How to Sell in Today’s Market


everything to know about b2b sales for 2023

The past few years have been times of incredible business disruption and equally impressive adaptation. 

And selling in 2024 will be no different. 

For most businesses, the pandemic disrupted many aspects of how we engage with customers—including how we market and sell. 

If you work in sales at any level (and even if you’re in marketing or if your title doesn’t read “sales,” I’d argue you do…), you need to see how the tide has turned. 

Here is what a McKinsey survey had to say about B2B sales in particular, but it applies across the board:

  • Digital self-serve and remote rep interactions will likely be the dominant elements of the B2B go-to-market model going forward when selling to SMBs and large enterprises.
  • Omnichannel marketing strategies are more important than ever for B2B sales. 90% of B2B sales organizations surveyed said omnichannel marketing was equally or more effective than pre-pandemic.
  • B2B buyers are more comfortable turning to digital and online channels than ever before. Now, B2B buyers use up to (and sometimes more than) 10 channels as a part of any given purchase.
  • Over 90% of B2B decision-makers expect the remote and hybrid models to stick around for the long run, and 3 in 4 believe the new model is as effective or more so than before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects).
  • 99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more in a single transaction. 
  • Buyers are now saying they much prefer online channels to meeting in person. 

What does this mean for sales? How can you win in this environment? What happens when the “new normal” becomes, well, just plain normal?

Let’s talk about it:

Choose Facts Over Feelings

When the pandemic hit, I spoke to so many companies that were worried and scared because their trade shows were canceled. Why was this an issue? Because they had depended on these shows for years, if not decades, to get their leads. This was especially true for B2B companies.

When I asked why they went to these shows in the first place, the resounding—and astounding—answer from most was simply legacy. They were doing what they’d always done because it worked well enough to keep doing it, despite the diminishing returns. 

Here’s something you may not know about me: I don’t love B2B social media marketing for the sake of social media. In fact, I am not emotionally attached to or invested in platforms or tools. When I first started my career, people would look shocked when I didn’t seem to care whether they believed me or not that Facebook and Twitter were here to stay. It was like they wanted me to convince them.

When it comes to marketing and sales, it doesn’t matter what you believe. All that matters is what works.

The companies that pivoted from trade shows thrived. They realized that the new tools and strategies they used offered an abundance of opportunity and greater ROI. 

One of our clients is in the restaurant tech space. When both their major trade shows for the year were canceled, they shifted to a completely owned and earned media PR strategy, landing 1,500 leads in 90 days. 

Let’s just revisit this gem: Over 90% of B2B decision-makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run, and 3 in 4 believe the new model is as effective or more so than before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects).

B2B Sales is NOT the Same as B2C Sales

It’s popular to say B2B and B2C don’t matter. It is all about human sales.

And that would be correct, except their primary motivation for buying is different.

In a B2C transaction, the customer is trying to avoid regret. It’s that “Ugh, I shouldn’t have bought those shoes!” feeling the next morning or a feeling of dissatisfaction when they realize they really aren’t going to use that new blender. The core motivation is avoiding regret.

In a B2B transaction, the buyer is trying to avoid blame. Unless you are selling to the operating CEO, chances are someone has to be able to defend their decision in hiring you, your services, or buying your product.

IBM thrived for years because the company coined the particular saying: “No one gets fired for buying blue.”

If you needed to buy hardware for the office and you went with IBM, your boss couldn’t say, “Well, that’s what you get for trusting a no-name.” You could easily say, “It’s IBM. They are the best in the business.” It made for a no-fault decision.

The marketplace today is more complicated, but the premise remains. You have to invest in trust around your brand—more than ever if you sell in the B2B space.

Mindshare = Market Share for that very reason. As your share of voice goes up, so does your market share. Just ask Tesla, Salesforce, or Slack.

Why “Nike” Gets More Searches Than “Shoes”

Most salespeople don’t think about branding as much as they do closing, but that’s a huge missed opportunity.

Let’s look at this simple example. Google sees roughly 1.2 million searches for “shoes” a month. Now, guess how many searches Nike gets a month.

5 million.

Why? Customer loyalty.

That’s the power of a brand. 59% of people prefer buying products from brands they are familiar with.

I was 22 when I started my company. I didn’t have a network or money. In fact, I didn’t realize until much later that when most people start a PR agency, it’s because they have a book of businesses or relationships they’ve built that they can leverage. I didn’t have any of that.

I did it by building my personal brand. Today, organizations pay me top dollar to speak to and work with my company. I don’t sell from the stage. My goal is simply to deliver value.

