And 7 Other B2B Sales Predictions for 2024
A survey released at the recent SalesLoft Executive Summit found that many people believe there will be a recession in 2024: 60% of consumers, 48% of economists, and 83% of CEOs.
Despite this view, there is reason to stay the course, say executives at MarketSource, a B2B sales outsourcing company. Steve Bonvissuto, who runs our sales tech innovation center, Damon Joshua, the head of our commercial division, which serves our B2B customers, and Ben Simms, who oversees our commercial client services for B2B omnichannel, believe there is plenty of reason for optimism in this moment, and that this is the time to refocus and make measured, balanced, revenue-generating investments.
Here are their predictions for 2024 and B2B sales strategies to help you not only prepare for and react to the unknown but also to ready your team to strike while the iron’s hot (dare we say it, even be ready to grow?) when the economy stabilizes.
2024 B2B Sales Trends
1: New B2B Customers Will Remain Elusive
2: B2B Sales Investments Will Be Precarious
3: B2B Sales Roles Will Reflect New Tech
4: Outside B2B Sales Teams Will Be a Differentiator
5: B2B Lead Gen (the Old Way) Is Dead!
6: B2B Sales Will Advance Further in the Next 24 Months Than it Has in the Last Decade
7: Relying on DIY B2B Sales Teams to Hold on to Customers Will Become More Costly
8: For B2B Sales Organizations, 2024 Will Be a Year of Balance
Prediction #1: New B2B Customers Will Remain Elusive
Ben: It’s been extremely hard to find new customers. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve of New York via Forrester, net new B2B sales dropped. Facing bridled sales and the headwinds of shrunken sales teams and persistent fiscal constraints, revenue leaders are doubling down on generating more revenue from their existing customers, whether through cross- or up-selling, and on reducing customer churn. How to do that has become a dilemma many businesses are trying to solve—how to engage their long-tail customers efficiently and ensure those customers see value in the relationship so they stick around.
Forrester found in its state of B2B buying research that a massive 89% of the 18,000 B2B buyers they surveyed said they’ve had a purchase stall, often due to budget limitations.
In a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of seven people is involved in most buying decisions, says Gartner.
According to Forrester, budget constraints, generational differences, and information overload are protracting sales cycles.
Gartner finds that while buyers prefer digital engagements, those engagements are far more likely to result in purchase regret. They’re much more—1.8 times more—likely to make a satisfied purchase in a high-quality deal when a rep is involved and when they engage with supplier-provided digital tools in partnership with a sales rep.
Prediction #2: B2B Sales Investments Will Be Precarious
Damon: Resources are expensive right now, even to do the same things companies were doing a year ago. It also costs more to invest in growth, and companies are responding by being more conservative in how they spend money and what they invest in.
According to the Revenue Enablement Institute, “The growing portfolio of tech tools—and the operations, content, and data that support them—are getting very expensive. Collectively, they command an astounding two-thirds of operating budgets. And the capital investment in the digital selling infrastructure, customer databases, and technology solutions that enable digital selling channels and teams are some of the biggest financial assets on the company balance sheet.”
Ben: Many revenue leaders are unwilling to overextend themselves for roles or tech that aren’t sure to deliver a high ROI. When it comes to revenue generation, they’re focused on making measured investments in human capital and technology. At the same time, they’re vigilant about not missing opportunities for rev gen.
Steve: Companies who aren’t seeing the ROI on their sales tech are likely imposing it on sellers without effective onboarding or consistent training, and that can have a ripple effect on revenue. Low tech adoption rates prevent sellers from hitting their targets.
Allego’s Sales Tech Enablement Report found that 76% of companies say poor adoption of sales tools is a top reason teams miss their sales quotas. And Gartner found that sellers who feel overwhelmed by technology are 43% less likely to meet quota than non-overwhelmed sellers.
Prediction #3: B2B Sales Roles Will Reflect New Tech
Damon: Every executive has a healthy level of paranoia about whether they have the right talent to run their business. Revenue leaders, faced with a labor shortage and shrinking budgets, have been overpaying for all kinds of roles for the last two years. But that’s changing, as are sellers’ roles. Talent is available again, but building an outperforming sales team that consistently meets quotas requires deep sales recruiting expertise that can uncover and enlist sellers with a high level of tech receptivity and competency.
Salesforce found that high-performing sales teams use nearly three times more sales technology than underperforming teams, freeing them from process-heavy tasks and giving them more time to actually sell. More specifically, high sales performers are nearly eight times more likely than under-performers to be heavy tech adopters.
Steve: Generative AI is transforming the B2B sales landscape. This means the profile and skills required of a sales rep are going to continue to change. To be successful, sellers need to embrace tech and be comfortable relying on it to be more productive. They’ll need to evolve or develop new skillsets to leverage emerging tech, such as mastering prompt engineering, and spotting AI hallucinations.
