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How to Understand, Digitize, and Optimize Complex Sales in B2B

Mar 30, 2023

B2B sales are complex due to the diverse nature of each business, making digitization challenging. In order to optimize sales, B2B companies must understand their unique needs.

Complexity comes with the territory in B2B sales.

Mostly this is because every B2B business is different. There is a huge amount of variety in how B2B businesses are structured, operate, and engage with customers. One size cannot fit all.

This complexity can make it difficult for B2B companies to adapt the way that they do business, particularly when it comes to digitization. At the same time, remaining static hurts these businesses and leaves them open to being left behind by the competition.

So how can B2B companies digitize and optimize their complex sales effectively? It all starts from a place of understanding.

Understanding Complex Sales in B2B

B2B sales are more complex than consumer retail for several reasons.

The market has moved from a wholly traditional sales model of in-person interactions, direct marketing, and mail order, to incorporating digital channels that allow buyers to increasingly self-serve. This also reflects the media mix and how to use the different traffic and sales channels.

At the same time, the culture surrounding B2B sales has not changed significantly, and it is this that creates complexity.

While consumers tend to make purchasing decisions in the moment as an individual, B2B sales typically involve multiple stakeholders. There is often a longer gap before a purchase is made to get approvals and sign-off. A buyer may gather and compare quotes before purchasing.

B2B buyers may have specific legal requirements and regulations that they must meet. Configuration and which products work together can also influence decision-making.

It’s important that you understand this complexity to see how digitalization can make life simpler for your B2B customer, as well as the new difficulties it might create and how to minimize these.

Digitizing Complex Sales in B2B

Although long-term relationships are still important to the B2B industry, buyers are also used to the convenient online ordering options that they experience in their private lives.

This adoption of digital channels creates sales opportunities for B2B businesses but can also introduce new complexity by splitting the buying journey across different channels.

To effectively digitize your B2B sales, you need to think about how you can use digital tools to expand your business and bring value to the end user.

One of the first things to consider is whether you want to use digital as an ordering channel, a sales channel, or both. Are you selling through your own e-commerce site, an app, or a marketplace?

These decisions will affect the digital buying experience for the B2B customer and how complex it is. For example, if you’re using your e-commerce site to allow customers to order directly they may be able to self-serve the entire buying journey. This may mean they need more product information, videos, technical specifications, and other materials to help guide their buying decisions.

Or they might be able to fill a basket but not checkout, making it important for your sales team to have the ability to retrieve saved baskets or quotes to help complete purchases.

In addition, the more channels that you have in your B2B business, the better your information management needs to be. You need to get your product information to a level where it can be used to reduce complexity by giving your sales team access to the knowledge they need to help your customers do business.

Digitization of B2B sales will also impact how your organization is structured. You need to consider what capabilities you will need and the roles that will be responsible for those. It should be clear to everyone what customer services will provide, what the marketing department’s activity will be, what logistics will do, etc.

This will ensure that no part of the customer journey is forgotten about and make it impossible for your employees to say, ‘I thought X department was doing that.’

Finally – setting KPIs and using a data-driven approach, when evaluating your efforts and investments. 

Optimizing Complex Sales in B2B

If you want to optimize your B2B sales, then you need to always be ready for the next change.

In our fast-moving world, there are always new channels emerging and buyers are adopting them at an increasingly fast pace.

It took generative AI chatbot ChatGPT just two months to reach 100 million monthly active users from launch, according to Similarweb. Before that, TikTok took nine months from global launch to reach 100 million users. Meanwhile, Instagram took more than two years to reach the same user milestone, according to Sensor Tower.

B2B businesses need to be ahead of these shifts and ensure they prepare their organizations, product information, and services to be able to respond through new channels.

The other key thing is to look beyond just the sale. In a world where the end customer can do everything by themselves, B2B salespeople are left questioning their role.

But in fact, B2B digitization is bringing the buying experience full circle back to relationships. Digital sales channels give B2B buyers the ability to view more products than ever, which can leave them feeling overwhelmed or unsure about the best option for their business.

An expert salesperson – armed with the correct information at the right time – can help them find the right product. This is especially the case when buyers need to meet legal requirements, regulations, or configuration needs.

The B2B salesperson should also be looking for ways to help make day-to-day business easier for customers through value-added services.

For example, can you send them notifications when they need to re-order supplies? How can you make it easy to identify and order spare parts? Can you help them get recertification on the equipment they bought last year? Can you work with third parties to sell complete service packages?

By adding on services, B2B businesses can remove complexity from their end customers’ businesses and help them have a long-term perspective on what they are buying.

If you’re unsure where to start with digitizing your B2B sales, our expert advisors will make it easy by helping explore the best options for your business. Start optimizing your business today.