The consulting firm Kearney recently published a comprehensive study on the paradigms facing the B2B segment in terms of sales channels in this segment and how these channels are shaping up to change in the near future.
Kearney's analysis surveyed more than 1,600 sales managers across industries ranging from consumer, to retail, to energy, to small business.
The results show significant common challenges, such as:
- Increasingly complex products and services to meet customer demands.
- New entrants with alternative offerings, unconventional business models and lower prices.
- Accelerated commercialization.
- Greater market transparency and increased customer purchasing power.
- Shift of control of the buying process to customers.
And technology will undoubtedly be the main driver of these challenges.
The B2B segment now presents consolidated trends that the leaders in digitization have been able to concentrate and exploit, adapting their processes and marketing strategies to them.
In this sense, the following emerging trends in B2B sales processes have been established.
1. Simple and easy purchasing
Many manufacturers are implementing new systems and processes (or renewing existing ones) to create a much smoother sales experience for their customers.
In this regard, many B2B offerings and service concepts are following the lead of their B2C counterparts, providing 24/7 accessibility through any and all channels, many of them digital.
An essential ingredient of any such strategy is to connect all channels to ensure a consistent experience across different touchpoints.
Würth is an example of this approach. The global wholesaler offers an integrated experience across its 32,000 direct sales reps, physical stores and online store. Sales reps use iPads with an app for the online store. Customers use click-and-collect to purchase online or through the app and pick up the merchandise 60 minutes later at a nearby store.
Another way used to drive purchasing performance in the B2B segment is through the implementation of configurators that allow customers to quickly work out a customized product solution and generate a quote. One example is pump supplier KSB, which has implemented the EasySelect configurator, in its online store, enabling customers to quickly build a customized product solution and a quotation.
2. Maximizing customer value
Vendors are finding multiple opportunities to configure new value propositions by letting customers bundle products and services themselves.
As a result, most B2B offerings today are more than just a product. They can include everything from design services to vendor-managed inventory arrangements. In other words, products expand to include complete customer solutions. These are called productized solutions and solutionized products.
Leading medical device manufacturers, for example, offer not only great medical diagnostic products and systems, but also user training, service programs and equipment lifecycle management software, as well as advanced data management, analysis and support.
3. Redefining customer value
Many manufacturers are currently in the process of rethinking the value of their target customer and altering their perception of the brand.
Data tools make it easier to match customers with products and services that fit their true needs. Ecommerce such as Amazon has been implementing this strategy for years, starting with its recommended products based on accumulated purchase and browsing data.
There are many B2B sales organizations using customer intelligence to create value beyond what customers are able to articulate or imagine on their own, even when guided by experts.
Some important conclusions
Many B2B companies are intimidated by the speed at which the B2B sales landscape is evolving, and there are others who prefer to wait to see where "the tide is turning" and discover which technology trends will eventually materialize.
Our experience tackling digitization projects in the B2B segment is that every effort, no matter how small, will pay off, so it is essential to lay the groundwork for any project of these characteristics by solving first-level problems, such as:
- Eliminating all frictions for customers.
- Eliminate unnecessary costs.
- Automating the back office where possible.
- Adjusting the sales force when necessary.
With these fundamentals in place, you can lay the groundwork to stay in the B2B sales race.
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