“Sales is an outcome, not a goal. It’s a function of doing numerous things right, starting from the moment you target a potential prospect until you finalize the deal.” – Jill Konrath
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term B2B sales? Maybe, the next target sales figure, huge profits, new clients, pending follow-ups, and the list could go on and on. These are few of the most common things that surround a salesperson in their day to day life.
Did you notice one thing that is common among all these visions? It’s the ‘process’ by which you achieve these. These are just the bits and parts of one common thing, the sales process.
As quoted above, Jill Konrath has rightly said that sales is an outcome, it’s not a goal. It’s the outcome of the sales process being followed by the company. And this is one thing that most businesses fail to understand. They keep running towards the target without knowing if the path followed is right or wrong.
This is true for all kinds of sales, and B2B sales is definitely not an exception.
So, if you’re someone who is struggling every quarter to meet your sales target, maybe there’s something that’s wrong in your B2B sales process, or something that you need to improve on. Don’t worry, it’s never too late.
If you’re in the market, you’re in the race with your competitors, it’s the perfect time to jump onto the right track and increase your pace.
Before diving into the waters of a perfect B2B sales process, let’s get clear about the basic idea of B2B sales.
What is B2B sales?
B2B sales, also known as, ‘Business-to-Business Sales’ refers to the sales model where one business sells its products or services to another business. It differs from B2C sales in several aspects. B2B offerings usually have a higher price point, a longer sales cycle, and require multiple touch-points to close deals.
B2B selling techniques require the salesperson to appeal to the buyer’s rationality and feasibility, but not just the emotions.
Now that you have a basic idea of what B2B sales is, let’s know the major challenges involved in the B2B sales process.
Why is B2B sales a tough nut to crack?
We have very often heard about the complexity of B2B sales. Businesses often say that B2B selling requires very different skill sets and an unconventional sales pitch. But why is it said so? Let’s uncover some of the challenges that are peculiar to B2B sales only.
1.B2B sales cycle lasts up to eternity
No, just kidding!
B2B sales cycle doesn’t last up to eternity but maybe this is what we think. B2B sales cycles are really long and you have to be very good with your patience.
Maybe, you’re desperately waiting for closure of the deal you’ve been following for the last five months and you still don’t see any hope of closing it in near future. That’s perfectly fine.
The initial focus in any B2B sales cycle shouldn’t be on the closure. Rather, you should focus more on taking one step ahead everytime you speak to the client. Closure of the deal should just be an outcome of your consistent efforts and impeccable communication.Here are a few hacks that can help you or your sales team become proficient in B2B selling skills:
- Respond as quickly as possible.
- Know your prospect inside out.
- Be crystal clear about your unique value proposition.
- Give multiple options in your B2B proposals.
- Don’t be scared to offer a premium pricing for premium products.
- Do face to face meetings with actual decision-makers.
- Automate your sales process using CRM software.
2.Being ‘just’ a salesperson isn’t enough
In a B2B sales process, a salesperson is never doing ‘just sales’. It’s not as easy as just achieving the sales target and moving on. Rather, you need to have a mindset of a business consultant.
You’re responsible to solve the business problem your client is facing. You need to prove how your product or service is going to increase company’s revenue or reduce the operating costs.
Just pitching in your product features, showing customer testimonials, and luring them on price won’t help. These things will definitely add value to your B2B sales pitch once the client is convinced that buying your product is not an expenditure rather it’s an investment. So you can make irresistible offer where you are giving more value that you are getting paid.
3.Fooling the buyer is next to impossible
Never try to fool the buyer unless you want to dig your own grave. It’s not B2C sales where one celebrity endorsement will work wonders.
B2B sales have to be logical, rational, and feasible. A B2B buyer won’t even take your marketing seriously unless you convince them with valid data points. And there’s a reason for all of this.
B2B buyers spend a considerable amount of time researching about your company, your competitors, and the product features available in the market. They already have a preset list of parameters for their purchase. So, addressing their queries and problems with a logical solution is only the way out.
4.There’s a whole lot of decision-makers
Since B2B sales generally involve a major business decision, as there are multiple stakeholders who are involved in the buying process. Even getting in touch with the actual decision-maker might involve a lot of pitching from your side. You may constantly have to explain the same key benefits of the product or service you’re offering to different people, over and over again.
One of the major challenges is that you might not be able to deliver your key message to the right people actually responsible for making buy-in decisions. Just don’t give up and you’ll ultimately reach there.
5.You simply aren’t doing it right
All the challenges explained above are inevitable and are bound to happen in a B2B sales process irrespective of the sector you’re working in. You’ll need to figure out ways to tackle those challenges. But this is something completely avoidable. You just need to follow the right process and techniques to conquer B2B sales.
Major mistakes that most companies make are too much automation, poor coordination with the marketing team, lack of patience in sales team, improper communication, irregular follow-ups, insufficient product training and so on.
So, being a B2B sales professional, you must be aware about the right B2B sales process to be It will not only ensure smooth completion of your target but also help you onboard new clients with lesser efforts.
Redefine your sales with the right B2B sales process
There are two possibilities. First, you don’t have a sales process at all. Second, you have a sales process but you don’t know if it’s perfect for your business.
In both cases, the first thing that you need to understand is the exact meaning of a sales process and then, ‘what, why, and how’’ attached to it.
What is a B2B sales process?
