B2B Sales Digital Transformation: 2021 Insights and Trends

By now we are all well into the new 2021, a year that we eagerly awaited to replace the dreadful 2020 and return us back to normality. 

Now, in February 2021 we can with confidence say that normality as we used to know it is not coming back any time soon. Following a sudden crisis in the previous year, a new order of business emerges and hard-learnt lessons from 2020 will inform each and every company’s decisions for the future.

In preparation for the new normal, it is now clear what B2B sales trends are here to stay in 2021.

With everybody working from home last year and relying on technology more than ever, the overall theme of 2020 was digital transformation and automation of processes. This practice that was started recently and accelerated by the pandemic, is going to be on the radar of all forward-thinking businesses who wish to harvest the potential of technology.

According to data from HubSpot’s Sales Enablement Survey, leaders that used automation services and sales enablers were on average 35% more successful than those who did not catch up with the times. Technology is inevitably finding its way into sales processes to alleviate mundane tasks and allow sales reps to focus on the important bits — like their relationship with the client.

By automating parts of their sales process, sales leaders free up time to focus on selling.

Creating authentic trustworthy relationships with prospects and putting the buyer at the centre of the process is in. As the world shifts to virtual, the challenge is building trust with your prospects and cutting through the noise. The better you understand your prospects and their needs, the more value you can offer them. That, along with genuine desire to help, is what will drive B2B marketing and sales in 2021.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the trends that will be an integral part of your sales process this year.

  1. Digital transformation and automation
  2. ABM
  3. Chatbots
  4. Creating customer-centric relationships
  5. Building authentic relationships
  6. Omni-channel B2B sales strategy

1. Digital transformation and automation

2020 highlighted the growing trend towards digitalisation and automation of sales processes, and in some ways, accelerated it.

More and more companies switch their sales approach to B2B sales digital transformation to drive their sales and results.

According to data from Hubspot, sales leaders who adopted a hybrid or fully remote sales model hit or exceeded revenue targets.

Their findings prove the effectiveness of going digital and going smart for sales. High performing sales teams automate sales tasks and leverage competitive data.

To thrive in 2021 and beyond, B2B sellers will need the right enablement tools to enhance their productivity and engage with prospects and customers in more meaningful ways.

For example, 61% of overperforming leaders use their CRM to automate parts of their sales process, vs. 46% of underperforming leaders. By automating parts of their sales process, sales leaders free up time to focus on selling.

Digital transformation does not only refer to automation tools and CRMs, but also approaches to sales strategies. 65% of sales leaders stated that a dedicated sales enablement team is critical to the success of an organisation.

Along with the continuously changing conditions and state of the world, sales representatives must minimise time spent on admin and maximise focus on revenue-generating activities.

Hot tip for 2021 — stop trying to sell!

In the past, sales enablement teams focused on producing supporting material for sales reps. Now, a dedicated team means finding, evaluating and introducing tools and technology that would aid sales reps in the actual selling.

These tools and technology can refer to lead-generating processes. 2020 saw a boom in the number of innovative lead generation strategies that use multi-channel drip approaches, such as LinkedIn and Email. Here are some examples of B2B digital transformation. In the last year it has become the biggest and most popular way of closing deals. Including a sales enablement team that has hands-on experience with the tools and technology required for these strategies will be critical to your success in 2021.

2. Aligning sales and marketing — ABM

It is not a new idea but in the last year it’s become quite revolutionary. You’ve probably seen the name thrown around in sales blogs but wasn’t sure how to try it — and without proper knowledge and tools, ABM is indeed a shot in the dark.

Account-based marketing or ABM refers to a strategy that ensures the complete alignment of your Marketing and Sales departments. As a result, those who know how to work it, see a huge increase in ROI and boost in customer loyalty.

Instead of casting a wide net hoping to catch some fish, you go for the big one.

The concept behind Account-Based Marketing is an old as business itself — identify a relevant group of people and market your product specifically to them.

So, why is it the new hot trend now?

With the focus on digital transformation and automation in the last year it has become a lot easier to identify relevant prospects. Thanks to technology, marketers can now concentrate on acquiring specific high-value customers, basing the targeting and marketing message on an account’s particular attributes. Most importantly, they can easily scale this approach with the help of a dedicated sales enablement process.

Efficiency is the real candy behind ABM. Rather than aiming to generate lots of leads and chasing them, ABM professionals create a personalised pitch that speaks directly to an individual prospect’s pain points.

In other words, instead of casting a wide net hoping to catch some fish, you go for the big one.

Because it is a hyper-targeted strategy, ABM demands insights on the target accounts that inform highly personalised tactics that combine content marketing, lead nurturing, marketing automation, social media, email, and advertising.

The lack of the right setup and data to draw insights is why many marketers fail at this.

3. Chatbots

Chatbots have been around for a few years, but it is only recently that they gained popularity (and frankly, the right technology) among sales reps.

