Today's sales teams need to employ smarter tactics than ever in order to secure that big win, and the B2B market can be a particularly tough crowd.
Where selling direct to a consumer (B2C) involves gaining that one individual's buy-in, B2B (business to business) sales are a lot more complex. There may be dozens of people and multiple departments to convince of your proposition's value.
But the biggest problem sales teams face in the modern era is that potential buyers have access to a world of information on businesses, products and services that they didn't, just ten short years ago. This means there's no pulling the wool over their eyes and your proposition and sales process needs to add real value and be flawless.
So what's the key to selling to a B2B audience?
1. Research, research, research
The days of straightforward cold-calling are over. Today's business buyers have a wealth of options to choose from and they're savvier and more time-poor than ever before. So, before you pick up the phone to dial your first lead, you need to be fully prepared. Fortunately, this is made simple by the internet – particularly, social media.
A significant proportion of companies have at least some online presence these days. And the preferred social channel of the business community is LinkedIn. Following the big influencers in your niche and the businesses you intend to approach will give you an insight into both best practice, and what exactly your potential customer might need. Gather data and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible, before attempting to pick up the phone or write that email.
2. Use Big Data
Analytics are increasingly important in identifying and closing a sale. They point towards trends within industry, consumer behaviour and a lot more besides. Many businesses utilise analytics to identify opportunity these days, and this ‘crystal ball' is incredibly valuable within the B2B arena – helping you to develop and qualify leads before trying to strike a deal.
3. Take it slowly
There's a lot of groundwork to be laid with a B2B lead, before a deal can be reached. Part of that is researching and gathering data, but this then needs to inform the foundations of an initial relationship with a prospect. Long before attempting to entice a sale, trust needs to be established between the two parties and, as such, it can be a much slower process than B2C sales. That's because there's a lot more at stake in terms of your prospects' time, money and reputation. So highly developed negotiation skills and adeptness at building relationships are essential.
4. Address their wants and needs
Once you've established trust, you need to work out what your client actually needs. If you've dug deep with your research, you'll probably already have an idea – sometimes even before they do. So it's important that your communication with a prospect is educational, rather than ‘salesy'. Before you start selling, you need to have established what your lead's pain points are and tailored your approach and offering to that specific requirement.
The job of a sales rep has changed somewhat. Not that long ago, you'd call a client and deliver a blow-by-blow explanation of your proposition and the market at large. Now, however, chances are your prospect already knows most of what you're likely to tell them – they've done extensive research themselves – so the job of a sales associate is to smooth, rather than carve out, the path to a sale.
6. Teach them something new
Potential clients might have researched you before you hit upon them. And if they've a particular business need, they no doubt researched the competition too. So, with that in mind, you need to give them something that they can't find out for themselves – or at least elaborate on your USP. You can surprise and delight leads by using Big Data to demonstrate your knowledge of the sector, any upcoming trends and how your client likes to do business. Teaching them something new will add real authority to your sales pitch and prove to your client that they're dealing with an expert.
7. Prove your value
More than 50% of leads want to understand how and if the product/service works on the first interaction. Here's where reviews, testimonials and case studies come in useful. Having bona fide evidence of your product or service's applications and its successes is a great way to build trust with a lead that should, with patience, become a sale.
8. Demonstrate your commitment
This is a long-game, rather than a simple pitch and sell process. You're developing a lasting relationship with your prospect – and the process doesn't end with bagging the sale. The best B2B relationships are an ongoing opportunity to reassess needs and identify any areas where an upsell or adjustment might be a possibility.
Great salespeople within the B2B arena regularly touch base with their clients, to keep the momentum going and establish new opportunities. It's an act of continual but considered communication, so making sure that your sales skills remain well-oiled is essential.
9. Hone your sales process
There's a fairly well-recognised format to B2B sales:
But selling is an art form, and remember that there's all the work to be done in gaining your prospect's trust, before you can attempt to convert them. It's not always innate, but it can be learned, which is why it's crucial to undertake expert sales training. Whether you're starting out in the field of B2B sales, or find that you're struggling to develop your client relationships and secure their commitment, targeted sales training can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your process – ultimately, landing you more long-term clients.
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