Effective B2B Sales Strategies for your Business

February 19, 2018 - Dom Barnard

Business-to-business (B2B) sales can be incredibly hard. Long sales cycles, tough lead generation and fierce competition mean that in order to survive, businesses must constantly adapt to the changing buyer-seller relationship.

In this article, we discuss the latest B2B sales strategies and how both technology and new channels of communication have altered the sales landscape.

Understanding B2B customers

Understanding how customers have changed and the new sales opportunities this has opened up is vital for any B2B sales team. The management consultancy McKinsey & Co published some key trends in this space:

  • Customers are more demanding - customers want simple, fast, and inexpensive transactions, on the one hand, and highly complex solutions designed by experienced teams, on the other. Companies are needing to develop multichannel sales models.
  • Customers want to speak to experts - teams are now faced with more sophisticated buyers, who expect sales reps to have high levels of specialist knowledge on the product.
  • Customers are willing to receive information in different ways - customers are more comfortable getting information they need over the telephone or through Web conferences and video conferences (instead of traditional face-to-face meetings)
  • Companies are making the most of data - B2B sales teams are taking the lead from retailers like Amazon and using customer data and analytics to predict behaviour, drive sales and deepen relationships. Sales models are being shaped around insights and learnings.

Know your customer and research their company

In the modern world, there is a huge amount of information on your B2B customer. Use LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, reviews, their corporate blog, contacts and other sources to find out as much as possible. Nothing kills a deal like asking a blatantly obvious question that 30 seconds of independent research could have answered.

Research questions such as:

  • What are they struggling with?
  • Who is their competition?
  • Who is complaining about them?
  • Which area of the business are they hiring for?
  • Are any areas of their business losing revenue?
  • Have there been any important leadership changes in the company?
  • Is a section of their business underperforming?

When you have researched their pain points, you’ll understand how much they are willing to pay for a solution to them.

If the customer has found you through inbound marketing, you can check website analytics to find out what areas of your business they were most interested in (which webpages they visited, how long they were on certain pages, etc.). You have a huge advantage if you tailor your email response to them based on this.

Create case studies with current customers

A large percentage (around 73%) of buyers use case studies in B2B purchasing decisions. Look at how your customers are using your products, where they are saving time and money. You ideally want to include stories and quotes form your customers – also try and use statistics if possible, for example: “This tool saves us £12,500 / month and 100 employee hours of time.”

No matter what your business does, try and leverage data into the creation of case studies. They are a crucial tool for getting your clients interested in your product or service because it’s measurable proof of what your company does.

Understand the buyer’s journey

How do your prospects make decisions? The key to mapping out your sales process is to understand your buyer’s journey. Understand the steps, information they need, and the people involved. This allows your organisation to align your sales and marketing efforts.

Typically the marketing team finds the leads (through email capture campaigns such as ‘free’ e-books) and passes them to the sales team to follow up on (sending emails to arrange a phone call to discuss the product further).

Collect feedback about your product or service

Feedback is a great way to discover new features which need developing, changes in price and more. There are several ways to collect feedback on your B2B customers (anonymous or not):

  • Website surveys (using a tool such as Hotjar)
  • Feedback interviews with current customers
  • Feedback forms on purchase (why they purchased, what about your company caught their attention etc.)
  • Email surveys in your newsletter (usually including a benefit for completing the survey, such as free month access to your software)

Listen to your customers’ needs

Online research might not be enough to find out your customer’s needs. When this is the case, reach out to them and start a conversation.

Make sure you listen first to their needs and then ask questions about how you can solve their needs. Ask open questions instead of closed questions (closed questions give them the option of a “yes” or “no” reply). Listen more than you talk.

The value of content marketing

Buyers have greater access to data and information and therefore don’t need to ask companies as many questions. As a result, content marketing has become important as a way of educating the buyer of your offering and expertise.

Here are some interesting statistics to remember about content marketing (from HubSpot):

  • Google gets over 100 billion searches a month
  • 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search
  • B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a specific brand's site
  • 72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic
  • Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts
  • Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016
  • 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep
  • 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders

Learn about your competition

You can stand out from the competition by simply knowing more about them than they know about your business. Identify strengths in your product offering which the competition is lacking. At your next sales meeting, be sure to mention these points to a prospect. You’ll also be more prepared if the prospect starts comparing your product with a competitors.

B2B companies should research their competitors through social media. The leading social media network for B2B companies is LinkedIn. It's quickly become a hub for professionals in this industry. Follow the major influencers and companies in your niche to learn what they're doing.

Use a customer relationship management (CRM) system

A CRM system helps you stay on top of leads and track progress with them, such as any sales pitches, calls and emails. You can integrate your CRM with analytics you are collecting through your website and other methods, to help you make better strategic decisions. This requires your teams to decide what they need to know and what they want to measure, and to ensure they have the right tools in place to do so.

Sell actual business results and outcomes

Businesses aren’t interested in your product or service. They’re interested in the results and outcomes you can help them achieve.

In the past, salespeople could close B2B sales by pitching the benefits and features of their products. Today, you need to focus on selling tangible, bottom-line business results if you want to dominate your competition in B2B sales.

This is why you’ll constantly be told to talk to your customer – to understand their needs so you can develop your product for them.

Qualify your leads

Use the GPCT and BANT approaches to qualify your leads. Set a clear Goal for the business, develop a mutual Plan, identify the Challenges that will come up, set a Timeline to achieve that target.

After that, determine the Budget your potential customer might have, identify the people that will be in Authority to take the decisions. Find out the specific Need that you have to cater for, followed by the Timeline.

Get face to face with decision makers

Wherever possible, sell to people in person, particularly if what you are selling is a high-end product and expensive. Do whatever you must to get a face-to-face meeting with decision makers.

When you’re selling high-end products or services that require a serious investment, you have to go the extra mile to meet your prospects face to face. Most of your competitors are still trying to close B2B sales over the phone. A quick trip can make all difference between closing your sale - or losing it.

Don’t be too aggressive when selling

You need to give your customer enough time and space to make his or her decision. If you force your customers to give you an answer that same day, they will be much more likely to say no. Depending on the size of the business and price point of your product, they might need to talk to a dozen people before it is approved, involving meetings, emails and calls.

Even if the customer says yes in the meeting, this is very different to actually signing a contact with them. What the employee wants does not always align with department budgets and other political conflicts.

Be responsive to questions and support

Great service is the key to standing out from your competition. The more responsive you are to your customers queries, the more they will be inclined towards your services.

People often think that selling the product is the end of the relationship with the customer. While the aftersales services and support is what counts these days. Provide your customers prompt response to the queries and be supportive to your customers.

Give multiple buying options for your product or service

Don’t make the mistake of only offering one option for your B2B product or service. If you do this, decision makers are exponentially more likely to shop around looking for other options, better prices, and different services.

Instead, give each business 3-5 options that vary in price and value. Let them choose whichever one fits with their budget and best addresses their needs. You’ll be surprised by how many go with the most expensive option.

You’ll often see this technique on SAAS based websites, with different pricing options and feature sets.