Change agent: COVID-19’s ripple effect on BtoB marketing and sales.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world of business (and nearly everything else), marketing and sales in the BtoB realm had already undergone some pretty big changes in recent decades.

Historically, B2B sales were primarily a matter of face-to-face, physical contact. Often, the “road warriors” of those times would spend the majority of their weeks traveling to visit with customers and prospects at their places of business, or meeting them at trade shows.

But the turn away from that traditional model began in the 1980s and 1990s with building security concerns. Then along came 9/11 …

Technology has played a big part in the evolution — and has actually helped accelerate it with e-mail, database management, digital advertising, online RFP pricing/bid systems and other innovations affecting the nature of customer engagement.

Let’s not forget social networks, too — with LinkedIn being a particularly lucrative tool assisting many sales and marketing professionals in finding and nurturing prospects.

Somewhere along the way, the functions of marketing became much more than merely branding, advertising, and lead generation. Today, BtoB marketing is involved in every stage of the customer relationship.

Along comes COVID-19 in early 2020, which seems certain to drive further change. For one thing, virtual engagement has become a necessity instead of a merely an option.

At the same time, one could posit that customer retention has taken on more importance than ever before. It’s no wonder we’re hearing the phrase “retention is the new acquisition” stated with such frequency at the moment.

Roger McDonald

International strategic business advisor Roger McDonald believes that business has come full circle, returning to Peter Drucker’s classic maxim from more than 30 years ago: “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation. These produce revenues. All others are costs.”

In McDonald’s view:

“Perhaps we are at a tipping point, where senior management will move beyond metrics of lead generation to nurture marketing’s evolving role as an organizer of systems, IT initiatives, and salesperson engagement for both acquisition and retention.”

One thing seems quite clear as we emerge from nearly three months of mandated COVID-isolation: We won’t return to an “old normal.” Those eggs have already been broken and scrambled.

What are your thoughts on which BtoB marketing and sales fundamentals have changed in light of the coronavirus disruption? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comment section below.

High-performance sales personnel: They excel in the same ways they always have …

spUnquestionably, technology has had a major impact on the way salespeople in the B-to-B arena go about doing their daily jobs.

Technology platforms and tech-oriented work practices have leeched into every aspect of sales management — from planning and execution to data mining and reference … sales call and results tracking … and compensation.

fall 2015 survey of U.S. business executives conducted by Brainshark and Forbes Insights confirms the degree to which technology investments are occurring as companies make efforts to improve sales productivity.

Here’s what the survey, which included U.S.-based executives from over 200 companies with annual revenues exceeding $50 million, found in terms of the types of investments that are being made:

  • Sales enablement technologies: ~55% are investing in these tools
  • Analytics: ~54%
  • CRM systems: ~53%
  • Learning technologies: ~45%
  • Mobile sales support technologies: ~44%
  • Social platforms: ~32%

And yet … when those same business executives were asked to identity the #1 most important characteristic of their strongest sales team members, technology-related characteristics don’t show up all that much.

As it turns out, tech adoption is a relatively minor part of being a high-performing salesperson. Instead, this survey found that the most important key characteristic of high-performing salespeople is “the ability to sell value over price.”

Here is the relative importance of five characteristics evaluated in the research – and where tech adoption fits among them:

  • The ability to sell value over price: ~81% identify as a key characteristic of high-performing salespeople
  • Consistency of execution: ~74%
  • Time spent with clients: ~48%
  • Leveraging marketing and sales content assets: ~26%
  • Adoption of technology: ~22%

The takeaway is that even though technology tools are helpful, there’s no substitute for the time-honored selling behaviors that separate the star sales performers from all the others.

For more information on the study findings, follow this link.