For much of the B2B sales process, buyers are in the driver’s seat. That’s more true now than ever before. They’re empowered with limitless information at their fingertips with the click of a mouse or tap on their smartphone.
Reviews, websites, social media, eBooks, case studies, videos and many other resources guide today’s buyers and shape their decisions as they look to find answers and solutions. As B2B marketing professionals, it’s important to create sales strategies that take into consideration how the onslaught of information is influencing their buyer’s journey.
And the Survey Says…
In their 2018 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, Demand Gen reported that 45% of respondents said they use more sources to research and evaluate purchases than in the past and, consequently, an equal number inevitably spends more time researching those purchases as well.
Increasingly, B2B buyers are choosing to self-navigate their decision-making journey. As a result, instead of speeding up the sales cycle, the research shows that 61% of respondents said the length of their B2B purchase cycles have either somewhat or significantly increased.
This self-guided approach and other changes in buyer behaviors demand a change in the way we market and sell to our best customers and prospects. Today’s selling is less about “selling” and more about “helping.”
Here are a few ways you can “help” if you’re in the business of growing your B2B sales.
Wait for Prospects to Raise Their Hands
It might sound simple, but start by helping those who want to be helped.
In the numbers game of sales, eight hours of cold calling and emailing may result in “X” number of appointments, but are they truly qualified leads? Probably not.
With some quick math, it’s simple to figure out how many calls or emails will get the number of appointments you need. But today’s buyers simply aren’t responding to, nor do they appreciate, unsolicited calls.
Consider changing your numbers game to a ratios game. Focus on the quality instead of quantity of your leads by waiting for your ideal prospects to raise their hands.
With effective inbound marketing, you’ll know they’re ready to engage when they volunteer their contact information to download a decision-phase content piece or request some form of consultation (contact form, assessment, or demo, for example) from your website.
Listen & Share
With the proper inbound marketing tools, you can “listen” and learn from your buyer’s behaviors by monitoring what they’ve downloaded on your site, the pages they’ve viewed, and information they’ve provided in forms and chatbots.
This approach may feel a bit like “Big Brother,” but the end goal is to be as helpful as possible to your website visitors and prospects. People appreciate — and expect — relevancy from the brands they interact with today. The insights provided from marketing automation tools allow you to nurture leads and provide them with exactly the information they want when they want it.
Sharing information relative to what the lead is interested in and tailoring it to their stage of the buyer’s journey is critical to really “helping” the buyer as they conduct their research. General information may be helpful during the beginning stages of the buyer’s journey, while case studies or comparison checklists may be more helpful when they are closer to making a decision.
Once the prospective customer is ready to engage in a conversation and the sales process, a salesperson can use the information gathered during the buyer’s research phase to be best prepared to truly help them with what they need. Time is saved for both the salesperson and the prospect during the sales process, not having to cover the ground that has already been discovered.
Be Buyer Centric
Your buyers have problems. And, as shown, they research those problems (and potential solutions) before they ever engage with a salesperson. If you’re that salesperson, you could face a challenge. Why?
If potential buyers reach out to you or engage with your content online, they likely already know a lot about your product, service or company. Sales models of the past focused on salespeople being experts on their products and covering every possible talking point are less relevant in this scenario. Don’t get me wrong; being able to speak intelligently about these things is good, but chances are your potential buyer already knows the important stuff.
So, what are modern sales and marketing professionals supposed to talk about with a potential buyer?
Being buyer centric instead of product centric is key. In the previously mentioned survey, 73% of respondents said sales teams that demonstrated a strong knowledge of their company and its needs was one of the most important variables in the buyer’s decision-making process, and nearly as many wanted sales to demonstrate experience with or knowledge of their industry.
Inbound marketing and sales is about selling with context and understanding the unique pain points of buyers, including how and when they want to engage with you. It means getting to know prospects and treating them like people instead of leads.
Hit the Critical One-to-Three Month Mark
Even though the sales cycle and buyers journey may be taking longer than it used to, 38% of B2B buyers said that the majority of their research takes place in the first three months. This includes research on which providers should be included on their short list of considerations.
Capturing the attention of potential customers early on is critical to success, and making sure you nurture them throughout their buyer’s journey helps build trust and guide them along the way.
Become a Challenger
Your customers already have access to countless search results offering them more information than they’ve ever had access to before. The value you can bring is a new perspective and unique expertise that demonstrates how to solve their problems in a way they haven’t thought of before.
In what’s practically become a modern classic, The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, the most successful sales people are described as those with “a deep understanding of the customer’s business and use that understanding to push the customer’s thinking and teach them something new about how their company can compete more effectively.”
What might this look like? It may mean creating content or having conversations that bring up the elephant in the room that no one else is willing to talk about and addressing it before your competition does. It might mean being willing to tell prospects something they don’t want to hear, but need to hear about their industry, business model, branding, product focus or other aspect of business...and then helping them do something about it.
In a nutshell, it means being transparent and honest. For most prospects, that kind of approach is utterly refreshing.
Helping your customers and prospects takes on new meaning when you’re a challenger. Encouraging your prospects to explore new and innovative ideas to solve their problems can set you apart from the competition and give you a distinct advantage by showing them you want to be their partner, not just another provider.
Helping is the New Selling
Helping is the new selling. As the buyer's journey has changed, so too has the approach of today's salesperson. Though it sounds counterintuitive, make your first aim to help prospects reach their goals, not your sales goals. In doing so, you can achieve both.
Learn more about this kind of inbound approach to sales by checking out the link below.
Posted by Nicole Mertes As Weidert Group's lead salesperson and business development strategist, Nicole heads up the agency's new business strategy and provides sales consulting services to clients.
Prior to her role at the agency, Nicole was an advertising manager at Gannett, one of the nation's largest media companies. With 10+ years of experience in advertising sales, she understands the complex relationship between marketing and sales within organizations.