Generative AI for sales promises to revolutionize B2B sales by accelerating and fine-tuning customer engagement for better outcomes.
After a challenging year with inflation and global conflict roiling markets, it doesn’t look like things will get any easier for B2B sellers in 2024.
The economic outlook for next year can be described as “pessimistic.” Many economists have forecast a continued downturn globally, which generally results in a more conservative and cautious market.
But all is not lost. In fact, conservative market conditions offer plenty of opportunity to sales organizations that navigate them effectively. In 2024, sellers will find the most success by improving the value of each interaction.
The quality of each customer engagement needs to outpace quantity, but the most successful sales organizations will harness technology to optimize both.B2B sales 2024 are all about focused selling, elevating the important and automating the mundane.
B2B sales in 2024: 5 key trends
B2B sales will be far more successful in 2024 than most market outlooks would suggest. Post-COVID disruptions including armed conflict and supply-chain issues have heavily impacted inflation and interest rates, but we still see underlining trends of recovery overall.
For example, Statista expects the 2024 global inflation rate to be around 6% – 5.5%. While significantly higher than the 3.3% – 3.6% rates recorded before COVID, it’s a significant drop from the 8.7% rate in 2022, which shows a continued trend of recovery.
Here are 5 key B2B sales trends that leaders should consider to maximize revenue in 2024:
- Taking a practical, ethical approach to generative AI
- Perfecting the hybrid sales model
- Focused selling
- Personalized sales engagement
- Mobile first
Generative AI automates sales, responsibly
Generative AI has become surprisingly mainstream. From text-prompt generated photos to deep-fake likenesses used in marketing, and all the way to plots of box-office blockbusters, generative AI has been a topic of conversation — and debate.
Gartner, Inc. predicts that 60% of B2B seller work will be done by generative AI technologies by 2028, up from less than 5% in 2023.
Naturally, sales organizations are eager to leverage generative AI, but they must address the ethical concerns it raises.
In B2B sales, generative AI has the most impact by automating a complex task and then passing it to the sales rep to review, refine, and execute. For organizations to safely adopt generative AI into sales processes, they need to control the scope of input data, refine the use case, and hand back to the seller.
A common use case for gen AI in sales is outbound correspondence or post-meeting follow up. For example:
- A seller executes a campaign to sell and add-on product to an existing customer
- The seller then uses generative AI to write an outbound prospecting email
- Gen AI personalizes the email content by pulling in account information, contacts, and other details
Here, the value of generatively created outreach is clear. But without clearly defined input data controls, the email could easily violate data privacy laws, ignore existing opt-outs, or include sensitive or classified data.
In essentially all sales use cases, generative AI outputs are designed to make a seller more effective, but they should be given to a seller to review before they’re acted upon. Every business is different and will tailor impactful generative AI use cases to their specific needs, but an ethical AI approach is vital for protecting customers and the business.
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Perfecting the art of hybrid selling
The pandemic might be over, but working from home is here to stay. In 2023, some organizations either encouraged or mandated a return to the office. In many, if not most, of these cases, they faced severe — and unsurprising — backlash from workers across a wide array of job types.
Employees value the work-life balance they achieve not commuting to an office, and can be just as effective working remotely. In 2024, sales organizations will focus on helping sellers succeed, whether they’re in the office or remote.
A McKinsey & Co. survey showed that 90% of organizations plan to stick with hybrid sales structures. Hybrid selling will be the dominant sales strategy in 2024, researchers said.
Customers view our businesses as one entity and expect their interactions to be great regardless of seller location or years of experience. Understanding office vs. mobile sales performance trends and then shifting to a location-agnostic view of sales performance and sales processes will help leaders hone in on what works.
Once a baseline has been established, sales leaders can launch and optimize sales plays and cadences to improve performance.
Adopting a formulaic approach drives iterative improvement, but a key aspect of high-performance hybrid sales organizations is the ability for sales managers and directors to have real-time visibility into a seller’s day, just like if they were walking the sales floor. This includes full visibility into calls, emails, KPIs, and results tied to each action.
