8 B2B Sales Trends Leaders Need to Stay Ahead of in 2024
Tis the season to be selling… fa la la la la… you get the rest. 🎄
Sales leaders are deep in the midst of trying to win Q4. Not to mention motivate their teams during one of the year’s quietest times.
But the new year is fast approaching! There’s never a better time to look ahead. What B2B sales trends should sales leaders look out for as we approach 2024?
All will be revealed in this article! You’ll hear from Cognism’s in-house specialists, plus external SMEs and industry professionals.
These are the key B2B sales trends to stay ahead of in 2024. 🔮
Use the sticky menu to navigate or keep scrolling. 👇
1. Adapt sales to suit the digital buyer
Traditional B2B sales tactics aren’t going to cut it anymore. More and more buyers are looking to find solutions for themselves online.
So what should sales leaders focus on?
Let’s take a closer look. 🔎
Sales need to be experts at hybrid selling
Gone are the days when sellers could focus on one single channel. Now they need to be experts at both remote and in-person selling.
Knowing what channels to use to approach your buyer is vital in a competitive industry like sales.
David Bentham, Cognism’s Director of Sales Development, predicts that WhatsApp, Slack or Teams Connect will be the next big channels for cold outreach. He explains in the clip below.
Sales has to adopt a hybrid channel approach to reach the right customers.
Gauri Manglik, CEO and Co-Founder of Instrumentl, suggests that customers are more empowered than ever.
“Sales leaders should prepare for a future where every customer is empowered to make buying decisions on their own terms.”
“Because customers have never been more powerful than they are today, thanks to the internet and social media.”
“They can research products and companies online. They can look for reviews, compare prices, and make up their minds about what to buy - and who to buy it from. Without ever having to pick up the phone or walk into an office.”
“That means that sales leaders need to think about how they can use technology to help them connect with their customers in new ways.”
“They need to shift their focus from selling products based on specific features and benefits. Instead, they need to help customers understand why they should choose their company's brand over another.”
Capture customers with personalised content
Nowadays, B2B customers expect a seamless buying experience. They’re digital natives who can spot a generic lead gen e-book a mile away.
Instead, buyers want personalised, value-led content.
A study from McKinsey & Company found that only 8% of B2B organisations are set up to deliver highly personalised marketing. But of that 8%, three quarters report a growing market share.
But despite the clear rewards of creating more personalised content, roughly 57% of sellers say they don’t pay much attention to the content produced by their marketing teams.
The reason for this is that salespeople it’s generic and unresponsive.
What can B2B organisations do to improve this?
Using AI and analytics to add personalisation to content is one way. But better alignment between sales and marketing is also essential.
When asked what sales leaders want from marketing, Jonathon Ilett, Cognism’s VP UK & I, said:
“I think it’s important for marketing to be speaking with the sales teams about what’s happening on the ground day-to-day.”
“They need to be listening to our recorded calls to understand the language used. What’s resonating and what isn’t.”
“And then I’d want them to use this to produce marketing collateral that my team can actually use with prospects.”
Meet customers where they hang out
This has been a growing B2B sales trend.
Sales teams should focus on meeting customers in channels where they already are, instead of wasting time trying to lure customers into conversations.
A great way to use different channels to drive outbound sales is to make the most of your subject matter experts. Don’t forget to look within your organisation too. There could be some in-house sales and marketing influencers hiding in plain sight!
Morgan J. Ingram explains more in this post below.
2. SDR personal branding
This is another sales trend with a lot of buzz around it.
SDR personal branding was a big topic of discussion on LinkedIn in 2022 and is likely to be so again in 2024.
“People are spending more time on social media to build a pipeline in general. So it makes sense to build some level of personal brand on those platforms.”
“Building a strong network online is really useful during times of recession too. If a decision-maker you’ve been talking to gets laid off, you’ll still have other connections because of your strong network.”
An online personal brand can help build your credibility, especially if you’re prospecting on LinkedIn.
And in today's world, it’s possible that when you cold call someone, they could check your credentials.
People are sceptical of salespeople. So having credible content online could help your cause, at least for those initial introductions.
Morgan told us:
“I’m not saying you need a studio and a mic to film videos - but I do think you need to be thinking about your digital reputation.”
“Whether you’re building a brand or not, you have a reputation. So you may as well take ownership over making it a positive one.”
“I don’t even think you need to be creating your own content. But I do think you should be interacting with industry leaders, maybe sharing your findings from blog posts or relevant research.”
Ryan Reisert agreed, but he warned sellers not to focus too much of their time on it. He said:
“I do think that having a presence online can be helpful. If you’re sharing content online, then there’s a chance your target audience is following. This will help you to build trust and credibility.”
“However, this is only going to get you so far.”
Ryan believes that in times of recession, more and more people will want to be involved in B2B decisions. So it’s unlikely your personal brand will be what seals the deal.
