For B2B pricing and sales leaders, as well as executives, it’s been another year of unprecedented challenges and innovative thinking. That theme was certainly on display at MindShare Europe 2021 this week. Zilliant customers convened in Paris to share their own best practices for navigating dynamic market changes. 

There were a few themes that surfaced throughout the conference, including customer experience, sales enablement, the power of price optimization and pricing in a multi-country environment. This blog post offers a brief recap. 

The Impetus for a Better Customer Experience 

B2B buyers are changing – self-service is now more important than sales. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Gartner, “Increase Profits and Delight Buyers by Becoming a Digital-First, Omnichannel B2B Seller,” by the end of 2021, digital commerce is expected to overtake direct sales as the most used channel for B2B selling. 

Buyers no longer heavily depend on sales reps to sell and understand the product, yet they do expect that digital channels provide the same personalized experience. Pricing should be relevant to the dynamics of each customer and reflect their relationship with the supplier. It must consider competitive factors and order-specific dynamics such as order size and product hierarchy, with relevant recommendations for complementary products relative to the current order. This alone is complex to enable online. However, best-in-class customer experience requires mirroring the negotiation process online as well. Determining how to provide the best experience for your customers may look different from company to company yet taking the time to do so is imperative and can pay dividends. Consider this quote from the pricing director at a global food service distribution company that presented at MindShare: 

If you take pricing and implementation seriously, it will change how customers think of you. You must understand your customers and set your strategy before you can use pricing software.” 

This is certainly true; understanding your customers is a prerequisite to creating a digital experience that delights them. Being able to tap into your organization’s biggest asset - data - is another key step. Today, data is siloed within organizations. Imagine being able to utilize internal and external datasets, turning it into insights, responding to triggers that necessitate a pricing, sales, or commercial guidance change, and disseminating that guidance in real-time across channels. It’s powerful stuff. And the time to get started is now. According to Zilliant Chief Technology Officer Shams Chauthani: 

“Digital transformation is not a luxury anymore. If a company doesn’t capitalize on this once-in-a-generation change, they will be at a disadvantage over the next decade.” 

Omnichannel Intelligence: Equipping Sales to Succeed in the Digital Era 

The exceptional experience you provide customers in the digital channel should also dovetail the interactions they have with sales reps. Pricing across channels should be consistent, as should product recommendations, promotions and much more. With advanced predictive sales analytics and campaign management software, it’s possible to ensure sales reps are equipped with a wide range of insights in real time to treat each customer like a top account. For example, imagine each sales rep knowing – for each account – where purchase volume has slipped at the product category level, where opportunities to expand wallet-share exist, if customers are meeting volume commitments, if they are close to earning rebates, if they are a good fit to purchase distressed inventory, when they are a good fit for higher margin product substitutions, and which products that new accounts are likely to need and buy. Each of these insights can be delivered to sales reps and other self-service digital channels in real time.  

Contrast this with how sales insights are delivered today  spreadsheets ─ which require sales reps to sift through thousands of lines before arriving at information relevant to them, and, by that point, the information has often grown stale and irrelevant.  

At MindShare Europe, a keynote address from a director of pricing who had implemented sales growth solutions conveyed an all too familiar challenge: delivering insights with manual tools in a complex organization. The company is one of the world’s leading suppliers of materials, sign systems, displays and graphics, is a highly complex federation of companies across 20 countries with a 24/7 digital commerce presence serving 40,000 customers, and has a portfolio of tens of thousands of products. One of the company’s sales reps that utilizes Zilliant Sales IQ™ and Zilliant Campaign Manager™ said: 

It used to take a long time understanding what customers like and, critically, what they stopped buying. My experience was great. With one click, I was able to know what they were buying, and that helped me ask the right questions. Previously, I would not have noticed the category-level dip as the higher-level purchase volume I looked at had not changed. Sales IQ surfaced that my customer had suddenly stopped buying a specific category from us, and I won the business back.” 

The Power of Price Optimization & Multi-Country Pricing 

Finally, the power of price optimization and the importance of multi-country pricing were key topics of discussion. Namely, bringing more visibility and control into the price optimization process to speed up high-powered optimization while giving pricing and data science teams the freedom to experiment. Certainly, the next generation of price optimization also requires a greater level of flexibility and sophistication. Consider this quote from Zilliant Senior Vice President of Science and Products Pete Eppele: 

As you are standardizing your approach to pricing, you need flexibility across countries without creating many one-offs. It’s important to have a centralized approach to pricing that makes sense in terms of how each pricing strategy must be approached within each country.” 

It sounds complicated, and it can be. Thus, it’s critical to have access to a team of pricing and industry experts who are dedicated to your success as well as ensuring new pricing projects are delivered fast and in-market, with measurable margin analyses so you know precisely where and how the new guidance is making an impact. Here is another quote from a Zilliant customer: 

“Our success was a function of the project impact and the team and flexibility.”