B2B sales development: the 3 trends you won’t read about anywhere else.



Most companies in Europe have made it through the last crisis only by drastically cutting costs to maintain a minimum bottom line and financial stability. Incidentally, that is the purpose of crises. Right now, there is no excess fat. Survivors are going to be concentrating on equity. The time has come to build those muscles back up. Shareholders and senior management are now piling on the pressure to boost turnover without reducing margins.

Meanwhile, sales managers have been protecting core business by concentrating on their client base, primarily not to lose it and secondarily to work it at the slightest sign of potential growth. But by now, the very last drop has been squeezed out of that client base.

Only “New Biz” and the ambitious, determined and organised seduction of new clients will enable sales organisations to hit their targets.


Over the last five years we have seen CRM become standard. There was a need to render the sales function more professional. This move has had a slight negative effect on productivity and a slight positive effect on results. But first and foremost, it makes turnover much more visible – something Finance had not unreasonably been calling for, especially during a period of weak growth.

At the same time, the last two years witnessed the arrival of B2B “social selling” via social networks. The benefits of this approach probably vary depending on the target and the proposed value. A range of fantasies are putting wind in its sails, firstly that it could become a substitute for cold-calling that sales staff love so much… Yet many are already betting that the limits of this approach will show up all the more quickly precisely because it is growing at such an exponential rate. Nevertheless, it has earned itself a clear role as a canvassing tool.

Technology often has the advantage of creating an illusion of change whereas in truth it sometimes merely papers over the cracks of old models. The best example of this is sales organisations who equip their staff with iPads on which to make presentations that had only just been rejigged to work in a tablet form. Who does this actually please?

“Technological emotion” does not create real value and is subject to Moore’s Law. In other words, in 18 months you will need something more.

Then there are the sales reps themselves. For years now, sales operations, especially French ones, have been cutting back on recruiting, fixed wages and training. Globally, the skill level is fairly low, especially when you consider what is at stake. It is evidently the new weakest link.

And since sales reps with potential are few and far between, the famous “talent war” will sweep through here too. But not everyone can win and there will not be enough naturally talented people to go round. What will be required is “serious” investment in skills development.



Over the last 20 years, senior management have reinvented their method of reasoning, or their “paradigm” as we now call it, three or four times. And industrial and operational management have done the same. As has financial management. And as for IT management…!

But what about sales management?

For the last 20 years there has been but a single model although it goes under various names – solution selling: “Identify a sales lead’s problem, preferably one he isn’t aware of, at least not in the way we describe it and, would you know, we have the solution!”  Marketing processes and sales techniques have stuck pretty much to this model.

It has worked very, very well. And it will continue to work, at least with those who are looking for a supplier to fulfil a need at a minimum cost. When it comes to general consumption products, the Chinese are winning this game. And every sector has its “Chinese”. In the absence of a perceived and pertinent value, low-cost takes priority.

At the same time, the 2008 crisis fundamentally altered the decision-making process among sales leads, while the digital revolution fundamentally altered their way of informing themselves about solutions and the service-providers who could supply them. The end result is that sales leads’ purchasing processes have been transformed, without a similar change in service-providers and sales processes.

Until now, this situation has not been too flagrant. But as we emerge from the crisis, or, failing that, as service-providers come out of the woods, the gap between those who looked ahead and those who didn’t is going to widen.


Be warned – without convincing results, sales management runs the risk of being seriously challenged over their methods and their ability to reinvent themselves.

Selling a value and a difference, addressing the real decision-makers and, therefore, their way of reasoning, aligning oneself with sales leads’ decision-making processes and making sales reps more pertinent – these are concrete steps that can be taken.

In short, it is perhaps time to reinvent sales approaches so that they are both more pertinent and more economical, not based solely on “technological emotion” and so they can secure new clients quickly.

François Drillon, EXECUTIVE SELLING (www.executive-selling.com)


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