It’s more likely to come down to the brand's overall reputation, rather than it coming down to your personal branding as a seller.
In addition, the decision-makers who hold the power aren’t likely to be spending huge amounts of time scrolling on LinkedIn.
“It can be tempting to dedicate a lot of your time to posting online. [Especially] when everyone around you is talking about building their personal profile. But when push comes to shove, it won’t matter.”
“I’m not saying you should have zero presence, but don’t make it your number one focus. Use this time wisely. Get on the phone and make your next call instead.”
3. Place (even more!) value on customer service
In times of economic uncertainty, it’s a good idea to focus on retaining the customers you have.
A customer success team that knows your product inside and out is a huge must. They can help customers achieve their sales goals with your product or service.
Gaining a reputation as a company that cares about its customers’ success will pay huge dividends. As teams scale back their budgets, you want companies to think of your product as a ‘must-have’ in their tech stack.
The best way to achieve this is to have a seamless onboarding experience and a proactive, helpful customer success team.
Then you can create powerful customer success videos, like this example below!
4. Rethink hiring strategies to retain the best people
What skills are relevant for modern sales teams?
Here’s something to think about:
B2B sales is no longer just about selling a product or service.
Successful reps need to have strong analytical skills and great digital literacy. They must be able to stay ahead of your customers’ needs.
Ryan argues that SDRs who are willing to put in the work will be the most in demand.
“Good SDRs are few and far between (and will get to cherry-pick the companies they work for!)”
“I’ve noticed this year - and have no doubt the trend will continue - that there are fewer people entering sales willing to put in the hard work it takes to be a good sales rep.”
“The SDRs who have that drive and apply it will get to choose the companies they work for because they’ll be in such high demand.”
Moving away from traditional sales structures
In 2024, the world of B2B sales will continue to move away from traditional sales structures.
What does that mean?
Sales will continue to move away from sellers being the gatekeepers of information. Instead, companies will put information out there in an accessible way.
The trend will be for customers to do their own research before approaching sellers.
Alex Kracov, CEO & co-founder of Dock, says:
“Buyers are spending less time talking to sales teams.”
“In the past, sales reps were gatekeepers for information. You needed to talk to sales to learn about the product, get access to a free trial or understand pricing.”
“Modern buyers prefer to do upfront research on sites like G2 or in different online communities. Increasingly, buyers want to try products before they make a decision, which has led to the rise of product-led software companies.”
“This dynamic changes the role of sales. Sales reps need to become more consultative and collaborate with buyers.”
“The best sales reps curate information for buyers, answer specific product questions and lead them through the sales process.”
“At Dock, we've seen growing demand for digital sales rooms as a way for sales teams to collaborate with buyers throughout the sales process."
Diversifying your sales team is also an ongoing trend that will continue to be important in 2024.
The greater the variety of sellers you have on your team, the better your organisation will be at connecting with different customers.
Ashleigh Early, CEO and Host of The Other Side of Sales podcast, said:
“You need the widest possible applicant pool to interview from."
"So make sure the first contact, from job posting all the way to onboarding, is set up to serve a wide range of people. Because your prospects come from a wide range of life experiences.”
Improving onboarding and training sessions
B2B sales teams that want to retain their staff need a robust onboarding process.
The Big Reframe report from McKinsey found that companies that tailor their learning programs for the needs of their sales reps are 1.3 times more likely to be outperformers.
From the report:
“Integrating micro-learning - what one sales leader referred to as ‘snackable content’ - in the sales curriculum overcomes the challenges of lengthy (virtual or in-person) training sessions.”
“Reps are more engaged and retain knowledge, and it takes less time. Training can be delivered through virtual platforms and integrated into reps’ customer relationship management so that it’s delivered when needed.”
Rachel Goldstone, Commercial SDR Manager at Cognism, highlighted this in her work onboarding SDRs.
To keep the content engaging, she organises scavenger hunts for SDRs to help them hone their skills.
“You tell them to filter a certain list and then find specific information about a contact. It’s just a better way to keep people engaged. Because sometimes you can tell people switch off during training sessions.”
“We focus a lot more on the admin tech side of things than we used to. That’s because we realised that was something that was hindering people’s progress.”
“If you’re not able to use the tech properly, like finding contacts for a sequence, then it doesn’t really matter how great you are at cold calling because you’re likely calling the wrong people.”
5. Optimise your tech stack
Over the last few years, many growing B2B companies bought a lot of tech that they haven’t implemented well.
In 2024, businesses will be looking to streamline their tech stack. The trend for B2B sales teams will be to get rid of any technology debt they may have built up.
Using AI to streamline time-heavy processes
Companies will undoubtedly keep using tech that streamlines time-heavy processes.
However, when it comes to the tech stack, sales leaders should always choose quality over quantity.
