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Will B2B sales ever be the same again?

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B2B sales
"I'm very optimistic about the future. Absolutely. I think there is so much to gain here and to change."

This podcast features three incredible industry experts who joined us for our first ClientSide webinar, to discuss the changing landscape of B2B sales in light of the events of 2020. Hear insight from:

  • Brent Adamson – Distinguished VP of Gartner and researcher, author, presenter, and thinker
  • Marie Bergfelt – Head of Marketing Portfolio & Communications at BOBST
  • Geoff Phillips – Former Head of Marketing for Sage

You can also watch the live webinar recording here.


Nathan Anibaba:             This is ClientSide from Fox Agency.

Speaker 1:                        Hit it. That’s what I’m talking about. Wait, okay now from the beginning.

Nathan Anibaba:             This is an audio recording of the webinar that we ran back in December called will B2B sales ever be the same again. And it was a brilliant and timely chat about how B2B sales teams go to market, prospects and sell in a remote world. Something suddenly you’ve all had to get used to over the last 12 months as we come out of lockdown in the UK, at least, the question to ask ourselves is, will we revert back to business as usual when we come out of this thing? Or have we developed new behaviors and habits that will stick around with us for the long term?

By the way, the panelists in the discussion were only Brent Adamson, the VP of Gartner and co-author of The challenger Sale methodology. Marie Bergfelt the head of marketing portfolio communications at BOBST and Jeff Phillips, the former marketing director at Sage and now founder of Canvas Marketing. It was an absolutely brilliant conversation. I enjoyed it. I know that you will as well. Go to Fox Agency/ClientSide, where you can see our latest webinar, the golden age of IoT, fascinating discussion. Until then enjoy this recording of the webinar that we ran in December, will B2B sales ever be the same again?

Good afternoon, good morning, wherever you’re listening and joining from and welcome to today’s webinar from the ClientSide podcast team here at Fox Agency. My name is Nathan Anibaba, and I am the host of the session today. Our talk today is entitled, will B2B sales ever be the same again? And I’m super excited to host this panel discussion with you. We’ve got a panel of three absolute B2B sales and marketing heavyweights. The webinar will be recorded and a copy of the webinar will be sent to you after the session. And final note is to say that to find more great content from Fox Agency, head over to and subscribe to our podcasts where you’ll find other great sales and marketing B2B leaders, and be notified when we’ve got more podcasts and webinars available.

So now I’d like to introduce the premise of our discussion. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has really forced B2B buyers and sellers to go digital in a massive way. What started out as really a crisis response has become the new normal with really big implications for how buyers and sellers will do business both now and in the future. McKinsey research recently found out that between 70 to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interaction or digital self-service. And B2B decision makers behavior globally across different industries suggest that these big digital shifts are really here to stay. So we’ve got three industry heavyweights to discuss the implications for what this really means for our businesses today and moving forward.

So introducing our three guests today, Brent Adamson is the distinguished vice president of Gartner and co-author of the phenomenally successful books, The Challenger Sale, and The Challenger Customer. He’s a frequent contributor to the Harvard business review and Forbes. He;s worked with hundreds of senior executives across virtually every industry geography and go to market model. Thank you very much and welcome Brent Adamson.

Brent Adamson:              Great to be here Nathan.

Nathan Anibaba:             Marie Bergfelt is the head of marketing and portfolio communications at BOBST. She has extensive experience working strategically and operationally in multicultural and cross functional environments, have background spans both B2B and B2C marketing communications, leading teams with energy results orientation, loyalty, and a positive attitude to deliver high quality on time and on budget. She was also a recent guest on our podcast and really helps inspire the topic of the webinar today. So thank you very much for that, Marie, and welcome to the webinar.

Marie Bergfelt:                Thank you Nathan.

Nathan Anibaba:             And last but not least is Jeff Phillips. Jeff is the former marketing director at Sage and founder of Canvas marketing. He is an award-winning marketer, speaker and coach with proven experience at C3 levels across multiple sectors from FTSE 100 to high-growth SMEs. He’s worked with brands including Baxi, Avery Dennison, Canon and Caspian. Welcome Jeff.

Jeff Phillips:                      Thanks Nathan. Thanks everyone.

Nathan Anibaba:             First question. Hope you guys are all ready for this. As we said, the research from McKinsey that came out recently cited that more than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interaction. Self-serve and remote interactions have made it easier for buyers and sellers to get information, place orders and arrange service and customers have really enjoyed that speed and convenience. Only about 20% of B2B buyers say that they hope to return to some form of in-person sales even in sectors where field sales models have traditionally dominated such as pharma, heavy machinery and medical products. So the question that we have for you guys is, is this good or bad for B2B business? And if so, what are the implications for how we go to market both now and in the future? Who wants to kick us off?

Marie Bergfelt:                I can start as I’m the woman then. I think it’s good in the long run, but I think it also requires a lot from companies to be able to continue on this and to be successful on doing all the digital things. Data is one thing. All companies now need to have complete track of who their customers are, what they’re doing opposed to in the more physical world where the sales person himself, his or herself is keeping track of the clients. So to keep this continuous, digital interaction with customers, data is definitely essential.

