Selling to B2B customers is not easy. We talk to our clients frequently about this. What's just as clear is today's B2B buyers now control the process...they conduct their own research and select what to buy, often without any influence from your sales team.
Some recent national research studies support what we are hearing form our clients:
- A very small percentage of buyers want to talk to a salesperson to learn about a product
- More than half of buying decisions are made before buyers even contact a supplier
- Nearly a third of B2B sales professionals say closing deals is much harder
B2B sales is no longer predictable.
Not so long ago, the B2B sales process was somewhat predictable. If a buyer needed a product or solution, they'd contact a few trusted suppliers, ask for some options and then choose the ones that fit their need. So, marketers worked hard to fill up the sales funnel with leads and the sales team turned those leads into sales.
Today, predictable is the last word you'd use to describe the B2B buying process. It usually goes something like this:
- A buyer learns of a need in his company and does some online reserach
- Then the buyer does more research to consider all potential solutions
- With this info in hand, the buyer is likely to reach out to peers or industry groups on social platforms for opinions or recommendations; the buyer might even click an ad offering a solution
- Armed with all this research ad input, the buyer finally makes a decision...and then might actually reach out to your company to complete the sale
As you can see, there's an awful lot of decision-making that occurs before most buyers ever engage a salesperson. This dramatic shift in buyer behavior has caused the roles of sales and marketing to change quite a bit as well, with marketing taking the lead on many aspects of the sales process.
The reason behind this change is fairly simple: younger buyers have replaced the retiring generation. With their digital comfort and expertise, they have changed how products and services are purchased.
They do their own research, utilizing the massive amount of contact available online - websites, third-party reviews, blogs and social platforms. What's more they also do not like dealing with sales professionals who focus on a sale rather than solving their problem. That's why sales teams that use social platforms and content marketing perform better than those who don't.
So, what's a B2B sales professional to do?
We recommend closer collaboration with your marketing staff. If you don't have one, give us a call and we'll help. With that in mind, here are some proven tactics to make your sales professionals win more work:
Create content that answers the most common questions your customers ask. As we noted, B2B buyers today are younger and want to feel confident in making a purchase. Give them all the information - including references, case studies and product reviews - they want.
Position your sales professionals as experts in your industry. Today's B2B buyers want to trust the information they find, and you want to be that trusted resource. Help your sales professionals create and share content that's informative and relevant to typical industry challenges. Distribute this information on your website, social platforms, even on your sales team's personal LinedIn profiles.
Make sure that your sales and marketing staff are on the same page, literally. Your sales messaging and content needs to be supported by the same in your branding, advertising and promotional efforts. Get your marketers to teach your sales professionals how to better use content and ask your sales professionals for input to guide content development.
Yes, B2B sales has changed. However, if you identify the channels your customers use, share relevant contact and help them solve problems, you'll be positioned for sustainable success. Remember, you're earning trust and building relationships and that's what will help you win more business today.
If you would like to talk more about your sales challenges or think your sales team could benefit from some focused coaching, please reach out to me at 814-490-7706 or MikeSmiley@DecisionAssociates.net.