The New B2B Growth Playbook
For many years, the typical medicine for declining revenue growth in B2B organisations was quite simple; improve salesforce capabilities through training, enablement, and coaching to grow sales. But with average sales rep performance on a 5-year decline, despite an 11% growth in sales training & enablement spend (link), it looks as if that old lever isn’t working anymore. It is getting increasingly difficult for companies to train their way out of declining revenue growth.
Technology has created a seismic shift in B2B buying
If you have been buying anything in the past decade, you will have noticed a seismic shift in how buyers buy. The change essentially revolves around three main topics:
Technology has democratised information, and buyers are now supercharged with the information to make informed decisions.
The average B2B buyer is 70% through the buying process before reaching out to a vendor and spends 27% of the buying process researching independently online (link).
Technology has created information overload and has complicated the typical buying process:
6,8 stakeholders are now involved in the average B2B purchase (link). Furthermore, 15% of the buying process is spent on “de-conflicting information” in the buying committee from the average of 6 different channels (link). Also, 90% of stakeholders now report that they are looping back and forth between decisions (link).
Technology has transformed an increasing proportion of buying transactions into being frictionless and automatic, why they can now be executed with a minimum of costs and efforts.
B2B e-commerce sales in the US alone is expected to cross the $1trillion mark this year (link). In connection to the aforementioned, B2B buyers now prefer to meet virtually with the seller instead of face-to-face in 75% of buying situations (link).
On the back of these three developments, we see two conflicting tendencies – customers complete buying tasks on their own and are more confused than ever. But if you look below the surface, they provide the nuanced foundation of a new playbook for revenue generation in B2B companies.
The writing of a Revenue Operations playbook
The old growth engine in B2B companies used to be centered around a dominating well-trained field sales force that would spend most of the time on the road visiting clients, supported by marketing on the side for sales collateral and management of the visual identity.
Due to the change in buying behaviour, many B2B companies are these years realising that the old commercial growth engine has outplayed its role and are witnessing it being challenged with continuous poor performance. Some of these companies are experimenting with the design of Revenue Operations and are working with three tightly integrated commercial engines. Here are some of the characteristics for each engine:
Marketing as a growth driver: As buyers increasingly rely on digital channels to go through their buying journey, marketing now needs to assume ownership of parts of the sales funnel and accept a clear responsibility for generating pipeline value. Marketing needs a clear mandate in the process of generating demand, capturing leads and converting them into sales qualified opportunities for them pass on to sales reps.
Inside sales as buying enabler: As buyers increasingly demand virtual, more effective buying support and ways of engaging with vendors when they are ready to talk, an Inside Sales function needs to take ownership of specific buyer touchpoints and assume responsibility for qualifying and converting browsing potential buyers into sales qualified leads and pipeline value. For more simple purchases, marketing and inside sales might even take the buyer through the entire buying process, through digital and virtual channels of engagement and buyer enablement. Inside Sales teams are growing 15x faster than outside sales because buyers demand it and the strong business case for moving some of the traditional field sales activities inside the office (link).
Field sellers as business advisors and buying process facilitators: The combination of higher buying complexity for solution purchase and more simple purchases moving to digital and virtual sales channels means that the need for business advisors and skilled buying process facilitators are in high demand among buyers. This type of person is able to guide the buying committee, solicit, filter, and make sense of apparently conflicting information. Also, this person masters the executive vernacular and emphatically helps the different stakeholders by articulating the underlying business issues through the creation of the need specification and the building of the business case. In other words, this person is able to guide and help the client through all phases of the buying-process – not just the solution exploration and vendor selection part.
Revenue Operations is a machine with 3 integrated engines that drives growth from both existing customer segments and new potential buyers. It is not that traditional sales has become less important – for complex solution purchases, the opposite is true – but rather that sales success has become increasingly dependent on the joint work of marketing, inside sellers, and real business advisors and the ability of the commercial function to collaborate as a whole.
Start small, think big, scale fast
Structural changes to the commercial organisation don’t happen overnight and commercial leaders should not start with the full scale “Global Sales Transformation”. Instead, start small to test the business case for development in one part of your organisation or for one specific customer segment. When you have actual numbers and learnings prototype Revenue Operations for the entire organisation and scale fast on the “burning platform for change” and a clear vision for the future.
Managing Partner at Kvadrant Consulting
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