Buyers and sellers today are much different than generations past. Find out what it takes to meet the needs of these digital natives.
B2B sales 2024: Focus, focus, focus
In recessionary markets, fear and uncertainty work their way into the boardroom, leading to risk-averse, tighten-your-belt business decisions. Often the fear will dissipate as the year progresses, but budgets are set and recessionary thinking is hard to overcome.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in October forecast a 55.6% chance of an economic recession by next October, down from the 67.6% probability the prior month.
But new opportunities don’t wait, so businesses will always have to balance cost cutting with critical projects. This is where increased focus and deal understanding becomes critical for B2B sellers.
You can’t squeeze water from a stone. In 2024, sellers should remember this adage and spend their time on opportunities that have a chance of closing. With less opportunities, more deal stakeholders, and greater scrutiny on spending, sellers need to identify the best subset of opportunities and give them 90% of their attention. Remaining opportunities should receive at least 10% of time for continued nurture.
Intelligent lead scoring, deal intelligence, and predictive forecasting capabilities should be top of mind for sales leaders going into the new year.
According to a McKinsey study, B2B companies that use analytics tools effectively for marketing and sales are 1.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
Sales organizations also should refine their discovery process and accompanying questions to help sellers ask the right questions. That way, they can determine the strength of the opportunity and likelihood of closing, effectively separating the wheat from the chaff.
Ten years ago, unlocking insights with data was a competitive advantage. Today it’s a competitive necessity for a successful sales strategy.
Personalized engagement drives sales success
Selling in a slow economy means segmentation and personalization will be key for B2B sales in 2024. This concept should be considered at all stages of the lead-to-cash sales cycle, including marketing tactics, lead conversion, sales plays, deal progression and deal-desk, and identifying opportunities from post-sale service/follow-up.
A Gartner survey found that 86% of B2B customers expect companies to be well informed about their personal information when they interact with them.
Once the best subset of opportunities have been established and thoroughly qualified, sales organizations need to segment opportunities and align content, sales language, and pacing to match the prospect or target industry. A one-size-fits-all or single-tool approach doesn’t work in down markets.
Sales organizations will need to leverage data and insights to effectively personalize sales engagements. The more personalized to the needs of the buyer and their specific business/industry needs the better.
Business leaders should understand their capabilities around segmentation and personalization, identify gaps, and adopt intelligent technologies that accelerate personalization, such as generative AI.
Learn how contextual selling helps organizations boost engagement by using real-time data to personalize the sales process for each buyer.
In 2024, B2B sellers are always on, always moving
Data shows time and time again that a seller who connects with a prospect before their competition has a much higher chance of winning the deal. Prompt responses and communicating on buyers’ preferred channel or channels is another major contributing factor.
In both cases, speed of engagement and ease of communication/doing business with are critical.
Essentially, the modern B2B seller will be the most effective by responding to buyers’ needs at the moment they are first feeling and thinking of them. This might sound obvious, but it has a dramatic impact on conversion.
Just consider all the examples from the consumer world: Football commercial breaks are loaded with food delivery app or sports gambling ads targeted at instant gratification. Every shop and restaurant in any airport, ever… all suited to match a product to an immediate and often unnecessary need.
The take away from these consumer examples is that B2B sellers today must be always on and ready to engage with a prospective buyer, regardless of their location. That means prioritizing a mobile-first sales strategy.
Sellers need to be able to communicate with buyers anytime, from anywhere. This is especially important considering the fact that millennial and Gen Z digital natives make up 64% of B2B buyers, according to Forrester Research.
But sellers also need to have the right insights, recommendations, and deal data to make informed decisions the move a deal forward.
Sales leaders should consider how best to optimize sales cycles in this mobile-first approach and remove any selling roadblocks.
Rise to the challenge
B2B sales organizations may feel heavy pressure going into 2024 with looming fears of a downward market. But they can overcome these challenges and gain competitive edge with intelligent selling techniques to meet buyers on their terms.
Sales leaders can empower their sellers by making outreach, personalization, and insights more actionable via a strong mobile sales strategy, selling recommendations, and the addition of ethical generative AI.