The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25, 2018. It’s been a few months, and the repercussions are yet to be fully realized, leaving practitioners anxious and wondering if they have fully prepared. So far, GDPR compliance efforts have largely targeted customer data management, digital marketing, and security. However, in our research interviews and client discussions, we found that B2B companies are still wrestling with the impact that the new privacy regulations will have on the behaviors and processes of their sales teams.

GDPR Makes A Tough Job Tougher

B2B sellers are reacting to GDPR with one of two reactions: outright anguish or covert disregard. Although the legislation is broad and comprehensive, it offers inadequate specificity about what sellers can and can’t do. Already under enormous pressure to meet often-outdated outreach and conversion metrics, sellers feel the pinch of stringent and overly cautious directives induced by acute GDPR anxiety. We spoke with several sales leaders and practitioners who share these GDPR pain points:

  • Pipelines shrinking drastically because of loss of the ability to prospect at scale.
  • Difficulty in meeting activity metrics, such as meeting, calls, and email outreach.
  • Anxiety from customers and prospects unsubscribing from communications.
  • Loss of effective sales technology and tools due to lack of GDPR compliance.
  • Prohibition of third-party contact lists.
  • Confusion about how and when to solicit consent.
  • Knowing what personal information they are allowed to gather.
  • Knowing when legitimate interest is a legitimate use case.

GDPR Pressures Present A Silver Lining: An Opportunity To Accelerate Modern Selling

B2B sellers are struggling to engage empowered B2B buyers — those traveling on self-directed journeys — who are raising the bar for more insight, more co-creation, and more creativity. Piled on top of these challenges, GDPR seems like the whim of a capricious god in a cosmic smackdown, throwing more obstacles in the way of sales representatives. However, many of the identified seller pain points are actually ineffective tactics — a vestige of a bygone era — that are off-putting to customers and prospects who are fed up with a barrage of impersonal, non-purposeful, and irrelevant communications.

GDPR prohibits selling methods that leverage nonconsensual use of personal data, and this new reality will ultimately be good for sellers willing to shift their behaviors. Sales will spend less time doing data entry and sending automatic emails and more time focusing on how they can help interested customers. One of the sales leaders we interviewed shared this sentiment: “For sales representatives to stay relevant, they need to stop automating things. This is just the tip of the iceberg for sales and marketing teams becoming more human.”

To learn more about how GDPR affects sellers, Forrester clients can read our report, “GDPR And The B2B Seller.” In our report, we separate GDPR fact from fiction, provide practical guidance on how to promote modern and GDPR-compliant selling behaviors, and highlight the positive implications resulting from the legislation.

The GDPR is another disruptor in the laundry list of to-dos for B2B marketers. And while GDPR may not be a breakout topic, we will cover it in several of our sessions at our B2B Marketing 2018 Forum. Click here to learn more about our B2B Marketing & Sales 2018 Forum.