The evolving role of the B2B sales team

We’ve spoken a lot lately about the channel’s resilience in these tough times. in fact, many partners are feeling optimistic about the coming year.

However, research released this week provides some sobering statistics. The study by revenue intelligence platform Gong shows average business-to-business (B2B) deal sizes decreased by 30 percent in 2022, placing pressure on sellers as the economic downturn continues.

Out of all those surveyed, 56 percent were in tech in the US, and 64 percent in the UK.

Despite channel confidence, research released by the company in December 2022 found that 44 percent of UK businesses missed their earnings targets at some point last year. This new data suggests that falling deal sizes and fewer opportunities to get in front of customers is contributing to those missed forecasts. 

In 2022, sales reps were working fewer active deals, while the average number of meetings/calls per deal had also decreased. As a result, reps saw a 36 percent drop in the total number of interactions with buyers on average compared to 2020.

The data also shows an increase in finance’s involvement, with this department joining twice the amount of calls: six percent in 2022 vs three percent in 2020. Looking at these data points together, it suggests that calls and meetings are increasingly being spent on negotiating terms and contract sizes.

The rise of self-service in sales

There search also confirmed a trend we’ve seen in the last few years – it found that the number of interactions buyers have had with sellers in the last two years has gone down by 22 percent. 

However, when buyers do meet with sellers, they spend 15 percent more time together than they did in 2020, with more senior executives becoming involved in the buying process. That time is increasingly being spent on negotiating contracts and providing context that prospects are not finding elsewhere in the sales funnel. Consequently, Gong revealed it has seen a 55 percent increase in the number of deals won that involved a VP or more senior role in one or more sales meetings. But despite more seniority on calls, the average deal size has fallen by almost a third (30 percent) in 2022.

According to Gartner, nearly three out of four B2B buyers say they prefer to make a purchase without ever engaging with a salesperson. These findings suggest that when buyers do engage with a seller, they are looking to make sense of information consumed during their hours of self-led research, which is highlighted by the substantial increase in average call duration.

On that note, a study this week revealing how decision makers and decision shapers in tech, AI and analytics consume content. The study uncovers content consumption habits of some of the most influential people when it comes to purchasing and procurement decisions in theB2B tech sector.

The firm found that:

  • 67 percent of senior decision makers read print
  • 65 percent of business leaders are drawn in by visuals when browsing B2B content
  • 63 percent prefer to consume video content above other formats
  • 59 percent of respondents said they read all of the content provided to them at events

Therefore, a greater focus on producing high quality content and comms to educate buyers during the research phase will play a key part in converting more leads. For vendors in the indirect channel, purpose-built communications platforms like Viewpoint enable them to share valuable information with partners to support their self-led research. By catering to modern B2B consumption habits and providing the right content at the right time, vendors can open up more conversations between their sales reps and the decision makers.

New role for salespeople

Selling in today’s economic downturn is undoubtedly difficult, but Gong’s analysis shows that there is still an important role to play for salespeople at all levels of the organisation during calls and in meetings.

“Reps need to help prospects contextualise what they’ve heard or read, provide answers that they haven’t been able to find on their own, and act as a trusted advisor to them,” said Wendy Harris, head of EMEA at Gong. 

“The data also highlights how B2B buyers are pivoting away from meetings during the early stages of the sales funnel in favour of a self-service-first approach. Companies need to ensure these asynchronous touchpoints are frictionless for buyers and that their sales teams engage with prospects at the right moment.”

And as Wendy points out: “The new role of the seller is to inspire confidence in your buyer. Working fewer opportunities allows sellers to shift the focus from quantity to quality.”

Daren Bach

Daren Bach (FCIM)

Chief Creative & Digital Officer
The Channel Agency: Purechannels
Helping Channel Marketing teams unleash indirect revenue through creativity, digital and storySelling.