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Traditional Vs. Modern B2B Sales Models: Which One Is Best For Your Organization?

Traditional Vs. Modern B2B Sales Models: Which One Is Best For Your Organization?

Samuel Thimothy is VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founder of Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been noticing interesting shifts in the way business-to-business buyers interact with salespeople. With the growing popularity of prospecting and automation tools, and especially after the pandemic, old ways of selling have become ineffective for some organizations.

What I mean by “old” is the traditional model of sales development representatives and business development representatives prospecting leads that they hand off to account executives so they can continue focusing on finding new potential buyers. I've found that new ways of getting qualified leads and guiding people through the buyer’s journey at their own pace can be much more effective.

So, how do you choose the right approach? How do you sell to B2B buyers now? Let’s talk about the difference between these two models and figure out which one makes the most sense for your organization. 

The sales process has changed.

Let’s begin with the “old” or traditional sales process. The role of SDRs and BDRs in this model is to generate leads, qualify them and get them over to a more experienced account executive who guides the buyer through the funnel and closes the deal.

The main idea behind this process is simple: The more time your sales reps spend prospecting, the less time they have for selling, and vice versa. If they focus too much on selling, their pipeline dries out quickly. There’s no consistent flow of leads, so they need to start from scratch every time. With this approach, to have a consistent flow of leads, you need to have an SDR for appointment setting and an account executive for closing deals. Divide and conquer.

However, outbound sales are not as straightforward as they used to be. I believe the traditional model of “divide and conquer” isn’t always effective anymore for a couple of reasons. First of all, many organizations went remote during the pandemic, and some never returned to the office. This might mean you have fewer direct lines and fewer addresses for sending direct mail, which makes it harder to reach the right person. 

Second, the buyer’s journey has changed. It’s different now, and it’s not linear. In my experience, many things can go wrong when you send a new lead to a junior BDR. You don't always know how far in the buyer’s journey that person is. They might have very specific questions or even be ready to buy today. Having a junior sales rep trying to qualify them might frustrate them and disrupt their whole experience.  

So, what can you do instead? How can you approach the sales process in a new way? 

Change your perspective.

If we can’t keep applying old strategies and methodologies to the way people interact right now, what should we do instead? The answer is simple: Generate a high volume and percentage of leads through inbound marketing

If you have a consistent flow of leads, having a qualifier who is calling them will only interrupt their buying experience. Instead of dragging them into the funnel with outbound tactics, you can let them decide their own journey. Align yourself in the sales process with where the buyers are. Instead of selling, educate your prospects at scale so you can get more buyer-ready leads who will go directly to the account executive. You can call it a "full-cycle model" where you plug yourself into your prospect’s buyer journey and meet them where they are. 

It’s important to align your sales and marketing, but it’s even more important to align your business with your customers, including where they are at and how they are looking to make decisions. That said, there are still some situations where the traditional “divide and conquer” model would make more sense. 

How do you decide which model is right for you? 

'Divide and conquer' vs. 'full-cycle': Which model is better for your business?

We’ve identified the traditional “divide and conquer” sales model when we use SDRs and BDRs for proactive outreach create opportunities, and then hand them over to an AE. We’ve also specified a new “full-cycle model” where sales reps are getting opportunities from marketing efforts.

Which model should you follow? Here are the criteria you can use when making that choice. 

• The number of leads: The more leads you have, I believe the less useful the traditional model will likely be for you. 

• The size of the deals: Typically, the higher the annual contract value is, the lower the lead volume. If this is your case, then the full-cycle model could be a better option. You’ll need to build relationships with your prospects through many touches. Likewise, if your average contract value is low, it might be better to divide and conquer.

• The size of the addressable market: The bigger the market, the more people you need on your sales team. Similarly, if the market is too niche, spending thousands of dollars on marketing doesn’t really make sense. You’ll be better off doing outreach.

Improve your sales process.

Regardless of the sales model you prefer, there are some universal tips you can use to improve your efforts. 

• Have a well-defined and documented go-to-market strategy, but stay dynamic. Listen to your prospects so you can continuously fine-tune and get better.

• Build a framework for the sales process. Write out the steps your sales rep needs to take to understand the sales prospect.

• Don't look at the sales process as selling. If you’re selling, you’re doing it the wrong way. You should be facilitating, understanding and asking questions.

• Have a continuous improvement mindset. This mindset should be everywhere, and remember that progress is never accidental. Figure out why your best sales reps show higher results, and try to replicate it. 

All in all, whether you stick to the traditional model or try the new one, remember to listen to your customers, improve and adapt to their changing needs. Being responsive and agile is the key to success.

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