AI programs are an extremely convenient and valuable resource for sales and service. As AI that can constantly learn and improve, chatbots have the ability to simulate a real conversation and answer practical queries from potential leads.

Not only is it very convenient for your sales team as they help alleviate the workload and reduce nurture time, chatbots are very helpful to the prospects themselves.

Automated reply programs are a constant resource of information, available any day and any time. AI is always ready to answer your potential customers’ burning questions in the middle of the night.

Studies show that companies that use chatbots have increased customer engagement and improved customer support which are some of the defining factors of success.

Dan Tyre from HubSpot stressed the value of chatbots in this quote:

 “Everyone needs a chatbot on their website. As much as I love humans, I don’t want them to answer transactional questions on order status, product availability, and shipping information. Chatbots work because I can get basic information quickly. Make sure you are playing into those trends.”

4. Creating customer-centric strategies

It might sound counterintuitive, but the best tip for increasing sales in 2021 is actually stop trying to sell.

The times when you could simply overwhelm your prospect with information, put an attractive price on it and expect them to buy because it is such a good deal, have passed. Customers are tired of being treated like cash cows, especially when there is so much variety for almost any kind of service on the B2B market, so what they are really looking for is value.

Value-based selling and putting your buyer at the centre of your selling strategy is the hot new trend you should get behind on.

Instead of trying to make a sale, focus on bringing value to a potential client without expecting anything in return (even though we know that most businesses work to make revenue). That does not mean providing your product or service for free. Rather, it is framing the sale as collaboration or partnership, designed to be mutually beneficial (but mostly to your lead).

Today’s buyers are not looking for an easy fix, but a long-term sustainable partnership with someone they trust

Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and focus on what problems or shortcomings your service can solve. Most importantly, identify their needs and then address them in a simple and genuine way, tailoring your offer to each situation.

Placing your prospect at the centre of the equation and providing honest value will help you start building a trusting and long-term relationship. And that, after all, is what all B2B sales strategies are about.

5. Building authentic relationships

Creating trust and building long-term genuine relationships with prospects will continue to be a priority in 2021.

How do you build rapport with potential customers in 2021?

Following the technology advances and trends, using tech and automation, of course!

Sales strategies of the future will include high levels of personalisation and knowing exactly where in the buyer stage the prospect is.

VP of Sales at LinkedIn, Alyssa Merwin says, “Our own research at LinkedIn shows that sales professionals can build trust by taking a buyer-first approach and by reaching out only when they fully understand the buyers’ needs and the buyer’s role in the purchasing process.”

Open source data-bases like LinkedIn are perfect tools to find out relevant information on your leads and approach them with a tailored offer they cannot refuse.

Moreover, LinkedIn itself adds a degree of personalisation that other channels like Emails or calling will not. It could be a great starting point to foster a new valuable relationship.

Today’s buyers are not looking for an easy fix, but rather a long-term partnership with somebodythey can rely on and they are not so easy to woo either. It’s time sales representatives do the same.

6. Omni-channel approach

One of the ways for building trust, authenticity and credibility with a prospect is a nurturing strategy that uses an omni-channel approach.

In 2021 it is difficult to pinpoint a single communication channel that brings the biggest results — prospects have an individual path when it comes to nurture. It is especially true for digital marketing when most leads can be approached with multiple digital tools.

Therefore, hitting them up on all fronts is essential for success. Social media, Email, LinkedIn, calling, digital advertising — it is important to surround the prospect with the wealth of relevant valuable information at every stage of their buyer journey.

Human psychology works in such a way that the more we see certain images or relevant messages, the more credible and trustworthy they seem.

If a single ad might not convince your potential client to book a call right away, but a long-term nurturing solution of direct marketing and content marketing may entice their curiosity and encourage them to even initiate contact.

A recently popular strategy is a combined sales approach of LinkedIn and Email automation. It incorporates all the trends predicted to be big in 2021 — sales automation, digital transformation, providing value and creating authentic buyer relationships. With the right sales enablement team and understanding of the tools, LinkedIn + Email can bank as many as 53 qualified leads in the first month.

So, for 2021 don’t limit yourself to only one channel, but experiment and accelerate sales.

Last thoughts

2021 marked the beginning of a new era of digital transformation and automation in sales departments everywhere. Out of the chaos and uncertainty of 2020 new accelerated practices are created and it is clear that some are here to stay.

The value of your company depends on how customer-obsessed, creative, and adaptive you are in jumping to the next growth curve in your industry. Much of your success will depend on how quickly and how well you harness technology to both enable your workforce in the new normal and build platforms that differentiate your firm. Indeed, technology acceleration is the common thread in our predictions for the coming year. Yes, that means investing in new technology. But with the pandemic still a reality and budgets rightfully under scrutiny for 2021, it also means taking advantage of and realising the value of the technology that you already have — and finally retiring the technical debt holding you back.

2021 will be the year that every company doubles down on technology-fueled experiences, operations, products, and ecosystems.

If you’d like assistance with digital transformation of your B2B sales, contact one of our representatives or check out case studies on our website.