What’s shaping up next year?
Since COVID-19 hit, the rate of change in the world seems to have accelerated. From lockdowns and new variants to economic performance, we’ve become acutely aware of the impossibility of perfect prediction. But in turbulent times, we also see most clearly the importance of foresight.
In the future, the success of B2B sales teams will be defined not just by the quality of their people, but by the prescience of their predictions and the preparations they are willing to make. And because of that, understanding industry trends has become a uniquely powerful skill.
Here are five things that will shape B2B sales in 2022:
1. Flexible working
Perhaps the biggest single change the pandemic has brought to the world of work is the rise of remote and flexible working. While we cannot know for sure how the pandemic will evolve in the coming year, most experts agree that flexible working is here to stay in the vast majority of industries.
For B2B sales, this will mean what at first seemed a stop gap will become a permanent part of the job. Fully, long-term strategies will have to be built around remote selling, and teams will have to navigate the reality of hybrid working.
In a sense then, 2022 will see businesses start to truly contend with the ‘new normal’ as normal. This presents many strategic and creative possibilities – as well as opportunities to integrate tech and data more deeply into the sales process. But it will not be easy for organisations to take full advantage of those opportunities – especially if they continue not to acknowledge the extent and permanence of the change.
2. Omnichannel is here to stay
Another key by product of the pandemic has been a shift towards omnichannel selling. B2B buyers have been empowered in the digital age, and it’s become increasingly clear that they want to be able to engage with prospective sellers via whatever medium suits them.
While Mckinsey notes that this is ultimately producing a more effective approach to B2B sales, there have also been teething problems. 68% of sales teams have experienced increased channel conflicts as a result of adopting an omnichannel approach, and in many organisations there appears to be a belief that things will soon ‘go back to normal’ – which has led to a lack of long-term strategic planning.
In the coming year, we will see that this is not the case. The shift in power between B2B buyers and sellers is permanent, and in many cases buyers simply will not engage with salespeople if they don’t want to.
Last year, Gartner presented research suggesting that 80% of B2B sales interactions will take place digitally within five years. But we expect this may prove an underestimation – particularly as a handful of highly strategic sales teams are able to offer radically better digital experiences for their buyers.
3. The integration of sales and marketing
Sales and marketing have had an ever closer union over recent years. But it is no longer enough for the two departments to work in tandem or collaborate – they must be actively integrated to meet the steep demands of today’s B2B buyers.
This will require sales to become more data driven, but it will also require a more fundamental rethink of the role salespeople and sales teams play in the buyer journey.
We’ve discussed the importance of lead nurture a lot recently, and that function may prove emblematic of the shift that occurs in the coming year. Sales and marketing will have to truly unite in a laser focused effort to provide meaningful value to B2B buyers – and that will require technological enablement of the highest order.
4. Fully matured AI
In their 2020 report, Mckinsey found that 75% of organizations believe that AI will ‘transform’ their company within 3 years. And we’ve seen plenty of movement in this direction in B2B sales: 50% of companies that have adopted AI as part of their sales process see an increase in leads – and more than half see significant savings.
Despite this, just 13% of b2b marketers and sales teams are ‘very confident’ in their knowledge and capacity to implement AI – and that has meant most businesses are still only experiencing a fraction of AI transformative potential.
In 2022, this will change. We will start to see far more businesses unleash fully matured AI that is capable of automating complex decisions, producing powerful real-time insights and enabling extremely nuanced personalisation efforts.
Ultimately, this will lead to a widening of the competitive advantage of those businesses which have properly embraced the technology.
5. Consolidation of competitive advantage
It is often said that the modern era has seen the rise of a ‘winner takes all’ economy. But in B2B sales, this has not been a serious problem. While companies range dramatically in the quality of their strategies and individual salespeople, the sales process hasn’t been scalable to the extent that individual market leaders could dwarf the competition.
While we are unlikely to see the same level of concentrated power as some industries, the competitive playing field is already starting to tilt dramatically in the favour of companies that have the right tech and know how to use it.
When we look at these trends – increasing emphasis on remote sales, digital empowerment of the customer and AI growing in power – it is hard not to notice how much more scalable successful B2B sales efforts are becoming. It will be increasingly possible for businesses that really nail their sales process to corner a market – and the shift in dominance is likely to happen extremely quickly.
Ultimately, we believe it is currently a race to the start line: those businesses that make the right strategic decisions in the next few years will gain a virtually unassailable advantage. And we are likely to look back at the first few years of this decade as the moment this change really took hold. Ampli is here to guide you and work you through a b2b sales transition. Get in touch today.