How the B2B Sales Process has Changed since the Pandemic

By Linda RoperJune 23, 2021

No sector has been spared from the turmoil of the pandemic, but the B2B industry – particularly the B2B sales process – has been hit particularly hard. Once an area relying on face-to-face meetings, large scale conferences, and event networking, B2B sales have been forced to make a full-scale digital transformation – and much sooner than they’d expected.

What started out as a crisis response has now become the new normal. So, how has the business-to-business sales process changed since the beginning of the pandemic? The answers may surprise you!

The Pre-Pandemic B2B Sales Process

The general B2B sales process can be broken down into the following 7 steps:

  1. Prospecting: Finding potential customers and determining whether they have a need for your product or service.

  2. Preparation: Collecting all relevant information regarding the potential customer and how your product or service can be tailored to their specific needs.

  3. Approach: The first contact with the client.

  4. Presentation: A demonstration of how your product or service meets the needs of the potential customer.

  5. Handling objections: Listening to your prospect’s concerns and addressing them successfully to convert them into a customer.

  6. Closing: The final step to encourage a prospect or customer to make the purchase.

  7. Follow-up: Maintaining the client relationship, which sometimes results in referrals or repeat business.

In a pre-pandemic world, B2B salespeople relied heavily on phone calls or face-to-face meetings and presentations. They would often bring along samples or gifts to these in-person interactions, allowing the prospect to try out the product or service first-hand. They also generated a lot of business from giant trade shows and industry networking events. These allowed companies to directly market their product or service to their target client and reap the benefits that these face-to-face interactions provided.

The Rise of the Digital B2B Sales Process

The images shows a woman holding out her hand for a handshake towards her laptop screen in a B2B sales process.

With COVID-19 closures, strict social distancing measures, and the rise in contactless payments, the B2B sales process has been forced to adapt to digital methods since the pandemic. The digital evolution was already well and truly underway in this sector, but COVID-19 meant that B2B sales had to adapt to these digital methods sooner, rather than later, if companies wanted to survive.

Let’s examine the important ways the pandemic has changed the B2B sales process, as revealed by research conducted by McKinsey & Company.

A preference for self-service

Over 75% of buyers and sellers now prefer digital, self-guided service and remote human interactions over in-person engagements. This isn’t just a pandemic trend, either. Due to ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses, and safety, 80% of B2B buyers hope they don’t have to return to face-to-face interactions in the future.

The rise in video and live chat

Video and live chat have emerged as the most popular channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers. Ecommerce and videoconferencing now account for 43% of all B2B revenue, which is more than any other channel. Furthermore, over 75% of B2B sales staff even prefer these digital methods to traditional phone calls.

Increased comfort in making sales online

Remember when the B2B sales industry used ecommerce for smaller-ticket items and fast-moving parts? Well, 70% of B2B decision makers say they are now willing to make new, fully self-serve or remote purchases of $50,000 and more, while 27% would happily spend over $500,000 in a digital and remote transaction.

Digital is here to stay

B2B sellers are embracing the “new normal”. Almost 90% of respondents believe it’s likely these new, digital models will be in place for at least the next year, while 79% said they are likely to sustain the shift to remote selling well after the pandemic has subsided.