Sales leaders need to cultivate a highly tech-receptive sales team. Because MarketSource evaluates hundreds of tech tools each year for our own tech stack, our sellers are naturally exposed to them, which fosters a high level of tech receptivity. We encourage them to try new things (with proper governance, of course), which makes them comfortable exploring it. For example, we’re exploring how to use robotic process automation (RPA) to automate several things our salespeople currently do manually that drain their time.
We’ve been able to ensure the tech we’re introducing serves the seller in the role they’re performing. This role-based approach to tech helps us achieve greater adoption among our sellers. To make this work, we work to understand how each role functions in the sales process. We apply an engineering approach to sales and our sales tech and have an entire team dedicated to tech adoption among our sellers. Our business process engineers (BPEs) deconstruct every role and introduce and customize each tech tool to each role. We’re laser-focused on making our sellers as ready as possible to engage our customers’ customers and on achieving high levels of ROI for our clients. This approach helps us do that.
Prediction #4: Outside B2B Sales Teams Will Be a Differentiator
Before the pandemic, inside sales was already growing. During the pandemic, inside teams supplanted field sales. Post-pandemic, many companies still haven’t brought their field sales teams back.
Damon: Re-deploy your field sales teams. Outside sales teams can rebuild customer relationships that may have suffered over the last few years, improve your close rates, shorten sales cycles, and help you capture market share from your competitors who lack outside sales teams. People prefer to interact with and buy from people they trust, and it’s easier to establish trust more quickly through face-to-face interactions. In-person meetings also allow sellers to pick up on buyers’ body language cues and other nuances. Your customers will eat up the personalized attention and value knowing you’re willing to go out of your way to visit them in person. And they’re likely to repay you with the loyalty and recurring revenue you need right now.
Beyond shifts in sales team structures, we’re also seeing a rebalancing of the buying process.
Forrester predicts that 40% of younger B2B buyers will rate person-to-person meetings with product experts as their most meaningful personal interactions in 2024.
Damon: Buying committees are distributed, so virtual meetings will continue to be a reality, but people still prefer to meet in person. No matter their role, the need for human connection persists among all members of any buying committee, and virtual interactions will never satisfy that craving.
To what degree that will impact sales teams remains to be seen, but revenue leaders who prioritize outside sales will not only set their company apart but their sellers up for success.
Prediction #5: B2B Lead Gen (the Old Way) Is Dead!
Ben: Because it can feel tone-deaf, prospects have become numb to the old lead gen approach. This means SDR and BDR roles are changing—even disappearing—as we speak. The high volume, high velocity “spray and pray” approach just doesn’t work anymore. Not only is it ineffective, but it’s expensive, both in terms of sunk investment and opportunity cost.
“The high volume, high velocity ‘spray and pray’ approach just doesn’t work anymore. It’s ineffective and expensive and makes customers feel like you’re out of touch.”
– Ben Simms, VP of Client Services, Commercial, MarketSource
Ben: Everything that happens to consumers eventually finds its way into B2B sales, which requires a highly intuitive sales process that’s in tune with customers’ specific needs, where they are in their buying journey, and how your product can solve their most acute pain points. To make even limited customer gains in 2024, lead gen will have to be very targeted on your specific customer segments.
Geographic information systems are a powerful way to pinpoint both your target customers’ needs and their likelihood of buying from you, as well as the market opportunity and competitive landscape. Mapping and location analysis can inform decisions for businesses wanting to better understand customer behavior, where to grow their business, and visualize and manage operations.
To captivate today’s demanding, savvy B2B buyers, you need to learn as much as possible about who you’re targeting. Aside from demographic and location data, assess your target customers’ appetite for your product, their buying behaviors, and their priorities. Collaborate with marketing to create cohesive, personalized campaigns that reach and resonate with the entire buying committee. To reach your most-wanted prospects and have the customer insights to strike when they’re ready to talk to you, sales and marketing have to work hand in hand.
Learn more about Salelytics, a MarketSource company that delivers highly targeted, integrated campaigns that perform >>
Prediction #6: B2B Sales Will Advance More in the Next 24 Months Than it Has in the Last Decade
A huge part of any sales budget is tech and making the right investments—including in AI—is more important than ever.
Steve: Consolidation and disruption are the name of the game in sales tech in 2024. The consolidation of providers and functionality that has been occurring for several years is good news for sales teams. It reduces the cost of maintaining multiple tools that deliver overlapping functionality, streamlines and simplifies the number of tools managers need to use, and makes sellers more efficient. At MarketSource, we’ve implemented new and better tools that empower our sellers to accomplish their goals and increase their skills, such as the use of video to help them prepare for sales calls.
