What’s Ahead for B2B Sales in 2022

Moving forward in a post-pandemic world calls on B2B sales leaders at every level to be flexible and adaptable to keep up with continued uncertainty.

It’s difficult to predict where the “new normal” will take us. But a few notable trends stand out based on recent research reports. Revenue leaders may use them to make go-to-market adjustments that will help raise conversion rates, improve performance, and move forward with greater certainty.

AI and Analytics Will Boost Sales Velocity

Data analytics, AI, and machine learning first became vital for successful consumer marketing. Now these tools are crucial for successful selling in the B2B space.

In its simplest usage, analytics offer businesses the capability of gathering all sales and marketing activities and interactions with buyers, in every channel, into a single, coordinated view. Analytics can help sellers track buying patterns, mine large amounts of data, more precisely measure ROI, and provide important customer insights. 

AI simulates human intelligence and can assist in pre-sale marketing activities and smooth the path to purchase. For instance, AI in account-based marketing and other predictive tools track online activity, providing intent data that allows sellers to target in-market prospects and offer insights to power more personalized messaging and content.  

By 2026, B2B companies will use AI interactions and analytics technology to deliver deeply personalized journey engagement, eliminating 40% of marketing and sales human touchpoints. [Source]

Commitment to Social Causes Will Appeal to Many Buyers

Seeking purpose in life and meaningful work and relationships carries over into the choices that B2B buyers make, particularly among millennials and Gen Zers. In fact, millennials are now the largest B2B buyer group. They prefer to do business with and purchase from companies that support charities and social causes that they advocate, especially when that advocacy takes the form of action. 
A brand’s commitment to social betterment can sometimes transform a prospect into a committed purchaser. Your company’s values matter.

75% of younger consumers believe that businesses should take greater responsibility and do more to create a better and fairer world for everyone. [Source]

Self-Guided Purchasing Will Grow

Buyers prefer to conduct online research on their own. WebFX reportedly found that B2B buyers are more than halfway through the buying journey before contacting a vendor. And, even after connecting with a B2B sales rep, some 70% of B2B buyers and decision-makers  prefer remote or digital interactions  with vendors. Gartner predicts this number will rise by an  additional 10%  by 2025. 

44% of B2B buyers read three to five pieces of content before contacting a salesperson. [Source]

Digital Content Quality Will Move the Needle

As buyers rely more and more on digitized information, the quality and availability of that content is paramount if B2B companies want to stay competitive.

As Forbes Councils member Tobyn Sowden recently stated, “Content is the most powerful marketing tool you have. The time or money you spend here is worth it.” Content must be powerful enough—and relevant enough—to move the buyer to ask for more information or to have a conversation with a sales rep. 

There is a decided uptick from a digital-first to a mobile-first buyers’ market. According to cmswire.com, more than half of B2B spends are via mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Buyers are showing an increasing preference for voice, visual, and video search during their digital-based customer journeys.  

This is not surprising, considering that digital natives comprise the up-and-coming majority of decision makers. They have grown up with technology that digitizes interactions and expect this to carry over into the business world.

Millennials want digital content that is:

Tailored to their desires

Available on a variety of channels

Consistent and reliable

Designed to make an emotional connection

Delivered fast and in real time

Promoting Value Will Take Precedence

Because so much product information is available online, buyers can usually compare products and, often, pricing, before they reach out to a sales rep. Sometimes all this information merely leaves them overwhelmed, or worse, confused. 

Communicating value, and the factors that distinguish your product from your competitors’, can motivate buyers to start a conversation with a sales rep.  

Emphasize value and how that value will create great outcomes for each prospect. As buyers dig into your features and benefits, they also want proof of your company’s credibility. Make sure that the data you share differentiates your product or service from your competitors’ and builds confidence that it can solve the buyer’s problem. Particularly if you are selling a subscription service or an expansion product, you need to imbue the information you share with a strong sense of trustworthiness. 

Social Selling Will Rise in Importance

Using social media platforms was once merely an adjunct to getting the word out about B2B products and services. Now, buyers expect B2B sellers to conduct social selling. Impactful posts that invite buyers to explore case studies, watch videos, and research companies are an excellent way to move buyers closer to making a purchase decision.  
A burgeoning trend among sales leaders and reps alike is to build a personal brand in social media. Establish yourself as an expert in your niche market. This fosters trust in any information you share, which can exponentially grow a loyal following. In turn, you can be active on your prospects’ channels. Keeping your name top of mind in this way can turn cold leads into warm prospects.

9 of 10 B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions. [Source]

Sales Reps Will Guide Buyers on a Personalized Hybrid Journey

A hybrid experience that encompasses an optimal mix of digital and analog touchpoints can bring prospects closer to a buying decision. In a B2B experience report, Forbes author Marie Hattar observes that top B2B companies combine both human and digital interactions into one hybrid customer journey.

Gartner calls it the “seller-assisted digital buying experience. The role of the sales rep is morphing from selling to storytelling; from compelling prospects to buy, to serving as buyer guidance counselors.  

The challenge is how to remain relevant, engaging, and personal to buyers throughout their digital buying journey. Buyers don’t merely want more data they want the right kind of information, delivered at the right touchpoints at the right time. And at each touchpoint, they appreciate efforts to forward relationships with people and companies where there is an emotional connection. 

Let your case studies and whitepapers express the feelings of pride, appreciation, and satisfaction that customers have felt while doing business with you. Meanwhile, your website, mobile interactions, and events should be designed for an optimal virtual experience. Show that you care for your customers’ needs by being sensitive to their channel preferences. 

Gartner analyst Brent Adamson has said, “B2B selling in today’s world must be digital and human. A carefully designed, richly immersive digital experience where sales are accompanied by a seller rather than funneled to one. In other words, rather than seeking to engage customers through sellers or digital, the best companies are exploring how to engage customers simultaneously through sellers and digital.” 

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