Many of us have never seen the world change so rapidly as during the past year. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economics and business has yet to be felt. Some changes however can already be put into perspective and help you to make your brand future-proof. That is why we are focusing on the number one digital trend in B2B sales of this moment: self-service.
Accenture investigated the effects of the pandemic on the industry in The New World Of B2B Sales. In their research, they speak of an “industry-wide shift to digital first.” No less than 46% of the small and midsize businesses invested in making their infrastructure more virtual, online or contactless.
Focusing on digital and deploying new ways to use virtual tools - mainly in the form of virtual communication with customers and partners - have helped companies to maintain business continuity during the unpredictable and challenging circumstances of the pandemic, according to Accenture.
Many digital transformations and developments that may have started off as ‘necessary evil’ at the beginning of the pandemic, are now proving their long-term value. According to a recent analysis by McKinsey & Company on the behavior of decision makers globally across industries, the shift to digital solutions in B2B sales is here to stay.
Self-service is among those developments that settled over the past year. McKinsey researchers find that “more than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions—a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended.”
The main reason why both brands and clients prefer digital self-service is the tremendous efficiency boost for all parties involved. Getting information, placing orders and arranging services can be done much faster and easier using self-service and remote interactions than being dependent on personal meetings or calls.
Now is the coming of age of digital sales, McKinsey researchers say. The main sign of this maturity is found in the comfortable stance of B2B buyers towards online purchases and online reorders. “The prevailing wisdom used to be that e-commerce was mainly for smaller-ticket items and fast-moving parts. Not so anymore. Notably, 70 percent of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27 percent would spend more than $500,000.”
Making a connection with your client is key in B2B sales. Getting to know them and understanding exactly what they need, perhaps even before they know it themselves. Guiding sales personally by a sales representative and offering personal support later on in the sales process may seem like the only way to do so. You might wonder how self-service can ever replace that personal touch and become a worthy alternative.
The good news is: it can be done. By carefully crafting your clients’ digital experience and aligning it with your brand’s identity. Many parts of B2B sales processes qualify for digital self-service. Reordering, for example but also pre-ordering, and (re)viewing relevant order data. All without losing that indispensable connection with your client.
A digital environment designed especially for B2B sales that is customized to match your brand will do much more than simply enabling your client to find their way independently. A customized B2B webshop will encourage you clients to build their own pre-orders based on digital lookbooks that include storytelling, effortlessly place reorders, and easily check outstanding or historical orders without having to consult your customer support team.
Perhaps you’re afraid that your clients may become discouraged doing sales in a remote and self-serve B2B setting. Looking at the McKinsey research, this fear is unfounded. In fact, the opposite seems to be true: “B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so”, researchers find.
Now that we’ve explored the recent developments in digital sales in general and self-service in particular, let’s take a closer look at the best way to deploy them for your business. As we’ve seen, an essential part of making self-service work is personalization. If you want to offer your clients the best possible remote experience, it has to be customized and tailored to their needs.
Like many upgrades and developments in B2B, this focus on personalized sales experiences is derived from the business-to-consumer world. Caroline Tien-Spalding - CMO for Aptology and Forbes Council Member, wrote a council piece for Forbes about this matter. She states that corporate clients often want their user experience to be as streamlined as a business-to-consumer (B2C) transaction.
“The offerings of the future are likely to feature ample data that’s accessible on demand and in a personalized manner (without the form!), self-service everything, self-timing on purchase and payment, and instant delivery”, Tien-Spalding continues.
Meeting the modern digital needs of your clients is no longer a goal for the future, but a current priority that holds many benefits for your brand. Self-service in particular means saving time and resources that can be deployed elsewhere in your business, while maintaining a strong bond with your clients.
Ready to get started? We can help you out. Colect specializes in tailored B2B digital sales tools with a focus on self-service. We can take your business straight into today’s digital future.