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RE-thinking B2B and ABM in the Turbulent Twenties: lessons from COVID – and the future beyond it

Nat Sones

March 31, 2020

Learning these lessons, and making them true not just for our clients’ sales environments but for our strategies, programmes and product evolution, is likely to make us better partners not just in the current COVID-19 scenario, but beyond

It’s no surprise that Bain’s coronavirus thinking and resources are rich and well thought through. It IS slightly more surprising how relevant some of their thinking is not just for B2B enterprise sales but for us folk at the coal face of ABM. But when one thinks for a second, maybe not: these are lessons we need as ABMers to demonstrate we understand, and emulate, to stay relevant as partners.

What drives this piece among Bain’s COVID research and strategy thinking is the need – always present but now, critical – for continual focus on survival and reinvention at the same time. How can we survive, and reinvent simultaneously – to echo McKinsey’s mantra to banks?

RE-SECURE for relevance (and revenue): communicate your relevance to a new reality – where clients – and their key accounts – are uncertain

It’s critical to understand your revenue base and seek opportunities. But it’s also about demonstrating how important you might be to your clients’ continued progress.

  • Secure the now, set the stage for the next – review and establish revenue status: this is both checking what’s running well, demonstrating value, and building a robust platform
  • Permanent agility through cross-function ‘win’ teams – whether you use Agile methods or not, creating teams that can move on opportunities fast is essential.

RE-ENGAGE: underline your value in a never-normal world – where clients need support that’s fit for current and future

It’s time to reach out to show your key clients – and help them show their key accounts – that you’re there, and fundamentally you’re there to support them as a partner.

  • Show relevance with empathy – how can you dial up what you do to demonstrate that it’s even more helpful now? What have they always wanted to do – and now, they can?
  • Be easier to work with – nobody has time for complex engagements. It’s time to offer smaller, more consumable projects, consumed fast and prove value instantly.
  • Create new-normal relationships – it’s time to demonstrate partnership and value in a new way; how are you the partner who ‘understands how to deal with change’?

RE-FOCUS and shift to a different gear – and put your capacity where clients need to be

As well as protecting margin, this is also about shifting capacity, focus and workflow, to where it does the most good, fastest.

  • Shift inwards and upwards – recommend ABM focus on current engagements and maximising them; reducing engagement of net-new conversations where certainty is lower
  • Move to an online engagement strategy – win by seeing a shift to digital as strategy, not tactic. Shifting to digital engagement first helps clients to engage faster, more completely, with better measurement – and lower TCO. In a digital realm it’s increasingly vital to be able to scale personalised engagement with decision-makers; the right data-driven tools, such as Agent3’s SoSell, are vital to equipping sales teams to engage real people at depth.

RE-EQUIP with technology-driven engagement, channels and tools – because clients want future readiness

Beyond great collaboration platforms, a shift to digital means new sales and messaging models and precise tools:

  • Create the ‘challenger’ digital model, to create the ‘new field sales’ – it’s time to see digital channels as the key field environment where real insight can join with real engagement to deliver not just the support for sales success, but success itself. This means better KPIs and ROI measurement from digital, as well as granular and precise account intelligence that account teams can drive into their planning and engagement
  • Deliver more cohesive messaging and flexible tools – All our clients are being asked by their customers for more support, more precision, more depth. That means more connected messaging – and a better digital pitch. ABM strategy – just as sales – needs to deliver to this.

RE-EMPOWER talent, mindset and new behaviours with clients’ leaders and their teams

A new enterprise sales (and ABM) environment needs new ideas and skills. As we move more fully towards a digital culture, not just digital channels, we need new capabilities and development – backed by training and leadership.

  • Find the future skills – enterprises need to rapidly skill up for a new world. This means not just tech, but skills blending: critical thinking, creativity, and neuro-diversity to solve more complex challenges, fast. What’s the future skill blend for you? It may be time to identify, and build for it, now.
  • Total training, lifelong learning and new team cohesion mean a need for new leadership – complex cycles, limitless complexity mean a need for always-on learning. Add in remote-based working and you have a challenge that requires a new cross-team and cross-business engagement from leaders who must work even harder, to continuously engage and develop their vital talent. As leaders in ABM, our strategies, product development and even business design must emulate, and deliver to, the skills, learning and leadership needs of our clients more than ever.

Learning these lessons, and making them true not just for our clients’ sales environments but for our strategies, programmes and product evolution, is likely to make us better partners not just in the current COVID-19 scenario, but beyond. And to help ABM to survive, and reinvent itself, for the future.

The blog was originally posted on The Craft blog, here.

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