B2B sales has become increasingly complex in recent years. Simply put, the salesperson is no longer in charge of the sales process. Sample these facts:1
- Only 29% of buyers want to talk to sales to learn more about a product.
- 57% of buyer decisions are made before buyers even converse with a supplier.
- 34% of salespeople find closing deals a lot harder.
- Only 17% of the entire B2B buying process is spent meeting with potential suppliers.
Typical buyers today would have already identified their problems, researched potential solutions, read online reviews, and reached out to their company of choice, all on their own, before you even get to know about them. And that’s not all.
- There is no single decision-maker within a buyer organization. Buying teams and committees have increasingly begun to make purchase decisions; at least 6.8 decision-makers have to be convinced for a deal to go through2.
- The sales cycle has gotten longer. The length of the average B2B sales cycle has increased by 22% in the last five years3.
In such a scenario, who do the sales reps talk to? And how do they make their sales conversations relevant and valuable to the buyer? Here are four ways to help sales reps find the right buyers and engage them in meaningful conversations:
1.Align sales and marketing
Traditionally, sales and marketing have mostly worked in silos. Marketing teams would work on generating leads (MQLs) and pass them on to sales (as SQLs), who would then target those accounts to close the deal. Sales teams and marketing teams often worked on different plans with different objectives, which resulted in a mismatch in the conversations that they had with customers individually. This siloed approach led to the creation of high quantity-low quality marketing collateral, longer sales cycles, decreased sales velocity, stagnant pipeline growth, and revenue loss. In fact, sales and marketing misalignment can cost companies 10% or more of revenue per year4. It was also noted in a study that sales ignored 50% of marketing-generated leads, and 79% of marketing leads did not convert to the sales pipeline5.
On the other hand, aligning sales and marketing will ensure that the buyer is always guided through the different stages of the buyer’s journey with just the right support at each stage. Sales and marketing follow a single coherent plan to ensure that customers hear one single story throughout the entire sales process. Such close alignment enables the sales team to pick up the conversation with the customer where the marketing team left off; thereby, making the sales conversation more meaningful and engaging to the customer.
One of the best ways of aligning sales and marketing is through the use of a sales enablement platform. An enablement platform would allow sales to easily access the relevant content that they need in a sales conversation, based on a variety of criteria, such as funnel stage, persona, industry, and so on. Marketing, in turn, can analyze and measure content consumption to understand which collateral is being used effectively, which ones need to be refined, and which ones need to be removed from the platform. Such a continuous feedback loop between sales and marketing strengthens the alignment between the two teams. The benefits of such an alignment can be significant. A study by the Aberdeen Group, for instance, found that companies where the relationship between marketing and sales had been optimized for maximum alignment generated 32% more revenue 6, retained 36% more customers, and achieved 38% higher win rates than those companies that lacked such optimization7.
2.Build buyer personas
A critical element of B2B sales is understanding buyer personas. Buyer personas are unique to each business and essential in understanding how to acquire more customers. Building the buyer persona is about finding and getting to know as much as possible about key players in the sales conversation. This can include a wide variety of details: identifying the key players, what positions they hold, what their pain points are, and who else they involve in the decision making. The buyer persona covers details such as goals, motivations, hobbies, interests, and daily work routines of each player. What this does, in essence, is stop making sales merely about numbers. With buyer personas, you get to understand your potential customers much better so you can create more customized offerings and tailor your communications to address their individual needs; 72% of B2B buyers expect vendors to provide personalized engagement tailored to their needs, while 84% of customers report that being treated as people and not numbers is the key to winning their business8.
3.Leverage AI and predictive analytics
If you can predict where your customer is likely to go next, it allows you to deliver something they need. The essence of predictive analytics is to spot behavioral patterns from your customer data: things like what they are looking for and when they buy. Applying AI and machine learning to your customer data allows you to 'read your customer's mind’ or ‘know where the puck is heading’ This, in turn, would help you to provide customers with just-in-time content that is meaningful and engaging to them, at just the right moment when they are looking for it.
A modern sales enablement platform with true AI capabilities can drive your sales efforts to identify and engage more meaningfully with customers. For instance, AI can help you find high-value customers through intelligent lead scoring, with whom you can start a conversation. AI-based analytics can also help you identify, at the right moment, those customers who are thinking of buying a product so you can promote yours to them with highly personalized content. Finally, predictive analytics can be used to identify customers who are likely to move to the competition. This allows you to act proactively, rather than reactively, to retain them by altering the messaging in your sales conversations with them.
4.Create customized microsites
A microsite is a separate page of a website that highlights specific topics related to a company or its products and services. It consists of content that targets a precise audience to help boost brand awareness or provide product education. Microsites can give audiences a unique experience and an in-depth view of your company and its offerings. Customized microsites can enhance the sales conversation with individual customers by providing them with highly personalized, shareable, and interactive content. Microsites allow you to have greater freedom, flexibility, and depth of content in your sales conversations. In addition to being good at generating attention, microsites are also highly effective at converting leads; they can reportedly increase conversion by as much as 50%9.
In conclusion, while the world of B2B sales may appear to grow increasingly complex, it must be remembered that the essence of selling remains the same - to have meaningful conversations with customers that help them find solutions to their problems. A modern integrated sales enablement platform will help you do just that. By letting you align your sales and marketing efforts, build buyer personas, create customized microsites, and leverage the power of AI to understand buyer behavior, a good enablement platform can be your trusted ally in elevating your sales conversations with customers and engaging them more meaningfully in the sales process.