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The B2B sales cycle is a time-consuming process that involves multiple parties, including procurement specialists, buying committees, and other stakeholders. Over the last 10 years, advancements in technology have changed the face of the B2B sales cycle for buyers and sellers. Advancements in digital technology can assist your sales teams greatly. Today, you have many viable options for software programs to help you create efficiency and streamline the sales cycle.
Having said that, the wrong tools can end up costing you time, money, and efficiency. With so many digital tools to choose from, it can be easy to load up your technology stack to avoid the fear of missing out. To be competitive, you need the right technology stack, and to remain competitive, you need to continually revisit your tools and processes to ensure you’re maximizing their potential.
How Technology Has Changed the B2B Sales Cycle
Technology has changed virtually every industry in one way or another. For B2B sales companies, technology has changed the sales cycle in three significant ways:
1. It’s given customers greater control.
2. Big data has changed the dynamics of the B2B sales cycle.
3. Machine learning and automation have greatly enhanced efficiency in B2B sales.
Thanks to technology, today’s buyers have access to a lot more information. In many ways, being so connected works for their benefit. It allows them to go into the sales cycle with significantly more knowledge. Greater access to information sets the stage for more detailed and robust discussions, which can change the direction of negotiations.
While being better informed makes buyers savvy, too much information can overwhelm and confuse them. That’s an issue that should motivate B2B sellers to take a renewed approach to their sales strategy. A customer-centric approach works best. Skilled B2B sellers know how to capture customer insights to shape their message to buyers and help them filter out irrelevant data, so that the buying process all makes sense. McKinsey research shows that organizations that leverage customer insights on buying behavior significantly outperform their sales competitors.
Knowing Your Buyer
B2B sellers also must be aware that buyers are increasingly switching between computers and mobile devices as they perform their research. For this reason, buyers need to be sure that they’re optimizing their websites for mobile devices. The risk of not having mobile-friendly sites is that it takes prospects and customers more effort to access information, and that reduces the customer experience on mobile devices.
As for the second point, the rise of big data has not only increased how much data buyers have access to, but the channels they use to do research are more flexible than ever before. In addition to their phones, buyers are using the internet, email, and videos to gather information. The most successful sellers set up workflows that are responsive to buyers on every possible communication channel.
Finally, B2B marketers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of machine learning and automation. Digital sales tools create efficiency by automating simple requests and answering common questions. This is an important concept because it helps B2B salespeople to pay more attention to the parts of the sales cycle that require more focused phone conversations to close a deal.
How B2B Buyers Have Changed Through Technology
For a long time, the B2B sales process was fairly linear and predictable across the entire sales journey. According to Gartner, today’s B2B customers are more likely to engage in the following 6 buying tasks simultaneously, rather than in any kind of reasonable order:
1. Problem identification
2. Solution exploration
3. Requirements building
4. Supplier selection
6. Consensus creation
Here are 3 other ways that B2B buyers have changed as a result of technology:
They no longer rely on salespeople to tell them what to buy or to give them the reasons they should make a purchase. B2B buyers are more connected to the industries they want to buy from. They’re doing their own research and trusting themselves more than they have in the past. Buyers are likely to bring the information they’ve learned during their research into deal discussions.
Buyers are less trusting than they used to be. Strong competition has caused them to be skeptical of companies that blast them with a relentless barrage of pushy ads. To turn them into believers and long-time customers, salespeople need to spend time nurturing relationships and demonstrate transparency along the way.
Marketplaces are more saturated than in the past. It’s more difficult for B2B sellers to stand out and to capture a lead’s attention. Standard sales pitches don’t really work anymore. Customer success in today’s market requires salespeople to develop a more personalized approach and ensure a good customer experience.
With buyers moving into the driver’s seat of the sales process, they’re more likely to work with sellers who make it easier for them to meet their needs and who make the sales process easier and more streamlined.
5 Reasons Technology Improves Your B2B Sales Cycle
Considering such vast changes in B2B buying behavior, it makes sense to evaluate how your sales team can leverage technology to generate more leads, single out the highest-quality leads, shorten the sales cycle, and finalize sales more quickly.
Why should you look to technology to improve your B2B sales cycle? The reasons are many, but the following top 5 reasons should give you some good clues as to why it’s essential to put the right software solutions in place to gain an edge on the competition.
1) There are many advantages to using cloud-based software solutions.
By today’s standards, legacy business programs are costly and they’re fairly substandard as far as efficiency goes. Here’s a list of other reasons why cloud solutions improve your B2B sales cycle strategies:
Flexible enough to quickly and easily add and take away apps and programs as needed
Help to increase collaboration between sales team members
Software updates occur automatically
Low upfront costs, pay-as-you-go
Redundancy; less chance of losing important data
Use automation to increase efficiency
Give greater insight into the customer journey
Help ensure quality and professionalism within the sales process
Give salespeople greater mobility and agility
Easy to install and even easier to use
2) Predictive analytics tools use data to forecast future sales results.
Analytics tools gather data and present it in the form of charts, graphs, and other reports that are quick to pull and easy to understand. Essentially, predictive analytics takes the guesswork out of sales forecasting. More accurate and recent data, often in real time, helps to identify areas to increase efficiency so there’s more time to focus on closing sales.
