Introducing the 5 Stages of B2B Sales Transformation

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See an ad, find the product in store, buy it. Meet a sales rep, test the product, place an order. The days of simple sales cycles are long gone. Today’s sales environment is a complex landscape of technologies, content, processes, and people engineered to entice buyers expecting seamless, relevant, and personalized experiences. If that doesn’t happen with a B2B seller, buyers quickly move on. In fact, a recent study from SiriusDecisions found that 81 percent of B2B buyers based purchase decisions on the buying experience, favoring it over product or price.

To meet buyers’ high expectations and manage the challenging sales landscape, companies must involve their entire organization in maturing the sales process. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s achievable and critical. In a Salesforce study, 75 percent of business buyers report that connected processes, including organization-wide knowledge of a customer’s needs and smooth hand-offs between departments, are critical to winning their business.

As with any journey, knowing the starting point is central to getting to the destination. Using a model to assess the maturity of a company’s sales process is a good place to start. Here’s a strategic example, along with some key questions, to determine where you are today and how you can prepare for the next stage of the transformation process.

Stage 1. Startup Selling

At this stage, your organization is just getting started. It has a product but no brand recognition. A small team approaches sales by creating presentations, cold calling, and learning about prospective buyers.

Key questions: Do we know what’s resonating with customers? Do we have the content and tools to help new reps be successful?

Stage 2. Success Selling

After some initial sales success, the company has an emerging brand identity and a growing marketing function focused on creating customer-facing content. At this stage, many organizations introduce CRM software and put other essential systems in place. CRM is a must-have tool for any company serious about maturing its sales process. According to a Salesforce study, without a CRM system, 79 percent of marketing leads aren’t turned into sales. The sales team knows what works and shares tribal knowledge to help the overall sales function succeed, but there is often no formal sales enablement process. 

Key question: Are we ready for a formal sales enablement function that will allow us to scale our success?

Stage 3. Scalable Selling

With increasing sales success and a better understanding of what drives it, the organization is ready to scale. It may make larger investments in back-end systems to support the sales cycle. The marketing team is focused on protecting the brand and tying marketing and content to revenue. Sales enablement is now a recognized function, with an emphasis on on-boarding and training around product launches.

Key question: Can we replicate the success of our best reps? How can we turn our mid-performers into superstar reps?

Stage 4. Guided Selling

The company’s sales team articulates unique value to buyers and delivers interactive, personalized buyer experiences. Marketing efforts are segmented and personalized, and the brand is synonymous with customer-centricity. Marketing and sales are well connected and co-own account-based marketing (ABM).

At this stage, companies often invest in additional systems to automate workflows and to support personalized marketing. Sales enablement expands to the entire customer-facing organization with continual learning and coaching for each unique role on the go-to-market team.

Key question: Is the buying experience interactive and personalized or are our reps still presenting standard slides?

Stage 5. Collaborative Selling

At the collaborative selling stage, a company’s buyers can expect a seamless purchase journey and experiences blending self-service with high-value consultative selling. Marketing and sales are unified in engaging C-level buyers with personalized content and dynamic systems. Sales enablement offers personalized, real-time coaching for all customer-facing teams.

Following the stages of the sales transformation and allocating resources to the process will ensure a company builds lasting connections with current customers and fosters a pipeline of prospects. And that commitment will make a bottom-line difference year after year.

Theresa O’Neil is the chief marketing officer at Showpad, a sales enablement platform that combines sales content, readiness, and engagement.

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