The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is having a nearly universal detrimental impact on all industries, including business-to-business (B2B) sales, which likely will not return to normal for quite a while.
Some contend they may never return ever to normal, at least as we knew them before the pandemic.
This article covers high-level B2B sales between sales executives and client executives, including their preferred communication channels, their conversation topics and the strategies and tactics they utilize to create successful interactions.
In developing this analysis, 400 experienced senior executives at medium and large companies generously shared their tips in February 2020, providing insights about how B2B sales conversations have changed over the past decade.
1. Mixing email, phone with in-person meeting
Vendor executives mix email, phone and in-person conversations to best converse with customer executives:
What are your preferred channels to converse with your client executives?(Select the frequency: Always, Often, Mixed, Rarely, Never)
The ageless in-person meeting continues to be seen as irreplaceable. Yet, mixing the three complementary channels in communicating with a client is the most preferred approach, according to three quarters of respondents.
Surprisingly, most of the executives (56 percent) are rarely or never using video or screen sharing.
Yet, until such time as the global pandemic ends, mastering video conversations will likely prove essential to successful B2B sales.
2. Sales Executives prioritize developing additional business
When meeting in-person with client executives, vendor executives prioritize three topics: developing additional business, becoming a trusted advisor and closing a deal:
What are your usual expectations when meeting in-person with client executives? (Select the frequency: Always, Often, Mixed, Rarely, Never)
3. Buying executives prioritize learning more about product/service
When meeting in-person with their vendor executives, client executives prioritize three topics: learning more about their vendor product/service, obtaining better terms and testing their vendor dependability.
What are their usual expectations (the client executives) for meeting with you? (Select the frequency: Always, Often, Mixed, Rarely, Never)
4. Client executives are impressable by new insights for their business
Experienced sales executives have their tips to address their clients. We have asked their insights about three frequent topics within sales executives.
What is your level of agreement with the following statements?
(Strongly Agree, Agree, Mixed, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
Executives rather delegate buying decisions to their subordinates with this happening in 42 percent of the case and not happening in 33 percent of the case. The take-away is that many buying decision processes coexist even within each industry.
Meeting with executives rather do not annoy lower level buying interlocutors with this happening in 40 percent of the case and not happening in 30 percent of the case. The take-away is that it remains to be considered and addressed for differently within each client.
Client executives can be impressed in a stunning 57 percent of the case. Our respondents are seasoned B2B executives leading successful companies: they know how to be entertaining and carry out conversations that offer a mutual opportunity for learning
Client executives dislike being pitched with boasting vendor presentations; they are always in demand by those seeking new insights for their business.
5. Is satisfied satisfying enough?
How satisfied are you about your conversations/in-person meetings with your client executives? (scale 0 to 10)
Over 90 percent of sales executives are satisfied or very satisfied with their client executive interactions. Vendor executives enjoy interacting with client executives (NPS = 19 percent) and even more meeting in person with their client executives (NPS = 33 percent).
Yet, most of the executives are “only” satisfied.
In a highly disrupted environment with many cash-strapped companies fighting for their short-term survivals, “very satisfying” conversations should be the golden rule for both parties.
Below are listed the drivers and the hurdles according to our 400 respondents.
6. Fruitful conversations are both professional and entertaining
Twenty-nine percent of vendor executives are very satisfied with their client executive conversations. They make their conversations professional, insightful and entertaining, and mix email, phone with in-person conversations. These sales executives have market knowledge and make the conversation humorous. They notice that their clients do business with people they like and with whom they enjoy working.
The vast majority (60 percent) of vendor executives are satisfied with their client executive conversations. They have open, transparent conversations. They meet with directors and managers on a regular basis. They regret that executives are often overcommitted and cannot meet as often.
Only 11 percent of vendor executives are mixed satisfied or not satisfied with their client executive conversations when conversations remain focused on short-term and actionable activities and when clients do not leave the space to build strong relationships. Other reasons for a lack of satisfaction are accessibility challenges to decision makers and slow responses.
7. Mutual respect makes in-person meetings efficient.
Forty percent of vendor executives are very satisfied with their client executive conversations. These satisfactory conversations happen when there is mutual trust. In-person meetings, according to many respondents, are the most efficient means to obtain the full attention of clients. Another executive adds: Meeting face-to- face is the final way of closing the deal. Another respondent adds: The results that we got so far are outstanding.
Most (60 percent) vendor executives are satisfied with their in-person meetings with client executives because they build mutual understanding. Positive outcomes become more likely: We can obtain their decision on the spot. Why are they not very satisfied? The main reason for dissatisfaction occurs when clients have not discussed plans with their respective stakeholders and are underprepared for our meetings.
A tiny seven percent of vendor executives are mixed satisfied or not satisfied with their in-person meetings with their client executives, mostly because their value proposition is not shared between the parties and some participants are not as prepared as they expected.
Vendor executives are developing the best relationships with their largest client decision-makers when they can develop mutual respect and regularly synchronize their expectations though in-person, phone and email conversations.
Many thanks to the 400 talented senior executives for sharing their insights in this report. We expect that you and your team will find this report enlightening.
Special thanks to Jacques Sciammas, CEO of
Selling to Executives, who coaches global B2B sales teams on dealing with the C-Suite for his inspiring contribution to this article.
See more on how these executives analyze the high-level B2B sales environment and on how they leverage data analytics and artificial intelligence for their selling activities.
Methodology: This survey is based on responses from 400 executives involved in high- level B2B sales at medium and large companies in February 2020. Their most frequent business titles were CEO, VP Sales, VP Business Development, VP Regions located in the Americas, EMEA and APAC. Click to see the questionnaire and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.