Future of Sales 2025 - A Summary of Gartner's ReportApr 28, 2023
We welcome you, our esteemed and valued reader, to the first article in a series devoted to the analysis of foreign reports in the area of B2B sales and marketing. I will moderate this series together with Marcin Morawski - Head of Marketing, Dell Technologies. I have the pleasure of building and developing social and digital selling programs for the Partners and for the Direct Sales deparment at Dell Technologies with Marcin.
In this series, we will take foreign reports (only from reliable sources!), summarise their content and add our conclusions based on experiences from two perspectives — my sales and Marcin’s marketing. We know that a thorough reading of the entire report is often time-consuming, so we suspect that regularly preparing summaries and writing down conclusions from these reports may be valuable for you. We certainly hope that it will be so!
The first to be summarised is the Gartner Report, whose original title was:
Future of Sales 2025: Why B2B Sales Needs a Digital-First Approach.
What was the main focus of the Gartner study?
As stated in the introduction to the survey, the main focus is ”To meet customers' new buying preferences and succeed at virtual selling, sales leaders must adopt a digital mindset,” There is no doubt that over the years, customers' purchasing preferences have changed (and continue to do so). Pre-pandemic decision-making was firmly embedded online, and the COVID-19 pandemic gave the process even more momentum. Gartner decided to look at the data from his various reports and based on that, he predicted that the interactions taking place in the digital world between buyers and suppliers would "break" traditional sales as we know it. An online presence as well as the use of digital channels should become a standard element of any sales strategy in B2B.
What are the overall conclusions of the report?
In his report, Gartner indicates that by 2025, as much as 80% of all interactions in B2B sales will take place in the digital world. In 2017, clients spent only 17% of their time meeting and talking to salespeople. Considering that an average of three suppliers take part in the purchasing process, each salesperson received less than 6% of the total time. On the other hand, 27% of the total time (almost five times more) was spent online by the customer. Customers’ requirements of salespeople work are expanding. Millennials see less and less value in working with salespeople. According to the report, as many as 33% of buyers expect purchasing processes to take place without the participation of salespeople. In the case of Millennials, this share is as high as 44%. With this in mind, Gartner also points to a significant change in the role of the salespeople themselves.
According to the report, salespeople have to learn a new style of work — specifically, a digital style. Being digitally efficient, they will be able to maintain a level of customer engagement in many places by interacting wherever their customers expect. Gartner also points to the need to change the processes. According to the cited report, as many as 60% of companies will change their sales activities — from those based on experience and intuition to those based on data. Gartner also notices a certain risk resulting from the necessity to "convince" sales managers whose approach is based only on traditional methods of building influence and relationships with customers.
4 detailed conclusions
In order to keep up with the changes (and most importantly, not to be outdone by the competition), entire companies and their salespeople must be aware of 4 important facts:
1. Transformation from "Sales Centric" to "Customer Centric" and engaging customers in all possible channels.
According to Gartner, in B2B sales, there will be a permanent change of strategy, processes and resource allocation that will transfer the organisation from the "Sales Centric" approach to the "Customer Centric" approach, in which salespeople and the organisation must engage customers in all possible channels and points of contact.
2. Salepeople's understanding of the complexity of the purchasing process and changing the role of a salesperson from an "information provider" to a salesperson-partner must make sense.
Due to the fact that current customers use many channels and sources to make purchasing decisions, salespeople have a difficult task. Gartner points out that it is essential to focus on providing the maximum support and confidence customers need in order to feel comfortable making decisions. It is crucial to understand both how customers make decisions to buy what they need as well as to understand that the B2B purchasing process is often a difficult task for a group of decision makers. Therefore, it is essential to build a maximum level of confidence in salespeople. Such trust is built when a salesperson provides more than "flyer" information. Customers expect salespeople to skilfully process information, combine it with the customer’s knowledge, challenges and processes, then provide the customer with sensible advice.
3. Increase the skills of digital salespeople and their collaboration with other departments.
The report provides information on the number of people involved in the purchasing process. While there has been around eleven so far, this number may increase on average up to 20 in the coming years. Modern (digital) sales are processes in which we deal not only with the need to conduct virtual meetings and presentations, but also with providing customers with content 😊. Therefore, the cooperation between salespeople and people responsible for sales support (mainly marketing) will be a success. Gartner emphasises the role of so-called digital skills (that is, a set of skills that allows salespeople to increase the effectiveness of their activities — including the ability to conduct meetings and virtual presentations).
