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Another shift the pandemic has accelerated – enterprise sales

B2B selling was already changing before COVID-19. I’ve written before about how I think customer success practices with their emphasis on product usage is changing sales to be more data and impact driven and more receptive to the user, not just the purchasing unit. This change is not unique to enterprise software sales – think about how you purchase cars these days, I did and it involved very few sales people or even physically seeing the car. VC Andreessen Horowitz looks to startups for inspiration and new research from McKinsey provides data points.

This post is mostly about enterprise software sales. This excellent article from Andreessen Horowitz documents the trend well and points to startups as the innovators: Growth+Sales: The New Era of Enterprise Go-to-Market. This in particular 👇

It’s about delivering on your promises to the user, then making new promises to the enterprise buyer without forgetting about the user.

Another point emphasised is that focusing on the product to do the heavy lifting and driving growth makes selling on top of this, if even needed, far more compelling.

Check out the graph at the bottom of the article on Atlassian’s bookings by year – it nails the growth + sales point. I remember being an Atlassian reseller way back in the early noughties when they started and this very much was a part of their go to market, I can verify. In fact one of the most talked about and imitated of their strategies was how they sold without a sales force.

Click to enlarge – from McKinsey study

And for evidence of the impact COVID-19 has had, the eight charts in this post from a recent McKinsey study show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever. Starting with exhibit 1, this shows the different ways of interacting and current preferences and I would wager that digital self-serve is only going to grow further in share. Check out the other charts by following the link, compelling evidence.

I work in sales but I’m not a seller. Isn’t that the point? Regardless of how you see it, I love my selling buddies but I do have some advice for them.

Advice for my sales buddies 😘

  1. Think like a user. With telemetry and usage analytics options in abundance these days (whether built in or from 3rd party products), there is no excuse not to understand usage patterns. For prospects, build benchmark views and bring that to the pitch – think education. If its a renewal, get deep insights into how the product is being used already and what impact and value is being created and how it can be improved. Build a case around this improvement and lead the customer to it over their entire journey so the decision when it comes, is an obvious one.
  2. Automate, don’t obliterate. With a bit of a new gloss on this classic piece, the point here is that there is still a role for intimate contact at the right time. Do everything in your power to enable the customer to build their own story, using automation and personalisation, that evolves over time around their journey. But when they have a need to talk, be there in a flash and in person (virtual or otherwise where possible). And that’s not to say you cannot use conversational AI, BOTs and the like before getting to that point.
  3. From sales to partnering. If you want to sell go to a fish market, one of my colleagues recently said, we’re in long term partnership with customers. Love it 🥰 And don’t just think about the customer but about product managers and engineers too and your customer success team – the designers of the product experience and the custodians of it. They will make your job easier in closing deals with customers.

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