While they originally adopted

digital in reaction to the widespread COVID-19 shutdowns in the pandemic’s early stages, many B2B sales leaders are clearly becoming more convinced that digital is the way to go. And, according to survey respondents, these patterns are likely to become permanent. Close to nine in ten deci- sion makers say that new commercial and go-to-market sales practices will be a fixture throughout 2021 – and possibly beyond.

THE TIME TO EVOLVE IS NOW Although some organizations were able to adapt to the demands of the crisis, others faced challenges requir- ing quick decisions in the face of uncertainty. Businesses now may need to transition their sales models more fully – and should pay attention to five areas of potential to differentiate: • Focus on where the value is:

Virtual sales models allow B2B companies to serve more customers in more markets while also offering more innovative solutions. This may also require reimagining the role of sales professionals to focus them on the highest value activities, like co- creation of solutions with customers, improving the value proposition, and orchestrating expert networks on be- half of customers. And less or no time can be spent on chasing information that customers can obtain whenever they want it via self-serve digital tools (e.g., “track my shipment”). • Realign coverage based on need, not deal size or geography: Under the traditional sales model, coverage tends to be fixed – often with larger accounts assigned to field reps and smaller ones to inside sales (and usu- ally all according to some geographic cut). Virtual sales models allow B2B companies to untether themselves from geographic boundaries and to align resources more nimbly – pull- ing in the right individuals for the right stages in the buying journey. For example, sellers who are great closers could be called on to help reps con- vert a different set of accounts. Going


virtual also enables reps anywhere to engage product/solutions experts more easily and quickly, which is one of the common delights we hear from B2B customers. • Work in more agile ways em-

powered by data: B2B players can consider doubling down on data and analytics to discern customers’ preferred interactions and be open to testing different ways of engaging to find what works and what customers like. Failing fast with digital experi- ments can be key. Agile teaming can make it easier to get product special- ists, solution architects, and other experts into customer calls as needed – without the time and expense of travel. Teams featuring a mix of exper- tise from across the sales organization could examine potential deals, design customer-specific solutions, and con- figure the best pitch – allowing the company to tailor its team and offer- ing to specific customer parameters. • Smooth out the customer experi-

ence: Customers turning to digital channels for a greater share of their buying activity will likely have less patience for clunky connections and cumbersome handoffs. Leaders need to integrate their chat, video, and oth- er online activities to create a smooth experience that reflects well on the brand and encourages customers to continue their purchasing journey rather than turn away in frustration. This requires making data on the cus- tomer experience available to anyone at a company who may connect with them; the last thing a customer wants

to hear from a sales or service rep is an ask for information they’ve already provided via another channel (e.g., an online form, response to a virtual telephone assistant, etc.). • Develop new talent profiles:

With customers demanding om- nichannel experiences, B2B sales organizations will need different capabilities than they have today. We’ll see “hybrid” sales reps who can move easily between physical and remote environments and serve as points of customer continuity. We may also see increased need for specialized skills that can provide niche expertise for key verticals. Others, such as demo specialists and chat specialists, can help organiza- tions deliver high functionality in core areas more efficiently. Training and reskilling will also become critical to ensure new ways of working are firmly embedded. The dramatic increase in digital adoption presents a seminal opportu- nity for B2B organizations. The shift to virtual sales can help sales organiza- tions lower their cost per visit, extend their reach, and significantly improve sales effectiveness – while delighting customers who are demanding these new ways of interacting. B2B lead- ers who commit to further digitizing their go-to-market models can derive competitive advantage in the form of more – and more loyal – customers than their slower-moving peers. 

Jennifer Stanley is a partner at McKinsey & Company.


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