Have we witnessed the end of traditional B2B sales? To understand that, it's first essential to understand what traditional B2B sales were and how they dominated the market. B2B sales were once far from traditional. Face-to-face business meetings were the primary sales model that focused on meeting with buyers once they were the majority of the way through making their final decision. However, two-thirds are now saying they want a digital self-serve model - which makes sense, considering buyers spend most of their time researching online before contacting a seller.
Did you know buyers are up to 80% of the way towards making a buying decision before contacting a seller - and 27% prefer conducting independent online research before making contact? That's a massive opportunity that traditional B2B sales models miss out on by neglecting a digitally dominant buying behaviour.
Below, we'll look at whether traditional sales models are actually obsolete; and how B2B brands can combine traditional sales with the new digitally dominant models that create the perfect sales storm.
Have We Witnessed The End Of Traditional B2B Sales?
Traditional B2B Sales
According to the Harvard Business Review, traditional B2B sales are obsolete. The industry was controlled by old-school sales that relied on phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings. It's essential to remember that while, according to research, 73% of buyers are now millennials, that still means there are 27% that might be what you could call traditional.
In fact, according to McKinsey, only 37% of buyers want a totally self-serve and digital model - perhaps alluding to the fact that traditional B2B sales are still effective. For example, research shows that B2B marketers think emails are still the most effective for marketing in terms of ROI.
Still, when you look at the grand scheme of things, buyers only spend 17% of their time in contact with the seller, and when you break that down into buying teams, it works out at 5% per buyer. The opportunity lies in the digital world, where buyers are conducting their own research before contacting a seller.
The New(ish) Era Of Digital Sales
It's the newish era because digital sales have long been a part of the B2B sales world. What's new, however, is the shift towards omnichannel sales that are leaving no stone unturned. McKinsey & Company even called omnichannel the new growth equation for B2B brands. Part of the new growth equation is marketplaces - the Amazon Business Marketplace is the perfect example of how successful they can be.
Within the McKinsey report, they highlighted how nearly three-quarters of B2B brands have invested in their own marketplace and have experienced an increase in market share as a result. That figure compares to the 42% of brands that opted to try other digital sales methods.
Looking at the bigger picture, brands should focus on an omnichannel experience that includes social shopping, eCommerce marketplaces, app-based options, and field sales and throws in personalization by implementing b2b loyalty incentives. It's all well and good offering an omnichannel experience, but it's essential to tailor it somehow to the individual needs of buyers.
Merging The Two To Create The Perfect Business Model
To answer the question - we haven't witnessed the end of the traditional sales model. Instead, we've watched the transition from heavily relying on the traditional sales model and the rise of digital B2B sales. Creating the perfect business model merges the two - that's why the omnichannel experience is a huge focal point amongst B2B experts.
Interestingly, however, within the McKinsey report, they state how there is a swing between traditional and digital sales, but remote options remain consistent. Those that want a remote self-serve option don't tend to revert back to old-school sales, whereas lovers of traditional methods will swing between the two.
Facilitate the traditionals within the market through email contact, phone calls, and offering the option of face-to-face meetings while still maintaining an inclusive omnichannel experience.
B2B sales continue to transform and evolve as a new generation of buyers push for change within the industry. B2B buyers are now predominately Gen Z's and millennials, an age group that favours technology and remote working. But don't forget those buyers who aren't ready to make the digital shift.