Adapt Your B2B Sales to Changing Customers and Marketplaces

Business-to-business (B2B) selling isn’t what it used to be. It was once a straightforward process in which outside field sales personnel made face-to-face calls with clients they handled singlehandedly. Today, the addition of sales development and inside sales teams has created a model for more account-based selling in which a variety of people perform different tasks based on their skills and specialization.

In some cases, however, even the “people” are disappearing from the process. Research group Gartner has predicted that by 2020, 85 percent of all customer interactions with enterprises won’t involve human sales or customer support personnel at all. Automation backed up by artificial intelligence (AI) will make it possible for customers to help themselves with most routine inquiries.

Will this put sales professionals out of a job? No. But it may significantly change the jobs of salespeople and sales managers. At Cien, we’re excited to be a partner in initiating that change.

Artificial Intelligence in Sales Operations is Here to Stay

AI is already beginning to change the way sales professionals work, and smart companies are taking steps to adapt their sales operations to it to improve their productivity and effectiveness by applying AI to their customer relationship management (CRM) data. Concepts like the Cien Value Chain provide greater levels of automation for sales reps and improve visibility for sales leaders by presenting a 360-degree view of the sales pipeline, highlighting the relationships that are most likely to result in closed sales.

Some sales managers – 31 percent, according to our study entitled “Global Study: the Future of Sales” – view AI as an added complication, but the truth is that AI can streamline sales and eliminate complexity and guesswork as well as time-wasting footwork. It allows sales leaders to outsmart their competitors with data, and make greater use of the information already in their CRM. (Interestingly, our research found that users of Salesforce are only half as likely as users of other solutions to think that AI will put them out of work.)

B2B companies can become more data-driven by applying deep learning techniques across their customer touch points to improve their customer acquisition metrics and their close rates. Using the information they generate, sales organizations can understand where they are in the phases of sales development (“build,” “compete,” “maintain,” extend,” or “cull”), and what they need to do next to accomplish their sales goals.

Customers Are More Sophisticated and Powerful

While B2B sales organizations are no longer the same, customers are changing as well. B2B customers today are more educated before they begin a purchase process (hello, Google!), they use the Internet and social media to find each other for reviews, recommendations and advice. They’re also not shy about voicing their displeasure about a product, service or sales encounter.

An inability to adapt sales operations to the customer of 2018 is, in part, resulting in falling sales productivity rates. To adapt, companies need to see their customers and their sales processes in their entirety. Tapping the full potential of today’s customer-empowered marketplace requires a complete view of the customer across the organization and across every touch point in every medium, including social media.

The Cien Value Chain is providing sales organizations with new tools and new ways to measure productivity to ensure sales teams keep up with the increasing demands of the marketplace and the modern customer. Sales managers and sales professionals are better positioned to prioritize their day-to-day and long-term actions to create the ideal conditions to raise the likelihood of making a sale with each customer.

See the True Dollar Value of a Lead

Not all leads are created equal. An inbound lead from a Google AdWord, for example, requires less prospecting effort and is worth more than an outbound lead generated by cold-calling. This is because the prospect’s intent is greater on an inbound lead than an outbound lead. It simply doesn’t make sense for sales professionals to waste their time cold calling if they can work warmer leads in a shorter amount of time.

The Cien Value Chain give the ability for a sales organization to measure the incremental impact of lead generation, prospecting and closing activities in the sales process and identify those opportunities that are most likely to lead to closed sales. It’s a way to measure the true dollar value of each lead so sales professionals can prioritize their work to produce the greatest results.

Find the “Low-Hanging Fruit” for an Immediate Productivity Boost

All companies want long-term growth, but they’d also like to see a quick boost in productivity that will raise their sales this quarter. By allocating their resources based on the quality of their pipeline and the effectiveness of their sales operations, firms can now easily identify new pockets of growth that were previously invisible to the human eye.

Studies have shown that by simply increasing a sales team’s productivity by two to five percentage points, companies that adopt Cien’s AI-powered app can generate an average return on investment of more than 1,000 percent. It does this by helping B2B sales teams find the “low-hanging fruit” that provides a dramatic burst of sales.

Sales professionals today should view AI as a two-pronged opportunity. The Cien Value Chain can help your sales team configure sales operations to adapt to your business. Furthermore, it can help your business adapt to today’s marketplace and customers. In the B2B sales climate of the future, automation will handle the rote tasks of the selling process, and human personnel can finally pursue the elusive ABC of selling: “Always Be Closing.”

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