True sales are much less about funnels today and much more about branding. According to research unveiled at Forrester’s B2B Summit North America, the pandemic dramatically changed B2B buying behaviors.

The number of interactions required to make buying decisions significantly increased, from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021. And, as of 2024, B2B buyers engage with content across 51 sessions on average, indicating they revisit information and seek updates as they become available.

You should read that again.

This means before prospects even talk to sales, they’ve already made up their mind.

And last year, Forrester’s B2B Buyer’s Journey report also revealed that 43% of business buyers make purchase decisions with no more than two people across a single department.

The key takeaway? Proactively create demand for your brand and products. Rather than waiting for prospects to come to you, take the initiative to build brand awareness and trust through strategic marketing efforts. By investing in strategies that resonate with your target audience, you can position yourself as the go-to choice before they even consider reaching out to anyone else.

Customers go to brands they trust. Make the brand they trust your brand, and you’re in.

Close Before You Convince

According to Gartner, 60% of B2B prospects have already made a decision before they ever contact your company. Talking to a sales rep is often their last step. This is why it’s paramount that you close first and convince later.

More buyers today do post-purchase research than ever before. They buy and then want reassurance that they made the right decision.

So, close them first. Beat their “consideration stage.” Move them through the sales funnel. Make sure they choose you before they reach out, and then convince them that this is an excellent decision.

How? By investing in your brand. This is where earned, owned, and shared media come into play.

Whether you’re leading a sales team or you’re a B2B marketing leader who understands your role in sales enablement, here are 5 questions you can answer to help you sell better in 2024 and beyond:

  1. Are you investing in your brand?

    Branding is essential for standing out in a crowded marketplace, so in order to succeed in today’s market, you need to focus on building brand trust. This is especially important in the B2B space, where relationships and reputation hugely influence consumer decision-making. Companies like Tesla, Salesforce, and Slack have all seen success by investing in their brand and increasing their share of voice.
  2. Are you proactively creating demand or just focusing on capturing it?

    The former puts you in a category of your own; the latter leaves you constantly competing against others. 

    As the research from Gartner shows, most B2B prospects have already made a decision before ever reaching out to your company. This is why it’s essential to proactively create demand for your brand and products, rather than just focusing on capturing existing demand. By investing in strategies that build brand awareness and trust, you can ensure that prospects choose you before even speaking to a sales rep.

    In today’s market, selling is less about traditional funnels and more about branding. With the increase in B2B buying behaviors, it’s crucial to understand that prospects have likely already made up their minds before ever speaking to a sales rep. This means that closing the deal before convincing them is key. 
  3. Are you measuring your sales cycle?

    Is it getting shorter or longer? Are you leveraging technology effectively?

    From CRM systems to automation tools, countless technologies are available to help streamline processes and improve efficiency. By leveraging technology effectively, you can better understand your customers, track their behaviors, and deliver personalized experiences that drive sales.
  1. Are you amplifying and distributing your content efforts via earned media? 

    Amplify, amplify, amplify! This means utilizing PR, social media, and other channels to increase visibility and reach. By leveraging earned media, you can build credibility and trust with your audience, ultimately driving sales. 

    Amplifying this content and making as much noise (good noise, that is!) as possible about it is a super effective way to spread the word about your brand, boost consumer trust, and increase sales efforts.
  1. Are you measuring MQLs or actual revenue? 

    If you want to succeed in today’s (and tomorrow’s) market, you need to consistently measure the success of your marketing efforts not just in terms of MQLs but also in terms of actual revenue generated. This will give you a more accurate picture of how well your campaigns are driving sales. 

    With this information, you can then begin to see what initiatives are and aren’t working. This is crucial in second-stage marketing efforts and helps you pivot to make your content most appealing to and effective on your potential customers.

Key Takeaways

If you take just one thing away from reading this, let it be this: Front-runners will constantly win the deal.

When reviewing the past few years, one thing remains clear: the business landscape—and sales, in particular—is constantly changing. The pandemic reshaped not only how we operate but also how we engage with our customers. And this change isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So, what does this mean for the future?

Embrace the change. Expect the unexpected. Go with the flow. Find your zen, if you will (wink, wink).

Understand what drives your customers to make buying choices, then meet them where they are. When you remain flexible and consistent, you’ll drive brand trust and boost sales.

Because if you’re in sales in 2024, your job is to ensure the brand you represent is the front-runner long before customers know they need you. Listen. React. Be open to change.

Need some help?

If you need support developing your digital marketing, B2B sales strategy, or other marketing campaigns in 2024, the experts at Zen Media are here to help. 
We’d love to hear from you and talk about how we can help your business take it to the next level. Reach out today!


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