Brent Adamson:              Nathan, the question of, is it a good or a bad thing is the answer it’s always, I suppose it depends, but if you’re not ready for it, it’s a horrible thing. If you’re not willing to go on the journey, then it’s a really, really bad thing because in fact, the world is going to change pretty significantly. But nonetheless, I think we do have to make a distinction between digital selling in the terms of… Digital through virtual selling. So human beings, sales professionals are still involved, but selling virtually as opposed to in-person, that’s one form of digital. And then there’s digital selling where there’s no humans involved at all, its self-serve. And those two things are going to be very different in how they evolve. But nonetheless, I think they’re going to be both critically important. I would imagine we all think they’re going to be critically important going forward.

The better way to think about that 20% number is, there’s a couple ways to look at it like, only 20% of customers will ever want to talk to a sales rep again is probably not the right way to think about this. I think it’s rather for any given deal, the proportion of the amount of time where customers engage in that deal directly with human beings in person is going to go down. So I think for a lot of particularly large complex deals, there will probably still be an in-person someone in someone else’s office component but much more of that will be done virtually. And I think that’s talking to heads of sales and heads of sales enablement.

One of the things they’ve all been just amazed by is how much you can accomplish with a customer virtually because everyone’s now more open to it than they were say a year ago. So there is no question that that’s here to stay. I think because we’re all human beings and many, not all of us, but many of us crave interaction, some of the human element of face-to-face will come back. But if you’re not ready or willing to move into this new reality, it’s going to be a pretty painful place because this is in fact the new way we’re all going to interact I think.

Jeff Phillips:                      I would agree with both comments. Brent touched on the fact that high value with complex sales, they’re the ones who are probably sitting within that 20% bracket because it’s just harder to do it. Particularly if it’s something that relies on some form of physical interaction, maybe it’s a physical demonstration or a physical product that you really need to actually see, and we can’t yet quite fully represent that in a digital space. So I think that’s where a lot of that comes from. Is it good or bad? I would say one of the very good things, particularly from across the sales and marketing sphere is that it’s broken down barriers that previously existed and has forced us to do things differently when we previously had a fear of doing it. Into Brent’s point it’s driven us to something that we weren’t necessarily comfortable with but actually have found it reasonably straightforward to do.

And there was the stats in the McKinsey piece around how fast business has got up and running. I think it was 90% plus were open selling very quickly either because they were already equipped or because they found a way to do it very quickly. But I think the really good thing that it’s done is to teach us all new skills, so new ways of interacting, broaden our portfolio of the way that we engage, the way that we converse with potential clients and the way that we converse with them. Let’s not forget as well a big part of this is it’s not just about sales, it’s also how you then onboard customers, is how you service them, how you make sure that they get value from whatever it is you’re selling as well. And that I think is a big thing that has to be considered in all of this.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really interesting insights guys. I’m going to ask the rest of the attendees now the same question. So I’m going to launch a poll and the question is, is this new go-to market model good or bad for your business? And then be interested in sort of canvas everyone’s thoughts and opinions.

Brent Adamson:              Nathan, as people are filling it out. One of the things that’s interesting is that I think what we really have in front of us now is potential. And it’s going to be very interesting to see which companies grasp that potential, embrace that potential versus those who are going to still, despite everything Jeff, to your point about, we just had an incredibly clear demonstration that we can change and change dramatically and changed dramatically quickly. And yet I think as things go back to something closer to normal, there’ll be at least some of those of us who want to go back to something closer to a comfort zone and others was like, “Wow, we’ve got moment let’s keep it. And we’ll push forward.”

And that’s where I think the break is really going to happen is between now and say 12 months from now where many companies will push even more aggressively forward with the changes they’re making, some will begin to hang back. And I think we’ll begin to see gaps between winners and losers really dramatically across the next 12 months. Just to guess.

Marie Bergfelt:                I completely agree with you, but it’s really a change management in a company to make these people who are used to the very physical and they are very comfortable with that to grasp the new situation of acting digitally. And as with everything, you’ll have the early adopters, those who do it immediately, no worries. And then you will have those who really are struggling to keep up with the new technology instead of the face to face.

Brent Adamson:              Completely agree Marie.

Nathan Anibaba:             That’s something I want to come back to you a little bit later on Marie, because that’s something that’s really quite pertinent to your business BOBST, which we discussed on the podcast, which I’ve got a very specific question for you later on that. But to your point, Brent, I think the results here really mirror the optimism or the potential that a lot of people are seeing in this opportunity. 93% of people have said that this new model is really good for business. And I began to understand why the 7% of people said that it wasn’t good for business or their business specifically. Overwhelmingly a lot of optimism and positivity there from the vast majority of people on the webinar.

Let’s go through our next question. So the research from McKinsey also highlighted the fact that 44% of B2B buyers were happy to order high-value products with remote demos and cameras. And to your point, Jeff, software companies have been setting in this way for a very long time and technology companies have. But businesses selling physical products, such as complex machinery or medical devices may struggle as we’ve just highlighted. So for those more traditional businesses that rely on in-person sales and in-person selling, what should sales teams be thinking about now to make the ordering process as effective as possible? And what opportunities does this present to B2B businesses? And maybe just to expand on the point that we made before.

