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Historically, communication has been at the heart of every opportunity, account strategy, and customer meeting for B2B sales organizations. Anything beyond simple transactional or commoditized sales require a collaborative exchange of ideas – making collaboration tools critical to sales success.
Without dynamic, two-way communication between buyer(s) and seller(s), none of this is possible: Identifying the needs of the buyer, exploring challenges and roadblocks, and reaching solution consensus among stakeholders.
This exchange of ideas, which we can generally refer to as “collaborative selling” comes naturally to traditional, in-person B2B sales engagements, but faces significant new challenges over digital channels.
The role of collaboration in B2B sales
Before competition became the driving force for change, sellers were largely product pushers, putting their offerings on display and loudly calling out every amazing feature.
As it turns out, individual consumers and B2B buyers care more about how products and services impact their experience – specifically how their lives will be easier or their actions more successful.
This dynamic resulted in sales methodologies that try to solve pain points or provide a view of a better future:
- Provocative/inquisitive selling uses bold statements and targeted questioning to incite a purchase as a way to solve perceived issues or pain.
- Solution selling focuses on how problems will be solved, providing a solution that’s used to rationalize a purchase decision.
- Similarly, consultative/trusted advisor selling aims to offer a better future, but emphasizes how the solution plays a role in helping the buyer(s) achieve strategic goals.
All of these methodologies require some level of collaboration and discovery between buyer and seller to work, not to mention internal collaboration for complex B2B sales. Simply put, sellers need to understand buyer pain points and help overcome objections that arise throughout the buying journey.
Communication challenges over digital channels
Albert Mehrabian’s 1971 publication, Silent Messages, examined several communication studies and made the bold claim that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Over the years, many studies have reached similar conclusions.
For B2B sales, this suggests that only 7% of what’s communicated is actually determined by what words are used.
The rest is determined by voice, tone, and tempo, which make up roughly 38%, and body language which comprises the other 55%.
Communication is always impacted by demographic factors like culture and age, but effective collaboration over digital channels needs to overcome greater gaps. It’s not surprising that email communication and other text-only channels are often problematic with tone the casualty.
Similarly, voice-only communication — especially when topics are important or contentious — can easily convey negative sentiment or emotion. Even video conferencing, which helps address some of these challenges, invites new ones:
- Video conference fatigue, which can be caused by performance pressure (over-awareness of being watched/over self-awareness to one’s own video),
- Limited attention (normal behavior like looking out of a window can be perceived as rude on video),
- Gaze awareness (lack of eye contact due to video and camera alignment)
- Excessive screen time burnout
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Creating a digitally enabled collaboration culture
Effective, digital-first B2B selling requires that organizations provide sellers with the right insights and tools to foster better communication and collaboration.
Every digital sales channel has drawbacks compared to in-person engagement, but sellers can overcome these challenges by using multiple channels in conjunction.
Make it rain: Boost sales success via online collaboration and watch remote sales orgs soar.
This could be launching a video conference from a live chat session or sending a post-call email summarizing the discussion and confirming next steps.
The best sales organizations do this effectively by removing barriers between these channels. They also automate cross-channel data capture, which can include calls automatically being transcribed and saved in the opportunity record, interactions mapped on timelines, and one source of truth for everyone on the internal team.
The second part of fostering collaboration is intelligent buyer engagement. The most successful sales organizations leverage data to provide sellers with account insights that will help them communicate with buyers based on their needs.
Examples of intelligent engagement are recommendations based on buyer behavior or relationship insights that provide transparency to who’s involved in the purchase process and their overall sentiment.
When organizations empower their sellers with these tools and insights, digital collaboration becomes much more seamless.