How effective is your B2B sales strategy, and is it working for you?
To clarify, have you have noticed that selling business-to-business products or services has become a lot harder in the new world of sales? For example, purchases are taking longer, and the buying process is becoming more complex. In that case, you are certainly not alone.
Is Your B2B Sales Strategy Effective?
Research has identified issues and attitudes of both buyers and sellers in the last two years, and there are many factors involved. Buyers spend a lot more time researching before contacting suppliers, and more people are involved in purchasing decisions. Such changes are transforming and extending decision making.
The paradox is that while the new world of sales for B2B is becoming more complex, and buyers are using technology to do independent research instead of seeing salespeople, the human-to-human factor still matters.
- To explain, B2B buyers have various in-house 'customers' to satisfy.
- Buyers can have difficulty understanding the specific benefits of suppliers' solutions.
- Therefore, the need for guidance still exists, but only when they are ready.
The main issue which needs to be addressed by many suppliers is adopting a more service-oriented advisory approach than their traditional sales tactics.
In reality, you are likely to be dealing with buyers who are increasingly calling the shots.
The amount of people who think salespeople are 'Pushy':
1. Salespeople's self-assessment
2. What buyers actually think
There is a disconnect between what salespeople and buyers think. Evidently, being pushy is a major turn-off for buyers. Therefore, sales teams need to change their approach!
So, it may be that you will need to review your B2B sales strategy. With this in mind, we will look at some of the critical issues and what to do about them so that you can look at your B2B sales strategy and adapt it where necessary to become even more effective.
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Do You Need to Review Your B2B Sales Strategy?
Is this for you? After all, you may have all the sales you need with a loyal base of existing customers, plus you sign new customers every month and have little or no competition. We still advise you to review your B2B sales strategy if this is your situation.
For example, although current sales may be good, a point often overlooked is to expect the unexpected. For example, when was the last time your business strategy planning included downside risk assessments?
Without a doubt, what used to be normal for most companies before 2020, has changed forever. In like manner, the status quo may change again due to external issues that could affect you (directly or indirectly).
External threats include (for example):
- Unprecedented shortage of skills in the UK labour market.
- Escalating global energy and fuel costs.
- Supply chain crisis.
- Technological shifts, e.g., AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Many companies have already seen significant changes where the world of sales has flipped traditional sales methods and training. Sadly, many training courses teach sales strategies and tactics that have not kept up with the new world of sales.
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Sales and buyer attitudes have been further affected by the global health pandemic. Furthermore, some companies have not recognised the changes and use outdated sales techniques no longer considered acceptable by B2B buyers.
Your business survival may depend on updating your B2B sales strategy.
The Importance of Marketing in Your B2B Sales Strategy
Marketing is a vast subject and covers many different functions. The original marketing mix of the four P's has expanded to at least nine operations in the last few decades. However, more recently, with the rapid demand in digital marketing, the number of marketing functions has become even more significant.
Our observation with clients is that many SMEs do not understand marketing and its importance. Some CEOs and MDs still think of marketing as 'Promotion' (probably because, at some point, the company may have needed brochures and advertising). But this is only a fraction of what marketing truly is.
Effective Lead Generation
Lead generation and building a pipeline is something great salespeople do well, but the majority of them do little or no lead generation themselves. Undoubtedly it can be time-consuming. Indeed, the percentage of salespeople who say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process is:
In other words, your B2B Sales Strategy should include lead generation, and this is where your marketing function can excel. If you outsource marketing, you need to ensure that you have the correct objectives and KPIs. Whether your marketing function is in-house or outsourced, the collaboration between your sales and marketing functions is essential.
Suppose you are outsourcing to freelancers or agencies that perform different marketing functions. If such external providers assume your objectives and needs, the problem will be worse. Undoubtedly, you cannot expect outsourced providers to guess each other's activities and agendas. You will have to manage this carefully. Most important is the cooperation and teamwork between the two functions since neither function can perform effectively without the other.
As a CEO or managing director, you are not alone if you are confused. Let's focus on aspects of marketing which will yield great results to help your sales team. For example:
PRACTICAL B2B LEAD GENERATION
- Understanding your competitive landscape.
- Knowing your ideal customer profiles and why these buy from you.
- The benefits and outcomes that ideal prospective customers get when purchasing from you.
