As a B2B CEO, your head is surely focused on things like revenue targets and business efficiency to improve the success of your company. No doubt you're also looking to increase sales and probably have a significant percentage of revenue going to sales activities. But do you truly understand your company's sales process and can you be sure it's effective?
To ensure you’re focusing on the right things and not wasting opportunities to win a sale, you need to understand the modern B2B buying process. You then need to make sure your sales process is designed around your customer's buying process and is focused on adding value for them.
B2B selling is different
Understanding the difference between B2B and consumer sales is important to ensure you hire the right sales people and develop the right process to win the deal.
Selling a commercial air conditioning system to a shopping centre developer is a lot different to selling a pair of sneakers to a teenager. But what makes B2B sales different from consumer sales?
- B2B selling is one business selling to another.
- The size of a B2B deal is typically larger than a business to consumer (B2C) sale.
- B2B selling is more financially driven than emotionally driven. Although not always the case, this is because often the sale has to be justified to more than one person and often needs to be 'sold in' to a superior, management team or board.
- The B2B sales process is usually longer, more complex and more considered because of the size of the deal, the complexity of the solution and the ramifications of getting it wrong!
The B2B sales process
But just before we launch into the steps of the B2B buying process, we need to recognise that we live in a self-serve 'Google first' world. 99% of the time your buyers will already have educated themselves on you and your solution, and the solutions of your competitors. They'll also probably be quite a way through their buying process so you need to make sure your sales process is designed accordingly.
1. Understand the customer needs and pains
Your first meeting with your customer should be about them, NOT you!
Understanding your customer's pain points and needs are critical for you to offer the best solution to meet those needs. If you have developed an inbound marketing process and are running a CRM you'll already be able to see which pages of your website they've visited and the content they've downloaded. This information will help you start a conversation with your customer.
As well as their pains and needs, understanding your client's budget is critical. Often B2B sales people do a great job of focusing on the needs and issues but fail to ask about budget. This can trip you up in the next phase when putting together a solution.
Finally, and very importantly, you should make sure you understand the client's purchase process. Are you talking to the right person, are they the decision maker or a champion to get you through to the right person. Don't forget this - selling to the wrong person will leave you dead in the water.
2. Develop a solution
Once you've understood their pain, needs and budget, the next step is to tailor a solution that's right for your customer.
This means looking at the products and services you have to offer and putting together a solution that fits the client.
In developing a solution you should not only look at what you can offer but also what your competitors can deliver and the substitutes on offer. Understanding what else your customer will be looking at is essential to tailoring a solution they'll be happy with.
3. Evaluate your solution with your customer
You've come up with a proposed solution and are ready to present it to your customer. You're pumped and ready to go in for the sales kill, right? Wrong.
Modern B2B selling is about collaboration, and while you should go ahead and present your solution to your client, this is only the first step in getting it right.
Presenting your solution is about demonstrating you've heard them and showing how you can meet their needs and ease their pain. But you also need to expect feedback and insight from the client. There may be things they do and don't like and your job is to work with the client to tailor the solution - i.e. get a better solution by working together. This step separates the amateurs from the true professionals.
4. Revise your solution and present again
Use the advice provided by your client to rework the solution. If you're concerned you're wasting your time revising the solution on the basis that you haven't hit the mark, think again. If you've got a client collaborating with you to create a better solution they're actually showing signs of wanting to work with you.
5. Finalise the agreement & sign the deal
Congratulations. If you've reached this stage you've provided the right solution.
It might turn out that the solution may cost more than the client's original budget, but if you've been working on the solution with them (see points 3 &4) there shouldn't be any surprises.
6. Handover to your implementation team
Top B2B selling machines make sure that the handover from Sales to your implementation team goes smoothly. Getting your team and the client's team aligned and on the same page from the get go is critical to making sure everyone is happy, and the commission starts off on the right foot. Remember you want the chance to sell again or get a referral the next time someone in your client's network is ready to buy.
Top B2B sellers have a defined and refined sales process. They put the client first and spend the right amount of time getting to intimately understand the client, their issues and pains and their buying process. Crafting a solution with integrity and skill and matching this to your client's needs better than the competitors is a surefire way to win the deal.