Ryan Reisert said:
“Sometimes it’s better to strip things back to basics. The tech should be working for the rep, not the rep having to work to use the tech.”
6. Navigating the recession
One unfortunate trend that’s likely to shape a lot of B2B activity in 2024 is the recession.
It’s easy to look at the worst-case scenario. No one will have any money to spend and sales conversations will be more challenging.
And in some cases, that might be true. Some companies will have to tighten budgets. Others will put in place more restrained, conservation-based strategies to weather the storm, meaning they’ll be harder sells.
But there will be other organisations that thrive during this time. For example, Zoom boomed during the pandemic thanks to the rise of remote work.
Even in a recession, investors still have money they need to invest. Companies will still need solutions and tools. And some companies will be able to find a niche and make it work to their advantage.
Morgan told us:
“You have to think about who your buyers’ buyer is. Who is your buyers’ customer? Is that market still thriving? And if it is, let me tap into that.”
Morgan’s argument here is similar to the philosophy that Alice de Courcy, Cognism’s CMO, took during the last downturn.
“We realised that some industries were hit harder than others during the pandemic, such as the events industry.”
“They’d ordinarily have been an audience we’d serve. But under the circumstances, we realised that would have been an inappropriate use of our time and focus.”
Instead, Cognism focused on serving the customers who still needed our product.
Yes, that did mean redefining our ICP, but the bottom line is this:
There are still opportunities in B2B if you’re willing to adapt to new circumstances.
7. Relationship selling and the full sales cycle
When economies become uncertain, people have a tendency to stick to what they know.
Most won’t be keen to take risks or jump ship to somewhere unknown.
This is where the relationships you’ve built over your career will come in handy.
“Relationship selling is going to be big. Anyone who has bought from you, who trusts you or anyone in your network who can vouch for you - now is the time to strengthen those relationships.”
“Referrals are always great, but word of mouth will become much more important. When recessions happen, people want to stay close to the people and brands they trust.”
Similarly, it makes sense to have the same person managing the full sales cycle.
This allows sellers to maintain prior relationships while also allowing them to build new ones.
For some salespeople, this will involve upskilling in order to manage each stage of the sales cycle. Morgan commented:
“Those who tend to succeed are the ones who are willing to learn to keep progressing.”
8. There’s no silver bullet for hard work!
You’ve likely heard of the phrase ‘spray and pray’; it’s a trend that’s been around in the sales industry for years.
Advancements in technology are allowing salespeople to automate more and more activities. The bad thing is that lazy sellers can send out generic messages to high volumes of people.
‘Spraying’ at prospects, then ‘praying’ that one or two of them reply.
Morgan said this about the practice:
“People are too concerned about how to send more emails, how to automate more of their processes or how to scale more, rather than upskilling themselves to deliver something of higher quality.”
“We shouldn’t focus on more; we should focus on better.”
The truth is, in SaaS sales, you’re more likely to get better results with a more tailored approach.
Don’t panic and throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. Focus on the right-fit prospects with a personalised message.
Prospects can tell a mile off if you’re sending a generic sales message. When they see that, they won’t believe you want to solve their problems. They’ll lose trust in you as a salesperson.
“Companies are saying ‘here are all these tools which mean you don’t need to do anything. You just click these buttons and things will be good.’ But then they’re not seeing results.”
“At the beginning of the year, there were around 60,000 open job listings for SDRs on LinkedIn. Now there are mass layoffs because SDRs learn they don’t need to put in the work.”
“And then management tries to blame it on the tech stack versus actually doing the work.”
Morgan highlighted another potential issue:
“There’s a new generation of SDRs who are comfortable texting and interacting online. But they aren’t used to picking up the phone and cold calling.”
“They don’t want to accept the inevitable rejection that comes from being in the sales industry. So they avoid being on the phone.”
“It also comes down to there not being enough management coaching on what to say on cold calls. But for B2B salespeople, speaking to prospects is the job.”
Now, while this might sound like bad news, we’d like to highlight something important.
It’s much easier to ✨ stand out ✨ as a great SDR.
“This is a great time of opportunity for SDRs. If you skill up, you can stand out.”
If you focus on:
- High-quality, value-led outbound.
- Helping prospects with selection.
- Having real-life conversations with your prospects.
- Understanding your SDR math (calculate how many people you need to talk to daily to hit or surpass your target).
Then Ryan predicts you’ll be in high demand. He said:
“I think there’s going to be a top performer awakening. SDRs who are doing the work and delivering results will realise they can hand pick who they want to work for.”
“Either that or there will be a rise in fractional salespeople. If you’re really good, why work for just one company?”
“If you fractionalise your time, you can magnify your skills and knowledge across multiple organisations.”
2024 B2B sales trends: the last word
And with that golden life lesson, all that’s left to say is:
There’s no reason why 2024 can’t be a successful B2B sales year.
Like with anything in life, results are earned. You just have to put in the work!
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