Introduction to b2b sales
Selling services or products to another business can be frustrating. You need to deal with endless rejections, cold shoulders and being flat out ignored. Your target customers are busy doing their job and they don't want to be interrupted. This post will help you recalculate your route to closing B2B sales.
1. Get your priorities straight
Who are you placing in the center of your sales process? Yourself or the customer? You might think you're customer focused, yet chances are there's a reason you're getting blown off by prospects. To paraphrase JFK "ask not what your prospect can buy from you, ask how you can help your prospect".
At the end of every business is a human being. That person actually has a life. They're busy, don't know your business, don't trust you, and don't want to be interrupted. Respect that. Figure out who they are, what their needs are and how you can help them and tackle your entire strategy from that angle. This goes way beyond clichés such as "listen 80% and of the time and speak 20% of the time". This is about a shift in attitude, it's about building relationships, educating, answering to needs and only cutting down to business when the timing is right – for your prospect's business (not yours).
2. Understand the buyer's journey
The buyer’s journey is the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase. This is especially crucial to understand from a B2B perspective. B2B sales cycles are long by nature and requires a high level of trust. Decisions are far from spontaneous. In fact, 47% of B2B buyers consume 3-5 pieces of content prior to engaging with a salesperson. This means that some of your prospects are consuming your content before you even know who they are. By understanding the typical journey a buyer goes through before you speak to them, you can carefully figure out the right time to sell. This will help you avoid time wasted on pitching to prospects who are not ready to buy from you, as well as to avoid ruining what could otherwise evolve to a long-term relationship.
There are three stages to the average buyer's journey:
Look how the buyer's journey correlates with a typical conversion funnel:
Only 5-15% of leads are sales ready. Most lead require nurturing, relationship and trust building. It's important to understand that and to only sell at the bottom of the funnel. In order to do so it's important to qualify leads and pinpoint where they are in the funnel.
3. Qualify MQLs and SQLs
Make sure to set clear criterias of what qualifies a lead to be a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and further on, what qualifies them to be a sales qualified lead (SQL).
An MQL is a lead who's relevant to your company as a potential customer, but who isn't far enough down the buyer's journey to be ready to buy. This is a lead that will potentially respond to being nurtured. For example, if your company is a SaaS company providing solutions for small businesses in the US, a marketing qualified lead would be a person who is a small business owner, a US resident, and who's company is the relevant industry to your business. They will have expressed interest in your company but such that doesn't reflect direct intention to buy.
You can qualify a lead as an MQL by doing a bit of intelligence work. Look them up on LinkedIn, visit their website, google them and use any relevant means at your disposal to eliminate and not waste time on irrelevant leads (if the lead was generated from paid media, the campaign would have ideally been targeted per demographics, location and other relevant qualification screening options). Then make sure to evaluate what you know about their specific buyer's journey and behavior:
- Did they express interest in your company?
- Did they download an ebook or whitepaper? Was the content they downloaded awareness, consideration or decision stage type of content?
- Did they view your pricing page?
When using marketing automation tools, you'll be able to use forms, lead scoring and workflows in order to qualify a lead as an MQL. That being said, don't let the lack of marketing automation stand between you and lead qualification.
An SQL is an MQL who is further down the buyer's journey. These are leads that you can pick up the phone and call with an intent to sell to, as they are ready to speak with you. This would be a result of lead nurturing or a direct expression of intent to buy from you.
4. Align marketing and sales goals
When marketing and sales disagree on the differences between MQLs and SQLs, everyone loses. Both marketing and sales should focus on quality and not quantity. A typical complaint from sales is that the leads they're getting are useless. A typical complaint from marketing is that the sales team can't sell ice to eskimos.
This can be solved.
Setting clear criterias for MQLs and SQLs, and as a result a clear process of when a lead is handed over to sales, is a win-win situation. It's tempting to pick up the phone and call an MQL, however they're probably not ready to buy. They need to make some sales ready actions, or else you will be "jumping in" too soon.
The secret to B2B sales is to be customer centric. Understand who your target audience is, figure out their buyer's journey, qualify your leads and only sell to them when they are ready.
If you found this useful, and you're curious to learn more and find out how to step up your b2b sales, we invite you to download our 30 greatest lead generation tips, tricks and ideas.