By Quique Nagle, CEO, Advisr.
The economic outlook remains cloudy for 2023, so B2B organizations need to embrace data and automation more than ever to manage productivity and drive revenue growth. When economies slow, B2B organizations lean into sales and marketing automation to maximize existing resources. For many, it’s more than just a strategic “nice-to-have.” It can mean the difference between success and failure.
As businesses strap in for a future of economic uncertainty in 2023 here are some tech-forward steps B2B leaders should take to maintain productivity and growth.
Go All In On Automation
Automating manual sales and sales support processes is an obvious area of opportunity for resource strained B2B leaders scrambling to find alternative ways to maintain revenue as opportunities decrease.
Thanks to COVID, one of the key distinctions between the current economic uncertainty and what businesses have experienced in the past is the degree to which sales and marketing automation has already transformed the business landscape.
Market research in 2019 looked at sales enablement, for example, as a kind of luxury. It predicted the market to be at $2.6B by 2024. That was pre-pandemic. In 2020, alone, the global market grew to $1.3B.
Many companies already have platforms in place that take advantage of basic sales data and automation tools. Whether it’s setting customer outreach priorities, automated email cadences or CRM updates, these tools demonstrate the value of automating sales operations by speeding up manual sales processes and by allowing marketing content distribution and prospecting research to be more efficient.
For most, it will simply be a case of finding a platform that lets you go deeper.
AffinityX – a global provider of industry-leading digital marketing, advertising, creative, and print solutions – demonstrates the power of sales automation to help cover recession-based losses. Clients who implemented their more advanced sales operating solution increased proposal generation speed by 5x and drove a 2x jump in order value and 10-15% increase in close rates.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sales and marketing automation platforms now offer data-driven product portfolio recommendations, automated custom collateral output, and consolidated workflows through tech stack connectivity across the entire sales process.
Studies have shown that organizations utilizing these platforms drove a 14.5% increase in sales productivity annually with mover-over-month leads passed to sales increasing by three-fold. A recent analysis of another major media company using this level of deeper automation across sales engagements showed similar results.
The data revealed they were able to reduce the total time taken to generate proposals by 95% (from 3 hours to 15 minutes) and increase closing orders by 116%. Businesses which simply implemented sales and marketing tools saw a 451% increase in the number of qualified leads and a decrease in sales cycles.
Taking greater advantage of sales and marketing automation technology is an easy way for B2B organizations to help blunt the kind of anticipated revenue shortfalls recessions bring while still maintaining productivity.
Prioritize People with Performance Data
B2B organizations will also face many “people” challenges in a shrinking economy. These range from overcoming normal employee churn to quiet quitting to internal cutbacks. Indeed, many organizations are still dealing with ongoing HR repercussions due to Covid.
The difference now is that HR challenges like these will be happening against the backdrop of an increasingly tight business environment. Having the ability to better analyze performance and support human resources takes on greater significance in such an environment.
Sales leaders will need the ability to move beyond typical success metrics when it comes to sales performance analysis. This will not only drive better performance results from their human resources but help empower them, as well.
There is a certain level of performance data most sales leaders are now accustomed to. Standard performance data sets, like monthly sales growth, target margins or quote-to-close ratios, only scratch the surface of what is possible. New “next-level” data sets provide visibility into performance markers like product composition, product goal alignment, and product sell-through rates. These allow sales organizations to not only more accurately assess who or what is working but also determine why products are outperforming others and how to better sell those products.
Sellers who had access to indicators such as product composition and goal alignment saw a direct increase in proposal budgets on the order of +17%. Likewise, sales orgs who had access to deeper performance metrics found that 82% of their sales reps hit their quota quarter over quarter.
B2B sales leaders who have access to a robust performance data suite can also be more efficient and effective in their interactions with reps. Coaching with this kind of data can help reps better interpret their prospect’s needs, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they are most likely to face in the market, and have a firmer grasp on overall business goals.
Simply being able to provide a modicum of coaching support can have tangible results. Research from The Corporate Executive Board Company indicates that reps who receive just three hours of coaching per month exceed their goals by 7%, boost revenue by 25%, and increase average close rates by 70%.
It can be a game of inches during a recession. Taking advantage of deeper performance data is vital to extracting all the potential revenue that’s still on the table.
Flex Your Sales Strategies
Having the right tools and the right people in place only means so much if organizations can’t efficiently deploy that intelligence to adjust their larger sales strategies in real-time. In the coming months, B2B companies will simply not have the luxury to throw good money against bad.
Those same automated sales platforms that provide tactical performance insights can also be used to inform larger data-driven sales strategies. Many of them offer data insights and the ability to act upon those insights in real-time. B2B leaders should take advantage of that.
Data-driven sales strategies can have a profound effect upon overall revenue goals. According to a Business Application Research Center survey, data-driven sales increased profits by as much as 8%. They also helped reduce the overall cost of operations by 10%, for good measure.
A recent study showed that access to these kinds of data-driven insights enabled organizations to adjust and pitch a more diversified product suite to customers which resulted in higher order values and ultimately more revenue.
Having real-time data that is both actionable and adaptive is even more impactful. Sales orgs will need to be looking at their data and adjusting their strategies more frequently than just once a quarter or once a year. This is particularly true given the kind of macroeconomic volatility we’ve experienced over the past 11 months.
Even the definition of ‘real-time’ among businesses has evolved significantly over the last year. Recent findings show almost 25% of businesses across the globe now define “real-time” as a millisecond or less. In that same study, 80% reported an increase in revenues attributable to “real-time” data of $2.6 trillion.
Additionally, having a real-time, data-driven sales approach can help businesses improve customer retention by helping sales orgs recognize earlier on the behaviors and signals that indicate a client relationship is at risk.
According to Harvard Business Review, “58 percent of business leaders around the world say they’ve seen marked increases in customer retention as a result of real-time data analytics.” Similarly, a Bain & Company market study suggests that companies who increase customer retention by just 5% can actually increase profits by more than 25%.
While a prolonged recession may be inevitable, organizations can take steps now to ensure it isn’t terminal.
A previous McKinsey’s Marketing and Sales report underscores this point: “Companies that inject big data and analytics into their operation show productivity rates and profitability that are five percent to six percent higher than those of their peers. That’s an advantage no company can afford to ignore.”
A deeper embrace of automation, performance analysis and sales intelligence not only diversifies the use of technology across more facets of B2B businesses, but also helps to measure human resources and arm business leaders more accurately with adaptive sales strategies that are vital to navigating turbulent business headwinds.