Jeff Phillips:                      I think there’s huge opportunity and I’m not going to cover off all of it right here. But we refer for years as moving towards omni-channel businesses but not necessarily every business has gone into that direction. And I think for those businesses that have embraced it, obviously they’ve found it easier to transition it as you say in professional services, technology businesses, software, and the like, have found it relatively easy to transition because they’ve had that model and the infrastructure already. I think we touched on it earlier in the… If you’re talking about those more complex sales or maybe the physical sales, actually it’s forcing through technology that probably a lot of the salespeople would have wanted for quite a period of time, but just haven’t been able to justify and haven’t necessarily most importantly, being able to prove the value of it.

And now we’re in that situation where actually you can get that value from the technology by integrating that in with a broader sales model and actually do away with a lot of the admin or more transactional elements of a sales process and use technology for that, be it a self-serve, be it a combined experience virtual versus physical. And then some of the real important stuff that can only be done through a physical interaction, but particularly if it’s a physical demonstration of something we will ultimately come back to a point in time where that will be able to happen. But actually it will deliver huge efficiencies huge ability to be a lot more agile and flexible reach more customers, be much more efficient about when you use that physical resource in tandem with that technology powered resource.

And I think it will also spur on a lot of other technology developments. I think we’ve learned over the last six to 12 months that actually we can develop technology quickly. We can implement it quickly. There are models out there that can’t be broken easily. And I think that will drive a whole heap of new innovation out of this that actually when we get into a free world where investment starts to flow more and potentially it will create a much richer, omni-channel experience that will fit multiple businesses in whatever guise that they decide to deploy it.

Nathan Anibaba:             Anyone else want to jump in there?

Brent Adamson:              The thing Nathan, I think is, I was thinking about this this morning, for those of my age and older, I suppose you think across the last 20, 30 years, how many things have we said, there’s no way you could buy that online or no way you could sell that online. And lo and behold, here we are buying and selling those things online? Just, if you think about just two weeks ago, Tony Hsieh passed from the founder of Zappos and Zappos is an online shoe retailer now owned by Amazon. When Zappos got started, none of us thought you’d ever buy shoes online. You got to go with a story, you got to try them on, I don’t want to send them back, it’s too hard. And now I haven’t bought a pair of shoes in a store in I don’t know, five years and I’ve bought lots of shoes. Trust me.

And so the reason I say that is because now I was like, “Well, this is a big industrial machine. You’ve got to walk around it. You got to touch and feel it. You got to see it, you got to run it.” I think the limit to our ability to sell that virtually online is our own creativity. Then I think the ones who win in this world are the ones who come up with a solution to do this virtually, that we all look at five years from now and say, “Why didn’t I think of that? Or I would have never guessed that that was possible.” And there’s a much longer version of this. But if I think back across the last about 20 years of sales and marketing, B2B sales and marketing, there was a window through which we differentiated by our product and then that window closed.

And then there was a window through which we differentiate ourselves by our solutions and everybody had solutions so that was no longer a source of differentiation. Over the last 10 years, we’ve all sought to differentiate ourselves through thought leadership and saying really smart things to our customers to show that we could be trusted and believed, and lo and behold through data and content marketing, everything else, we all got collectively really good at saying smart things to our customers. So that’s no longer a source of differentiation. I think that the big window of differentiation across the next five to 10 years is those companies come up with these very creative, unexpected, powerful immersive digital experiences that digest point that can allow suppliers to sell both in-person, virtually in-person and digitally all in a very seamless way that creates a very rich for your customer. That’s where the ones who win are going to be the ones who pour their creativity into that and create windows of differentiation through digital that we can’t even imagine today.

Nathan Anibaba:             [crosstalk].

Marie Bergfelt:                As I read the [inaudible] one of this more traditional heavy machinery sales companies. We are learning, of course we didn’t know what to do [inaudible], but we have tried, we have sold equipment machines without customers touching the machine at all already. And for every demo, every interaction we do with customers, we learned something and we become better. And of course we need to have maybe some external help once in a while, but we are definitely moving in that direction. I think you’re right. It’s only our own creativity that stops it.

Nathan Anibaba:             And Marie how have your customers adapted to that? Because traditionally, a lot of your customers I know are in remote locations around the world, they’re used to more traditional forms of communication. How have they adapted to this sort of remote environment? Has it been easy for them to adapt or was it more of a struggle?

Marie Bergfelt:                Well, it depends, of course. Big groups, the Western world easier. Yes, definitely. Smaller companies, we have customers that are like mom-and-pop shops, we call them small family companies less so I would say if it’s the older generation, if it’s a younger generation running, they adapt and they accept. But it’s little by little. So I think this is the next step we need to take to say, how do we reach them all in all those even very remote locations? Asia is a big market, of course, how do we reach them as well? Do we do that digitally in Asia? Currently we don’t, we do it from Europe. But there are definitely parts to be explored here to how to reach them, but many are open to it and very acceptable.

Nathan Anibaba:             Wonderful. So I’ve just launched an audience poll to engage everyone else that’s listening to us. So the question that’s in front of you now on your screens is, how much of an opportunity does this present to you and your business? Select one of the following please, much more, somewhat more, as effective as before, somewhat less or much less.

