Budget and timing are the two major reasons why businesses and salespersons lose B2B deals. This is according to a report from Chorus. This resonates the fact that the B2B sales process is a long one and it needs strategic approaches not only in budget and timing, but also in everything else.
To be successful in B2B sales means to have a deeper appreciation of B2B processes, determining and reaching the decision-makers, and knowing how to go through the sales process efficiently.
Understanding the B2B Process
The B2B process is usually longer since:
- It involves multiple stakeholders within an organization and not an individual
- It’s generally more expensive (with fewer exceptions in the consumer world like computers)
- It’s a more complicated decision which affects a broader group of the organization
- Due to this investment, reviewing competitors tends to take longer, and incorporates both emotional (impact) and logical (features) thinking
B2C marketers often struggle when switching to a B2B context. The sales cycle is longer and the marketing funnel is deeper. It’s not uncommon to use case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, or other educational material (in addition to email series) in order to warm up a lead over time.
Converting Cold Leads to Warm Leads
B2B sales is contingent on building rapport with your prospects before labeling them as warm leads.
This is where most of the sales effort falls short.
The modern B2B process involves a ton of research and building a personal relationship before making an educated decision.
The Nurture Process
Various studies report that it takes 7 to 13+ touches to deliver a qualified sales lead. Many sales reps follow up 1–3 times after the initial contact and give up at that point. In reality, marketing and sales should work closely together in order to build trust and establish brand reputability.
Note the study conducted by Microsoft. By the 4th touchpoint, 89% of salespeople have given up.
By the 7th contact, you’ve reached the point of “top of mind” awareness. Whenever a prospect is about to shortlist available solutions or service providers, your brand is one of the first picks they list down.
That’s rarely a pure product of sales calls or cold emails. It also involves mentions in industry magazines, PR releases, interviews, webinars, and automated sequences for those who have signed up for your email list. Social media reviews and mentions are taken into account as well.
Processing Signals from Different Mediums
Direct interaction with leads via social media, commenting on their blogs, or interacting through different communities is a powerful way to warm up a lead as well.
Receiving positive signals from different mediums works incredibly well.
To illustrate an example, let’s consider that we’re looking for an established marketing SaaS for managing backlinks to a site. There are different vendors on the market such as Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush, Serpstat and a few more.
Note: I’m not affiliated to any of those and I’m using all of them for different purposes.
You are an entrepreneur, a marketing director, or a CEO of a small business looking for a new solution.
The first thing you do is a light Google search of “top backlinking tools”:
Interestingly enough, SEMrush keep the top ad banner for this keyword. The second excerpt from Google also lists them as one of the top 10 results. Moreover, while browsing Neil Patel’s blog posts, I see comments from independent users also recommending SEMrush as one of the top tools in the market.
See? Different touchpoints from various sources. PPC, recommendations by an industry leader, comments. I’ll be keen on browsing their website.
The quality of their content is high and there’s a probability I’d sign up for their email newsletter.
The last line also mentions Ben Harmanus – head of community and content marketing at Unbounce. As an Unbounce proponent, I feel confident that this would be a great webinar that is worth watching.
This will likely increase my trust in the brand as well.
However, I take a step back and browse a few more blog posts. I see that Ahrefs and Moz are suitable candidates for backlink checking as well.
So I run another search for “ahrefs vs semrush vs moz” in order to read more.
I see that SEMrush falls short in certain areas but provides awesome suggestions while offering really high request limits. The overall speed is good while it fails in keyword difficulty or the overall SERP analysis.
Ahrefs is a suitable replacement that would be worth exploring. Serpstat hasn’t been reviewed thoroughly so I may look into this one, too. Same for KW Finder.
Forging Relevant Relationships
While most of that is heavily dependent on brand awareness and marketing efforts, building the brand to “top of mind” requires a ton of sales effort, too. Building all of these strategic partnerships, adding journalists and industry bloggers to your network, offering free trials at events and giving talks at conferences may easily tempt bloggers to cover your product.
If you happen to approach prospects at the same time, they have already been familiarized with your product. Conversion rates will be much higher.
Even if you don’t put that much time and effort in marketing, it’s important to remember the value of repetitive touch points with your prospects.
Once you establish a B2B lead, follow them on Twitter and add them to LinkedIn. Follow their blog and interact with their content. Attend an AMA session if they lead one or request some answers on Quora if they stick around.
When you reach out formally via email or LinkedIn, they will recognize your previous interactions. Warming the lead as much as possible through different touches across various mediums will yield a higher probability to close the deal
How to Reach B2B Decision-Makers
The rapid growth of the startup ecosystem and the evolution of Internet services have brought tens of millions of vendors targeting SMEs and large corporations.