When it comes to disruption, of course we’re talking about AI.
“Thanks to AI, B2B sales will evolve more rapidly in the next 24 months than it has in the last 10 years.”
– Damon Joshua, SVP of Commercial, MarketSource
Akin to the advent of the internet, the adoption rate of AI has been unprecedented. Chat GPT gained one million users in the first five days of release and 100 million in two months. Compare that to Google, which took a full year to get to 3.5 million daily search inquiries.
Ben: Be vigilant about AI. While it holds a lot of promise, there’s a lot of vaporware on the market, and most companies don’t have enough data to propel it.
According to the Gitnux Market Data Report, 70% of B2B organizations have an AI in their sales strategy, but only 21% have implemented it.
“When it comes to investing in sales tech, including AI, we’re proceeding at pace, not with haste.”
– Damon Joshua, SVP of Commercial, MarketSource
What does all this automation mean for B2B sales teams?
Steve: First, your tech needs to support the changing landscape. AI is automating many of a salesperson’s manual, routine tasks like creating call summaries and post-call actions and follow up. Automation streamlines their sales motions, makes them more productive, efficient, and effective, increases their green time, and gives them more time with customers. A great example is conversational intelligence, which we’re using to analyze calls and capture customer sentiment to help reps improve their messaging to customers. This allows us to use data to home in on and improve our close rates.
Another trend we’re seeing is transferring the control over sales touches to customers. We’re piloting a digital sales room, where we post content and resources we think prospects would find helpful or compelling. They can peruse what’s available and review it on their own time, anonymously. It shows respect for their time and desire to consume content when they want, how they want.
Sales tech companies should STOP using?
Steve: Point technology solutions. They serve only a single function, which is inefficient. And companies don’t need to rely on them, because so many vendors are introducing multiple functions into their products.
Prediction #7: Relying on DIY B2B Sales Teams to Hold on to Customers Will Become More Costly
How can you empower and leverage your B2B sales team strategically and effectively?
Ben: Your sales teams will naturally focus on the biggest and best customers. Help them see that when they do this, they’re leaving significant money on the table. These days, few of us can afford to surrender the 20% of revenue that comes from 80% of our customers. For those relying on channel partners, 80% of your revenue is brought in through indirect channels. Either way, that leaves a massive opportunity to grow your tail accounts through a blend of digital and human touch.
This is where a B2B sales outsourcing partner can have a major impact. Also called a revenue generation partner, they can help you deploy digital touch strategies to stay connected to the market and build brand awareness in a cost-effective way while you’re waiting for customers to start buying again. B2B sales outsourcing can also help you scale customer success, which leads to referrals. They can also help you prioritize and deliver a world class, white glove customer experience, which keeps your existing customers from churning.
When you outsource, you can skip the massive human capital and tech investments and lean on your rev gen partner’s tech stack and sales staffing capabilities. To see where your tech stack falls, check out our Sales Tech Stack Maturity Matrix.
“B2B sales organizations are the backbone of every company, including consumer brands.”
– Damon Joshua, SVP of Commercial, MarketSource
Prediction #8: For B2B Sales Organizations, 2024 Will Be a Year of Balance
Despite budget cuts, revenue leaders still have to operate. They have revenue to generate and numbers to hit. This means that for B2B sales organizations, 2024 will be a year of balance:
- Between smart sales investments and revenue growth
- Between fiscal constraints and cultivating a high-performing team
- Between risk and reward
- Between measured momentum and readiness to capture revenue opportunities when customers resume buying
Damon: Business has gone back to 2019. Now that layoffs have slowed and companies have completed their reorgs and cut expenses, they’re starting to hire again, and there will be more opportunities to grow. There will always be bumps and valleys, but markets are cyclical, so we take a longer view of things. As we navigate the current unknown, a revenue generation partner is one of many tools a CRO can leverage to find that balance and fill the gap between operating with fewer resources and readying for economic recovery.
For those companies that are still downsizing, a rev gen partner can help revenue leaders offset sales resource investments—human capital and all it takes to support them—because they show up differently on the balance sheet.
Outsourcing insulates you from the complexities and cost of building and maintaining a high-performing sales team, from having to downsize, and from the inevitable bad press that comes with it. It also gives you flexibility to scale up or down easily as market conditions shift and protects you from the risks that come with headcount changes, lags in getting to market, and the drain of customer churn.
If you’re looking to be a first mover when the economy stabilizes and customers are ready to resume buying, now is the time to prepare—to build your rev gen team and to equip them with the strategy, processes, and tech they need to seize the day. A rev gen partner can do all of that and ready you to strike when the time is right.
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