Rethink. Redefine. Reimagine.
Over three days last week, Zilliant customers and prospective customers from around the world attended our first-ever virtual MindShare pricing and sales conference. With nearly 500 registrants, it was by far our most well-attended conference, almost making up for the inability to meet in person this year. The event featured four customer speakers sharing their stories, a keynote from Zilliant President and CEO Greg Peters and a product innovation demo. The prevailing message expressed in each of these presentations was the opportunity to Rethink, Redefine and Reimagine commercial processes and decisions in B2B.
Here are four takeaways from MindShare 2020.
Speed and accuracy are top of mind
When we polled our audience to find out the main capabilities their customers expect, but are not getting today, faster response on price quotes (26%) and accurate, up-to-date price lists (19%) easily led the way.
Given the speed of modern business, these twin challenges are as unsurprising as they are ubiquitous. That they both come with major impact to the bottom line make them all the more urgent. The inability to turn around quotes quickly due to arduous approval processes, rapidly changing costs and a lack of point-of-quote pricing guidance lead B2B companies to lose business to both traditional competitors and, increasingly, more agile online entrants.
Even if quotes get delivered in timely fashion, there is a second opportunity for the deal to stall when buyers want to negotiate price. Too many B2B organizations are still managing negotiations the way they did 10 or even 20 years ago. Customers increasingly expect a real-time experience, even when it comes to haggling over line items within a quote. The leaders are enabling an intelligent automated negotiation experience with price elasticity built in.
Read more: The Art of Intelligent Automated Negotiation
Inaccurate prices compound the quote response problem. Instantaneous quotes that are misaligned with the market or customer expectations don’t do the seller any good. Keeping price lists accurate and up to date is both a technical and administrative issue. You need the tools in place to account for the myriad factors that impact price at any given time in order to produce market-aligned, optimized prices. You also need to be able to publish those prices in a consistent, reproducible manner across every region, customer and product combination.
Take action: Complete the 2020 Global B2B Benchmark Assessment
To be successful in B2B pricing, you need the right tools
When attendees were asked what the biggest hurdle has been to improve pricing performance, the runaway winner was lack of tools or data needed (49%). A large B2B company can only go so far with manual means, even if organizational rigor has been applied to the pricing function. One of our customer speakers, a specialty plastics distributor, experienced as much first-hand:
“We created a pricing team in 2018 and we gained some quick wins without a tool,” she said. “But early on we realized that despite the really good team in place we needed a tool, or it would be almost impossible to achieve the pricing excellence we wanted.”
The reason manual pricing is untenable for large B2B companies is that it becomes too complex to set the right price for all customers and all products categories, let alone regularly update the prices to account for changing cost and market dynamics, like demand shocks during a pandemic. The results are stale, inconsistent and inaccurate prices and a lack of granularity in pricing segments, leading to a significant amount of lost margin dollars, or in some cases over-pricing.
MindShare attendees heard success stories from peers who have taken the necessary step to intelligent pricing driven by a data science platform.
Read more: Why Price Optimization Isn't Do-It-Yourself
Sales teams must become more proactive
A reactive sales process (31%) was the leading sales challenge identified by poll respondents during MindShare. This is not an indictment of a sales team; it means the data and customer intel necessary for a proactive sales strategy do not reach the sellers in easily executable ways in many B2B companies.
Consider the book of business that your average salesperson manages for a global B2B distributor. They may be responsible for more than 50 customers and a product list of 10,000 SKUs, while carrying an aggressive sales target. Naturally, they are going to take the path of least resistance to knock down their quota. That might not be the most fruitful path, however.
Companies must be able to analyze massive amounts of data and group customers based on profiles to identify where the best selling opportunities lie, both in their customer base and whitespace accounts. At that point pricing teams, marketing managers and sales operations need the capability to refine and deliver those insights to frontline sales reps in a closed-loop process.
At MindShare, we announced expanded capabilities in our sales effectiveness suite to systematically address the strategy-to-execution gap. Register for our Nov. 19 webinar for a deeper dive on pricing and sales campaign execution.
COVID-19 has accelerated the need for digital technology
“Customer interactions will continue to be increasingly digital – forcing people, processes and technology to continue to adapt,” said Greg Peters in the opening keynote. “People alone cannot scale in this world and organizations must learn and embrace AI technologies. While these changes are amplified by COVID-19, from a sales perspective they are largely permanent.”
To wit, each of the four customers on the digital stage talked about their current use of eCommerce (with plans to expand it), as well as Zilliant solutions to deliver insights and action for sellers’ digital consumption.
“(Sales IQ) allows our selling organization to approach our buyers with more valuable information in the limited time that we have in Zoom calls,” said one customer. “Now that buyers are conditioning themselves to this reality, we’re taking the opportunity to have a more value-based conversation and setting a new bar on how to drive these conversations forward.”
The advantages of a mature eCommerce presence in this environment are enormous. Customer portals tailor the user experience and allow buyers to immediately see available inventory and personalized pricing. More B2B companies are taking the opportunity to create a consumer-like experience on B2B eCommerce sites, but the pricing transparency gets tricky in those circumstances. Several customers spoke to the need to deliver rational, real-time market pricing online while ensuring contract customers don’t see a price on your web site that is better than their agreement pricing.
To overcome these online pricing intricacies, you need the right tools to deliver rational, real-time market pricing, targeted cross-sell and upsell capabilities and self-service negotiation.
“While it may seem counterintuitive to introduce further change and disruption, the companies who invest now in transforming their commercial processes will be best suited for profitable growth in the long term,” said Peters.
Thanks to all of our MindShare 2020 attendees and presenters for making it a successful event! Keep an eye out for details on MindShare 2021.
Contact us for more pricing and sales insights.