Jeff Phillips:                      Well [inaudible] for as well Nathan. And I think there’s probably an observation to make there. It’s quite an interesting one actually, let’s see if we look at our consumer lives, rather than B2B. We’ve become very familiar with doing a number of the things that Brent talked about and everyone is potentially moving towards. So, if you’re thinking about buying cars, buying houses, other consumer goods like TVs and mattresses and stuff like that. You can buy a mattress from 10 different online companies now and get a 200 night guarantee to return something which people 10 years ago would never have considered buying a product like that without going and lying on it and testing it. And I think that goes back to that psychological limitation that Brent mentioned and you can actually get around those things.

And I would suspect that probably a lot of the mentality that comes from those with a car nowadays, you generally know what car you want when you go to buy it. And a lot of people will generally just go into the showroom to say, “Yeah, it’s everything that I thought it would be. I’ll have it.” And very few people will then drop out from that point of purchase. So I think the more you can put guarantees, commitments and faith into those kinds of relationships and selling and learn from some of those consumer experiences, I think we can transfer that confidence over into the B2B world.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really good point. So I’m going to close the poll now and share the results. And 41% say that there is an opportunity that does exist, but it’s somewhat more, but they’re not massively optimistic, but they’re somewhat more optimistic. And these are the sort of results that you expected to sort of see guys, there’s sort of cautious optimism here, but not too much.

Brent Adamson:              I think this is where you see that creativity point. I think the ones who look to say much more are the ones who are going to find more, if that makes sense. This almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of who’s willing to go out and make this into an opportunity. It’s going to be very interesting to watch in my mind.

Jeff Phillips:                      I was just going to say, my guess would be that the stats are probably made it to an extent of the business sector from which people are coming from. And probably that the lowest scores will be those that are in either having to have the technology in place to be able to make that leap and are therefore frustrated or are in sectors where they just can’t adopt those things. There’s a client I work with in Ireland, Gus, and they’re in such a specialist niche sector that being able to go out and do the level of service that they offer you have to do it physically.

So they would be one of the examples that would say, “Yeah, it has definitely impacted our ability to do business and you can’t replace it through technology. It’s almost impossible to replace the technology.” At the current time anyway. So it would be great to hear from those people on the Q&A Nathan, because it would be great to hear what’s driving those thoughts and maybe get some questions from those guys around it, or even tell us a little bit about what’s informing their views.

Nathan Anibaba:             Definitely. Please save those questions for the end for Q&A guys. Really excited to hear your thoughts there. Okay. So question three; so much of the subtlety of human interaction is lost without face-to-face interaction, right? Body language, intonation, responsiveness, even the aftershave that we wear, all those things play a role in face-to-face interactions and face-to-face selling. So many salespeople have really struggled to really make that adjustment to remote selling because so many of the intangibles of sales are now lost via Zoom and Teams, etc. So the question is, what does remote selling do to the art of salesmanship?

Brent Adamson:              I think Nathan in some ways it makes you… Sales, first of all, it doesn’t go away still. We’ll still have sales reps, at least for the foreseeable future until bots are buying from bots and algorithms run everything, but that’s at least 10 years down the road, I think. But real briefly, I talked to a group of head of global sales enablement yesterday. So sales enabled executives from companies all over the world. And someone made the very good point, which is our sellers would have never been willing to go back 12 months from today in times back to December 2019, not a single one of us could have possibly imagined that we’d be here where we are today with the abilities that we’ve developed over the last 12 months. And the only way that we got there is because we had to, we had no choice. And one of them made a really good point.

She said, look, if I had gone to my team and said, “Hey, because of TNE budget cuts, we’re no longer going to travel. We’re going to have to see all our clients by a virtual.” The sales reps would have completely… There would have been a revolution. They would all walk out the door. It would have been a complete crisis, but that, wasn’t it. Let’s not overlook the fact that we’d all agree. This had been a human tragedy. And so there’s a real dark side to this of course, I want to be very careful about that. But if there is ever a silver lining, at least in the sales world, that to your point, you asked Marie earlier, “How are your customers willing to go along with it?” Your customers had no choice. And that’s the same thing with sellers. They had no choice, which is we were faced with a situation where we had to change. We had to figure this out because there’s…

And someone else made a really good point. It’s like, “And you didn’t have to do this ace. There was no asymmetry here. Everyone had to do it.” So it wasn’t like there was a first mover advantage. The whole market, every industry had to figure out a way to do this, and there wasn’t a choice. And so as a result, we did it. And I think that’s what a powerful thing to see what can happen. The thing that changes you can make the changes you can embrace the ways you can evolve when you’re faced with no choice. It’s been, I think an incredibly inspiring thing to see over the last 12 months. And the reason why that’s interesting is because for the next 12 months, we’re going to move back into a world where there is a choice. And then it’s going to be interesting to see what people do when now they have an option.

And so I think this goes to your question about what’s going to happen to selling and sellers is I think it’s going to be the same thing we just talked about for those who realize this works. And I can’t tell you how many sale leaders I’ve talked to around the world who said, “So many of our sales reps have figured out that this is actually a good thing for them. They can be more effective. They can be home with their families. They have actually more access to customers that they couldn’t imagine before. They can get more calls in during a day, they have to watch for the exhaustion bark,” which is real. But so I think that there’s going to be open mindset individuals who see this as a good thing and are going to find the customers willing to buy this way. And it’s going to be pretty powerful thing.

