Cold calling and direct mail have had their glorious days. However, they are not effective anymore in today’s rapidly evolving B2B sales environment.
B2B sales was never a piece of cake with sophisticated and well-educated buyers, more stakeholders to convince, high prices and long sales cycles. Now there are more decision-makers - who have less time - and digital touchpoints involved in a B2B sales process. This change is reshaping the buying behaviour and creating more challenges for sales professionals to execute an effective B2B sales strategy.
So, are your sales teams up to date? Here are some key questions you need to ask yourself before finalising your B2B sales strategy:
A successful B2B sales strategy starts with gaining a comprehensive understanding of buyer personas. This is because, every persona’s challenges and goals; therefore, their reason for buying your solution/product will differ, and this will affect all of your pipelines and future sales activities. As a sales professional, you probably have some ideas of who your customers are, however, this might be a time for you to double-check your data, and shuffle the cards if needed.
First, define all the decision-makers. In order to gain data for persona creation, you can:
A B2B customer persona may include the following details:
These insights will provide you with a strong foundation for your sales strategy.
Then, narrow down your potential buyers. Just remember that having too many personas can distract you from focusing on the primary ones. So you should target the real decision-makers who have the authority and the budget to negotiate, convince other stakeholders and close deals with your sales representatives.
An example of two different personas
Next, turn your attention to your competitors (and always keep them in sight!).
At this stage, try to choose the top 3 to 5 competitors in your target markets and analyse their business model, cost structure, distribution channels, sales process, operating markets and marketing activities.
In addition to using various tools, there are many ways to understand the sales and marketing operations of your competitors. Try to visit their website/app to check whether they’re carrying out any remarketing activities, fill out the forms on their landing pages to see their email sequences, and follow them on social media.
These insights will help you establish your USP (unique selling proposition) for each persona. Why should your prospects choose you over your competitors? Why are you more relevant to them? What are your differentiating points? Is it lower price, higher quality, better customer service? Consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This way, you will have a clear understanding of your position in the target markets and allocate your sales budget and resources effectively.
Mapping the sales operations to the customer journey is one of the most challenging issues of B2B selling, especially in the digital age. Your customers have greater access to any information they want, and many options to compare with. Forrester suggests almost 74% of B2B buyers conduct about half of their research online before they make an offline purchase.
That’s why your brand must have a presence across multiple channels and influence customer decisions throughout the buyer journey - basically, whenever they need you. Even though the buyer journey isn’t as simple as a linear path anymore, there are still effective tactics for the main stages of this journey:
At this stage, your potential customer is not fully aware of their problem or need. They are searching for answers to gather more information. Therefore it’s very important to provide real benefit by focusing on their challenges and problems, instead of explaining your product features with technical jargon.
Consideration is the part where the prospect knows their problem and looks for potential solutions. At this stage, focus on consistent communication for those who have previously contacted your brand, across all channels. You can also start the lead nurturing sequences for further personalisation, by taking advantage of marketing automation tools.
Your potential buyer is ready to make a decision and compares alternative solutions, including your competitors. So, you can focus on convincing and inspiring communication such as offering financial incentives, highlighting your USPs, user-generated contents, success stories, etc. Also, try to retarget the people who’ve been through the phases of awareness and consideration phases to speed up their decision-making process.
At this stage, your customer needs to be reminded of why they chose you. Many sales professionals focus on the top of the sales funnels where they try to generate more leads. However, current customers are more likely to buy from you, compared to the new prospects which make them less costly and time-consuming. For instance, communicating with them via personalized emails, sending them guides on how to use your product or service better, providing them with case studies, etc. would encourage repeat purchases, cross-sells and upsells.
Managing the buyer journey successfully will support your lead qualification processes and help you determine their position in your sales pipelines.
As you might see, some of the abovementioned operations aren’t only sales-related jobs. That brings us to the next question:
Traditional sales processes, where the marketing team generates the leads at early stages and hands them off to the sales teams for follow-on, won’t work in today’s B2B buying. As mentioned earlier, the B2B buying journey is more complex than ever. A potential customer can start their research online, read a whitepaper, get in touch with your sales team, then read comments on LinkedIn to compare solutions and so on. In other words, buyers are highly channel-agnostic and your sales reps are just one channel. In fact, Gartner's research suggests that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers.
As a result, alignment with your digital or growth marketing team in every stage of the B2B buyer journey is necessary. This cooperation is crucial for:
Both teams can collaborate on a wide range of lead nurturing tactics. These include:
Creating a content marketing strategy with the inputs from the sales team. You can provide potential customers with educational and beneficial content throughout their buyer’s journey. These include:
Harnessing the power of social selling by joining meaningful conversations in your industry where your prospects and influencers are. You can also monitor your company’s social mentions and answer questions, resolve issues, and handle concerns to showcase your brand.
Creating automated sales email sequences by triggering personalised content according to your customer’s behaviour and preferences. These emails can include instructive content for product features, easy implementation processes and personalised offers.
Using a remarketing ad in order to remind your brand of people who have visited your website. You can promote whitepapers, case studies as well as point out how you can solve one particular challenge for your potential customers.
Developing an effective lead scoring system is one of the essential sales skills. You can get a wide range of activity and behavioural data from your growth/digital marketing team as well as use your sales team’s experience with previous customers.
But what type of scoring criteria should you use?
This, of course, depends on your industry, personas and their buying journey. However, there are some well-known methods such as the BANT, MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion), CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization) Sales and HubSpot’s GPCTBA/C&I.
In addition to the basic criteria like the budget, pain points, sector, territory or company size, there are various other options you can add to your lead scoring criteria list. Think outside of the box with your marketing team to find unique scenarios that will either have a positive or a negative score. For instance, when a prospect meets the following criteria, you can give a + scoring, depending on your business.
+1 points when the prospect opened the email sequence
+2 points when the prospect is acquired from paid search / or organic search
+3 points when the prospect visited your page more than 3 times
+3 points when the prospect is acquired by referral
+1 points when the prospect downloaded a whitepaper / or watched a webinar
Additionally, you can score with negative numbers. For example, you can give -3 points when a student downloads your whitepaper instead of your main persona who has the authority and the budget to buy your product.