COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm
B2B interactions today are primarily taking place in digital channels. In a recent Forrester Sales Enablement Report, the report indicates that the average number of buying interactions has surged since the pandemic; from 17 pre-pandemic to 27 post-pandemic. Hybrid and virtual selling environments (partially forced by the pandemic) have made buyers innately digital these days. These ‘new buyers’ have needs and expectations that do not necessarily line up with traditional B2B sales and selling methods. B2B interactions typically happen these days without even meeting the salespersons directly on digital channels.
The question of the hour is, at a time of such huge shifts to digital ecosystems, what does Key Account Management entail in terms of sales organization?
How does one adapt to this new condition of data-driven B2B sales?
Shift to a world of ‘Click and Transact’
In the DemandFarm webinar ‘The Changing Role of Technology in Key Account Management’ featuring Forrester, Rick Bradberry, Principal Analyst & Executive Advisor B2B Sales at Forrester reaffirmed that what we do in terms of sales or account management and interactions with customers has changed a lot,
“I would say that COVID actually drove the trend that had existed before the pandemic. And that was a preference that buyers had for self-service experiences.”
Consumers have become accustomed to what Rick refers to as the world of “click and transact”. This consumer experience started in the B2B space of e-commerce for consumers. It went from physical products to digital products and these experiences have come into B2B. The SaaS field has amplified this further.
What We Want, When We Want It!
This mindset of shifting to self-service is accompanied by a second aspect in the B2B field. These new experiences and preferences created are produced by enabling capabilities.
“Why do we need to still architect these experiences with customers the way we did it 20 years ago?” asks Rick.
Consumers, i.e. B2B companies or buyers, or even users of those B2B products, not only prefer to do it themselves, but they are also able to do it because an enabling technology or experience exists that allows them to do so.
Great Expectations! (No, not the novel)
The shift to this era of ‘self-service’, in a sense has changed expectations on leaders to deliver experiences with customers as well. For company boards and CEOs, the focus has been retargeted on how to deliver the type of expected self-service experience using technology that customers truly prefer and want to use.
For Rick Bradberry, “That’s where Insights becomes a new mantra for leaders!”
In order to be able to deliver customization to customers, one needs an insight-driven approach to how to think about people, processes, talent, and the way the business is run.
Each generation brings in a completely different perspective within the workforce when it comes to digital compatibility in the sales process. This pertains to both the buyers and the sellers. What sort of culture is sought out also differs as a result. Rick Bradberry shared a few interesting data points in the webinar. According to him, when it comes to self-service in internal app stores, external marketplaces or within any product,
“An average Gen X buyer would look to do that 37% of the time. But in Gen Z (the younger generation), this goes up by 10% furthermore to 47%.”
Of course, we can’t forget the millennials who stick to about 43%. So, companies have to shift their understanding of the ‘sweet spot’ in B2B digital interactions.
What does this mean for you?
What do these trends say about Key Account Management in a digitally expanding B2B era? Things that have traditionally been done in Key Account Management have now become digitized and improved at the same time. Functions that were done tediously and manually before, are now enabled as capabilities within the technology and tools used by consumers. Such technologies facilitate improved quantitative and qualitative usage to understand your customers better and course-correct how you serve them. This will inevitably lead to better long-term value, bigger deal sizes, better forecasting and accuracy. Check out these 6 key takeaways for a successful digital key account management transformation.
What used to be a struggle when managing accounts before, for example – whitespace, becomes a metric that is easier to improve upon. These capabilities are now quickly being embedded in technology if they haven’t already. Additionally, with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence of AI, analytical tools are also progressively built to improve. Insights, the future of faster functionality, and assisted account planning awaits account management.
Built-in analytical tools do more than what humans are capable of doing in terms of number crunching. What the future holds is perhaps such intelligent tools giving a perspective that might otherwise go unnoticed to human eyes. This might boost functioning in Key Account Management in unparalleled ways!