4. Regularly raise the level of technology, knowledge and competence.
Gartner emphasises the great importance of new technologies (including artificial intelligence) that will change sales in the future. At this point, he also draws attention to the need to integrate processes, applications, analytics and data into one coherent and efficient “organism". Changes in the marketplace also require changes at the levels of skills and mentality. The future and the success of sales belong to those who do not rest on their laurels, who are constantly looking for new opportunities and who are open to a modern approach.
A lot of information in the report does not completely surprise me. Based on both my commercial experience and working closely with sales, I can definitely see that we are dealing with a crisis of trust. In the past, the client did not have access to so much information online, so the salesperson did not have to put forth much effort to deliver value. Today, however, the sales staff must increase their effort to appease the client. Today, the client has a choice. First, salespeople must have a good understanding of the customer’s purchasing processes. They must look at the process from the beginning (from the reasons for starting to the tasks that the purchasing group must perform to the individual perspectives and challenges of each member of the purchasing group) in order to stop speaking the language of sales (benefits and the price) and to start speaking to the customer in the language of support during the difficult and complicated task of making a B2B purchase decision.
On this basis, the content of the sales strategy and the personal branding for the salesperson are also built. I often hear that personal branding is associated with promoting oneself. However, the programs we use for personal branding are not just conference selfies. It takes humility to provide customers with the content that they are looking for on their own (ie, without salespeople). As the author of this content (articles, webinar posts), the salesperson is able to build their own value and becomes a trusted advisor — not just another seller with "dollars in his eyes".
The skills of the future also include building commitment and relationships in various channels. Today, this means digital channels such as LinkedIn. The salesperson needs to provide the client with maximum comfort in making decisions by building trust, which is influenced not only by the way the process is conducted, but also through online credibility (ie, customer-centric profiles, article-type content and posts that support the customer — all on LinkedIn).
A topic I am very curious about is the use of AI in sales processes — especially in large B2B enterprise processes. In some of the programs at Dell Technologies, we use artificial intelligence tools to build profiles of decision makers. At Natoamist, we keep our eyes and ears open to other forms of AI use in enterprising processes in order to know our customers even more and yes, in order to offer them the support they are looking for in the digital area.
There is no turning back from digital change. Even though we have heard it many times, the figures and information in the report only confirm it. The trend is clear and the generational change will make it even stronger. The lack of physical meetings is a kind of "time comfort” for the client because they can get more done during the research stage as well as get it faster and without feeling harassed. And the pandemic? In my opinion, it only accelerated some already visible factors of change and increased their power to an extreme. But this does not mean that we will go back to the old methods. Moreover, we will add new ways of contacting the client permanently.
Of course, we will get used to the comfortable changes quickly. What seems to be a challenge is to understand why this digital content (customer involvement in the digital world) is so crucial and how to explain it since there are no examples, but only the results of analyses and reports. I think it is worth looking for references to actual activities and building your narrative on these examples. The above report was and is an eye-opening piece of information that is taken very seriously by the sales team at Dell Technologies — from the General Manager to Sales Directors to the rest of the sales team. It was the spark that ignited a flame of innovation and development as well as challenged the status quo. Moreover, it was marketing that naturally became the advisor and enforcer of this change.
The main conclusions reached through the interest and commitment of the sales team are the growing need to establish a dialogue on the digital path with existing customers and (thus) the emerging self-reflection on the lack of appropriate skills and tools in the hands of salespeople to carry out this exercise. Another point was the conclusion that the old methods and channels of reaching customers are either not working or are insufficient and the new ones are an unknown, unexplored area. One can add to this a generational shift and a lack of trust in salespeople — due to the fact that the customer does not want to buy at all costs and the salesperson probably wants to sell at all costs. Finally, the expected image of an advisor/consultant/expert and not a typical salesperson is clearly taking shape. The openness of the sales team to these requests contributed to a return of asking the marketing team for help.
The topic of marketing and sales cooperation is material for a good book full of action and suspense with interesting characters, where each has the ambition to play the main role. However, especially in B2B, marketing plays the role of an advisor and trusted partner for the sales department. Understanding this fact allows you to become oriented towards the internal customer. Only then, joined together as the Revenue Team, can we act in the spirit of being Customer Centric. The analysis of the needs of sales teams, and in particular individual salespeople, allows you to step into their shoes and look at the world through their eyes. Regular meetings and workshops create a sense of bond, trust, and therefore, mutual cooperation. The conclusions reached in these meetings allow for accurate mapping of sales committees based on the digital footprint of our clients. The analysis of customer needs matches the profile and goals of the salesperson and helps in creating high-quality content in order to offer the customer answers to his ills at the research stage and not have to wait for the inclusion of a salesperson in the process.
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