Four professionals working on a laptop with text "how to gain a competitive advantage"
Four professionals working on a laptop with text "how to gain a competitive advantage"

The B2B sales landscape has changed. 

With the rise in AI-powered prospecting tools, the increasing significance of digital sales channels, the transition to remote selling, the “consumerization” of B2B buying, we could go on and on.

McKinsey & Company’s Marketing and Sales Practice calls this evolution “the next normal.”

With your revenue targets on the line, B2B sales is a high-stakes game — and there’s a lot to lose if you get this wrong.

So, want to know how to gain a competitive advantage in the next normal? Here’s what we learned from interviewing eight sales and marketing leaders on our The First 100 Days podcast.

how to gain a competitive advantage in B2B sales

#1. Figure out what works for you

“Don’t take sales advice as is, as everyone’s situation is different.”

For experts like Alfie Marsh, Head of Go-To-Market at Spendesk, you can’t win in B2B sales if you try to Frankenstein all the sales advice out there without considering if it’s appropriate for your particular situation.

And he explains it best with an interesting analogy.

“If you're trying to make the best car in the world, you might think you can take the best bits from the best cars in the world – the tech piece from the Tesla driverless system, the Mustang engine, and the Porsche steering,” he says. 

“If you imagine taking all these parts and putting them on a warehouse floor in a factory, reassembling them, and then thinking this will be the best car in the world, you'd be mistaken, because they probably don't even talk to each other. The nuts and bolts don't fit. You probably wouldn't even move,” Alfie continues.

For him, when developing strategies to gain a competitive advantage you need to figure out what works for your sales organization at each point in time and then optimize for success.

#2. Get outside the box

“One difficult thing to face is the mentality of ‘this is how we’ve always done it.’”

As an experienced demand generation leader formerly at Thought Industries, BlackLine, and now Kyriba, Eduardo Valladolid has seen how teams are quick to reject new ideas due to trying to “stay on-brand”. 

“Sometimes, people are afraid to go outside the brand or even the department. Don't just stay within marketing. Talk to the end-users within the organization. Talk to your Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Talk to your internal subject matter experts because those are all resources that will help you grow as a marketer. Then, talk to your customers,” he says.  

If you really want to get excited, go outside your industry. Go outside of your service offerings and see what other companies are doing,” Eduardo continues.

Many times, it’s going out of the norm that gives your and your team an edge over the competition. It’s hard to win when you’re doing the same thing as everyone else in your space.

#3. Approach the market with an agile mindset

As the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Zenefits, an industry leader in the competitive HR tech market, Kevin Marasco is the person to know when it comes to building high-performance revenue teams.

Kevin’s go-to-market skills are second-to-none, with over 20 years of sales and marketing know-how at various public and private B2B SaaS firms. 

“You have to consider the market as fluid. Which means your ideal customer profile is evolving. Your market segments are changing, and how you go-to-market is also changing,” says Kevin.

“Buyers want to buy everything online, especially in a post-pandemic world. They're willing to spend over half a million dollars online without ever seeing anyone. As marketing, sales, and revenue leaders, we must be evolving continuously, who we target, how we target them, and what products we're building for them,” he explains.

#4. Get in the heads of your users

For Kate Donahue, Head of Product Marketing for Pitch, there’s one thing that stands above the rest when it comes to doing better as a revenue team: understanding what makes your users tick.

“Understand how people discover and adopt new software and what that path looks like to purchase,” says Kate.

Think holistically about how people go from leads to qualified users to customers, what that journey looks like, and understand how stories can support that. But also, the different types of collateral or materials needed to get somebody go from anonymous user to happy customer to evangelist,” she continues.

#5. Ask for help

Brooke Bachesta is a SaaS sales pro experienced at coaching Sales Development Reps (SDRs).

As the XDR Enablement Manager at Outreach, Brooke knows the key to winning in sales is figuring out where you’re struggling and asking for help.

“Asking for help is not a bad thing. It takes a lot of self-awareness to know you are struggling in this area and could use some guidance. I wish I could have figured that out sooner,” says Brooke.

According to Brooke, it saves you a lot of time.

Need we say more?

#6. It’s always about the customer

Blaise Bevilacqua is a sales powerhouse.

As a full-cycle Senior Account Executive (AE) at UserGems, Blaise is neck-deep in the “next normal.”

For him, the biggest mistake a salesperson can make is not being prepared to adjust for any sudden changes.

“Things never go as planned, so you need to always be ready to think on the fly. Always know that if you have a certain plan, it most likely won’t end up that way.”

So, how does one handle the ambiguity and hit their quota every time?

“Be flexible, ask a lot of questions, and make it all about the customers. People don’t like to hear other people talk about themselves. Ask questions about the other person’s day-to-day life, and they’ll open up to you. This helps you get your foot in the door,” He explains.

#7. Get comfortable being outside your comfort zone

Derek Wang, Senior AE at UserGems, also believes it’s all about your prospect.

For him, prospects are more likely to work with you the more you help them and provide value.

“This means getting out there, meeting people you don’t know, creating a new network around you, and building relationships out of thin air,” says Derek.

There’s more.

Derek believes curiosity is a leading indicator of success within B2B sales.

Considering he's traveled to over 70 countries, it’s not surprising curiosity ranks high up on his list. But I digress. 

“People who keep asking questions, who want to learn more about their prospects, what their customers are doing, and their challenges are able to provide more value and help the customer along their journey,” he says.

#8. Compensation is crucial

With many people changing jobs this year, more sales leaders are taking on new roles and/or hiring new reps for their team. In both cases, compensation is top of mind.   

For Graham Collins, Head of Growth at QuotaPath, getting compensation right is vital. He compares it to the background music in a movie. You notice if it’s terrible, but you don’t see it if it’s excellent.

“A lot of times a new sales leader comes in and immediately changes the compensation plan. I believe that's a mistake,” he explains.

“There's a lot of other things you can change and unless your reps aren't making any money, don't come in and change it immediately because you're more likely to ruffle feathers than anything,” Graham continues. “When it comes to changes in compensation, trying to roll out a purely negative change is just a recipe for disaster.”

We’re sure most salespeople would agree 👍

Here’s to the future of B2B sales and marketing

As the industry evolves, so will the tools of the trade. And though it seems there isn’t a well-trodden path for revenue leaders to follow, the good news is there is more room for improvement and innovation than ever before.

From getting into the head of your users to getting out of the box, there are a lot of strategies to gain a competitive advantage in the post-pandemic world. 

Now that you know how to gain a competitive advantage, just remember to make sure your choice of sales strategies and tools meets the unique needs of your team so that it leads to the best possible outcomes.

Want to hit your number this year?