Selling products or services to businesses and professionals can be tough. Most businesses are built and operated differently, which means each of them will have unique challenges to solve and corresponding needs from your product. Which is unlike selling to consumers, who have common needs and wants.
Having a sales process in place that caters to every businesses’ needs can be crucial to hitting revenue goals consistently, and driving growth. Which is why you need a well thought out B2B Sales strategy in place.
The right B2B sales strategy optimizes your sales process around a few key principles, all of which allow you to make the most out of B2B selling efforts.
And throughout this guide, we’ll detail these principles, and lay out strategies following those principles that’ll help you learn how to sell B2B services and build a high yielding sales process.
But let’s start with the basics – by understanding B2B sales, what it is today, and what does the process look like?
What is B2B Sales?
B2B(Short for Business to Business) sales is a function of B2B product sales(i.e. selling products to other businesses). So if your product or service caters to a business – the process of distributing and selling your product would make up for B2B sales.
B2B sales involves selling to multiple decision makers and users within an account, higher tickets and pricing, and a longer sales cycle, depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to.
Today, B2B buyers have more resources than ever to procure products and services globally, thanks to the increase in adoption of the internet and ease in international trade and imports.
Based on how common a business need is(read: TAM/Total Addressable Market), there are plenty of options for businesses to choose from to buy. This makes the sales process tricky for both buyers and salespeople – since buyers need to ensure they’re making the right choice, and sellers need to capture buyers’ attention and nurture them better.
In the next section, we’ll outline B2B sales principles that optimize your sales process to help you sell more, while making it easier for your leads to buy from you.
B2B Sales Principles
Generate Quality Leads Predictably
Your sales function requires a certain volume of B2B Sales leads to pursue periodically, so a fraction of them can convert and buy from you towards the end. This is true for both outbound and inbound sales. Now say if you were to generate lower volume of leads for the current quarter – this would mean you now have to nurture lesser leads, and as a result, convert lesser of them. Not being able to convert enough leads could have varying levels of impact, based on your sales model(one-time/recurring), but either way, growth occurs only when you’re converting enough new leads every month.
To convert and sell to new leads and generate new sales consistently, build lead generation processes that churn out leads predictably. This would mean you can generate a constant flow of leads, every month, or quarter. By doing so you’ll keep your sales team well fed with the leads they need to nurture, so they can hit their revenue goals. Also make it a point to qualify your lead well – based on your ICP(Ideal Customer Profile). Leads that don’t fit your ICP and are irrelevant, won’t convert, and would contribute towards your revenue goals meaningfully. Qualified leads convert better, and produce better out of your sales efforts.
Know your customer
As mentioned earlier, B2B leads have unique needs per their business. So when they go out shopping for solutions, they’ll heavily lean towards products that are positioned towards their problems and challenges. Unless you know your leads and their business really well, you’ll find it difficult to communicate and relate with your leads.
By taking out the time to know each of your leads, you’ll be able to draw out their needs better, and position your products’ features and offerings to appeal to those needs. Nurturing your leads with content that sticks with them better and has a better impact on the decision makers consequently generates more conversions. Approaches like Account based Marketing and Account Sales work on this principle – and bring in great results, when paired with a pipeline of qualified leads.
Be helpfully persistent
As a salesperson, you realize more often than not, you’re getting ghosted by your leads as they stop responding to your outreach. There’s a few reasons for this behavior – some of which might include the fact that your leads might be too busy to get back, your message isn’t relevant or impactful enough, or your lead simply isn’t interested or motivated enough. A lot of salespeople also tend to hold back fearing becoming an annoyance to their leads, which is a well founded concern given the amount of irrelevant outreach professionals tend to get.
When it comes to engaging leads meaningfully, ensure that you’re persistent, but with the intent to be helpful. Reaching out with the objective to close in the first few messages only will work if your lead has made up their mind to buy from you. Otherwise, your leads will start ignoring your communications, just like they’ve turned blind to hundreds of other promotional messages they get every week.
Set up a follow-up cadence, and with each step, personalize your outreach to generate more engagement around your leads’ needs and challenges. If you have a healthy, full pipeline of leads – keeping track of leads and their messages can get tricky. Hence it’s highly recommended you automate your sales outreach and follow-ups using sales engagement tools like Saleshandy
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Engage on the right channels
Outreach makes for a huge part of the B2B sales strategy and engagement process. When you reach out to your leads in hopes to start a conversation around their needs and challenges, it’s important to do so over the right communication mediums. Engaging with leads on mediums where they don’t necessarily expect to make those conversations can be counterintuitive, or ineffective at best. For example – Facebook, or SMS/Texts are great places to make cold approaches, as your leads least expect it there, and not in a good way.
