As Sales and Marketing professionals, we know that the Digital World is upon us, where this digital transformation is being accelerated by the COVID 19 Pandemic and is touching all aspects of our businesses.

The impact on sales is meaningful and requires that we take a thoughtful and practical look at how we interact with our customers. In the Business to Business (B2B) world, we need to start by looking at Why and How customers purchase our products and what is changing. I’d like to explore and contrast the two most prevalent B2B situations – a simple Product sale and a complex Solution sale.

Product Sales

If your company is product-focused, the primary sales differentiator today is the perception and reputation of your brand, where this perception extends to the ability to self-serve and purchase through a simple and effective online environment. The more commoditized the offering and the greater the number of competitors, the more critical the digital customer experience becomes. In point of fact, online product sales may eventually eliminate the traditional sales model involving representatives with direct inter-personal relationships.

As we move through this evolution to a purely digital model, the temptation is to aggressively reduce the sales force and many firms are doing just that. The preferred strategy that the most successful firms are adopting is to repurpose and redeploy their proven salespeople into the role of Subject Matter Expert. In this new role, the skills and technical experience of your team with the greatest depth of product knowledge and understanding of the customer requirements are used to improve Brand Awareness and Reputation.

The most effective practices in the digital realm will be through promotional activities and real-time sales support, greatly enhancing the customer experience. This will elevate the Subject Matter Experts to the role of leading Brand Ambassadors as they become key advisors to your digital team. When their product knowledge is further leveraged through online video, webinars and customer support, it is possible to optimize the digital experience.

Complex or Engineered Solutions

Looking at the Complex, or Engineered Solution sale, customer commitments are made based on trust. Previously trust has been with a traditional salesperson through their relationship with their customers, where they effectively own and drive the customer experience, providing expertise and the appropriate resources as necessary to progress the sale. With the travel and visitation limitations resulting from the Pandemic, this trust must be created and managed differently, with a strong reliance on digital assets that provide as much as possible of the expertise and experience that the sales professionals would normally have applied in person. With brand reputation remaining critical, online tools for design, estimation, configuration and solution templates need to become a focus.

In terms of the sales team itself, we can see and drive the same evolution as in the product sales model, where the sales team members with the most recognized experience and expertise move to the roles of Brand Ambassador and Subject Matter Expert. The near-term focus will shift to promoting and positioning these key individuals in the digital realm. As travel limitations are lifted, these key individuals remain in these expert roles, actively engaging with key clients in support of the broad sales force.

This post on The Changing Role of the Salesperson is part 1 of a 3-part series that outlines critical considerations of the Customer Experience. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear more about part 2 on Sales Enablement as a Fundamental Pivot Point.