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    These 6 Key Trends Will Drive the Next 12 Months of B2B Sales

    Plus “To Do” Tips for Sales and Marketing Execs to Guide the Rest of Your Year

    B2B sales is transforming into a more buyer-centric and tech-enabled space. The way B2B buyers, particularly in the manufacturing and building materials industry, make purchases has been undergoing massive transformation in the last few years and this is only predicted to accelerate in the coming months. 

    Here is a top line of the 6 big trends we’re seeing and (more importantly) guidance on what you should do in response. 

    TREND 1

    Growing Frustration with the B2B Buying Process

    77 %

    of B2B buyers told Gartner that their B2B purchase experience is very difficult or complex.

    And 95% of buying groups say they’ve had to go back and revisit decisions at least once as new information emerges. 

    Even the terminology used to describe the process of B2B purchasing needs to shift.  Instead of a “sales process”, Gartner calls this buyer enablement — sales teams helping customers make informed, accurate decisions instead of just selling to their latest leads. 

    Face the Music, Remove the Friction

    The first step is critiquing your own sales process. Is it working for your customers? Identify which points might feel arduous for them and where you can remove barriers in the funnel. 

    TREND 2

    The Unstoppable Rise of the Digital Purchase

    D2C (direct-to-consumer) is becoming the future of B2B sales, even in the manufacturing space where distributors and retailers were traditionally in the middle. There is a mountain of data to support this:

    Gartner predicts that by 2025, 

    Gartner predicts that by 2025, 

    80 %

    of B2B buyer experiences will be digital.

    33 %

    of B2B buyers would like an entirely seller-free sales experience, and that number rises to 44% for millennials.

    That willingness — often even eagerness — to purchase online isn’t reserved for just small office supply orders either. 62% of B2B decision makers are now willing to spend $50,000 or more in online purchases. And one in five would spend more than $500,000 to $5 million on an online B2B purchase.

    And while manufacturers’ B2B ecommerce sales reached $543 billion in 2021, this represents only about 9% of total sales. B2B manufacturers have to prepare for the transaction of the future while also taking care of their current most profitable sales channels and methods.  

    Start Enabling Self-Service Today

    Look for tools that will set you up for long term success in the D2C space, while also enabling your best partners and channels to better sell in the present.  Ultimately, aim to provide buyers the visual customization tools necessary to get them at least 80% of the way to purchase. 

    TREND 3

    Your Buyers are Everywhere, All the Time

    The traditional sales funnel for B2B companies isn’t dead, but it’s transformed and it’s far from a linear process. 

    mobile multiple channels

    B2B buyers today often use as many as ten or more different channels when they’re researching and shopping for solutions.

    Those channels include tried-and-true methods like phone, in-person meetings, email, web search, and supplier websites, but also encompass newer forms like web chats, virtual meetings, mobile apps, and ecommerce. 

    B2B companies that sell through more channels have gained more market share, and not just  in industries like tech — all B2B buyers, in every industry McKinsey surveyed (and every region and size of company as well) demand an omnichannel experience. 


    You never know where your best customers are likely to encounter your product. Select product solutions that allow you to syndicate and distribute your configurable product experience wherever you sell–eCommerce, via retailer and distributor sites, in-store and through digital media. 

    TREND 4

    Combatting the Silver Tsunami

    As boomers, the largest generational cohort, start to retire in ever-increasing numbers, Gen Z is set to overtake them in the workforce in 2024 — the Silver Tsunami of boomers handing in their retirement notices is in full swing. 

    That means the most experienced salespeople, with decades of sales knowledge and hands-on application under their belt, are going to be replaced by the newest members of the workforce. 

    55 %

    of leaders say only half their workforce has the required skills to succeed* 

    * McKinsey research study

    But instead of simply focusing on replacing your retiring salespeople with new employees playing by the same playbook, you should also be investing in tools and training that help your salespeople succeed in the brave new world of B2B sales. 

    ROI is well worth it – Top-quartile sales teams with the best tools can deliver four to five times higher sales growth than bottom-quartile players.

    Evolve and Future-proof

    Guard against the loss of institutional knowledge by procuring sales tools that will augment your team’s abilities and be a product source of truth as your complex product portfolio and your workforce evolves.

    TREND 5

    Data Management is the Ecommerce Unlock

    While online sales are a priority for customers, they’re still a challenge for nearly all B2B manufacturing companies. 

    65% said that “ecommerce is broken” in their organization, and the biggest issue is in data management. 

    A majority of their products can’t be bought, or even discovered, online because the data behind their ecommerce site is missing, incomplete, siloed, or simply poor quality. 

    manufacturing plant and mobile phone

    In fact, only a third of companies in the B2B manufacturing space have even 60% of their product portfolio available online.

    That’s a frustrating customer experience, although it’s caused by understandable issues like large and complex product catalogs with lots of potential options and configurations. 

    With advanced data management tools like visual commerce software, B2B manufacturers will have more ways  to help them manage, track, and sell their products online, with minimal or no rep guidance for those who want a self-serve experience. 

    Get Your Data in Order

    No matter how your product experience evolves, getting your product data in order is step #1. While it can be time intensive to organize, track down or append vital data in whatever format you choose, it will pay off in your ability to sell smarter and faster. 

    TREND 6

    The Magic Equation: AI + Data Enablement = Sales Growth

    Companies and sales teams have had metric tons of data about their prospects and customers available for years, but with such an overwhelming volume of data, it was difficult for sales reps to have both the knowledge and the time to shift through all of this information looking for key insights. 

    AI will be a huge driver of making this volume of data more accessible and actionable for sales teams. McKinsey found that two-thirds of B2B companies with the fastest rates of sales growth generate account-level intelligence, compared to about half of the slower growers. 

    Plus, generative AI can help sellers identify and qualify leads, spot patterns in customer and market data and use them to target relevant audiences and launch more effective lead-activation campaigns.

    manufacturing - portfolio-886643472 [Converted]

    Companies that have invested in AI tools are already seeing a sales ROI uplift of 10-20%.

    Embrace AI as a Data Detective

    While enterprise data management requires dedicated tools, at a team or individual level, sales can use readily-available AI tools to help you sort through complex data sets for specific answers. Getting these insights quickly can inspire effective ABM messaging. 

    2024 in the Changing World of B2B Manufacturing Sales 

    2024 will be a transformative year for the sales world as a whole, including in B2B manufacturing. With the generational divide in the workforce shifting with the wave of boomer retirements, buyers with high demands and understandable frustrations, and the promise (and challenges) of AI becoming more real, sellers will have more challenges and opportunities than ever before if they’re willing and able to adapt. 

    Collectively, B2B manufacturing sellers and buyers can forge a new path of trust, ease, and digital innovation so everyone can win in 2024.