The major challenges of B2B sales teams in the coming years

The world is changing rapidly, and many organizations are navigating through challenging times. Various factors are putting organizations under pressure, including inflation, wars, and discerning customers who have less to spend than in previous years. We must also consider the competition and its alternatives. For many, there is no immediate cause for alarm, yet it is crucial to adopt a different approach. Perhaps now, more than ever, alertness and an awareness of the urgency to change are paramount.

In the realm of B2B sales, it’s time to elevate our approach. Gone are the days of merely driving around with a bag full of products and services, talking only about solutions. If you aim to stand out without solely competing on price, or if you believe your products and services are highly distinctive, but customers perceive them differently, then it’s time to take a significant step forward.

If sales and account management fail to adopt new methodologies, there’s a high likelihood that many organizations will increasingly lose ground to competitors who are fully committed. What challenges do we frequently encounter? Where does the real problem lie, and on what issues does a sales manager focus most?

Advancing within the DMU

Nearly every sales manager urges their team to forge relationships at higher levels within the Decision-Making Unit (DMU), where the principal decision-makers and influencers are found. This poses a challenge for many sales professionals, particularly because the ‘quick deals’ are often not found at these elevated DMU levels. Salespeople who maintain strong connections with the lower tiers of the DMU can frequently cross-sell and up-sell with ease among their existing contacts. While this strategy is effective on its own, it may face abrupt endings when financial resources are scarce and no higher-level DMU relationships exist. Moreover, the most substantial deals are usually secured at the higher echelons of the DMU. Although these deals may require more time to finalize, nurturing these relationships well can ensure survival even during tough times.

Being Strategically Relevant to the DMU

Elevating relationships within the Decision-Making Unit (DMU) necessitates a shift in communication style compared to interactions at lower levels of the DMU. While discussions about new product functionalities or enticing training sessions may resonate at the lower levels, engaging with directors at the higher DMU levels requires a fundamentally different narrative. When securing a meeting with a C-level executive, what value do you bring to the table? Sales professionals must possess the appropriate questions, techniques, and knowledge to steer the conversation towards more strategic topics. The objective is for directors to perceive the dialogue with the salesperson as immensely valuable, prompting the desire for a follow-up conversation. Given that opportunities are often limited to a single chance, this is crucial. However, many salespeople revert to discussions centered on products and services rather than positioning themselves as strategic partners or trusted advisors.

Focusing on a Relationship with a Customer

When salespeople actively approach customers, it’s unrealistic to expect the customer to be ready to purchase immediately. This only happens if you contact them at precisely the right moment, which, unfortunately, is rarely the case. The emphasis for salespeople should be on building relationships, and this takes time. Too often, salespeople give up on a customer too quickly, simply because there doesn’t seem to be an immediate sales opportunity. This is, of course, a missed opportunity, as it results in a loss of potential. Salespeople who focus on maintaining a long-term relationship will be contacted as soon as the customer has a real need. However, it is essential that they remain consistently top-of-mind for the customer. This approach characterizes salespeople who focus on building a “dream client database” for the future.

Building DMU Relationships with New Dream Clients

It’s often observed that many salespeople prefer visiting current customers. This is, of course, easier than building networks with new potential clients. Although this requires a lot of time, it also demands specific networking skills and competencies. A significant disadvantage of this approach is that you tend to close increasingly smaller deals on average, and your diversification does not expand, whereas diversification is crucial in challenging times.

The Discipline of Sales

In today’s sales world, we notice a decline in the discipline of the average salesperson, with the exception of the true sales elites. They understand that discipline is crucial. The underestimation of daily discipline can be attributed to modern technologies and immediate access to information. These have led to a culture of ‘quick results,’ where patience and perseverance are undervalued. Due to this shifting dynamic, salespeople may invest less time in building authentic relationships with customers and deeply understanding their needs. They often focus on quick sales without considering the long-term value of a customer.

At the same time, sales managers become increasingly impatient in challenging times, and the pressure to focus purely on numbers grows. They push a ‘numbers game’ rather than the quality of sales. What can then be expected of your junior sales talents, whom you’ve hired with high expectations? Building relationships at the DMU level takes time and specific skills. How do you support your team in this? Moreover, we see that salespeople quickly give up and are not willing to invest in themselves if there is not an immediate reward in return.

The Will to Innovate

Beyond merely improving their skills, we observe a low willingness to innovate among salespeople. Although the market is continuously evolving and customers increasingly expect sophisticated and customized solutions, some salespeople seem to cling to old methods and approaches. This reluctance to embrace new techniques or adapt to changing customer needs may stem from various factors, such as fear of change or a lack of training in contemporary sales strategies. Regardless of the underlying reasons, this resistance to innovation can put companies at a disadvantage in a competitive market, leading to missed opportunities for growth and differentiation. Given developments like Artificial Intelligence and digitalization, salespeople cannot afford to remain stagnant.

Top Performers Are Being Poached, and New Ones Are Not Lining Up

We also notice that competing companies are increasingly adopting the strategy of poaching top performers. Businesses are continuously looking for ways to gain an edge, and attracting proven talent offers a direct means to achieve this. For sales managers, this makes it challenging to invest in the growth of their team, as financially strong organizations can often offer high salaries. As a result, the knowledge and network of the salesperson move to the competitor. Top performers, due to their proven track record and expertise, are often seen as valuable assets that can add immediate value to an organization.

Having a top sales team that possesses a clear strategic direction also attracts top talent. A sign of this is when highly qualified salespeople apply to join your team. However, if you find yourself having to intensively search for new sales talent through costly recruitment campaigns or headhunters, it’s an indication that you might be less attractive as an employer than you think. If you’re recruiting in such a manner, realize that you might be fishing in the pond of mediocrity.

The Cost of Salespeople Who Don’t Sell Can Be Significant

A salesperson is, of course, hired to sell, and this often comes with an attractive salary and bonus structure. A good salesperson more than pays for themselves for the organization. However, if salespeople are not on track, fail to build relationships, and only occasionally close a small deal, the costs for the organization can be substantial. The costs of underperforming salespeople can easily amount to a significant sum. This raises the question: what would be the impact on sales output if you invested this sum in optimizing and making your top salespeople more efficient? With current technological advancements, there is plenty of room for innovation. It’s also worth considering whether salespeople who still can’t use Excel or struggle with various tools and programs are in the right position.

It proves a challenge for both sales managers and salespeople to get the aforementioned issues in order. But why is that? When it does work, the results are impressive, and the future looks much less uncertain. We are daily engaged in developing the discussed skills and embracing the right tools and innovations. If you want to know how your team can make a leap forward in increasing sales results, schedule a conversation here, and we’ll show you which approach can lead to less frustration and more revenue!

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