[This Article Was Original Published on TechCrunch]
The media is abuzz with articles telling us how to improve B2B sales, but at the same time, we also see headlines like “The end of B2B sales.” Who’s right?
What’s clear is that there’s no more room for traditional B2B sales. In a recent survey, 43% of B2B buyers said they would prefer a buying experience that had no reps involved at all. Yet, sales reps are stubbornly advised to “present your product better,” “ask open ended questions,” and “sweeten the deal.”
You’re trying to make the customer fit your product’s mold rather than making your business and services fit the customer’s mold. In a world with countless competitors, the customer no longer needs to adhere to your process. The tables have turned, and sales teams are realizing they need to get the customer exactly what they need, when they need it and in a way that fits their buying process.
Putting the customer first was always the domain of B2C. But why? The person on the other end of a B2B call is a human, too.
In this sense, B2B is actually becoming a lot more like B2C. We can’t continue using cookie-cutter solutions that hardly change whether you’re selling enterprise software for health tech or retail solutions. Each business should figure out what is best for their clients and trust the direction that leads them in.
For a financial services company, the solution might be putting all their products on a virtual marketplace and minimizing customer contact with reps. For a retail solution, it may be getting on the phone with a shop owner and customizing the tools to their particular model.
So what is the common factor here? Optimizing your unique path to better connect with customers requires having a cross-discipline team that’s focused solely on that objective and sees the client as their guiding star. We call that RevOps.
How tunnel vision in sales ops left the client behind
Back around 2010, the thinking was, generally: “Let’s bring tech into our business and make it more efficient.” The problem was, many companies used that tech to improve their existing processes, rather than craft better ones.
That looked something like this: If a sales team’s data showed that only 1% of people answered their calls, the response was to bring in robocallers to ramp up numbers, which came at a cost to the customer. A better alternative would be to understand why people aren’t picking up the phone in the first place. Do those potential clients prefer being reached via their work email? Should you be trying to educate them on existing solutions so that they come to you? Basically, can you reach people in a way that works for them?
Many companies made made the mistake of integrating technology in a way that would help the sales rep, rather than the customer.
That’s why after 2018, we saw those weak foundations collapse. Tech companies like Zuora, Cloudera and New Relic faded into the background while more customer-centric companies — think Twilio, Zoom, Datadog — lurched into the limelight.
These two groups of companies had identical sales tech stacks but a very different approach to using them. In the first group were “sales-led” companies that focused on using sales tech for ruthless optimization: improving their sales process and getting numbers up: “sales ops.” The second group used tech to improve the customer experience — that’s what RevOps does.
Customers no longer want to deal with the old framework, and that’s why they’re becoming increasingly alienated by B2B sales reps. And investors are no longer interested in its shortsighted results.
B2B should better emulate B2C
Putting the customer first was always the domain of B2C. But why? The person on the other end of a B2B call is a human, too. When we were forced to go digital during the pandemic, B2C was more ready to meet customer needs, while B2B had to play catch-up when it came to digitizing their process for clients.
RevOps puts the customer at the heart of its process by leveraging technology to facilitate the journey of the customer first and foremost, which will in turn make employees’ lives far easier.
For example, a RevOps team will seek to understand where a prospective customer needs to be headed on their journey, and tailor their solution to fit. That’s why it requires collaboration between different elements of the business, from marketing and sales to product development. It’s a similar concept to product-led growth, rather than pushing to sell a static product that is less useful to the market.
Everything becomes more streamlined with the customer’s needs for customized solutions, education, integrated channels and fewer barriers to the finish line. That requires bringing roles that were traditionally siloed into the same team.
How to do RevOps the right way
In its ideal form, RevOps is agile. It moves flexibly between: capturing and analyzing data on customer engagement (too often that involves reps manually updating the CRM); calculating funnel statistics (such as conversion rate at each stage of the funnel); and automating any repetitive tasks to reduce waste and improve quality. Agile RevOps jumps back and forth between stages whenever necessary.
Automation is key. Many of our clients are shocked to hear just how much of the sales process can be automated and how accurate it all can be. More importantly, automating time-draining tasks frees up employees to assess customer needs, and if needed, interact directly with them.
For agile RevOps to work, you need to treat (and fund) it like an engineering function. Empower the team to source the latest tech themselves. Give them a horizon that’s longer than one year. And don’t have them report to sales, marketing or customer success.
Ideally, RevOps will merge all of those functions rather than add another layer to the company. Their natural coordinator would be the enablement team, and its goals will look a lot like product goals: customer impact and metrics, not internal metrics.
To start heading in the right direction, ask yourself this: Who, and what, are you “enabling” as we progress into 2022? The rep or the customer?