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The Blueprint for Digital Selling in 2021

Digital selling existed long before the pandemic, but when in-person meetings disappeared at the height of Covid, businesses were forced to engage digitally with customers, creating an urgency to embrace digital selling motions across industries. And now there’s no looking back – digital selling and buying channels are here to stay. In fact, the Gartner Future of Sales report predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales transactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. 

Prior to the pandemic, multinational glass manufacturer Saint-Gobain had a traditional approach to purchasing and selling, completing only 10 percent of its orders online. Now, more than 80 percent of orders are conducted through AI-powered digital selling platforms, demonstrating the growing preference of buyers to purchase through digital channels.  

Buyers have always expected a straightforward, seamless buying experience, regardless of whether the sale is taking place in person or online. So, what is the blueprint B2B organizations need to follow to continue their digital selling momentum and deliver the optimal experience for their buyers?  

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ENHANCED DATA UTILIZATION

Businesses now have an opportunity to use a digital selling platform that collects vast amounts of internal and external buyer data. Inputs include buyer behavior and descriptions, such as the amount of time buyers spend navigating a website, how they store payments, and records of past purchases, just to name a few. Once the digital selling solutions are implemented, companies can utilize the data collected to ensure each interaction with a buyer is personalized to that buyer’s specific needs. The ability to leverage the trove of data that is collected during each shopping and buying experience is critical to best understanding each buyer’s journey.  

Access to data also allows B2B organizations to expand revenue opportunities through upselling and cross selling products customers may not have considered purchasing before, further optimizing the buying experience.

By enabling businesses to effectively use data in the sales process, digital selling platforms will help lead the shift in digital transformation B2B organizations need in order to succeed in this post-pandemic “new normal.” 

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COMPETITIVE PRICING 

There is a common misconception among B2B sales reps that existing customers are hesitant to adapt to digital selling – some viewing it as too complex or not personalized enough to entice existing customers to return to complete a purchase. Sales teams have historically kept pricing close to the chest, only sharing directly with customers to ensure a continued rapport between buyers and sellers. This mentality and practice ultimately limits revenue potential for the company.   

B2B organizations today should be striving for pricing transparency and the ability to deliver market-relevant pricing quickly with buyers over the phone, in person, via chatbot, website, or all of the above. Consistent pricing across all channels will lead to earning each buyer’s trust. When using an omnichannel approach to offer different methods of shopping, buyers have the flexibility to choose their preferred communication channel (or channels) for the sale and enjoy a seamless experience throughout. Simply put, businesses that fail to deliver market-relevant and consistent pricing across these channels will fall behind to those that can.

With the application of AI and machine learning, pricing professionals have the tools to see the relationship between price and demand in a buyer’s past transactions and deliver an optimized price recommendation, resulting in the ability to capture market share. For buyers, this translates to the friction-less buying experience that they have come to expect.  

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SUPPLY TRANSPARENCY

Inconsistencies in supply are often out of a vendor’s direct control, but vendors must be transparent about inventory and offer proactive solutions when supply is short. Few things are more frustrating than loading a digital shopping cart and at the point of purchase learning selected items are out of stock, with no prior notification or warning.  

Communicating proactively with customers about current inventories or when there is a predicted supply shortage is the transparency B2B buyers expect.  If a salesperson knows that a customer buys a particular product regularly, and forecasts a shortage in a few months, reaching out to the customer in advance to discuss a solution is an excellent way to maintain loyalty. And, taking this a step further, if that same customer wants to buy products ahead of schedule so there’s no disruption to the business, they should have the opportunity to do so.  

Beyond this important openness and communication step, having the ability to predict supply fluctuations, and to reflect such changes in your price offerings will also lead to significant bottom line impacts that should not be underestimated. 

As the world continues to open up, customers will remain in control of their buying preferences, whether it’s back to in-person sales or through digital channels, or a mix of both. Businesses can’t always predict how a buyer will shop or when, but they can be prepared by using this digital selling blueprint. B2B organizations have the unique opportunity to take advantage of the abundance of data they collect from buyers and create a highly personalized experience that will keep them coming back for return purchases. The future of B2B sales is digital, and the ability to offer customers a seamless digital buying experience will separate the winners from the laggards in today’s new selling landscape.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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