Customers are constantly raising the bar for sellers. Nowhere is this pressure to adapt more acute than in business to business technology, equipment and solutions markets. Over the last several years the B2B buying process has gotten longer. It involves more stakeholders. And happens almost entirely online. Most buyers under the age of forty would prefer to discover, shop and purchase without a sales rep involved at all if they could. The same applies to customer service, where the majority of customers prefer to engage in online channels for service, including chat (81%), text (78%), social media (71%), and mobile apps (82%) according to the Salesforce State of Service report.
Beyond the absence of humans, these buyers increasingly demand a self-directed, highly personalized, and visually engaging buying experience. When given the choice of self-directed product discovery instead of a sales rep-led demo, over 40% of buyers will engage in a product demo before 9am, after 5pm, and on weekends according to research by Omedym, a leading provider of self-directed digital demo technology. In the rare moments buyers choose to engage a sales rep, they demand immediate, complete and highly personalized answers.
The emergence of “4D” selling systems – selling channels that are digitally enabled, displaced geographically, data-driven, and dynamic – as the primary mode of selling in the wake of the pandemic has only accelerated the pace of change. The move to “4D” selling has transformed the go-to-market approach of almost every (97%) organization according to the Markets in Motion research report. It has made almost every aspect of selling a struggle – generating attention, relationship building, maintaining engagement, communicating value and differentiation. Sellers regard customer demands for more relevant, timely and personalized content as the number one change impacting their ability to perform, according to research by the Remote Sales Productivity Report. Gaining B2B buyers’ attention and keeping them engaged virtually, communicating how their solutions can solve problems, and building relationships are the three top virtual selling challenges according to research by the Rain Group and Blue Ridge Partners.
This is not necessarily bad news to growth leaders who have watched the buying process move increasingly online over the past two decades. In fact the vast majority (88%) of CMOS regard the move to “4D” selling as a big opportunity to redefine and differentiate the way they reach and engage customers. And most (80%) are taking advantage of the increasing investment in digital technologies to improve market coverage and client engagement.
“The experience of the past three years has taught sales leaders that selling via virtual channels without face-to-face engagement can work, even with complex technology solutions,” according to Micheal Smith, a managing Director of Blue Ridge Partners. “Technology sellers are getting significantly higher engagement, speed of response, and productivity at lower cost when their sales reps operate in a hybrid and virtual model.”
So what are enterprise technology sellers doing to differentiate the customer experience in “4D”s selling channels?
According to Smith, they are focused on using digital technology to augment the value of people in business development, account management, and customer success roles in the moments that matter in the customer journey. Augmentation helps sellers add more value during customer touchpoints and interactions. Sellers create more value telling better and more relevant stories, executing the proven selling motion, and focusing time on the most profitable opportunities. Arming, training, and coaching sellers with more effective value propositions, content and delivery experiences can improve revenue per rep, deal size, price, margin realization, customer lifetime value, relationship equity, and differentiated customer experience.
“The biggest opportunity for technology and systems to improve selling performance, by far, is enhancing the value of a sales interaction,” according to Marcus Jewell, the Chief Revenue Officer of Juniper Networks. “Augmentation is where we are seeing the biggest gains.
Jewell argues that despite the shift to digital channels, you must have high quality human interaction when you are selling complex and expensive seven figure solutions to enterprises. “There are many ways you can make those sellers better in ways that impact margins, total contract value, seller effectiveness, and can differentiate the buyer experience (which is our number one goal).”
One way organizations are augmenting the value their sellers is by helping them to deliver more interactive visual and collaborative experiences that differentiate the customer experience across every channel. As digital selling become the norm, digital fatigue has increased. The appetite for PowerPoint presentation on videochat and collaboration platforms has waned. Marketing communications are scanned at best, and most buyers cannot see any difference in the passive online buying experience.
“If data is the oxygen that runs the modern growth engine, then compelling content represents the gasoline required for combustion,” reports Bruce Rogers, the author of Publish or Perish, A CMO Roadmap for managing the Content Supply Chain. “Content has become a more valuable commercial asset because modern selling is increasingly centered around owned digital selling channels that rely heavily on timely, targetable, personalized, and compliant content. That’s why over three quarters of CMOs regard themselves as ‘Brand Publishers’. And they are going to have to up their game to deliver better, more compelling, and channel ready content experiences if they expect to compete in a ‘4D’ channel environment.”
Many sales and marketing leaders – like HPE, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Honeywell, Dell, and Audi – are taking this to heart making big investments to create digital experiences or virtual worlds to support selling in the future.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, Tamara Adams, VP of Global Sales & Marketing at Honeywell Connected Enterprise (HCE) realized she needed to provide customers with a more immersive experience, without having to come to one of the executive experience centers to help them visualize the need for remote building management solutions because they could not go to the office. “So, I had to answer the following question: How do I bring that immersive experience to our customer and prospect base,” reports Adams. “To answer this, I turned to Virtual Reality. My vision is to walk our customers into a virtual building. It looks like a video game on your laptop where you can walk through and check into the building via a mobile app, monitor air quality or look at sensors and alerts in the building. So, it’s really walking you through a day in the life of the facilities manager or a CxO using VR.”
But less well-heeled organizations are realizing it’s a big and expensive leap from zoom calls to virtual reality from a maturity, sales channel design, and go-to-market standpoint.
B2B technology sellers are looking for a “sweet spot” that delivers a superior experience to buyers, without the time, disruption, and investment required to transform the commercial model. Today, most revenue teams are in the messy middle between “triaging” a virtual selling approach and true transformation. “Sales organizations have moved beyond the early days of adapting to the scale displacement of their revenue teams,” says Gavin Finn, the CEO of Kaon Interactive, “but are struggling to find practical and affordable and scalable ways to arm their “4D” sales reps with more “channel ready” content that meets buyers’ high expectations for relevance, personalization, visualization, and collaboration in a remote setting situation. They are looking to platforms that can deliver more personalized and immersive video, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) content as a way to meet the needs of online buyers for high quality and contextual content.
These organizations are looking to “3D” content creation platforms like Kaon Interactives to create the “channel ready” content and applications that deliver a more immersive experience in digital, mobile and Virtual Reality platforms.
ILLUSTRATION OF DYNAMIC AND INTERACTIVE CONTENT
Platforms like these offer content that is more dynamic and personalized but also scalable, consistent, and executable across channels – channels include the social media, DTC, web, email, and mobile channels that dominate the engagement model.
Others are using whiteboarding and digital selling studios to create a platform for scaling virtual selling beyond traditional videoconferencing. “Using a virtual studio environment can be a game changer because it differentiates the client experience, helps clients visualize how large physical products will work in their environments, and helps sales reps be more effective selling remotely in the wake of the pandemic,” shares Bill Borrelle, SVP of Marketing at Pitney Bowes, who is building a Virtual Demo Center that helps clients visualize how they will use Pitney Bowes portfolio of shipping solutions in their businesses. “Clients want to see, touch, and feel the equipment they are buying. They ask us to “bring together exactly what I am buying so I can see it in operation.”
You can learn more ways that technology sellers are raising the bar on their selling experiences at our upcoming executive panel we are hosting on March 9th, entitled the Future of Enterprise Technology Selling. You can listen to the full panel discussion at this link.
Participants will get a complimentary copy of our upcoming book on Revenue Operations.