COVID-19 accelerates expected B2B sales trends

The way companies buy and sell from each other looks very different than it did even six months ago. McKinsey & Company created its B2B Decision Maker Pulse, a survey of 3,600 B2B decision makers in 11 countries and 12 sectors across 14 spend categories. The objective is to identify how decision makers continue to learn and pivot their operations in the age of COVID-19. The report from late May highlights three seemingly obvious but key trends:

An accelerated migration to digital

It may seem obvious, but the pace of the transformation to digital is astounding. Two-thirds of survey respondents stated that digital interactions are more important to their customers than traditional ones — a doubling of significance compared to pre-COVID-19 period.

Companies that provide their customers with outstanding digital experiences are twice as likely to be chosen as primary suppliers (as compared to suppliers providing poor experiences). Further, digital self-service tools are increasingly attractive to B2B customers, with live chat the highest-rated channel for researching suppliers and mobile app ordering up by 250% pre-COVID.

A pivot to remote selling

In the wake of COVID-19, 96% of B2B companies have shifted their sales model either partially or fully to remote selling. It may be here to stay: fully 65% of company decision-makers say the remote model is equally effective or even more effective than what they were doing before the pandemic hit.

The next normal sales model

Signals from the survey indicate that B2B sales operations are at a digital inflection point. The pandemic has accelerated previous trends — omnichannel selling, inside sales, tech-enabled selling, and e-commerce. A whopping 79% of B2B companies said they are very likely or somewhat likely to sustain these shifts for 12-plus months post-COVID.

Additional key findings

Budgets in flux: More than half of respondents said they will be reducing spend both in the next two weeks and over the long-term. Nearly 60% of U.S. B2B companies and 71% of UK respondents have already trimmed their budgets.

Meanwhile, 22% of companies said they intend to increase their spending in the next two weeks and in the longer-term, potentially strengthening their position for an eventual recovery. McKinsey research from the 2007-2008 recession shows that companies that spend carefully and strategically into a downturn grow faster once economies rebound.

Industries most likely to reduce spending are the global energy and materials sector and the travel, transportation and logistics industries. Most likely to increase are pharma and medical products and technology, media and telecoms.  

Click on any of the articles below to read more from our special report.

Pricing challenges posed by a pandemic
Is COVID-19 messaging fatigue real?
COVID-19 accelerates expected B2B sales trends
Pandemic selling by the numbers
Managers in the recovery can focus on change
4 tips for more engaging remote sales presentations


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