7 Tips to Improve Your B2B Sales Process
Most B2B marketing is done online. Buyers search for products online, they make judgments about a company based on the content they find on a company website, in an email and on social media. While their final decision may not rest on a Tweet, the way your company presents itself online is key to making a positive impression.
Traditional advertising? Keep it on the shelf. For buyers in many specialized industries, it’s nearly obsolete. While a direct mailing list may attract attention if the topic is interesting or of intellectual value, most companies prefer to explore meaningful content on their own time rather than wade through the hype of advertising when making business decisions.
With all the many ways that your business can reach your prospect online, how do you go about boosting your B2B sales and establishing yourself as a strong company in your industry?
Establishing a solid online presence is a good start, considering how much of the decision-making process occurs online as potential prospects search out the product or service they’re looking for, then compare prices and features in order to make a decision.
This is where account-based marketing comes into play.
But there’s so much you need to do in order to ensure that your ABM strategies don’t fall flat. As with the Boy Scouts, preparedness is everything.
We’ve put together some important tips to guide you through the process successfully, boosting sales in the process.
Keep compelling content coming.
In order to make companies aware of your product or service and to attract new prospects, it’s important to sell yourself and your company through a variety of different channels that reach as many people as possible. Webinars, a strong social media presence, videos, whitepapers, regular blog posts, informational emails, case studies and even direct mail can all be effective marketing tools.
The important thing is keeping cohesion between campaign and experience, maintaining your company’s branding and mission statement. Use your content to not only educate existing and potential prospects about all aspects of your business, but also show them how your business works within your industry. Tell your story in as many different ways as possible so companies know exactly how your product or service can benefit them.
Sales and marketing must align.
The farther apart your sales and marketing teams are, the less likely your business will see success. The marketing team has the ability to create campaigns that give the company a voice, but the sales department can only use those materials to close sales if they have access to that wealth of data. In turn, the marketing team will have a better idea of what kind of campaigns to create if they know which businesses the sales department would most like to target.
If account based marketing strategies are going to be successful, the marketing department needs to give the sales team the information, knowledge and tools it needs so they are able to reach their targeted goals successfully.
- Social media is vital to ABM. Establish a strong voice through multiple channels while keeping track of trends and gathering data about your competitors. LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for businesses, but it shouldn’t be your only social interaction. Follow the competition on Facebook and Twitter, and see what moves they’re making to ensure that your company is also on trend. Your next step is ensuring that your sales department knows what’s new in the industry so they can answer questions from prospects with a sense of authority. Social media is also a good way of generating leads.
- If your sales department makes cold calls, make sure they are armed with as much information as possible about their targets to make the call less icy. Do intel, using the internet and company websites to make sure that the people your sales team is calling might be more willing to take the call. Creating an introductory email marketing pitch as an initial contact might also lessen the dread your sales department feels over cold calls. An informed pitch can turn a cold call into a sale despite the low percentages, if the sales team has the right tools.
Almost everyone wishes there were more hours in a day, and your prospects are no different. They don’t have a lot of free time for decision making, but they still don’t want to make decisions without being informed. Simplifying the sales funnel – making the educational and buying process as streamlined as possible – will be a better way to make a sale. Show the company you’re targeting how your product or service can save them either time or money, with real figures to back up the claims. Knowledge is power, and don’t go into any negotiation without being armed with as much knowledge to share as possible.
Take action while the iron is hot, as they say.
Today’s marketing departments, especially so those of larger companies, are armed with data. A deep understanding of your database’s firmagraphic and demographic data has become vital to identifying new prospects.
When you add in intent signaling data, linked to a large database of prospects, you can identify the “who” and “when” part of the puzzle, ensuring key prospects are entering the nurture track most relevant to what they are already researching.
That information gives the marketing and sales departments the opportunity to make contact with the people in target companies exactly when they’re looking for what you’re selling.
Relationships are still key.
The relationships that are established between sales people and their business contacts are invaluable. Retaining those relationships, whether traditionally or through account-based marketing techniques that keeps them informed about the industry, will help your company maintain integrity even as it seeks out new business clients.
No matter how much technology advances, the idea of the mom-and-pop store, and the warmth that kind of relationship elicits, is something almost all people value, and offering it creates a sense of goodwill that will not only help retain existing clients, but will also likely lead to referrals.
In that way, account-based marketing provides priceless word of mouth advertising, because if you hit all the right marks, your prospects will talk up the excellent experience they had with your company and while they continue to increase their investment.
How you communicate with your team is vital.
Feedback can be a good thing – it corrects certain issues before they become significant problems – but according to Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse, “feedforward” is a more effective strategy across the board.
As a workplace strategy, feedforward looks to future goals, and projects what needs to happen in order to reach those goals effectively. While feedback looks at past mistakes, in some cases leading to a sense of despair, feedforward inspires, and in turn can lead to greatness.
Kruse compared feedback to a visit to the executioner, while the manager should instead serve as a coach, pushing everyone to be their personal best.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we may catch excellence,” said Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win as arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time.
By telling his team they could achieve anything, they did, and because of his leadership the Green Bay Packers – the only publicly owned NFL franchise – became one of the most beloved football teams of all time.
Feedforward also works when dealing with prospects, especially those who want to know what your business plans are for the future. Living in the now, which is sometimes all some businesses can manage, can be a major detriment to future growth, turning away potential clients.
Find out what matters to your market.
Many of today’s businesses are seeing the most success through purpose-driven marketing, which showcases a common cause between business and consumer. If a consumer is drawn to a business’s cause, they will be more likely to purchase the product. Dove used it successfully in the B2C market by embracing the idea that everyone is beautiful, no matter their shape or size, making other companies appear shallow when their traditional campaigns featuring models with unattainable features were stacked against them.
The concept works with B2B marketing, as well. IBM used purpose-driven marketing for its “Smarter Planet” campaign, which was initially launched in 2008 and has since become the company’s core philosophy.
“Let’s seize this opportunity to create more and better jobs, cultivate valuable skills, and not simply repair but prepare our economy for the 21st century,” said Sam Palmisano, IBM CEO and chairman, in 2009.
The idea was to use the benefits new and more powerful technology offered to make a real impact on the world, through “smarter power grids, smarter food systems, smarter water, smarter health care, smarter traffic systems,” the company says on its website.
Companies that felt empowered by IBM’s message and also wanted to play a role in making the world a better place eagerly came on board, making it an impactful, successful campaign with lasting growth.
Finding a message that resonates with your target audience can help build a loyal following – and a stronger portfolio of like-minded clients.
Improve your long-term ideas.
In order for your sales department to successfully sell your company, each member has to be clear about what makes your company different from competitors. Have a mission statement, a compelling company story and ideas for future growth that have solid potential and a plan that is being implemented. In the same way feedback should not look to the past, neither should selling points.
Think of each sales pitch as that infamous “where do you expect to be in five years” interview question, and have a solid answer to satisfy prospects when making your pitch.
Looking to the future also helps build a stronger reputation with clients, who want to know that your plans are to be a strong and steady presence in the industry, well into the future.