B2B sales process is a series of actionable steps and contingency plans for moving a prospect through the buying process as efficiently and effectively as possible.
It’s not at all sales methodology or strategy. It’s a flowchart that needs to be followed efficiently and diligently.
What are the benefits of following a B2B sales process?
- Shortens the sales cycle of your business
- Enhances your customer experience
- Easier for new sales representatives to speed up their sales
- Improves the accuracy of sales forecasting
- Most important, drives targeted sales figure
Your guide to designing a perfect B2B sales process
Before I immerse you into the river of knowledge, let me tell you one pro tip that no one is going to tell you. There is no predefined perfect B2B sales process. It differs from business to business depending upon the sector, your business size, vision, budget, and the automation you’re willing to make.
So, here I’m not going to give you certain steps that your B2B sales process must-have. Later, you can implement these in your company the way you want to. But these steps must not be skipped if you really want to build an efficient and smooth sales process.So, let’s begin.
1.Research and educate yourself
Here, you need to cover two levels of research. First, research about your competitors and second, research about the prospect.
Researching about your competitors helps you understand the variations of the product and services available in the market, and current demand of those products and services as well. Moreover, you learn about the offerings and messaging your competitors are using for attracting similar prospects, which can help you in edging them out by creating better sales strategies.
Having a deep understanding of your prospects’ businesses helps you tailor your pitch and make your prospects see the situation differently. This brings you to the position where you can empathize with them and mirror their pain, thereby increasing chances to sell your product.
2.Set a clear picture of your buyer persona
Getting new leads consistently is the backbone of the whole B2B sales process. Knowing your exact buyer persona helps you run personalized marketing campaigns via social media, industry events , and other inbound marketing platforms. This helps you ensure regular flow of new leads into the sales funnel.
Also, it enables you to understand if your target audience is ready to invest in your product or not.
3.Structure your buyers’ journey
Typically, a buyer’s journey has these five steps.
Awareness → Interest → Consideration → Evaluation → Decision
You must be able to identify where your prospect lies in the whole buyer journey. Depending upon the step where your buyer has reached, you can devise the acquisition strategy accordingly. For example, at the evaluation stage, you may pitch them USPs of your product.
Very often, we hear the terms MQL (Marketing qualified leads) and SQL (Sales qualified leads). Here, you need to filter out SQLs. This is done by determining if the prospect is a good fit for your product/service, they have the budget to purchase and the intent to buy. This stage may include telemarketing or email outreach.
Now, this whole process, if done manually, will require a lot of time and resources. Also, it would be difficult for you to measure the exact performance of your marketing campaigns as well as your sales agents. So, B2B CRM software is there for your rescue. You just need to set the right criteria to qualify your leads. Read more about the lead management process flow and find out the symptoms indicating that your business needs to pay more attention towards effective lead management.
Salesforce offers powerful tools for managing, qualifying, and routing leads. Salesforce lead qualification helps take the guesswork out of the process, letting your teams focus on qualified leads. For more information, talk to one of the certified Salesforce Partners.
After this step, a lead becomes valid to be pitched directly by the sales representative.
5.Initiate the conversation
Now that the leads have entered the main sales funnel, and are ready to be nurtured, you may assign a particular sales agent to take the conversation ahead. Based on your company protocol, it can be a face to face meeting, phone call, or whatever suits you best.
This stage requires more listening as you get to know the exact requirement of the prospect, challenges being faced, expectations from the product, budget involved and many such details.
6.Building trust, handling objections and nurturing
This is one of the most crucial stages of the B2B sales process. Here you get a lot of ‘NOs’, and your whole task is to convert each NO into an YES. This is where you win a deal.
But this doesn’t mean that you are free to simply disagree on the face of the prospect. This never works. Rather, start with empathy, restate their concern and then re-frame it. Always consider their perspective while you highlight the cost and risk of ‘not buying’.
7. Deal closure
In B2B sales, this step comes after a lot of nurturing. So, be patient.
After dealing with all the negotiations, you finally sell your product and on-board the customer. This can involve paperwork and dealing with other departments. Often, a key account manager is assigned after a customer is on-boarded.
8.Measure and improve
Once you’ve followed a particular sales process for a good enough duration, do review certain metrics to understand how the whole B2B sales process is working for you.
Metrics can be, sales reps productivity, average lead response time, MQL to SQL conversion, number of won deals, customer life cycles, etc. This helps you understand the efficiency of your sales process and modify it accordingly as per requirements. Also, monitor the health of your sales pipeline by using sales dashboards.
Doing sales impulsively, or on instinct that you’re doing it right is the biggest mistake a company can make. B2B sales involves a lot of strategy and challenges. To tackle all such hurdles effectively, you must create a sales process that is being followed strictly and efficiently. Just keeping a perfect sales process in place ensures that your sales graph is consistently rising and creating new milestones.
Achieving B2B sales is one of the most strategic things in any company. None of the businesses devise a perfect B2B sales process right from the beginning. They experiment, fail, and learn. Sometimes, these experiments cost them a lot. These experiments are essential but the losses can definitely be minimized or even eliminated.
Knowing the right steps to create a perfect B2B sales process can help a business design the best they can, right in their first go. This not only minimizes the losses but also gives businesses an idea about what all to include in the sales process.
Furthermore, knowing the B2B sales challenges upfront helps the company plan better to tackle those. Overall, this is the perfect guide to get your B2B sales on the right track, and create milestones that you’ve never achieved before.