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Sales 4.0: how B2B Sales needs to re-invent itself

Driven by Megatrends including Digitalisation, Professionalization, Globalisation and Everything as a Service, the B2B sales will change fundamentally

In many consulting projects we have seen that B2B customers have become more complex and thus the requirements of B2B Sales. Companies need to adapt themselves – from their Sales strategy and Sales organisation to Sales conversations. In short: Sales 4.0!

Customer centricity: align yourself to the customer

B2B Customers demand customized and innovative solutions to their challenges. Only if suppliers focus on their customers’ business they can meet their needs and therefore, generate value.

This applies especially to B2B Sales: sales activities need to be focused on creating customer value consequently instead of focussing on a product and its features.

B2B Sales has to develop further to become a partner of their customers in improving their business.

Deep know how about products, their features and their competitive advantages is not enough anymore, as we have seen in numerous consulting projects.

Service orientation: extend your products with services

B2B companies have to provide their customers with product-related and -unrelated services before, during and after purchase in order to offer added value.

According to this, the goal for B2B Sales organisations must be to turn from a pure product supplier to a provider of holistic business solutions.

With regards to the comparability of products and the increasing price pressure, the service business is an opportunity to differentiate from competitors and to lock-in customers.

One good example of this is Hilti: According to the statement of a former Hilti manager “customers want to drill holes and not drilling machines”, the tool manufacturer offers a modular 360-degree service concept covering the specific needs of craftsmen using drilling machines. Customers are able to book services ranging from advice to financial services to their basic product, such as a drilling machine. Customers can also book the drilling machines as part of the comprehensive service concept. Accordingly, they do not acquire the property, but pay only for the use and additional services. By now, more than 100,000 Hilti customers use the service concept. [i]

Multi channel strategy: provide customers with all available information and Sales channels

Whether sales force, online shop or catalogue – B2B companies have to provide their customers with wide a range of information and sales channels along the entire customer life cycle (“customer journey”). The product portfolio has to be made available through any channel.

The success of a multi channel strategy depends on a positive and consistent customer experience, which has to be provided through any channel. Furthermore, customers shall be able to switch between channels.

An example of a successful B2B multichannel strategy is Würth. Already in 2009 Würth launched an online shop and therefore, expanded their traditional Sales model based on a field sales force and branches with digital channels. The success of the multi-channel sales approach is shown by the distribution of sales revenues: online share of total revenues has increased from 3 percent in 2011 to more than 13 percent in 2016. In other words, most of their growth came from the online channel. [ii]

Digital Sales tools: take advantage of new technologies in Sales

In today’s age of digitalisation companies have access to multiple digital sales tools. This includes CRM systems to manage customer relations or social media platforms.

The success of these tools depends on whether they are selected and designed taking B2B Sales employees into account. In addition, intense trainings are needed to decrease barriers and ensure effective usage. This is the only way digital Sales tools support B2B Sales.

A rather unusual example of the use of social media in B2B Sales is the freight company Moller-Maersk. With emotional pictures of their freighters Moller-Maersk expanded its social media presence on all relevant platforms to 1 million followers ­– 900,000 more than the closest competitors and thus, very exceptional in this industry. [iii]

In conclusion: Customer focus is the key to Sales 4.0

Sales 4.0 as we see it in our consulting projects comprises four elements: customer focus, service-oriented business model, implementation of multi-channel strategy and the use of digital sales tools.

Most importantly, B2B Sales organisations have to align with customers and their business needs. It is not about simply knowing what the target group wants, but to develop solutions that decrease costs and/ or improve the profit of customers.

Build up Sales 4.0 now to respond to the changing market environment and differentiate yourselves from your competition.

As a consultancy with the experience of many Sales 4.0 projects we can support efforts effectively. Feel free to contact us in order to learn more!

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by Daniel Meidl & Nikolaus Bremerich

 

Sources:

[i] Hilti. (2017). Flottenmanagement. Retrieved July 18, 2017, from https://www.hilti.de/content/hilti/E3/DE/de/services/tool-services/fleet-management.html

[ii] B2BSeller. (2016). Würth-Gruppe: 1,3 Milliarden Euro E-Commerce-Umsatz. Retrieved July 18, 2017, from http://b2bseller.de/wuerth-gruppe-13-milliarden-euro-e-commerce-umsatz/

[iii] Harvard Business Review. (2016). Social Media Works for B2B Sales, Too. Retrieved July 18, 2017, from https://hbr.org/2016/01/social-media-works-for-b2b-sales-too

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