The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous and irreversible influence on (international) business-to-business sales. The pandemic gave birth to a crisis response which grew up to be the next-normal, permanently changing how buyers and sellers will do business in the future. The big digital shift is here to stay. In this blog we are reviewing research results that describe the new normal in B2B sales and how this impacts finding and qualifying new distributors or business partners for the North American exporter.
Establishing a new relationship: the human connection
Over 75% of buyers and sellers indicate that they prefer digital serf-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. The research does indicate that about 31% of interactions related to establishing new distribution channels is still done face-to-face.
This shift can be positively interpreted by the ambitious exporter. New and more creative ways have been found to conducting continuing business when the relationship is established. Remote or in person, 80% of new relationships and 70% of existing relationships require continuous human input. This strengthens our view of the need of a local salesforce that is sensitive to local culture and language, to establish and maintain business interests.
Being better at digital
Many companies were forced to sharpen their digital tools during the first wave of the pandemic. Especially small- and midsized companies were forced to review their methods and working structure. Reviewing in hindsight, a global increase in efficacy can be observed. In Europe, the perception of the effectiveness of digital working methods have increased impressively in France with 22%. Traditional efficiency-experts in Germany have even recorded a 7% change.
Influence on new and existing business
The effectiveness of this ‘new sales model’ has been measured during the course of the first months of the pandemic. The results show incredible human adaptability, where within 100 days – 75% of companies were able to rebound to being as or more effective as before COVID-19. This corresponds with the feedback from the field, EuroDev project managers experienced a surge in RFQs from the market in what would traditionally be more quiet months in Europe: July and August.
The remote engagement with new business opportunities within new conditions had become the same or more effective for 76% of companies. Only 5% of companies surveyed have given back to be much less effective after COVID-19.
Digital prospecting, when conducted vigorously and supported by the right tools can be as effective as in-person meetings to connect with existing but also new relationships for your company. More traditional executives paint a much more grim picture, the figures show different.
What about the market?
The investment climate paints a mixed but predominately bright picture. Over 40% of respondents expect both capex and opex investments to increase over the next 5 years. This paints a (moderately) positive picture of the market and investment willingness.
During the calmer COVID-19 months this summer, various markets showed surges in positivity and growth. Leading industrial nations like Germany and Italy momentarily went back to pre-COVID numbers.
As the positivity about 2021 rises , supported by the availability of various vaccines, it seems that B2B sales are going to make an incredible comeback. Companies have become much more lean and efficient in finding and maintaining relationships.
The road that the USA will take, will have overarching repercussions on the global economy – due to the size and pivotal role of the US dollar.
Interesting data also shows that various industries have used the COVID-19 crisis as a catalyst for change. In Germany, automotive manufacturing, machinal and plant engineering sectors faced structural challenges made it unable to navigate the crisis like the food retail or real estate sectors have been able to do.
Accurate market insight is therefore of continuing importance. EuroDev project teams are using the most recent available data as a basis for forming 2021 strategies.
You can find the whole research done by McKinsey here.