Digital Selling: B2B sales during COVID

Juan Luis Polo

19 March 2021

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Early on the development of our business, we made a guiding principle decision: Travelling to sell was expensive and wasteful.

– Tom Searcy and Carajane Moore, How to Sell In Place: Closing Deals in the New Normal

Are your clients willing to meet “as usual” lately? When was the last time you sat down for lunch or coffee with one of them? Have you been able to attend any industry event to meet potential leads?

If business-to-business (B2B) sales were already complex and highly competitive before COVID, the pandemic has definitely added to the complexity. All in-person activities stopped overnight, and screens and social distancing became our new reality. 

In that context, as companies we had to reflect on how we could continue selling even if we were not able to meet with our clients.  And this thought is still valid one year later, as we have not yet gone back to the “golden” past of face-to-face events, seminars, trade fairs and congresses so dear to the commercial force. 

The truth is, the interruption of usual sales techniques has left many B2B sales teams feeling disoriented and confused. With no clear prospect of beating the virus anytime soon, they find themselves wandering around as they realise that potential clients are not so keen to take phone calls or have a coffee any more.

However, COVID may have changed the rules of the game for good. According to a study by McKinsey, both B2B sellers and buyers have a preference for the new digital reality. The reasons given: ease of scheduling, travel cost savings and increased confidence in comparison to face-to-face interaction.

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Source: McKinsey & Company

At this point, all we can do is ask ourselves: how can we make the most out of this situation? Join us on the journey towards digital selling: the future of B2B businesses.

What exactly is digital selling?

We could say it’s the trending tag among those of us in sales, or the holy grail that is helping us sell at a time when traditional formulas are no longer available. But let’s start by defining it more precisely: digital selling is all about selling more and better by building personal relationships through digital tools. 

In other words, the ultimate goal, the real driving force behind sales, is to build relationships. To do so, we count on two assets that feed off each other: on the one hand, digital tools; on the other, our personal brand, which provides us with visibility, presence and trustworthiness and, eventually, will be what turns the relationship into a concrete commercial transaction.  

You may be wondering how your personal brand has anything to do with all this, if what we are talking about is selling through digital tools. But the truth is that your “digital self” is of utmost importance and directly influences the success of your digital selling activity: the way others perceive us makes all the difference.

This is what digital selling expert and Linkedin coach Sam Rathling, expert in sales has defined as the VCO concept: Visibility + Credibility= Opportunity.

In order to gain visibility on digital platforms such as LinkedIn, your profile should be complete and well thought out. Your activity within the community and, of course, the quality of the content you publish also play an important role. 

If your Linkedin profile is not updated, now’s the time: review and improve the aspects you hadn’t taken care of, because everytime you send someone an invitation to connect they will be looking closely at who you are, where you work, your skills, your references, your contacts…

Credibility, however, will come from how you (and your company) present yourself to others. This includes, on the one hand, the way you initiate and build relationships – it is advisable to not start selling from the very first message. On the other hand, profile positioning also plays a role. This involves the content you share and post, but also the way in which you engage with the community. In short, credibility depends to a large extent on how you approach relationship building and networking.

If you don’t properly develop these two elements, you will only be collecting contacts, not relationships… let alone opportunities. 

How to find new clients with Linkedin and Sales Navigator

The fact that people are feeding networks like LinkedIn for free is fascinating at the very least: we are constantly creating and promoting content, and yet the platform doesn’t give us a single penny in return.  

Actually, we do get paid: with relevance and visibility, which are essential to make a name for yourself in an increasingly crowded market. That’s why users keep nurturing the platform and turning it into the largest user-generated database.

At this point, before we start looking for leads through LinkedIn’s search engine, we must first ask ourselves who our target customer is. We often give so much importance to tools, without being very clear about what we are going to use them for and what we want to find with them. 

Once we have answered this question, we will be ready to make the most of the Linkedin search engine, a powerful tool that lets us access the largest professional database in the world. If we devote the necessary time to it, it can become a real treasure trove. 

Alongside Linkedin’s free version which we all use, the Sales Navigator plan significantly raises the stakes. Its different packages (Profesional, Team and Enterprise), allow for information exchange among team members, and connect Linkedin profiles to the company’s CRM system (Dynamics and Salesforce). Although this added value comes at a price, it represents a turning point in our commercial activity, and places us in the best position to develop our digital selling activities. 

So, what are we up against?

  1. Digital is now the main channel for consolidating human relations

Our presence in the virtual world, our Linkedin profile, the content we publish and, in short, the way we interact with others in the digital sphere have turned into the magic formula to approach people who could become potential clients.

  1. Content is a salesperson’s best weapon in 2021

If the content we create is relevant to our audiences, it will allow us to drive engagement, to show what we are capable of, to build credibility and, ultimately, to amplify our chances of signing a sales agreement.  

  1. Marketing and sales are very close to being one single team

When the relationship between a salesperson and their customer is fuelled by relevant content, the team that can best assist them in their tasks is the company’s marketing and communications team.

  1. User experience does not only concern UX professionals anymore 

What can sales professionals do to ensure our customer or lead has the best experience when interacting with us? Traditional face-to-face networking opportunities, such as meals or after work drinks, used to solve 99% of our sales. Now, that same percentage needs to be solved in the distance. Our digital presence is the first step of the digital selling customer journey, and will be present at every stage of the user experience.

  1. Digitalisation has become super-digitalisation, and it doesn’t only involve the final consumer. 

In order to make the most out of the available technology, sales teams will need to believe in the power of digital transformation, as their clients are also embracing digitalisation at a fast pace.

If there’s anything that characterises us at Good Rebels, is the fact that we walk the talk.  15 years ago, we chose to believe in a world where digital content would yield relevance and opportunities. We were right: inbound marketing has been the best asset to grow our business for many years now. 

We were advocates of Social Selling way before the name came into use. Now it is the basis of our commercial work, with Sales Navigator’s Enterprise package connected to Salesforce. Moreover, we are also helping our clients train their own sales teams, showing them how to leverage digital tools and build their personal brand. 

Despite social distancing, sales have never brought us so close together. This new sales paradigm is more human than ever before. Welcome.