Four Traits of Top-Performing B2B Digital Sellers
Understand the mindset and strategies of the most successful brands. Hint: Teamwork makes all the difference.
In our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report, we found that top-performing digital sellers have four traits in common: Teamwork, they excel at cross-functional alignment around both strategy and operations; Strategy, from long-term strategy to short-term plans, these sellers align across functions to deliver results; Mindset, Companies that embrace a shift in culture and skillsets earn a competitive advantage; and Customer Focus, top B2B digital sellers use data and cross-functional teaming to deliver what the customer needs. Use our infographic, 4 Traits of Top-Performing B2B Digital Sellers to start conversations in your organization to transform sales.
The Traits of Top Performers
Sounds easy, but the reality is many sales and marketing organizations don’t work well together. Our 2020 State of Digital Selling research found that only 31% of sales reps view marketing as essential to their success. There are also digital cultural barriers: marketing uses analytics and automation at a much higher rate than sales, who focus more on direct relationships with prospects and customers. As digitization of both the sales/marketing funnels and customer experiences increases, handoffs between the two teams become more problematic.
In our research, we found two key gaps between average performers and the top 10% of performers: collaborative customer insight sharing and planning long-term digital strategy. 67% of top performers strongly agree that their marketing, sales, and service teams work well together to provide sellers with real-time data intelligence on prospect activity (vs. only 36% among average performers). As prospects move through the funnel, these teams excel at real-time sharing of new insights, sharing a more complete picture of the customer. This could be as simple as marketing informing sales that a key account clicked on an ad to target sales’ best next move, to as complicated as knowing a prospect downloaded a white paper, how far they read and which topics they spent the most time reading.
Top sales performers collaborate closely with marketing on long-term technology roadmaps that lay the foundation for shared digital transformation of both internal enablement technology, as well as customer experience. Among top performers, 76% collaborate to put in place a technology roadmap for how digital tools and data will integrate over time, compared to only 38% of average performers.
A turning point in strategy collaboration started in 2007 with the introduction of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Account-Based Sales (ABS). Our research has found that B2B sellers who follow these strategies outperform their peers. Sixty-three percent of top performers use well-coordinated teams and unique sales planning with marketing, which persists through ongoing teamwork throughout the funnel (vs 43% of average performers). We also found 47% of top performers focus on industry vertical, vs. only 27% among average performers.
ABM/ABS is a great starting point, but in this year’s research we’re seeing a trend towards more frequent planning, to the point of “always on” dynamic plans.
Companies that embrace a shift in culture and skill sets earn a competitive advantage. A key shift in mindset is needed around trusting data and analytics that form the foundation of sales automation. Sales teams need to develop trust in sales automation and the data that fuels it.
In our research, 63% of top performers strongly agree that sellers embrace the adoption of sales enablement tools, are certified as part of training, and managers are held accountable for tool adoption, vs. only 33% of average performers. Fifty-five percent of top sellers use of tools, AI and data analytics consistently identify best next moves that move forward prospects to conversion (vs. 32% of average performers). There’s a clear gap in mindset among top performers vs. the average.
Top sales organizations prioritized customer satisfaction above metrics such as sales quota achievement and recognize the link between customer satisfaction and quota. Recognizing and addressing the diversity of buying committees typical in B2B needs is a key success factor, as well as customizing sales approaches by industry vertical. Today’s B2B buyers expect sellers to understand their industry to the point that they become a trusted partner in their own success.
Top performers focus on existing customers over acquisition. For B2B sellers, that means understanding their customer’s industry as a trusted advisor, and that they remain in close contact with both marketing and especially service to guide their sales plan by using those teams’ data insights. Our research data found this area represents the largest gap between top performers and the average: 73% of top performers say their sales process is defined around the customer journey and informed by rich data analytics (vs. 39% among the average); and 75% of top performers (vs 55% index) said improving customer satisfaction was their top priority.
What You Can Do
For these 4 areas that separate the top 10% of performers vs. the average, consider these tips (and learn more in-depth strategies in our 2020 State of Digital Selling research report):
- Use Slack or another enterprise social network to better connect team members among sales, marketing and customer success. Use hashtags to share customer success stories; surprising data analytics; and connect to your CRM to share key account information.
- Create shared digital dashboards with key metrics for each team to illuminate handoffs between teams that need attention and to better understand where your partner teams are focused.
- Form a joint sales and marketing digital transformation working group and steering committee to share baseline capabilities, objectives and to plan a shared digital transformation vision.
- Ensure alignment between sales and marketing on industry vertical targets, buyer segments and customer journey(s).
- Create a “digital sales champion” program to recognize sellers that have successfully made the digital selling shift. Embed these champions in teams as advocates for digital, especially by sharing specific sales results tied to it.
- Find opportunities for joint digital skills classes among sales and marketing staff to both build relationships and offer mindset shift guidance. Marketing has gone through this transition, and personal stories of success will help sales teams get ready.
- Benchmark your data, that is, assess whether you have the right customer and prospect data to understand and deliver to customers what they need.
- Make shared customer success metrics (such as Net Promotor Scores) part of compensation incentives among marketing, sales and service. Have customer satisfaction lead sales team objectives.
Please feel free to share our infographic with your colleagues to start conversations that can improve your digital transformation of sales.