Marie Bergfelt:                I fully agree with you. I think that there will be an upside of this because what I can say, the self-service, many companies now, or at least of the industrial companies who set up the e-commerce platforms for the spare parts, and it’s very convenient. They don’t need to call within office hours. They can call at 10 o’clock or they can place their order at 10 o’clock at night, if that’s… And they will see the benefits in the long run, as well as remote services, which is not sending the technician. For a customer that can be a big difference. They can get to service remotely. They can get to support remotely. They can get the machine up and running. It’s less costly as well. So I think there are many benefits that this is pushing really to use, which was much more difficult before to get at least our customers to use these remote services and remote sales channels.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really fascinating. Guys, I’m going to launch a poll now and ask the question, whether or not this actually makes sales easier or harder. So in response to what we’ve just been discussing, the question that you should have in front of you on your screen now is, does remote selling make the art of salesmanship easier or harder? Please select one of the following, much harder, a little harder, no change, a little easier or much easier.

Brent Adamson:              This is where you need that great German word [foreign language] which is [inaudible] one to nine, it’s yes and no all combined into a single word.

Nathan Anibaba:             The numbers are rolling out. I’ll give everyone just a few more seconds. And it seems to be a pretty even split at the moment between a little harder and a little easier. Nobody really wants to think much harder or much easier.

Jeff Phillips:                      I think it depends on how people read the question. If they’re talking about the individual sales person and their own interaction directly with a customer, or whether or not it’s the sales experience, whether or not that’s delivered remotely, semi remotely, virtually, etc. Because there’s actually a brilliant, hungry salesperson can influence a remote experience or self-serve experience just as much as they can a direct face-to-face experience in my eyes anyway.

Brent Adamson:              Nathan, just real quick, just a couple of anecdotes that I’ve heard from sales leaders that gives you both sides of the story. So one is heads of sales have told us, I’ve talked to a couple of chief sales officers that the real power in an in-person sales meeting, isn’t actually the meeting. It’s those three to four minutes where you’re walking to the front door of the customer’s offices at the end of the meeting, where the manager can hold back and have that sidebar conversation with the vice president. They actually do that little quick sort of, “Yeah, let’s wait…” And a lot of magic can happen in those two, three minutes of walking down the hall that you don’t get on a webinar or some sort of platform. So this head of sales actually said that they’ve actually engineered that. So they create at the end of a Team, Zoom, Webex call, the manager often asks the senior person on the customer say, “Hey, could you just stick on the line for a couple of minutes?” And they’ll try to actually recreate that sidebar moment.

The other in the second of the two things I’ve mentioned is that the single biggest thing we heard from chief sales officers in the last four years is an access problem. It’s the number one challenge. We just can’t get access to our customers. Like literally we just can’t get in their offices to see them. We have to get into their office to see them and we don’t hear that nearly as much anymore so we can get access to people now that we could never get access to before. And I think, again, there’ll be interesting to see what happens next but that’s his yes and no about better, worse, harder, easier. I think that you see all sorts of different dimensions that is it different? I think is probably the best way to think about it.

Nathan Anibaba:             Thank you for sharing those insights. I’m going to share the results now and it looks at the 38% of people have said it makes the art of salesmanship a little bit harder. And it goes back to your point Brent about those informal conversations that happen either just before the sales meeting or just after the sales meeting don’t really happen anymore. There are a lot of intangibles now that really just don’t happen so it does make things slightly harder. But I guess it looks like a pretty even split across the rest of the answers though. So I think the jury is still out and it depends on the industry and the product that you’re selling, of course.

Brent Adamson:              And apparently it even depends on your cologne, which I hadn’t really thought about.

Nathan Anibaba:             That’s a huge factor. I…

Brent Adamson:              Really noted.

Nathan Anibaba:             Maybe that’s why my sales haven’t been so good in the last couple of years now I need to change my cologne. But anyway, the next question is question number four, remote selling and prospecting specifically. So this goes back to the point that you made earlier, Jeff around, is it easier for us to now prospect and actually sell? Are we able to reach more people now because of these digital tools and remote selling? So remote selling really should make prospecting easier because we can reach many more people in an eight hour period rather than driving across the country or flying around the country for a speculative meeting opportunity.

On the other hand, our email inboxes and our LinkedIn inboxes are full of messages from lots of vendors that we’ll probably really never see. So the question is how effective are these tools for prospecting specifically in this environment and how effective are these tools for servicing clients? Which you’ve probably touched on already but the prospecting element of this, can we discuss that?

Jeff Phillips:                      I still find it hilarious that sales people are just sending me cold stuff that they wouldn’t dare to say in person via a LinkedIn message from someone I’ve never met before and know nothing about their company but that’s just surfacing bad salespeople out of it. And I think there’s a job to do from LinkedIn. But LinkedIn has served a fantastic number of companies from a prospecting point of view but I’m still shocked how many businesses don’t actively engage with LinkedIn and are not using that in a right way as a platform because it’s enormously powerful. And actually if you just follow five or six basic rules on LinkedIn in terms of rules of engagement, actually it can really reap rewards. Particularly if your sales and marketing teams are working in tandem and are using technology to really help with that nurture journey from a prospecting point of view.

