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Business-to-business (B2B) sales are hard. Leads can be difficult to come by, and sales cycles last much longer. When engaging in a B2B sale, having a comprehensive and well-thought-out strategy in mind can be a game changer. Here is a guide to essential strategies your sales team can use to land more B2B sales successfully.
What are B2B Sales?
B2B sales are transactions between two businesses, as opposed to a business-to-customer (B2C) sale between a company and an individual consumer. Larger transaction quantities, knowledgeable purchasers, and a multistakeholder approval procedure are all factors that must be considered in the B2B sales process. Because B2B sales occur on a far greater scale than B2C sales, you will be met with a unique set of obstacles before the sale occurs.
Long Sales Cycles
When it comes to B2B sales, months can often go by before your sales team has any progress to show. However, this is not out of the ordinary. A long sales cycle is the main characteristic but also a challenge of a B2B sale. From the moment of making contact with your potential lead, you will be expected to endlessly work towards convincing them that your product is one to invest in. This will require many phone calls, follow-ups, and reassurances before your lead is ready to commit.
Understanding that the B2B sales cycle is a lengthy one can work in your favor. Determining how long most B2B sale cycles last, what takes the longest, and how you can potentially speed up the B2B purchasing decisions will assist you in shortening the sale cycle in the long run.
Before the B2B sales process can begin, you will need to get in contact with the potential lead you want to do business with. You can attempt to obtain the necessary contact information of key prospects to make direct contact with your lead. Unfortunately, most organizations have a front line of receptionists or phone operators with the sole purpose of screening calls and determining what is most important to relay to higher management. These are known as “gatekeepers” in the sales world.
Despite the odds seeming against you, ultimately reaching the decision-maker is entirely possible. Ignoring gatekeepers or perceiving them as unimportant is a big mistake that sales reps often make. It is vital that you treat those in control of relaying messages with the utmost respect when contacting a business. By clearly introducing yourself, stating who you intend to speak to and the purpose of your call, you will assist in bypassing any gatekeepers. It is also best to stick with the truth and answer any questions honestly that the gatekeeper may require.
Non-linear Buying Process
Managing your way past the gatekeepers and the lengthy sales cycle does not mean the difficulty is over. Once the prospective customer has committed to their purchase decision, you will be met with a constantly fluctuating buying process. Even if the business is completely sure of the purchase, more often than not, decision criteria and business requirements are re-evaluated to ensure the correct steps are taken to reach the outcome they desire most.
All of these efforts can still be met with key stakeholders bumping heads and having to restart the evaluation process. So be ready to jump back and forth, left and right, and maybe even spin around as the B2B buying process unfolds.
An effective B2B Sales Strategy
Now that you are aware of the most challenging aspects you will face in the B2B sales process, let’s take a look at how you can overcome these obstacles and close deals as simply and smoothly as possible.
Know Yourself, Know Your Environment
A great way to begin is by knowing who you are and what you are good at. The B2B sales environment is a crowded terrain where you can easily get lost in the sheer number of pitches. Knowing what your business can provide best or who will benefit from it most, you can eliminate spending countless hours chasing after businesses that did not qualify as a good fit in the first place, which leads to the next point.
Understand Your Customer (ICP vs. IPP)
If you know whom your business can sell to best, you will likely find prospective customers leading to a sale. You can develop a strong understanding of your customers by identifying what you want your ideal customer to look like and discovering what your excellent prospects will need from you.
An ideal customer profile (ICP) represents the most valuable buyer with all the characteristics that would make it a great fit for your company’s solutions. Creating an outstanding ICP enables a highly personalized B2B marketing strategy targeted at a specific group rather than the entire market. The ICP will focus all your efforts on only the most promising prospects.
Your ICP will be a hypothetically perfect company where you would like to conduct business. On the other hand, your ideal prospect profile (IPP) is a company you have gathered relevant data on to establish who they are and what they need. Your IPP will help you identify the best people to connect with and show you how to get in touch with them.
A good-fit customer will be someone who matches the hypothetical characteristics of your ICP and exists with a set of problems that your business can resolve, as identified through your IPP. Aligning your IPP to your ICP will ensure that your sales representatives are targeting the right companies, and marketing to these will have a higher chance of success
Bad-fit customers are companies that don’t check all the boxes. Having an adequate account of your ICP and IPP comes in handy to weed out potential customers that are not as good a fit as you might have thought initially. It is likely that a good number of prospects who seem like a good fit may not end up meeting all the criteria for your ICP. Some warning signs can be constant rescheduling of meetings, a lack of immediate interest in your product, and financial limitations to purchase.
