Executing a successful B2B sales strategy is difficult. It’s always been difficult, even before the days of the internet when salespeople largely controlled the buying process. But these days, it’s even more difficult. Buyers no longer rely on salespeople for initial information about a company’s products and services. Technology has made it easy for buyers to avoid communication with from sales reps.
So, how do today’s salespeople adjust to this new dynamic? What does it take to break through the constant noise that prospective customers are bombarded with every day in the form of emails, ads, and social media posts?
A big part of a successful B2B sales strategy these days is to spend less time trying to sell to leads, and more time learning about them and their problems first. To keep track of all the information you gather, it helps to have a robust CRM system in place.
The B2B Buyer’s Journey
As an example, let’s say that Jane at ACME Industrial has been tasked with buying new accounting software for the company. What does her buyer journey look like? Well, these days, it probably looks a lot like this:
- A Google search for “Accounting Software”
- Visits to various vendor websites
- Read product reviews on blogs, social media, and sites like G2 Crowd
- Identify one or two top contenders based on internal criteria
- Recommend top contenders to management
- Reach out to selected vendors to request demos and pricing
- Choose a solution and complete the purchase
In this scenario, everything that happens before step six is invisible to a salesperson. For the top contenders that Jane has selected, they only have to compete with one or maybe two other vendors. For all the vendors that Jane dismissed during her research, they never even got a chance to compete for ACME’s business.
Adapting Your B2B Sales Strategy
So, with 60-70% of the decision-making process happening before a customer speaks with a sales rep, how do B2B salespeople adapt?
Here are three things businesses should consider to help get a foot back in the door of their customer’s buying process:
- Closely align sales and marketing
- Create rich, dynamic content to inform and engage buyers
- Expand sales reps into brand advocates and educators
Aligning sales and marketing: Because buyers are doing so much online research before contacting a business’s rep, web properties such as the company website, blog, and social channels are often the first point of contact that buyers have with a company.
Rather than silo marketing and sales departments, it has become increasingly important for both marketers and sales to get involved at each stage of the funnel.
Creating engaging content: Every company should be the ultimate authority on their products and services. However, many companies don’t offer things like white papers, case studies, tutorial videos, and other materials that buyers are looking for when trying to make a decision.
Creating top-quality content and making it freely available encourages prospective buyers to interact with your brand earlier in the process, rather than relying solely on third-party information that may or may not be entirely accurate.
Research shows that sales outreach that includes useful content is much more likely to elicit a positive response than outreach with no content at all.
Changing the role of sales: Salespeople with always need to sell, and that should remain their primary focus. However, empowering them to become brand advocates and educators offers them the chance to interact with customers and develop a relationship long before a final decision is made.
Marketing technology can inform a salesperson when a lead or prospect has engaged with company content. This allows a sales rep the opportunity to participate by answering questions, providing additional content, or connecting prospects with existing customers if appropriate.
How CRM Helps B2B Sales
In the early days of sales and CRM, it was enough to keep just basic contact info about leads and prospects in the database. But today, a lead may have a dozen or more interactions with a company before any “official” sales call is conducted.
Each of these interactions needs to be tracked, logged and analyzed for the best chance of success. Marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot, Pardot and ActiveCampaign track and generate detailed data about visitor interaction with a company across its entire range of marketing efforts.
Contemporary CRM systems have adapted to this new reality and offer a range of features that empower sales reps and sales managers to implement a modern B2B sales strategy.
For example, many CRM systems can keep track of a prospect’s various social media accounts. This allows both marketing and sales staff to engage learn and interact with prospects on their preferred channels.
Marketing automation platforms often integrate with CRM systems directly, passing important data on to CRM that can show users the entire history of a prospect, starting from the first visit.
Finally, the addition of artificial intelligence to CRM has made it much easier for users to process, analyze, and act on the mountains of data being collected.
Making It Count
With the balance of power shifting largely to buyers, salespeople can no longer expect to get multiple at-bats with every prospect. In many cases, they may only get one.
For that reason alone, it’s essential that every business’s B2B sales strategy be finely tuned, and always firing on all cylinders.
Salespeople need to take any and every advantage they can to compete in an increasingly crowded landscape, which makes it critical to have the right tools, including CRM.