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The B2B sales process has always required a quick-shifting mix of discovery calls, demos, and detailed pricing to nurture top-of-funnel buyer engagement into committed customers. In recent years, finding the right cadence for these traditional tasks has been challenging for sales teams. Potential customers have a bounty of online research to tackle, more and more specialized products to choose from, and ever-present budget concerns to manage.

Yet according to Hubspot research, 54% of buyers still want to see a product demo on the first call. A RAIN Group study found that 71% of B2B buyers say that they want to hear from vendors early in the buying cycle.

That means the role of B2B sales reps isn’t a dimming star. B2B sales reps are more important than ever, orbited as they are by changing customer expectations and business needs that haven’t become any less urgent. Here are a few ways to manage the modern push and pull of customer needs during today’s sales process:

Commit to consultative selling

B2B customers may be coming into sales calls armed with more extensive product research and market knowledge, but they’re also coming to the table with more and more complex internal buying centers. With multiple stakeholders typically involved in a sale, sales reps will often become the conductor of a symphony of competing priorities and corporate goals from the moment they pick up the phone or answer a new lead inquiry.

Customers tend to expect a bit of clairvoyance from sales reps to solve their very specific enterprise challenges. Instead of providing a list of matching system features or simply scoring leads based on technical requirements, sales reps who take on a consultative role and provide customized plans of action will develop trusting partnerships that clients crave.

Shore up your social presence

The move towards consultative selling starts before you even pick up the phone. A strong, personalized online presence can enable each sales rep to project a trustworthy, active-listener image on an ongoing basis and attract potential clients to your company through the regular publishing of thought leadership articles, tips, and more.

For individual sales reps, social media profiles are critical platforms for prospecting and client research. It’s also a direct way to amplify relevant use cases to potential clients, evangelize how those use cases developed, candidly discuss the particular challenges that your clients faced, and show how you helped your clients overcome those challenges as a team.

Focus on customer experience

Sales timelines may be getting longer, but expected ROI timelines are getting shorter by the day. Buyers can spend months years vetting systems, vendors, and project requirements. After a long purchasing process, they need even quicker wins to demonstrate the value of enterprise purchases.

During the prospecting phase, it’s key for sales reps to dig for these areas of quick wins and present clients with a realistic, detailed framework for implementation. Ease of deployment doesn’t just mean rapidly turning systems on once a contract has been signed, though; it also covers the entire brand experience, from initial contact to product demo scheduling, negotiation, contracting and more.

Sales leaders should be just as diligent about improving behind-the-scenes communication flow between departments and systems as they are about front-facing customer service. For the buyer, it’s all part of the same purchasing experience.

Know the product roadmap

Beyond a product’s competitive functionality, buyers need assurance that current data access and data security features will not just stand the test of time, but improve as technology evolves. Rapid advancements in big data analytics and reporting, for example, require the possibility of connectivity with other systems within a client’s IT infrastructure.

Even if your products don’t address all of a potential customer’s long-term goals, sales reps today can expedite large purchases by demonstrating how the product roadmap aligns with the industry challenges that a potential client faces not just today, but in the years ahead.

Learn more about aligning sales with today’s customer demands in this webcast.

Author Bio

Shawn Willett

Shawn Willett is Senior Director, Marketing Programs at SAP Sales Cloud, part of the SAP Customer Experience unit of SAP. With over 20 years of experience in enterprise software roles, he is responsible for articulating the unique benefits that SAP Sales Cloud's suite of sales effectiveness applications can provide to modern sales organizations.

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