When reaching out to leads, especially via online/virtual channels, focus on channels where your leads are actively participating in your areas of interest. This could include conversations around the problems you solve, or your target market in general. Emails are also a great channel – if you can find and verify your lead’s professional email address, that is. Personal emails wouldn’t be appropriate to be approached on, and sending emails on unverified emails might trigger spam filters and get your email address blacklisted. The difference in impact around picking the right channel for outreach can be drastic – think screaming at a wall vs. bumping into your lead on the street.
Sell Trust and Credibility
When you sell big-ticket products and services, based on how competitive the market(and your product) is, trust can be a huge factor in sales. When a business procures a pricey product or service, the stakes are really high, if the product were not to meet their expectations. The potential loss is two fold – losing investment on the product, and their business suffering as they no longer have a product that was meant to help them grow.
Which is why we often see sales cycles getting proportionally long with the ticket sizes getting higher. Deals are likely to get stretched to ensure a product fit, along with compliance and quality standards. While this can’t be completely skipped, it can definitely be made more predictable and smoother. Credible vendors – ones with existing relationships within Fortune 1000 and better companies as their clients are partners, have a much easier time converting their leads. This is an after-effect of those bigger companies already having vetted, bought or invested with you – which makes it easier for new leads to trust and buy from you. So if you do have a customer base of bigger corporations and institutions your leads might look up to, leverage those relationships to influence your leads into closing.
Have a foolproof sales process
A sales process should be at the heart of your B2B Sales Strategy, as it helps you scale your B2B sales operations and generate conversions. Sales isn’t a single person function, and requires collaborative efforts towards qualifying and engaging prospects and leads. Without a process, it’d get difficult to track and organize tasks around outreach, nurturing and closing with multiple salespeople in your team. A sales team devoid of a B2B sales process is like a cargo ship navigating without a compass or a GPS.
To build and operate a high-performing sales function, set up a process around your revenue goals, along with the tasks that need to be done to hit them. This helps in distributing responsibilities, tracking the status of deliverables, and forecasting outcomes based on the results generated from those deliverables.
Now that we’ve looked at the governing principles for B2B Sales strategies, let’s explore actionable sales strategies derived from these principles.
B2B Sales Strategy and Tips
Attract and Nurture Your Ideal Customers
As we discussed the importance of generating quality leads – attracting leads that match your ICP is a crucial step in that direction. Once you’ve finalized your ICP, reverse work to narrow down the channels you could find and attract them from. This includes your own marketing assets and content(blogs, social media handles, website, etc) and your outreach and messaging. Get answers to questions like “What would a lead with X/Y/Z characteristic think/want/see/believe?”, “Where would they spend time?”, “What motivates them?”, etc.
Use insights from this data to frame messaging and content to your ideal customers and leads, on the channels they’re active on. These channels can include platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, Podcasts, Webinars, Emails, and so on.
Automate Qualification and outreach
Part of the reason behind sales operations being complex and unorganized happens to be the recurring and time sensitive nature of tasks. This includes lead data enrichment, qualification, outreach and follow-ups to leads who’re in the initial stages of the sales cycle. One way to fix this is to automate all or part of these tasks using software and sales engagement tools. By doing so, you’ll free up time for your salespeople to engage with leads and focus on the creative, non-repetitive tasks nature of their role. Automations also allow you to be more persistent that you would’ve been if you were to send your outreach and follow-ups manually, making your sales engagement process generate more yields, efficiently.
Follow-up timely and consistently
Once you’ve established a connection with your leads, your outreach efforts won’t really end. During the deal cycle at times there are actionables on the lead’s end(for eg., gathering technical requirements, making introductions, etc.). And during these stages, leads will often make delays and halt your deals or stretch your cycle. This is caused by their bias against action and lack of time.
Which is why you should make follow-ups part of your B2B sales strategy. 96% of sales closes come on after the 5th follow-up. Hence follow-ups can dictate your sales success, based on your timing and persistence. Sales follow-ups can be tricky to keep up with. Typical B2B sales teams have multiple pipelines and several stages across them. Make sure you’ve set up a follow-up cadence for every lead once you’ve connected with them. Automating your follow-up sequences enables you to execute follow-up cadences timely. It does this without the effort and time commitment involved in manual follow-ups.
Often times, your leads wouldn’t find the time or urgency to get back to your outreach and follow-ups. Which is where you can look up your leads’ activity on social platforms where they’re likely to be spending time. Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are geared towards keeping users engaged. So any new activity on likes and comments are likely to get your prospects push notifications. This can help in capturing their attention when you need to re-engage your leads. Now that you have re-engaged your lead, you can get the deal back on track towards the next stage.
