is exactly what it says on the tin: a virtual space where suppliers and buyers meet to discuss a product or service and make a purchase remotely.
DRSs work as interactive applications and provide encrypted space for secure communication and transactions.
Seeing how quickly many customers are happily switching from face-to-face interactions to remote selling experiences, creating DRS will soon become a priority task for B2B. That’s, of course, if they want to improve sales engagement.
6. 3D and AR
One of the emerging trends in B2B sales is the utilization of 3D and augmented reality (AR) technologies. These technologies are used by companies as part of their digital rooms to showcase products or services and engage with their prospects.
With the help of 3D technology, B2B businesses can create immersive and interactive product visualizations. Instead of going to the shop, potential buyers can examine products from different angles, zoom in to see intricate details and get a better understanding of the product’s features and functionality just with their computer or mobile phone.
AR, in turn, takes the customer experience to the next level by overlaying virtual elements onto the real world. Businesses can use it to create virtual showrooms, where customers can visualize how a product would look and fit in their own environment.
As these technologies continue to advance, we can expect to see their integration in various aspects of the B2B sales process. From virtual product catalogs to interactive sales presentations, they are transforming the way B2B companies engage and communicate with their customers and driving sales growth.
7. Less Physical Stores
This trend was forced due to the mandatory pandemic restrictions. However, since retailers realized that they can still do their job without being physically present in offices, more and more companies make a decision to go fully remote.
8. Automation of Key Business Processes
Another area that B2B companies are keen on investing in over the next few years is automation. The potential benefits of automation are immense, and according to the Digital Commerce 360 research study, one-third of companies have plans to incorporate automation into their strategies.
The drive for automation stems from the need to streamline repetitive and time-consuming tasks. By automating manual processes, such as:
- Data entry,
- Order processing,
- Inventory management, etc.,
retailers can save valuable time, increase web traffic, and minimize bounce rates.
Moreover, automation eliminates the risk of errors, allowing for greater consistency and standardization across operations. This consistency holds particular importance in B2B environments where adherence to procedures is vital.
Furthermore, automation can aid businesses in adapting to evolving customer expectations and market dynamics. By automating CRM systems, you can track interactions, analyze data, and personalize communications and offerings, thus strengthening relationships with your customers and fostering loyalty.
A recent study by Business Wire reveals a substantial rise in the number of retailers integrating automation, with a significant portion planning to automate up to 70% of routine tasks.
9. Video Conferencing
Another trend that has emerged during the pandemic times is virtual sales. With face-to-face consultations no longer possible, retailers had no choice but to switch to video presentations.
However, this switch has proved more than successful. In fact, according to McKinsey Co, 3 out of 4 surveyed buyers admitted to preferring videoconferencing over audio, phone calls, or in-person meetings with sales reps.
The great thing about video conferencing is that it can be applied to pretty much any product or service. Whether you’re selling software, courses, or physical goods, integrating video interactions into your sales processes can help enhance customer engagement and boost conversion rates.
It goes without saying that your videos should look professional, otherwise, they may fail to create the desired impact on your audience.
10. Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach that focuses on targeting specific groups of customers, rather than just casting a wide net to reach a broad audience. It involves aligning sales and marketing efforts to personalize and deliver tailored experiences to key decision-makers within the targeted accounts.
This makes it particularly effective in B2B industries where the sales cycle is longer and involves multiple decision-makers within an organization. By focusing resources on a select group of high-potential accounts, ABM allows for a more concentrated and impactful approach to customer acquisition and retention.
While this might seem like a lot of work, it’s easier than it looks, given that most of the tasks can be completed by connecting to a CRM.
11. Demand Generation
Lead generation has always been and remains to be the most important thing in e-commerce. After all, sales can only happen if you have a steady flow of leads. However, what we can see today is that more and more companies are shifting towards demand generation.
Just as the name suggests, demand generation is all about creating demand. This includes creating awareness, generating interest, educating your customers about the problems you solve, and nurturing potential customers throughout their buyer’s journey.
Unlike traditional lead generation, which focuses solely on acquiring leads, demand generation takes a holistic approach to drive the overall market demand for a product or service. This approach not only helps in acquiring new customers but also in building long-term relationships with existing customers, fostering brand loyalty, and driving repeat purchases.
