B2B Sales: Digital trade and end customer sales have developed significantly in the corona pandemic. Sales to business customers. Unlike digital trade and end-customer sales, B2B sales to business customers often seem outdated. This is because, especially in medium-sized companies, digitization is primarily equated with technology. Customers and internal users are rarely the focus.
Mistake 1: Employees Are Not Yet Ready For Changes Through B2B Sales
Many companies initiate changes before they have checked whether they are even ready for it. This often leads to an overload of one’s organization, the build-up of resistance within the team, and ultimately a significant delay in the project’s progress – or even failure. You don’t send an occasional athlete to Iron Man in Hawaii right away. Top athletes set themselves ambitious but also achievable goals. You train step by step to get better.
At companies, I have found time and again that management or a board of directors wants to turn the lever towards digitization completely overnight. This is understandable both economically and psychologically, but it is still often the wrong way to go. Instead, it is of crucial importance to check your degree of maturity and to set realistic goals and timelines on the basis—culture, processes, individual training. Depending on the degree of maturity, this is the first investment step in digitization. We are not developing new software.
Mistake 2: Digitization Is Only Seen As An Efficiency Gain
Companies in the B2B environment with very high quality and sought-after products are often managed by engineers and business administrators, while marketing and sales play a subordinate role. That is why in most cases, the commercial level initiates the digitization process to save costs. But it is precisely such a one-dimensional alignment of digitization processes that tends to lead to falling income in the long term.
The criterion of service quality plays a role much less often than one would expect.” For this reason, B2B digitization initiatives are usually set up from the wrong perspective. Again and again, they lead past an additional customer benefit. There is no question that digital processes in B2B sales also create efficiencies. But you have to keep yourself in balance with the improved customer experience. I’ve seen a lot of projects where the CFO mindset was way too pronounced. There should have been a clear balance of internal interests in advance. Otherwise, customers tend to turn away in the long term.
Mistake 3: New Products Ignore Customer Needs
Too many companies think they already know what their customers need. But that is often not the case even with organizations that are close to their customers. Companies then use this knowledge to develop digital B2B platforms and processes that often ignore the needs of their customers. But then the money has already been spent, and the internal structures have been changed. The customer, as well as their own organization, has to live with it. This problem could have been avoided relatively easily.
Before starting a digitization project, customers should first be asked in a structured manner: Where would a digital process make your life easier? What additional service do you need that you may even be willing to spend more money on? In which areas do you see no need for change, or do you still prefer an analog solution? As is so often the case in life: if you ask, you get answers. Advance care usually doesn’t turn out well.
Mistake 4: Technology Commissioned – And The Finished Solution For B2B Sales Does Not Fit
A common procedure for implementing technical solutions that have been passed down for years is the following: After a project for B2B sales has been planned, the requirements are formulated, it is passed on to the technology – and the finished product is then accepted. But that doesn’t work anymore today. On the one hand, this is because the world does not know a standstill. On the other hand, because the solutions have to map increasingly complex processes. This means that in the planning phase, elementary points are not seen and thus forgotten. Even so, many companies today still operate with a very rigid model. And you have to make high investments to adapt your solution afterward.
Instead, technological development should no longer be decoupled from the requisitions. The recommendation: split the development of the solution into sub goals, constant feedback from the business side, immediate adaptation, and elimination of errors and problems during the development process. Tried and tested management tools such as Design Thinking or Scrum can help to redesign these processes.
Mistake 5: Customers Were Asked Once – And Had To Live With The Answers Afterward
What applies to involvement in technological development should also fundamentally apply to customers’ participation in the overall process. An initial survey regarding expectations and needs should not be an alibi for an insufficiently customer-centric solution in B2B sales. According to the motto: But you said in our investigation twelve months ago that this is what you wanted.
The world of customers is also constantly evolving. A few weeks after the survey, customers may suddenly see requirements completely differently because they see the situation differently. And that’s exactly why customers have to be constantly involved in the development of the technology and the processes behind it. Some companies think this will slow things down. And that’s true in many of the cases I’ve observed, by the way. However, it is a reasonable effort compared to the customer’s issues with a solution that they cannot or do not want to use. Then it often becomes really expensive, with increasing frustration on both sides. This should be avoided at all costs.