Creating More Personal B2B Selling Opportunities with Technology

Effective selling requires a personalized touch today more than ever. In order to enable this type of one-on-one selling, sales operations must go through a digital transformation so that sales teams are supported by automation and freed from manual work.

In Docusign’s 2020 Business-to-Business Sales Trends Report, we surveyed almost 900 B2B sales leaders to take the pulse of sales organizations at the turn of the decade. Respondents in our survey resoundingly identify the same top priority for their sales team: increasing personal time between sales teams and prospects. 

Top trends in B2B sales:

  • Focus on one-on-one selling time
  • Adapting B2C methods for B2B sales
  • Improving the digital customer experience
  • Opportunities for automation

The importance of personal touch in the selling process is reinforced when respondents identify the most urgent sales topic at their organization where the need for more one-on-one selling time again tops the list, followed by adapting B2C methods for B2B sales and the importance of customer experience. The most urgent topics all focus on the relationship with the customer. 

Research by McKinsey and Company in the McKinsey B2B Decision Maker Pulse Survey backs up this trend towards meaningful digital interactions with buyers. According to their research, suppliers that provide outstanding digital experiences to their buyers are more than 2x as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those that provide poor experiences. Sellers that provide an outstanding customer experience are also about 70% more likely to be chosen than those providing only fair experiences.

Sales teams are investing in automation

One of the best ways to increase personal selling opportunities and improve the prospect experience is by automating steps in the sales process. This automation does not replace human employees, it makes them more effective by reducing manual work (and errors), so employees can focus on parts of the selling process that require human touch and agile decision making.

Respondents in our survey have started to utilize automation in their sales process, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. The most common areas of automation today are data entry, customer/prospect outreach and contract generation. It’s clear that most organizations are focusing automation efforts on the early stages of the sales process.

Looking more closely at contract generation, there is an opportunity for automation to help sales teams streamline the process further. While 39% of companies have evolved to be mostly automated, only 10% of respondents have fully automated contract generation. Full automation could enable teams to pull data and custom clauses from different systems into a template with a single click.

60% of sales teams are using electronic signature

Once contacts are sent for signature, however, there’s a dropoff in automation. Surprisingly, only a small percentage (9%) of respondents have fully automated signature collection and a plurality of respondents (39%) are still signing all agreements on paper. This is an easy opportunity for sales teams to automate a tedious and manual part of sales. 

When it comes to utilizing automation after a sale, most organizations are just getting started. Activities such as notifying other departments of next steps, activating purchased services and updating systems to reflect the most recent sale are still handled manually. Among the respondents in our survey, a large majority has not built post-sale automation yet, handling those activities either entirely (30%) or mostly (35%) by hand.

Teams are looking at automating contract generation

When it comes to automating parts of the sales workflow, companies with 50 or more sales employees are far more likely to automate parts of the selling process than smaller sales teams (1-20 sales employees). 


50+ sales employees

1-20 sales employees

Fully automated contract generation



Fully automated post-sale action



Looking at job functions, there are also clear patterns. Outside sales reps and sales managers are twice as likely as sales ops professionals to describe contract generation and post-sale actions as fully automated. Sales managers are also 2.5x more likely than outside sales reps to think signatures are fully automated. This may indicate a disconnect between what managers think is happening compared to the more manual reality.

Enabling personal sales interactions by leveraging automation

The overwhelming desire to provide sellers with personal selling time is one of the strongest takeaways from our survey. Even as companies indicate their willingness to involve technology in their sales process both now and in the future, it’s clear that sales leaders still see a lot of value in the human element of a sale. In that regard, as the sales process becomes more technical, it should also become more personal.

Automation of manual workflows is the modern way to increase personal selling opportunities. Automation isn't going away, it will only expand. Organizations will find new ways to create workflows that are faster, cheaper and less error prone. As automation becomes more ubiquitous in B2B sales, the teams that incorporate it quickly will create more personal time for their sellers and win more business.

It’s not enough to simply have a plan for adding more automation though, organizations need to have a plan to use the efficiency gains to improve the customer experience and sell more effectively.

For more detail on what today’s best sales teams are doing to create more opportunity for personal selling time, download the B2B Sales in 2020: Strategies for Success report

You can also read more about Docusign’s research in our B2B sales trends series: 

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