Adapt Your Sales Force to Meet Current B2B Buyer Trends

August 17, 2021
Contributor: Laura Higley

Adapting your sales force to leverage digital skills and a hybrid sales model will help your team align with new buyer trends and create a future-ready workforce.

B2B buyers’ needs, challenges and purchasing behaviors are shifting dramatically in response to the workplace disruptions of 2020. To accommodate the new technology purchase journey, sales leaders and their teams must understand these shifts and adapt outreach methods to meet buyers where they are.

Keeping pace with a changing digital environment is always key to sales outreach, but the rapid shifts due to COVID-19 make sales force adaptability even more crucial to a successful strategy. How sales teams modify their approach in response to changes from 2020 will determine whether they continue to thrive going forward.

The following tips on adapting your sales force to leverage digital skills and a hybrid sales model will help your team align with new buyer trends, and help you create a future-ready workforce.

Tip No. 1: Shift to a hybrid sales model

Software buyers are shifting to online research and decision making at increasing speeds due to COVID-19 and the resulting business disruptions. In fact, 80% of B2B sales interactions between a supplier and customer will occur in digital channels by 2025 (full research available to Gartner clients).

The key to increased sales performance is a digital-first, hybrid sales model that reaches buyers at the right time with the right message in the right channels.

A hybrid sales model caters to customers’ digital-first preferences, using omnichannel sales outreach to engage customers in digitally rich discovery and learning. Using these models, software providers can make the buying process easy for customers and share resources that build purchase confidence.

Moreover, sales outreach should lean into buyer preferences to give them a choice on how to interact with your team, whether through in-person, digital or blended channels. Adapt selling techniques to be buyer-oriented rather than product-oriented, and meet buyers where they are in the sales funnel with messaging and content that suits their informational needs.

Timing is likewise crucial to your sales team’s success in 2021 and beyond.

Since mid-March 2020, buyer traffic on the Gartner Digital Markets network of sites increased on weekends by as much as 60%. Take advantage of increased weekend web traffic and automate sales outreach to ensure buyers receive timely responses.

To build trust and confidence with a hybrid sales model, make sure your messaging supports the most pressing business priorities of technology buyers through content and interactions that show how your solutions drive change and produce tangible outcomes.

Tip No. 2: Train salespeople in digital skills

As buyers move to hybrid work environments and multiple digital channels to explore solutions and find product information, your sales team must have the skills, content and resources to reach them. Sales leaders should train their teams to sell through these digital channels and dynamically adapt to changes in the buying environment.

Two of the most important digital skills for a software-focused sales force in 2021 are social selling and content distribution.

Social selling

The increasing usage of social media by both customers and sales professionals has made social selling an integral part of the sales process. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are being used by sellers nearly as much as traditional channels like email and phone to interact with buyers.

Types of touches sales teams use in reaching out to leads

As a first step, sellers need to build a high-quality personal brand on social media platforms. Sales leaders should encourage each sales rep to build a profile that attracts views and highlights their capability to support customers.

Before engaging in a sales process, successful social sellers also use information available on social media to understand the buyer, identify pain points and prepare messaging. Curate relevant content to support the buyer’s journey and present solutions organically through third-party sites or other SEO-optimized channels.

During the entire purchase journey, software providers should strive to keep leads consistently engaged on social media and other channels, so your brand is top of mind when a decision is being made. Sending two or three messages at the same time on different channels can increase the probability of response rates by as much as 14% (full research available to Gartner clients).

Content distribution

Once you have a buyer’s attention, arm your sales team with messaging and content that can be used on various digital channels. That preparation allows your team to reach buyers with the right information exactly when they need it and when they are actively searching for software solutions.

High-quality, relevant content not only increases outbound sales effectiveness, but also differentiates your software product from competitors. It helps leads familiarize themselves with the brand and product, understand use cases and explore business problems where the software could be helpful.

Sales reps should also customize content using a combination of role and vertical insights from their account research. Personalization is an important part of reengagement outreach in a hybrid model, as it can double response rates, according to Gartner (full research available to Gartner clients).

Lead Management Guide

Optimize your B2B lead nurture strategy to engage and convert leads more effectively.

Tip No. 3: Invest in buyer data and AI technology

As buyers spend less time interacting with software providers and salespeople, every touch needs to be intentional and strategic. Use buyer intent and behavior data, rather than seller intuition, to guide these sales decisions.

Investing in intent data collection and AI will help your sales team adapt to the increased touchpoints and information needed to provide an effective pitch on digital channels.

Buyer intent data expands the traditional prospect pool by capturing valuable buyer data before any action takes place. Some of the most common first-party buyer intent signals include:

  • Recent site visits
  • Frequency of visits
  • Types of content consumed
  • Event or webinar attendance
  • Engagement with sales representatives

Software providers should also supplement first-party data with third-party intent data that considers other digital channels where the lead is researching products.

With buyer intent signals, you can uncover prospect movement throughout the sales funnel and prioritize outreach based on those signals. By prioritizing closer-to-purchase leads, every salesperson avoids wasting time on buyers that are not ready to engage.

Want to learn more about B2B sales trends? Check out the Gartner Software Industry Report for the latest updates on buyer behavior.

Laura Higley

Laura Higley is a Senior Business Development Executive for Strategic Accounts at Gartner Digital Markets, where she leads sales operations for large enterprise customers. Laura is a New Jersey native who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Virginia Tech. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn.

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