Ever worked to implement a significant change in a business? It usually takes 18 to 36 months to make dramatic shifts in how a company sells and serves customers. When you hit friction, the response is often to extend the timing of the change.

The COVID-19 outbreak has pushed companies across industries to sell in ways that many had considered “futuristic.” The crisis has reduced friction and accelerated changes – bringing the future of B2B sales into the present. The savviest organizations are already thinking creatively, identifying new and better ways of understanding and serving customers not just during the crisis but well beyond. They’re focused on three critical tenets to unleash creativity – and turning it into results.

Timing is everything

Understandably many companies are still working through the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. There is no end in sight, and much uncertainty remains. Despite that, there is an opportunity to go beyond stopgap solutions. By building on the momentum – including tectonic shifts in how people are interacting with providers of all kinds – companies can get positioned for continued success with digitally powered customer journeys.

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Now is the time to refresh your understanding of your customers and the ways in which you engage them. Work quickly to understand how their needs have evolved in recent months.

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'Rediscover' your customers

A recent study found that B2B sales across the US, UK and EU were down 17 percent year over year while B2B site traffic was up 32 percent. That comes as no surprise. With field sales teams – along with many customers and prospects – working remotely, the customer journey has been upended.

Now is the time to refresh your understanding of your customers and the ways in which you engage them. Work quickly to understand how their needs have evolved in recent months. Find out if their channel usage and preferences shifted. Above all, ferret out the opportunities to better address those changing needs and preferences.

That might include repurposing existing products and services to meet and exceed new unfulfilled customer needs. For example, for telecommunications companies B2B prospects now include millions of at-home businesses. What kind of new bundles could be assembled to serve this fast-growing B2B segment? It might also include finding new ways of engaging with customers. Wealth managers might consider deploying bots to support not only internal operations but also their largest enterprise accounts. It’s time to set aside assumptions about what customers will accept and start imagining what is now possible.

Link data to value. Then execute!

While working to maintain momentum and identify new or evolving opportunities, stay focused on value: What will translate into greater revenue for your business?

When scanning the horizon for changes in supply and demand, leverage emerging customer data sources and predictive AI tools. These resources can help revolutionize customer targeting – including uncovering propensity-to-buy shifts in real time. Leading food service distribution companies provide a compelling example. Some of their sales teams are using anonymized geo-spatial data, social media sentiment and government announcements to identify geographic hot-spots as the economy continues to reopen.

Data helps crystallize opportunities; executing on those opportunities is arguably the greater challenge. Form creative, cross-functional teams to pioneer new service offerings and enhancements. Empower them to work quickly using an agile approach – continuously innovating, testing, learning and refining. Above all, get to the finish line so you can deliver tangible results for the business.

We have all been handed complex challenges as well as an unparalleled opportunity to reinvent business models and reintegrate the value our organizations provide into a new societal landscape. The world of B2B sales will never be the same. Read more guidance as you react, adapt and rise to meet the moment.

Bruce Holley

Senior Managing Director, North America Lead – Customer, Sales & Service

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