Another crucial aspect of maximizing ecommerce success is ecommerce localization. By implementing ecommerce localization strategies, businesses can tailor their online stores and marketing efforts to cater to specific geographic regions and target audiences. This includes adapting language, currency, cultural nuances, and local preferences to create a personalized and seamless shopping experience for customers worldwide.
12. Regular Coaching
Regular coaching plays a vital role in the success of sales reps, even in a digital and automated B2B market. Despite the advancements in technology, human interaction and expertise remain invaluable in building customer relationships and closing deals.
Coaching provides sales reps with the necessary guidance, support, and skill development to:
- Navigate complex sales cycles,
- Understand customer needs,
- Effectively communicate the value of their products or services,
- Stay updated on industry trends, competitive landscapes, and emerging customer demands.
So, while it might sound contradictory, in a digital landscape where automation and technology dominate, regular coaching acts as a driving force to maximize the potential of sales reps. It reinforces the human elements in sales and enables them to adapt, thrive, and deliver exceptional customer experiences in the ever-evolving B2B market.
The cornerstone of e-commerce undoubtedly lies in content, and seasoned marketers are well aware of this fact. No matter how many marketing campaigns you launch across various channels, if the quality of your content leaves something to be desired, it will fail to convert. This trend is set to continue growing in the future.
According to statistics, a significant 41% of customers read a minimum of three product-related posts before making a purchase decision, and 70% of them research a retailer’s website. This emphasizes the need to provide your prospects with a wide array of compelling content.
However, it’s crucial to note that quantity alone should not be the sole focus. Gone are the days when posting any content sufficed as long as it contained keywords. In today’s landscape, content must be meaningful, impactful, and captivating to enhance your marketing campaigns effectively.
To make a lasting impression, aim to create content that resonates with your audience, addresses their pain points, and offers valuable insights. Engaging and informative content will not only attract potential customers but also establish your brand as a trusted authority in the industry.
Here are the content types that are best used in B2B:
- Blogs. They should be long-form and well-researched, ideally crafted collaboratively, to show your expertise.
- White papers. This is a great tool to attract new customers to the product or service. To amp it up, use videos, graphs, charts, or anything else that can help the sales cycle, and share it on every social platform where your brand is present.
- Case studies. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in the business for a while, you need referrals to gain the trust of your customers, and case studies are perfect for that purpose. Sharing the challenges and results you’ve achieved is important.
- Webinars and YouTube presentations. If the product or service you sell is not quite straightforward, play it safe by providing your prospects with an option to watch a video so they can better understand it.
14. Social Selling
Of course, social selling has gone nowhere and remains one of the leading B2B trends. A recent study found that over 75% of B2B customers use social media to find and buy things. In addition, almost 95% of marketers use social media in one form or another to promote products. And if you’re in the 5%, you’re missing out on opportunities.
However, social media is not only about sales. It is also about building brand awareness, which can be even more important for those who are relatively new to B2B. By establishing your online presence and communicating with your audience through posts, guides, tips, and stories, you ensure they get to know you. As an added bonus, you’ll also warm it up for future B2B sales.
To bring it to an end, the B2B landscape is continuously evolving, driven by digital transformation and changing buyer expectations. The macroeconomic trends bring their share of challenges for B2B businesses, too, which makes it important for companies to adapt to the trends quickly to weather the storm.
In this article, we’ve shared some of the most profound trends that have already started to form and are predicted to grow stronger. Consider how many of the trends align with your business goals and explore ways to incorporate them into your B2B sales strategies.
However, as you have seen yourself, with changes that occur faster than lighting, it’s not enough to stick to a one-size-fits-all approach.
B2B companies need to be agile, flexible, quick on spotting new trends, and willing to experiment with new strategies and technologies to stay ahead. By doing so, you can position your business for long-term success and thrive in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of B2B sales.
Roy Emmerson is a passionate technology enthusiast with a deep interest in software development. In addition to being a skilled programmer at a custom software company, he is also a loving father of twins who inspire him to stay up-to-date with the latest technological advancements.