Some bad-fit customers are bound to slip through from time to time. These result in lost or dead leads that never convert into actual sales. Lost leads can happen for a variety of reasons. The company might not need your product anymore, there may be financial limitations, or the company’s workload is too heavy to focus on sales. To avoid an accumulation of lost leads, you can refine which customers you are targeting by referring to your ICP and IPP, speed up response time, and ensure your leads’ data is error-free upon collection.
Create Your Sales Process
Once you have a good grip on the customers you would like to target and have piqued the interest of your leads, the sales process can begin.
Get a clear understanding of your target outcome
Your target outcome is essential when developing your sales process and can vary tremendously. Would you like to grow your customer base and build relationships with more businesses? Or are you interested in gaining exposure that will lead to sales growth in the long run? Sales goals are specific objectives intended to help your sales team perform better. They can help you fix frequent sales errors and underperforming B2B marketing strategies if done correctly.
Use the SMART goal system to create your sales process
To make things easier, you can use step-by-step criteria to ensure you have considered all the necessary aspects when stating your target outcome and develop your sales process accordingly.
The SMART goal system is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-Based, and Time-Restricted. Placing these elements together will ensure you set beneficial yet realistic target outcomes for your sales process. Let’s take a closer look at each SMART phase.
- Specific: Do relevant research and be distinct. Instead of stating the general goals your sales team would like to achieve, give in-detail explanations of who or what you are targeting, what marketing strategies you will use, and how you will attempt to reach these goals.
- Measurable: Ensure that the goals you are aiming towards are quantifiable. If your company has exact numbers in mind, you can use metrics to analyze performance and track progress.
- Achievable: It is always good to aim high, but only so high that your goals become achievable. For example, you can use prior successful goals as a reference point to see how much your company can increase revenue in a specific time frame. It is better to set several smaller goals that you can be sure to achieve than one massive goal that is entirely out of reach.
- Realistic: Here, context matters the most. You must set goals that best align with your business and sales strategy. Setting goals targeting customers below 30 years old is not valuable if your customer base has always been over 40. Similarly, aiming to gain new customers through TikTok or Instagram will be unrealistic if your target market rarely uses social media platforms.
- Time-Based: Don’t allow goals to drag on for years without being accomplished. Setting precise end dates to achieve your goals ensures your team is constantly working towards them. Even if you do not reach your target outcome, you can reflect on your performance and adjust where it seems fit.
Find Your Competitive Edge
A great way to win over your prospective customer is to not only say why you are the best pick but also show them. Your competitive advantage is the defining characteristic that makes your brand stand out among competing companies. Here are a few proven ways to quickly put your business above the rest.
Place much focus on quality customer service. Sometimes, all a client wants is efficient and effective assistance. Being punctual and helping your prospects to the best of your abilities will put you miles ahead of a competitor that may take days to get back to their clients.
Another element that counts in your favor is if you can knock down the price of your product or service. Everybody likes a good deal, and the statement holds even when selling to large corporations. You don’t need to shake down costs to the point of no profit, but consider keeping your prices as reasonable as possible.
Lastly, rise above your competitors by emphasizing the distinct characteristics of your business. What makes your company unique? Consider all aspects of what your business has to offer, no matter how small. Your competitors might not provide the customer service, deals, or technological advances you can. Mentioning these little details can make a big difference when your prospective customer has to make a purchasing decision.
Assemble and Train an All-Star Team
For optimal execution of your sales strategy, you will need a team of salespeople willing to walk the extra mile. Look for people who are confident, well-spoken, and persuasive. You want your team to be able to take on any objections, reservations, or inquiries that get thrown their way. People with experience in sales will be very beneficial to have on your team, as they will already know the basics of the industry. In the case of recruits, it is your job to provide excellent training to assist them in reaching their full potential.
The fastest way for your employees to expand their abilities is by learning on the job. Provide simple and practical training to show your sales team how the sales process unfolds. It can also be beneficial to have recruits shadow other sales personnel to get an inside peek at what to expect on their day-to-day tasks.
Once you have your dream team assembled, there is nothing left to do other than execute your carefully crafted B2B sales strategy.
Becoming fluent in B2B sales can be a challenging task. But it does not have to be. In summary, remember to acknowledge the challenges of the B2B sales process. Do a sufficient amount of research on who your best customer will be. Lastly, have a killer sales team implement your guided sales process to a tee. Following the essential guide to approaching B2B sales strategies can bring in sales like never before.
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