So how do we get that broader reach? And then how do we get that engagement at the very top level of the funnel pre any kind of qualified sales conversation? And how can we nurture them down and how can marketers really give salespeople very well qualified well scored opportunities that they can take away and then work? But likewise, how can salespeople inform that top end of the funnel? Because I still see a lot of examples where salespeople are genuinely invaluable to a marketeer in terms of insights to customers, language they use, behaviors, where they’re hanging out, what they’re doing, what they’re saying, the challenges they have to go with them. And you work as much of that as possible into your content funnel and into your digital touchpoints that generally a marketeer might be delivering for you. And actually the sales and marketing machine then starts to work a lot more smoothly in terms of generating opportunities from a prospecting point of view.

But I would say as well, the point I made about learning LinkedIn is that if it… And the big observation I’ve made is that are hardest to if salespeople haven’t today invested their time in learning the value they can get from technology, then they’ve probably been called shorts a little bit. And they’re the ones who are now trying to very horridly catch up and really rapidly teach themselves some of the tools that are out there but for anyone who hasn’t then the lot of those things are pretty easy to do and they can catch up pretty quickly. But I think technology is the core of prospecting, particularly in this environment that we’re operating in at the moment.

Brent Adamson:              Just very briefly. So I think there’s a distinction here between prospecting with existing customers versus prospecting completely new customers all together and new logo acquisitions, a hunting versus farming, if you will. And I think if you think about hunting, when was the last time we prospected in person on the hunting side? That’s literally like going door to door and saying, “Hey, do you have five minutes for me to talk to you?” So any sales call for a new customer starts with a phone call to set up an appointment at the very least and that happens not in person, but over the phone. So I think the bigger question here Nathan, is not whether or not prospecting will happen virtually? It already is happening virtually. I think is more Jeff’s point, which is happening effectively. Is that I think that there’s a lot of work to be done there.

There is this question about prospecting new opportunities within an existing account where the key account manager or the account manager goes door to door inside the client office and just have informal conversations. That is currently, now of course it’s shut down. And so shifting that to digital or at least figuring out ways to do that virtually will be interesting. I think that the biggest question I hear from marketers on the prospecting side is events. It isn’t actual. So what do I do with the fact that events where our big demand gen tool and they are shut down. So again, I’ve seen some incredible creativity on virtual events and creating virtual environments in which customers can interact with one another.

I think in many ways for prospecting, if I’m looking for the next big opportunity for prospecting, I would look there in terms of what are these always on 24/7. Almost like a virtual conference is that I can create for my customers where we can create just a place almost like… I was joking with one head of marketing areas because what he’d done is essentially created the hollow deck for the nerdy Star Wars or Star Trek fans out there, is like he’s got this essentially this always on conference and you can go and meet up and go to breakouts and participate in events when it’s staffed. And when it’s not staffed, it’s all asynchronous but it’s always there and always on and there’s the exhibit halls and it’s going to be incredible. And I think that’s where the future of prospecting lies combined with Jeff, your points about the getting the right information to the marketers to put into those places from sales, I think will be critical.

Marie Bergfelt:                Well, I agree with you. The events will be fewer and fewer, even when we are all going to be able to meet again. They will be fewer and fewer that the really big ones will probably, I think not come back. It will be more customized, smaller events, if anything and there are superb digital alternatives coming up and they will grow better and better with time. We have just started, this was also something we were forced to do so they will grow better. And I think I can turn you back to what I said before with the data because with this… But when we don’t meet in that way we need to keep track of our contacts, our prospects, our customers, everything that a sales person hear and learn needs to be documented one way or the other and registered. So it can be tapped into from others as well to create then opportunities within existing clients or with new clients.

Nathan Anibaba:             I’m going to launch a poll. How effective are these new sales tools in reaching and servicing your customers? Please select one of the following; much more, somewhat more, as effective as before, somewhat less or much less. Please submit your responses now. And it’s really interesting. Okay. So 39 to 35% of people say that it’s somewhat more effective through reaching customers or just as effective as before. So going back to your point, brands around really, everyone had to set up a meeting with a prospect either by phone or email before anyway. So it doesn’t really change things that much more, the fact that we’re having to do that now anyway. So I’m going to-

Brent Adamson:              What you’re looking at there Nathan is, this is the quantitative version of it depends. That’s what you’re looking at on the screen.

Nathan Anibaba:             Yeah. So far we’ve had that with all the responses which is really interesting. So the final questions for everyone is, B2B leaders that commit to further digitizing their go to market sales models we’ll see a big competitive advantage in the future. So the question is, to what extent do you agree or disagree with that statement?

Brent Adamson:              I’ll keep mine short. I agree 150%.

Jeff Phillips:                      I’ll keep mine short but be slightly controversial. It will only give competitive advantage if others don’t…

Brent Adamson:              Fair fight. It’s a fair fight.

Jeff Phillips:                      It’s a level playing field if everyone accelerates at the same pace it will be a level playing field.

Nathan Anibaba:             Yeah.

Brent Adamson:              But if you don’t and everyone else does you’re way behind. So it’s [crossstalk].

Jeff Phillips:                      Absolutely.

Brent Adamson:              You and I are in agreement here but yes that’s the dynamic.

Jeff Phillips:                      Totally agree. Absolutely.

Marie Bergfelt:                I think that there will definitely be a competitive advantage, definitely.

Jeff Phillips:                      But possibly the points to take on this Nathan is, and I’m sure I talked to you about this a while ago, is that when you’re looking at sales and marketing budgets, I always encourage businesses to keep aside a small percentage of stuff that they can put towards things that are calculated risks. And if in your sector, you see that others are lagging behind in terms of investments and certain things or you see an opportunity there particularly can be led by technology investment or some form of virtual sales investment, take a risk on it because actually that could give you first lead to advantage in your marketplace and give you that competitive edge. And even if it doesn’t work how you expected to you will learn heaps from it rather than just waiting to follow everything that everybody else does. Does that make sense? Because you just end up them being the same as everyone else.

So you’ve got to go hunting and looking for something that will give you a differential and give you that edge because otherwise we’ll get there and you’ll just end up being a follower.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really interesting. So what I’ve done now is I’ve launched the final poll. So if you could all put in your response to this, that B2B leaders that commit to further digitizing their go to market sales models will see a big competitive advantage in the future? Please select one of the following; strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree.

Brent Adamson:              Jeff this goes back to your point about differentiation and I think it’s probably goes by market segment or sector or vertical, doesn’t it? So in the tech sector versus heavy manufacturing, that the answer might be very different here, wouldn’t it?

Jeff Phillips:                      Yeah, absolutely. But likewise if you could give a full virtual tour of some form of heavy plant machinery matched up with a very personalized audit of your needs that could be something that doesn’t exist elsewhere and therefore we’ll give you the edge but it doesn’t have to be significant.

Brent Adamson:              Yeah.

Jeff Phillips:                      So yeah, the answers are fairly as expected really. And I would think with the same kind of thought process.

Brent Adamson:              The challenge here of course is not answering the question as we all know, of course the challenge is go get the budget and the organizational fortitude to go make this happen along with the creativity we talked about before. That’s going to be interesting to watch who wins that battle.

Jeff Phillips:                      Absolutely. And that’s [inaudible] been able to prove the value to justify the investment, which is difficult in a time where things are changing and everything is brand new versus taking calculated risks that have an element of logic and assumption behind them. But maybe haven’t got a benchmark in a measure of statistic and you just take a bit of a leap of faith to try and leap frog.

Brent Adamson:              That’s the magic of the first mover, isn’t it? The first mover advantage.

Jeff Phillips:                      Absolutely. It’s never reckless but there still has to be an element of gut feeling calculated risks within it.

Nathan Anibaba:             Will now like to open it up to questions from the attendees. So there is a question that has come in. I’m not sure who this is by but someone said, Jeff mentioned rules of engagement on LinkedIn. I think you mentioned a handful of rules of engagement on LinkedIn. What are some of the rules of engagement?

Jeff Phillips:                      So first of all, seller as a person, not as a business and there’s too many businesses jumping on business pages and they don’t work. So if you’re a sales person, establish yourself with a personal account. There’s a great tool called SSI score on LinkedIn, if anybody hasn’t heard of that. So search for that on LinkedIn, it’s a bit of fun. There’s a bit of a myth behind whether or not it really matters but it’ll tell you what your score is out of a hundred. And it gives you four different areas to improve on. If you can get to 70, then the myth is that you will have higher prevalence on LinkedIn’s algorithm. But I’m not here to say that that is fact or not.

In terms of other rules of engagement, I think just the obvious ones, don’t go cold selling on a first message because the likelihood is, particularly if you’ve got not nothing really differentiated, so you’re just going to get ignored or deleted or disconnected. Try and connect with people with a real kind of human connection and a real value of connection. And then give them some form of material or information that will help them in whatever they’re doing. And then engage with LinkedIn, post regularly useful stuff that people actually want to read. And that it answers the questions of the pains that your potential or prospect customers will have and then engage with other content as well. There’s nothing wrong with sharing industry-wide content, statistics, reports, things like that because people value you as a thought leader, sharing those kinds of things. So engage with them, comment on them.

LinkedIn loves people commenting on things. So you see something that’s interesting and it’s by a client that you want to get into, go comment on their activity and follow them. And there’s a load of stuff that you can do in sales navigator as well. Some really cute little tricks in there but that’d be on the standard rules of engagement but yeah, get involved in it. They’re authentically with genuine voice, provide value, commit to it and do it regularly. And you’ll start to see some benefit from that because going in cold and not doing all of that surrounding support stuff is more than likely not going to get you seen or even foot in the virtual door.

Nathan Anibaba:             Great advice. So we’ve got a two-part question coming in here. I’m not sure who it’s from, but it says, which industries do you think have the most to gain from the digital shift in sales? And the other part of this is, on the other hand, which industries do you think might struggle most to adapt to these changes?

Brent Adamson:              I’m curious Marie what you think of this, coming from where you do… Because I would imagine you come from a place where a lot of people are thinking, “I’m of digital.” You made the point earlier. Right? So does that give you guys the biggest advantage for the one willing to dare to take the step because everyone else’s less willing in your world or not?

