How can you address a complex sales process?

You have a product or service which does a fantastic job, creates a lot of value but when you pick up the phone to introduce yourself and your company, nobody seems to understand what you do or why you are calling.

84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions. So, it’s clear that the landscape is changing and the needs of consumers are more sophisticated in today’s commercial climate.

A Changing Sales Cycle.

In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. 

There are typically a number of challenges that buyers face in making a decision, factors that your business needs to take into account when creating content or training your sales team:

  1. The decision challenge – does the buyer have a full and robust decision-making process in place?
  2. Switching process – it is common to have customers that do not buy because they are unsure about the costs and changes involved if you are switching suppliers.
  3. VFM (value for money) – is the buyer able to measure the impact of your solution?
  4. Requirements list – that include implementation elements and employee training needs.
  5. Prioritised list of requirements to help them choose the right vendor.

Changes in buyer behaviour require a business to adapt their approach to targeting a buyers’ specific needs and preferences throughout the buying cycle, sales need to adopt a buyer-centric approach selling the way that a customer wants to buy. 

Supporting leads in their research and information gathering process is a priority if they are going to provide relevant and educational content.

Generating leads both high in quantity and quality is a mountain we all set out to climb that has made far more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A successful Business-to-Business (B2B) lead generation engine is what keeps a business alive. 

But it can be difficult to know how to balance your efforts to attract leads and to develop a buyer-centric sales strategy to convert those leads as buyers shift their preference for interaction to be digital rather than face-to-face.

Why is it so hard to generate leads?

Typically, the company website is the first touch point with potential leads, and often this channel is supported in parallel by the sales team, eager to get on with selling – trying to generate and develop their own leads pipeline.

But this ”all hands to the pump” mentality can result in missed market opportunities and sub-optimal sales levels.

Often as businesses we become frustrated that we are wasting time and money on marketing that does not appear to drive revenue. Or concerned that we are missing out on prospects or worried that the sales team is not getting the most out of the leads that you do generate. 

These are typical concerns for those businesses employing traditional selling methods.

How do I know if I have a sales problem?

  • Inconsistent results – especially if you over rely on cold calling for new business development.
  • Not remaining top of mind with your prospects or existing customers – because you do less educating and only make contact when you are selling.
  • Not knowing how to connect with leads who aren’t ready to buy yet – and a lack of knowledge on how to turn this into an opportunity to advise rather than a ”dead-end”.
  • Knowing how to nurture leads that are just starting their buying process – resisting the desire to go for the sale as soon as they do something remotely interesting.

Changing ”all about me” to a Buyer-Centric Mindset

There are a number of ways to turn the conversation around from what you want as a business, to one which focuses on the customer’s needs:

  • Use your sales content as a way to educate prospects so they can self-qualify for you.
  • Set up lead scoring and workflows to ensure that you work on the best opportunities, and that you’re not missing out on any others.
  • Become a trusted ”expert” by sharing insights and offering advice for free – building your authority on the subject.
  • Work together with marketing to nurture leads and learn how to recognize when prospects are open to engage.
  • Implement and use a sales CRM tool to manage and record your actions.
  • And think of sales as relationship building, people rather than decision makers and offering advice rather than closing a sale.

The first and most important step for developing an effectice sales perspective is to define the buyer’s journey to be able to develop a ”buyer-centric” sales process that places the buyer’s needs first and foremost. 

According to Forrester, ”We have to start thinking of customers in very specific terms. Company size is no longer a sufficiently informative lead attribute”. 

The key is understanding our customers business issues, interests, needs and pain points. 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.

Identify warm prospects

Most buyers are already at the very beginning phase of their buying journey – before they want to engage with salespeople, having already done their own self-research. 

As a salesperson focus first on those buyers that are active, who may have recently visited your website, filled out a form or opened a salesperson’s email. They have raised their hand to say that they are already interested to hear more about your solution.

Talk to customers that are a good fit, ask for introductions on LinkedIn and set up Google alerts to track key events that should trigger your interest.

Connect with the buyers needs

Your sales message should be tailored to the buyer’s situation – not yours. 

This context could be the buyer’s industry, role, interests, common connections, etc. A well-developed buyer’s persona will help you understand the unique pain that they are looking to address. 

Each persona will have a particular way that they will want to build a relationship, digital media habits and goals. 

As most of these buyers are at the early stage of their buying journey, your sales goal is to educate them on the problem or opportunity rather than selling your solution. 

Explore buyer motivation

Guide an exploratory conversation with your prospect to fully understand their challenges, what the consequences of failure are, and what solutions they already have in place or have tried. 

Your sales objective is to position how your solution can help and at the same time understand how the prospect will fund and manage any solution. 

Advise and add value

Smart salespeople advise prospects on what would be the best decision addressing the challenges in the buyer’s context. 

A sales prospect will want to be confident that your solution demonstrates a strong understanding of their company, industry and specific needs.

Now is the time to craft a customised proposal that connects the prospects goals and challenges to your offering and shows exactly how they’ll benefit with your service.

A new sales methodology

With so many touch points now in the sales process the sales cycle is becoming longer, so each contact with a prospect becomes even more important. 

Taking on an educational role will not address all the reasons for the complexity now of the sales cycle but it will help your solution stand out from the rest of the crowd.

So, the relationships you build through sales are what will keep your lead pipeline active.

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