- How do you improve their lives/jobs/businesses?
- Develop the correct messages to convey to those perfect prospective customers to get their attention.
- Communicating those messages to be seen where they are known to hang out.
- Sharing relevant success stories to build your brand awareness and trust.
- Enthusing your ideal prospective customers to get in touch.
- Help prospects who are interested in taking the next step.
- Provide sales with qualified leads. Focus on quality, not quantity.
- Monitor progress.
- Check with sales for feedback to maintain and improve the process.
In small and medium-sized enterprises, marketing is often poorly resourced and, when outsourced, is often fragmented. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing lead generation if it is relevant (see the above list) and the KPIs focus on the quality rather than quantity of leads.
Is Follow-Up Part of Your B2B Sales Strategy?
All the work in creating qualified leads means nothing if your salespeople throw away the opportunities created.
According to research, the amount of salespeople who never make a single follow up attempt is:
Let's assume that your sales team are better than this and make immediate contact. But are your salespeople doing follow-ups? If so, they probably succeed more than many other salespeople. But maybe they need to do more of it. Of course, getting new sales requires persistence. However, until there is an absolute 'No' from the prospective customer, it isn't a 'No'!
Assuming your sales team take immediate action, they need to keep the dialogue open and follow up with the prospect. Immediate action on a qualified lead is essential to achieve a competitive advantage!
The amount of sales that go to the supplier that responds first:
Lead Response Times are Critical
How quickly do your salespeople respond to new leads? A timely response is critical. There is no easy way to say this: you need to get back to the enquirer as fast as possible.
How Fast is Fast? Research shows what 'fast' means: 5 minutes.
It's hardly surprising since buyers are people who witness the response rate from companies like Amazon. Inevitably this influences their expectations for their business purchases. When buyers get in touch, you need to act fast. You may not be able to provide same-day or next-day delivery; however, you can become great at response times.
The amount of UK buyers who say the timeliness of response to their inquiry is very or extremely important:
Did you know that the percentage of sales made that happen after a minimum of five follow-ups is 80%. Meanwhile, that 92% of salespeople give up after four "NO's", and only 8% of salespeople ask for the order a fifth time? For more about this see Salespeople Performance.
Buyers are Central to Your B2B Sales Strategy
B2B buyers are very busy people and, like many people in business, are likely to be suffering from overwhelm. Two of their biggest problems are a) information overload and b) decision making. They often have several internal customers to satisfy across different disciplines. The last thing they want is a pushy salesperson interrupting their time.
In fact, according to buyers, the most important ways to create a positive sales experience are:
- Listen to their needs (69%)
- Don't be pushy (61%)
- Provide relevant information (61%)
- Respond promptly (51%)
How Should Your B2B Sales Strategy Change?
The new world of sales is all about your philosophy and human-to-human language in conversation, even if some of it is automated.
It's not about you or your company, your salespeople or their targets. Buyers now dictate the sales process. This will become evident if the need to close a sale is paramount to your salespeople (and, therefore, you as their leader). In truth, buyers recognise this and it has the opposite effect you are looking for. This is the new norm.
Buyers have become researchers and absorb information from many different sources. Generally, buyers' expectations of salespeople are low, and they have little interest in salespeople's intrusive phone calls and emails until they are ready.
To adapt your B2B sales strategy to the shift in the new world of sales is to adopt an advisory role. The transition is to become less salesperson/closer to a trusted advisor helping your prospects make buying decisions. You may need to do more to build trust with the buyer and others within your prospective customers.
Ditch the Pitch
Changing a company name and adding the prospect's logo onto a script or presentation does not personalise the approach. The style of conversation is essential. Therefore to overcome those buyer prejudices about salespeople, demonstrate your expertise by sharing knowledge and adding value to the dialogue.
In order to transform into a service-oriented advisory company instead of a standard or general scripted approach, first, ask yourself:
- Do they really need my help?
- Do they want my help?
- How can I help the prospect?
You're Dealing with People - so Personalise.
Change your sales information to match what your prospects actually want. Never assume. Over time you will discover more about your opportunities and be better prepared to personalise your messages to their specific needs.
Get Help With Your B2B Sales Strategy
SVC Training can provide you and your team with effective skills-based training and development to help you and your business. For a no-obligation confidential chat about how can help your company: