What a year! We can all agree 2020 wasn't exactly what we expected. However, looking ahead with renewed optimism, we're continuing tradition and predicting the most important sales trends in 2021.
Things have changed, but sales activity hasn't stopped. The pandemic forced many companies to rethink their strategies, and we saw remote sales become common almost overnight. Going forward, sales and marketing teams will be more creative and resourceful, building on the lessons learned in the last few months. As a result, companies will refine their strategies with a focus on a new digital customer journey with multiple touch points and channels across various channels.
A renewed focus on the digital journey that puts the customer at the center. That's the premise in which we're predicting next year's sales trends—and here they are:
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👉 These are the B2B sales trends to watch in 2021.
B2B Sales Trends 2021
1. The digital customer journey will be on top of the corporate agenda
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, and now remote sales are more important than ever. For sales organizations, especially those lagging behind, it's time to shift focus from traditional, offline strategies to more modern digital tactics.
In the coming months, companies will rethink a prospect's path to become a customer. We'll see more salespeople spend time on social selling, sharing relevant content, and building relationships—in place of traditional cold calling. For their part, marketers will learn to be more data-driven to deliver highly targeted campaigns and personalized customer experiences. For example, using custom industry categories can help marketers and salespeople create more accurate target segments by pinpointing exact industries.
2. Companies will meet the buyer's expectations of a multi-channel, personalized experience
When selling and buying happen in the digital world, buyers enter the funnel at any stage. Also, they aren't tied to a single channel. Some people prefer to read blogs and ebooks. Others want to ask questions on the chat and watch how-to videos. Different buyers, different preferences.
Buyers demand to be served in the channels they prefer. To meet such expectations, companies will experiment with many different promotional, distribution, and purchase channels to offer a seamless buying experience regardless of channels and devices.
We believe strategies that help orchestrate multi-channel campaigns, such as account-based marketing, will gain popularity in 2021.
3. Customer Data Platforms will deliver a unique, unified view into customers' minds and needs
In a world of countless touch points and interactions, salespeople and marketers will need a little extra help to manage their valuable customer data. We believe customer data platforms (CDPs) becoming more common will enact customer-centric tactics. By having a 360-degree view of prospects and customers, companies will truly get acquainted with each and every individual in their database.
A consolidated and accurate supply of customer data will also facilitate unified multi-channel sales and marketing efforts. With a systematic approach to data in place, our prediction is marketers will enjoy the freedom to deliver more creative campaigns.
4. Analytics will solve the B2B attribution chaos
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." A century later, this quote by John Wanamaker is still true for more than half of marketing organizations. According to Salesforce research, only 41% of companies are using marketing attribution modeling. Without a model, how do you connect a simple action like a click on an ad to revenue noted in your CRM?
In 2021, we expect this number to increase. Sales and revenue operations pros will dig deeper into their custom multi-touch revenue attribution reports to better understand how different activities create revenue. Such models are especially useful in long sales cycles with multiple stakeholders involved.
5. Sales pipeline stages will be customer-centric
If we're increasingly talking about a customer-centric buying process, why are we still tracking deal according to salespeople's actions? Up until now, sales pipeline stages represent each step of the sales process, from lead to customer, according to the sales person's actions: "prospecting list identified", "lead qualification", "meeting booked", "proposal out", and so on.
We believe pipeline stages will shift from representing what the salesperson has done to tracking customer's actions. It will be more beneficial to look at the pipeline and split opportunities in stages such as "needs identified", "potential vendors elected", or "budget and timeline decided". It just makes sense in today's B2B world.
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6. Micro-moments will be having a B2B moment
Google coined the term micro-moment to define intent-rich instants when people turn to a device to act on a need to learn, discover, or do something. In those moments, decisions are made, and preferences are shaped. In B2C, micro-moments are widely used to optimize the customer journey, increasing marketing ROI. With the massive increase of digital channels and data-driven marketing, we believe will start acting on those micro-moments next year.
B2B customers don't make impulse purchases, but they are more inclined to seek answers at particular moments. As an example, someone might be more willing to ask questions on your company's chat at the very moment they stumble upon quality content. In those moments, chatbots are a great tool that can be leveraged to help you convert more micro-moment opportunities. Chatbots can get the conversation started and connect a prospect to a sales rep.
B2B Sales Trends 2021: Runners-ups
Predicting the future isn't an easy thing, but sure it's fun. That's why we've also identified three other trends, which may or may not happen extensively in 2021, but are nevertheless exciting developments to watch.
- Security and privacy. There's no way around it. With B2B sales increasingly happening online and remotely, privacy and security issues will become pivotal to building trust with potential buyers
- Smart bot calls. Anybody likes bot calls? Not really... yet. Still, bot calls can be an incredibly helpful tool for both salespeople and buyers when the conversation and trust are already established. And, the technology is getting smarter. We predict we'll see more companies using bots to, for example, inform their customers of a product update.
- GPT-3 for B2B sales. GPT-3 is a natural language model that uses machine learning to generate human-like text. It's been much hyped in the past few months. While still in private beta, we expect new apps to pop up and use GPT-3 to generate a wealth of content in seconds, from follow up emails or elevator pitches. Such content will help B2B salespeople to engage with prospects along their digital customer journey in a personalized and scalable way.
Review your strategies and tactics with our Sales Playbook Template, which we've updated for 2021.
Or: Download our Beginner's Handbook to Account-Based Marketing to learn how to orchestrate hyper-targeted, multi-channel campaigns.