The Three Big B2B Challenges … and Solutions for 2021
2020 was a year like no other.
B2B companies faced their business challenges head-on, finding innovative ways to adapt and conduct business in the “new normal.” As the year came to a close, we were all anxious to hit the 2021 reset button.
There are many reasons to be optimistic that the second half of 2021 will return us to a more familiar business landscape, including in-person interactions. In the interim, there are several key actions that sales and marketing leaders should take to continue driving growth, while streamlining processes and connecting with clients and prospects in meaningful ways.
Here are three areas to consider as you gear up for a successful 2021.
1. Eliminate Friction
In business, friction is anything that slows the buyer’s ability or process to acquire goods and services. As the seller, it’s your responsibility to simplify this system for customers, identifying and removing any obstacles in the way of closing a deal and initiating forward progress. This is even more important now that face-to-face meetings are rare, forcing customers to complete more of the “buyer’s journey” without in-person assistance.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, friction in B2B sales sometimes results from offering too much. Perhaps you’re a well-established company with many levels of goods and services. You have multiple salespeople and experts who can speak enthusiastically about all the possibilities. Sounds great, right? Though you perceive this as a competitive advantage, clients may find it overwhelming or confusing, creating a pause – or friction – that could jeopardize the sale.
Another point of friction often occurs later in the sales cycle. Your initial sales process progresses well but suddenly gets bottlenecked by too much paperwork or approvals needed to finalize the sale. Again, there is a risk of creating too much friction, causing a prospect to walk away.
Whatever the cause, there are simple ways to eliminate friction. One method that streamlines the selling process is offering packaged solutions. Rather than presenting á la carte menus of endless possibilities, identify and bundle the best solutions for clients. Assign one knowledgeable point of contact to engage with each prospect instead of assembling a large team. Scrutinize internal systems, identifying ways to minimize how much information, paperwork, or back-and-forth exchanges clients must complete up front.
Prioritizing your customers’ need for simplicity eliminates obstacles that cause friction, creating a “flywheel effect” that runs on momentum. Turning a flywheel is initially challenging and takes effort; however, once it starts moving, centrifugal force takes over and propels it. Minimal intervention is required. The same is true when you create a frictionless sales and client onboarding process.
2. Overcome the “Virtual Dilemma”
For years, sales and marketing leaders relied on face-to-face meetings. Attending a few strategic trade shows, industry and networking events solidified existing client relationships while generating enough new leads to last a year or more.
When B2Bs were forced to move most interactions online this past year, we quickly realized the limitations of meeting virtually. Though we will likely continue conducting most business interactions via a screen for the short term, we can still create personal experiences for colleagues, customers and prospects.
Beyond Zoom, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams, several interactive platforms emulate in-person experiences. Delia Associates recently partnered with the NJ Packaging Executives Club (NJPEC) to host a branding webinar using the virtual platform Remo. After a presentation and live Q&A, attendees virtually “moved” into breakout sessions, where participants discussed topical questions at their “table.” Presenters circulated, just like in-person networking. The best part was that attendees said they connected to colleagues in authentic and meaningful ways.
Trade shows are also possible. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a great example of converting high-touch, in-person events into all-digital formats. Using several Microsoft platforms, this year’s show featured exhibitor showcases, media events, conference programming and networking. Other customizable solutions can simulate the trade show experience. Attendees’ avatars can walk a “virtual” show floor, while educational seminars, networking and engagement opportunities are all available.
3. Embrace Video
Video remains an effective medium for delivering sales and marketing messages, and we expect usage to continue growing. Among B2Bs, video use in 2020 increased substantially, thanks to webinars, live streams and social media video platforms. According to a Google study, marketers doubled their digital output during the pandemic, compared to sales and offline marketing. Online marketing grew 88 percent, with 45 percent turning to digital for the first time. The reason? Communicating digitally is our new normal, making it is easier than ever to engage customers via video.
Video is evolving, moving from highly-scripted productions to on-the-spot segments that get to the point. This reflects the popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels, which engage viewers through creative, short segments. Using new and existing assets shortens the production process considerably, allowing marketers to create quickly and communicate often.
With production simplified, there’s a shift toward creating “one-off,” custom-curated videos that deliver specific messages to specific customers. Video in 2021 will continue offering new levels of personalization that B2Bs can leverage to build connections, and ultimately, grow sales.
As we dig into 2021, we are at an advantage in that we have had time to adjust and experiment with our new normal. We are now are better positioned to pivot and adapt to changes when needed. I’m confident that by continuing to think of our customers first – and how best to engage and serve them – we can emerge from 2021 stronger than ever.
Wishing you continued success in 2021!
P.S. Need help eliminating sales friction or creating authentic video segments and virtual experiences? Give me a call and I will be happy to help you find the best solutions to help grow your business for the new year – and beyond.