The lockdown has presented new challenges to well-established sales and marketing structures in the B2B sector. A study by the Ruhr University Bochum has addressed the question of whether B2B marketing and sales have changed in the post-corona period. Will marketing and sales function hybrid in the future and how can you use synergies?
Before the pandemic, online visits and online events in the B2B sector were hardly imaginable. They have now become an integral part. The challenges in times of pandemic have led to further development and significant changes in many companies. For the study, 777 B2B companies were asked about their experiences and the future of marketing and sales.
What changes are taking place in B2B marketing & sales?
According to the study, in 2020 89% of companies could not get in touch with their customers in person: travel, meetings, and trade fairs were suddenly no longer possible. Companies that reacted quickly and developed innovative, digital concepts were able to achieve 97% of their corporate goals despite the massive restrictions. The massive growth in digital customer contact helped here. So are online events and digital customer visits the new reality in digital marketing and sales funnels?
B2B marketing and sales in transition:
- Massive growth in digital communication: With an increase of 171% compared to 2019, mainly digital tools were used for communication in 2020.
- Online customer meetings and events: Instead of the usual trips and on-site visits, customer meetings, and events take place (if possible) digitally via Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams.
- Hybrid sales organization: B2B salespeople will continue to work hybrid, drive less to customers and work significantly more remotely.
- Digital Marketing: B2B marketing will continue to be primarily digital. Instead of trade fairs and on-site events, online events are held.
- Account-based marketing is introduced as a replacement for offline trade fairs
- Digital Lead Generation: As sales goals remain the same, digital lead generation is becoming increasingly important
- Dovetailing of marketing and sales: In the digital area, marketing is increasingly becoming a partner and supplier of sales. Data from digital sales can be used by marketers and vice versa.
What are the advantages of a hybrid approach?
Of course, there will be a comeback of onsite events in the future. Hybrid models – consisting of on-site and online visits – will continue to shape the marketing and sales structures. The most interesting question of all, however, is: Can B2B companies derive significant benefits from the hybrid model – even if there are no longer any restrictions – and if so, which ones?
- 1. Increase in employee productivity: By eliminating business trips, employees gain around one working day. The previously unproductive travel time could be invested in productive working time. The number of online visits could be increased by 4.2 times compared to classic on-site appointments.
- 2. More effectiveness in online conversations: Online meetings with customers take an average of 20 minutes less and are therefore much more efficient.
- 3. Cost savings: By eliminating travel costs and travel time for employees, the company can save costs.
- 4. International Marketing: Marketing is easier to implement digitally on an international level. However, this has also increased competition.
- 5. Automation in sales and marketing: By focusing on digital, more automated processes in marketing and sales are possible, which increase productivity. Cross and upselling can run completely digitally and you can therefore use a high level of sales automation.
- 6. Digital sales offers data: By focusing on digital sales, you can get to know the needs of your customers better with well-developed CRM systems.
- 7. More flexibility for employees: By eliminating travel, employees gain a better work-life balance and can organize themselves better when working remotely.
- 8. Less CO2 emissions: Ultimately, fewer trips lead to large CO2 savings.
What are the new challenges for marketing and sales?
The hybrid structures have many advantages, but also lead to new demands on managers in sales and marketing. While in the past all visits and events took place on-site, flexibility, adaptability and careful consideration depending on the customer profile and situation are now necessary. So you have to ask yourself: “When are online formats appropriate and when do on-site visits and events make more sense?”.
Hybrid Selling: Insights for B2B Sales
In the hybrid selling study, one crucial difference stands out: new customers vs. existing customers. While on-site visits are almost always necessary for new customers, existing customer care can be done digitally in almost all areas.
Furthermore, you have to remain flexible in the hybrid model depending on the customer and design the buyer journey individually. Virtual visits were not accepted equally by all customers. According to study results, smaller customers showed less acceptance for online formats than large global accounts and key accounts. So see how your respective customer reacts to the new changes.
If you, as a large B2B company, cannot react flexibly to your customers, a lack of adaptability can cost you market share. Smaller competitors are often more agile and can adapt more quickly.
Hybrid Selling: Insights for B2B Marketing
In marketing, too, you must now ask yourself how you can synchronize digital and analog touchpoints with each other. Onsite events in combination with digital trade fairs are one possibility, but can also mean double the effort with the same return.
Remain flexible in marketing in order to be able to react to market and customer requirements and to avoid a structural disadvantage compared to the competition. Rigid patterns are only disruptive in this situation.
The fact that marketing and sales in B2B companies have to move closer together is not new. Hybrid selling reinforces the need, but also the benefit. The buyers journey can now be designed even better together with digital touchpoints up to the concrete sales pitch. Online lead generation, marketing automation and lead nurturing provide the fuel for the sales engine.”
Robin Heintze, Managing Director morefire“
Hybrid selling: Digital marketing as a sales lever
Hybrid selling models offer great potential for interlinking digital marketing and partly digital sales and using synergies.
Marketing and sales can use social networks together and use the increased marketing automation together. For example, you can use lead scoring for cross- and upselling.
In hybrid selling approaches, marketing automation is a key benefit. This can act as the perfect link between marketing and sales. Because through relevant content, automatically played out to the right target group, high-quality contact points are established. If the lead shows more interest, it can be handed over to sales at the right time.
Your buyer’s journey could look like this in the future:
- Marketing: Initiation digital via marketing
- Marketing / Sales: Contact is passed on to Sales
- Sales: Digital sales preparation
- Sales: On-site appointment before/when signing the contract
- Sales: Further support and project management digitally
- Sales: Customer retention and relationship management partly digital and on-site
Conclusion: hybrid selling as a future sales setup
The results of the study imply that on-site visits will be reduced in the future and online customer visits will be used more.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christian Schmitz
Hybrid selling paves the way to a new and more effective B2B sales structure that can be supported with digital marketing. By coordinating marketing and sales, you can use important contact points to the customer for yourself.
When you consider the right mix of analog and digital customer engagement touchpoints, you can increase the productivity of your employees and give them more flexibility and remote working. You can use free capacities, for example, for more intensive market cultivation or for more intensive contact with small customers.