Marie Bergfelt:                I think so. Yeah, I really do think so. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is trying to find their way through this digitalization, this new technology. And if we can be successful here in reaching customers, in doing it in the right way, because that is the thing and it needs to be customized. I think these big public webinars are good sometimes but it’s not good for selling products. It’s good for discussions, for ideas but that needs to be explored and that can be very successful. There definitely is a big gain there.

Brent Adamson:              Yeah. And in some ways it kind of picks up on Jeff’s point too. I think where the magic is to the degree that is a source of differentiation. So the question where is it the biggest opportunity but where is it least likely to happen is probably the same place. So it was like the place where it’s the biggest opportunity is the place where it’s least likely to happen because the others aren’t going to be as willing or likely to go on that journey with you. So if you look at something like startup technology, everybody’s doing it so it’s more of a table stakes than a differentiator.

But if you look at heavy manufacturing and there’s just whether it’s… There’s a number of companies in the heavy manufacturing space that’s kind of begun to figure this out and they’re just way ahead of everyone else because it’s more of a traditional sales model where people are less willing to do it. And as a result of it being more traditional it’s going to be harder for people to wrap their brain around why they need to change. So it’s this weird answer where the place where the biggest opportunity lies is a place where it’s least likely to happen I think.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really fascinating stuff. Guys any closing thoughts? Are we optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Be interested in everyone’s closing thoughts as we wrap this up.

Marie Bergfelt:                I’m very optimistic about the future. Absolutely. I think there is so much to gain here and to change. In the end of the day, it can also be some kind of cost saving because at least in the industry where I am, where we have these huge straight ships, that cost a fortune but we can transform that investment into a more personalized and more data to experiences for customers. I’m definitely very much positive here.

Brent Adamson:              I think where I land Nathan is if you think back across the last 12 months, it’s worth doing this. I think as both as an individual and as an organization, you just think of all the things that we’ve accomplished individually and organizationally and really as a society in the last 12 months, that 12 months ago we would have told you or you would have thought would have been impossible. It’s pretty incredible. I think that the opportunity here is how do we keep that mindset going forward? Because again, the pressure is as the vaccines rollout and things come back to normal across the second half of the coming year, the pressure to change will be diminished.

And it’s going to be up to us individually to keep that motivation up without simultaneously becoming exhausted. And I think it’s the ones that find that secret sort of thread that needle of keeping up motivation without finding and in a sustainable manner are going to be the one… That’s who I’m optimistic for. And I’m optimistic that that number proportional of society will be greater than it has been over the last 10 years. And so that leaves me optimistic.

Nathan Anibaba:             Thank you and Jeff, any closing thoughts?

Jeff Phillips:                      My first thought would just go out to, if there’s anybody on the webinar who has suffered in a sector that is indiscriminately affected by COVID, then that’s incredibly difficult and Marie obviously will have had an element of that in the sector that you work in because previously when we’ve had downturns… Downturns effect bad businesses and that’s generally what filters up the economy is that, businesses that are badly run, that have been struggling for a number of years, generally a downturn will shut them down and you’ll end up with the strongest surviving. And I was just thinking this the whole last eight, 12 months, everybody knows has been indiscriminate in the way that it’s affected some sectors and not others. So for any of those that have been affected too, very severely then genuinely, I hope that you have some optimism and a hope for that what we talked about today gives you some things that you can think about that can potentially be implemented.

I think more broadly and overall I think we can be very optimistic. The one word that I have been thinking about a lot over the last few weeks is choice. So businesses, when we come out of this, they’re going to have more choice and a richer choice of options on how they run their business because we’ve broken down a lot of those barriers that we talked about. I think that’s the most interesting thing. If you want to go and it’ll work for you to go back to a hundred percent, face-to-face, B2B selling and that’s right for your sector, then absolutely go and do that. But it may well be in some cases that actually you then have a choice to be able to mix that up and have a richer more variable experience, maybe that even is personalized down to individual clients, locations, types, et cetera, so that you can really have a very variable sales model that isn’t just a one size fits all.

So that I think is one of the really interesting things and very optimistic things because it’s broken the traditional blueprint of a lot of businesses but forced many of them to actually realize that there are better and sometimes more efficient and cost effective ways of doing things. So choices is my optimistic word of choice.

Nathan Anibaba:             Really well said. Guys, thank you all so much for doing this. Really appreciate your time and your thoughtful responses today. And thank you to everyone that’s attended as well, really appreciate your time as well. Any additional questions will be posted on our blog and we’ll source the answers from our panelists as well so visit to find it. Also, the recording of the webinar will be on the website as well so visit and also subscribe to our regular podcasts. We have an awesome podcast hosted by yours truly, of course. So listen, subscribe and let us know what you think. So thank you very much for your time. Again, really appreciate that guys. And thank you.

Jeff Phillips:                      Thank you all.

Brent Adamson:              Cheers, everybody. Stay safe out there.

Nathan Anibaba:             If you’d like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online at If you’d like to appear as a guest on the show, please email The people that make the show possible are Chloe Murray, our booker/researcher. David Clare is our head of content. Ben Fox is our executive producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba. You’ve been listening to ClientSide from Fox Agency. Join us next time on ClientSide, brought to you by Fox Agency.