Based on which platforms your leads are active on(Twitter, Linkedin, etc.) – follow, like and comment on their profile and posts. And when engage back, use it as an opportunity to continue the conversation through your original channel(email, for example). Using Social media for selling would make for a much better way to re-engage your leads, instead of just sending an excessive amount of emails.
Find and engage decision makers
Another cause for delayed or slowing deal cycles involves connecting and engaging with the wrong prospects within your target accounts. Your prospects might not have the authority to make purchase and procurement decisions. Hence they are less likely to respond and comply with requests to move the deal forward towards later stages. Salespeople take this as a signal of the product not being a fit/lack of need. And this can lead to lost opportunities, when in reality, they were just talking to the wrong person.
Hence whenever you notice lack of urgency or commitment from your prospects – don’t let go of the deal yet. Keep exploring options that could potentially take the deal forward, and connect with multiple stakeholders within your target account. Figure out who the decision maker would be for your deal. Ask questions like “Who does Finance consult with for making such purchases?”, “Who leads the team is responsible for the team’s deliverables?”, etc.These questions will help you find people who can influence and approve a deal, and spend more time nurturing them.
Vetting and evaluating B2B products and services can be confusing for your prospects who’re trying to buy from you. They need to justify their ask to the management, and ensure the product is a fit as per the company’s expectations and standards. Which is where social proof of your product being credible can be of great help. Credibility in B2B sales can be expressed in various forms. Enterprise compliance certifications, having popular corporations and startups as clients, testimonials, are some examples.
Make social proof part of your marketing and sales content. Use client testimonials, logos of prominent clients, awards and rankings, etc. These content pieces make your product and company stand out, be authoritative and hence look credible. And as a result, your prospects find it easier to trust and vet you. This speeds up the sales process, and helps improve conversions.
Set timelines for deal milestones
The goal of your sales outreach and corresponding strategies is converting a lead into a prospect and eventually, a customer. Your leads might get talking and show interest towards your product initially. But it can often be challenging to get them to commit. As mentioned earlier, this could be due to lack of authority or urgency. Common occurrences of this phenomenon could cause the sales cycle to slow down, and convert less, which isn’t ideal for your sales and revenue goals.
In order to keep the deal on track, set timelines for these deals and communicate the same with your prospects. This instills a sense of urgency in them, and pushes them to act on deliverables and requirements. Setting these timelines also helps you guide the deal and the prospect towards closure on time, and avoid unnecessary delays.
Up-sell and cross sell to existing customers
Generating new leads and reaching out to them might seem easy in the beginning – things change as your company grows. Over time, you’ll find it difficult to generate the same volume of qualified leads as you did earlier. Either that, or your Customer acquisition costs(CAC) will rise. When this happens, leverage your list of existing customers and leads to cross sell, and pitch them new products. If you have loyal customers, you can also upsell them, i.e. sell them more of what they’ve already bought
Your existing customers or leads are already qualified. Re-engaging them pitching related products and services they might need is likely to generate more conversions. Use existing lists of customers and leads, and re-introduce them to your pipeline based on their past engagements. This helps in reducing your CAC, and increasing your LTV(Lifetime Value).
Track conversions and Yields
When operating a sales team running outreach and nurture campaigns – it’s easy to lose track of productivity and outcomes. Salespeople might be working on multiple projects and accounts, which makes it difficult to draw lines on each members’ contributions. While this might not seem like a lot – it impacts your team’s ability to improvise and enhance your sales process.
Within your sales engagement tools and CRMs, set up ways to track activity and conversions of your sales outreach. Record metrics like open and click rates, page session times, open to connect ratio, etc. Tracking these metrics allows you to keep an eye on your sales outreach performance. Over time, you can improve your yield and generate more revenue by tweaking your processes to grow these metrics.
At the heart of every B2B sales strategy within the best performing sales teams, lies a well oiled sales machine. Such systems and processes generate predictable sales revenue. Every B2B sales business plan and principle hinges on consistent volume and quality of leads. A solid sales process avoid leads leaking out of your pipeline, and optimizes conversions.
This doesn’t exempt you from having a subpar product or service. Early growth comes from having a great product, and scales when you add distribution and marketing to the mix. When you generate long term value for your existing customers through upsells and cross sells, it boosts your LTV. Higher LTV helps you grow quicker, without leaning on new leads for generating new sales.
In conclusion – your B2B sales strategy essentially has to be a mix of nailing Product market fit and scaling distribution. Strategies for these combined with sales processes then help convert the demand into revenue. As you build these processes, also add mechanisms to track performance metrics, and optimize those metrics for growth and yield. This will help you accomplish your goal with your B2B sales strategy – generate predictable revenue as per your sales goals, and grow sustainably.
Have you come across any of these strategies before? Did any of the listed strategies help you generate desired results? Let us know in comments.