3) Automation and machine learning are becoming more available and more standardized.
There are several ways that a salesperson can leverage automation for the purpose of sales enablement. Automation is highly useful for lead generation and for scoring leads to qualify them. Sales automation software is also useful for setting up follow-up workflows, creating personalized email templates, and logging calls.
4) Omni-channel capability keeps buyers in touch at all times.
Technology increases the availability of salespeople. Buyers can reach them via phone call, text, chat, or email at any time. Greater accessibility reduces the chance of a lost sale.
5) Productivity and data reporting software programs save time and resources.
Outdated processes to evaluate productivity and data are time-consuming and pose the risk of human error. Automated reports tell you where inefficiencies lie within your sales workflows and give you accurate data about things like call volume, leads generated, and sale closings.
As a word of caution, the human element is still important at various parts in the sales cycle. Automation will help streamline sales activities, but it shouldn’t replace them entirely.
How Sales Teams Can Better Integrate Sales Technology
Chances are pretty good that your B2B sales teams are already using technology in some form. If your software programs are siloed, meaning that your salespeople have to log into and out of each program separately, your teams can work more efficiently by integrating platforms to form a single source of information with just one set of login credentials.
The best place to start is with a cloud-based software phone system, which is also commonly known as a VoIP system. Cloud-based phone systems are easy to install and they’re even easier to use. There’s no worry over losing important data about your customers that you’ve stored. To optimize your sales teams’ efforts, you have to start to get comfortable with cloud technology.
Things to Consider
1. Start by using a sales-oriented CRM platform that works with your cloud-based phone system. This is an easy way to achieve sales and marketing alignment so that both departments are enhancing each other’s efforts rather than working against each other. By using programs in tandem, you can easily track user experience and interactions and improve efficiency and, ultimately, your conversion rates.
2. Use automation to minimize time-consuming data entry. Use analytics to gather key insights to shorten the sales cycle, increase conversions, and create more accurate sales forecasts. Analytics programs offered via your cloud phone system or other software programs allow you to analyze large volumes of call data very quickly. Set up a sequence of automated emails to nurture leads over a period of time and track them for greater insight.
3. Share the customer call history and other data with sales team members. Software integrations keep your customer accounts current, often in real time. Any sales team member who answers a call gets instant access to the call history and other details on the status of the sale. Sales agents always know whom the customer has spoken to and how they ended the conversation.
Once you discover the benefits of the many features of your cloud-based phone systems, you’ll need to be strategic about the types of software programs you select. The right software integrations will prove to be highly useful to your salespeople. The wrong integrations—or having too many solutions that sales agents aren’t using—can be detrimental to your sales efforts.
Top Technologies to Use for Your B2B Sales Cycle
To get down to brass tacks, what are some of the top technologies that you can deploy to improve your B2B sales cycle?
As mentioned previously, a cloud-based phone system is a good start to setting up a cloud-based infrastructure for building your technology stack. Aircall offers a premier set of voice calling features, which, when implemented on their own or in conjunction with your CRM or other software solutions, gives enhanced capability for your sales call center. By switching all your tools to the cloud, you gain the advantage of being able to set up a virtual call center using remote or distributed teams.
For example, here’s a sampling of how Aircall’s features can improve your B2B sales workflows:
Call whispering. Whisper suggestions to the salesperson during a call without the customer being aware of it. Call whispering is a highly effective coaching tool for new sales agents and those who are struggling.
Call routing.Route calls to an available sales agent or to the salesperson’s exact extension.
IVR. Set up a self-service recording to allow prospects and customers to choose where they want to be directed.
Toll-free and international numbers. Create numbers so your customers can contact you from anywhere in the world.
Call recording. Automatically record calls for review and training.
Click-to-dial and power dialing. Quickly dials calls to efficiently make as many sales calls as possible during a shift.
The Importance of VoIP Integrations
For even greater B2B sales improvement, Aircall’s App Marketplace features many listings of apps that are perfect for improving your sales activities. Read on to learn about some of the top technologies for B2B sales organizations.
Cloud-based CRM for sales. Manages prospect and customer data and works with Aircall to record contact information, call details, and insights on buyer behavior. As a cloud-based app, a sales CRM is available wherever your salespeople are. HubSpot and Salesforce are popular options, but you might also try Outreach or Pipedrive.
Data and reporting. Using a dashboard, gain insights into call activity, get reports using one click, and set up sales competitions and online leaderboards for gamification. A couple of good choices are HappyFox BI and OneUp Sales.
AI & Transcription, Record and transcribe calls to leave feedback in real time. Some good options are Wingman and Refract.
Productivity. An app like Callingly sends calls to sales team members immediately and automatically dials leads through Aircall, so prospects get called in record time. PieSync syncs all your contacts in Aircall with your other business tools to create a single source of data.
The world of B2B sales has certainly changed over the last 10 years or so. It’s important to recognize that buyers think differently than they have in the past and that their behavior has changed. As a result, B2B sellers need to change their response to meet the needs of modern B2B buyers. With the help of a cloud-based phone system and the right software integrations, the B2B sales process can be more productive and streamlined than ever before.