As a result, decision-makers have learned to ignore the endless piles of pitches they receive on a weekly or even daily basis.
Luckily, not all hope is lost. However:
- Pitching to a busy executive is significantly harder.
- Gatekeepers and assistants are continuously getting in the way.
- Automatic spam filters are getting better.
Here’s what you need to understand in 2019 when it comes to selling software and products to B2Bs.
1. Find out Who Is in Charge
As a CEO, I’m constantly amused by enterprise-grade solution providers always aiming for me.
While we are not a large corporation, it’s not realistic to keep bothering the CEO directly for scheduling sales calls and demos, reading long presentations, researching random firms across products and services all day long.
Even 15-person teams have people in charge of tech, marketing, or other operational activities doing basic due diligence before discussing options with the CEO.
That said, your decision-makers could be:
- The industry expert tasked to find the right solution
- Company advocates or advisors
- The financial department allocating budgets
- Non-CEO C-suites, directors, VPs, senior managers
- The CEO’s assistant/secretary
2. Explore the Channels That Will Influence the Process
For each group of decision-makers, find out what channels work.
Cold calls/emails are the most trivial examples. Since emails are easier, take less time, and can be blasted at large, this option prevails, with hundreds if not thousands of spammy emails hitting CEOs and founders every week.
Offline events work really well in many cases. Industry conferences or professional business meetups are top of mind, especially if you can speak or sponsor there.
LinkedIn generally works but it’s getting abused, too. Finding a non-spammy way of getting in takes time and patience.
3. Study Each Company Separately
Don’t blast generic email templates or automated responses in LinkedIn/Twitter. This can backfire quickly and will do more harm than good unless your product is dirt cheap and attracts people who don’t care about anything else.
Make sure your audience fits your target market! Don’t spam companies who wouldn’t care about your solutions. The longer you do that, the sooner you’ll get your domain name banned or kicked out of certain communities. Violating GDPR may even grant you a lawsuit.
4. Search for Connectors in Your Network
A warm intro goes a long way — especially if you find something in common.
Common acquaintances, hobbies, favorite sports teams, music genres, movies, cars, or schools and events you’ve both attended — these will decrease the chance a lead would hang up or hit the “spam” button immediately. This requires some due diligence, the reason personalized and targeted outreach generates better results.
5. Use Relevant Case Studies
Sales stats are one of the most ridiculous activities you can dive into. Tips are so contrast and inconclusive that you will inevitably get confused trying to follow multiple sources simultaneously.
One thing we know for sure is that credibility and relevance matter. A ton.
Using case studies in your sales process can dramatically increase your closure rates, generate additional leads through referrals, and even extend the duration of existing contracts.
Pitching a dental clinic for a CRM you sell is one thing.
Pitching the same clinic naming two other popular clinics using your product, a success story with numbers, and a review from one of their clients? A completely different outcome.
The sole reason startups niche down and companies start with a narrow target market is relevancy. Becoming an industry expert, solving the right problems, and onboarding customers quickly will only happen if you start with 1–3 verticals and acquire a sufficient percentage of the market.
6. Warm Them up as Best as Possible
HubSpot came up with a term called “Smarketing”, the intersection between sales and marketing.
Traditional organizations frequently report conflicts between both departments. Sales folks complain about non-qualified leads. Marketers rant against the low closing rates and missed opportunities.
An effective organization builds a culture of symbiosis between the sales and marketing departments. As a result, the journey of a B2B business goes through reviews, case studies, social media, helpful blog posts, white papers or ebooks that prospects sign up for.
A warmed up lead knows who they’re speaking to. They won’t hang up during your call right away. Or spam your outreach email.
Any opportunity you get to warm up a lead — use it. Offline events, social media, blog comments, follow-up questions during conference talks, you name it.
7. Make Sure You Solve the Right Pain Points
CB Insights reported that 42% of all failing startups go down because of a product – market misfit. Building a solution that doesn’t solve real problems is a waste of time.
Even if you have the right solution, study the pain points your target market struggles with.
Cost, ROI, performance, productivity, accountability, saving time through automation, dodging legal or accounting challenges, improving onboarding process, generating leads, attracting top talent — just a few problems almost all industries face. The more specific you are, understanding the real pains of a vertical with their jargon, industry events, competitive challenges, the closer you are to making a sale.
The Bottom Line
The B2B sales process can be very challenging and many have failed because they do not have the right perspective about it. For one, some of those who failed were not able to build a strong sales team to streamline, follow-through and improve the process. I have written about how to build a strong sales team for SMEs here.