Selling B2B is not the same as selling to consumers - this is a sales and marketing truism from day one. However, even while the statement is obvious, it’s important to unpick exactly what the differences are, in order to make the most of your top sales people and B2B sales strategy, and the tools they can use to engage those who are going to buy.
Understanding the B2B buyer
The first difference to understand is the buyer persona, or avatar. In B2C this is easy, because the purchaser is usually the end user, or someone closely aligned with their desires (like a gift buyer).
Once you understand what they want from the product, you can appeal to those emotions directly. See it, love it, buy it… job done!
With B2B, however, there may be many links in the chain, and stakeholders involved in the transaction. Making one of them fall in love with what you’ve got to offer is a start, but you will also need to consider how you appeal to people like:
- The person who will ultimately use your product - but may have little choice in what they are given. Some businesses will give broad discretion to enable colleagues to work with the tool they prefer and feel most productive using, but others, not so much (from the choice of a disposable pen to the choice of a main operating system.)
- The person who is the gatekeeper to the main decision-maker. This could be anyone from a warm referral to an ice-cold PA who has total control of their appointments and contacts…
- The final decision-maker - who will consider competing proposals, but might not be involved in gathering the information, preferring to delegate that to colleagues
- Those researchers, who could be your best advocate within the client organisation, when they present your solution to their boss’ problem
- Their team members who are proposing competing solutions
- Specialists within the organisation who have input into purchasing decisions from specific professional angles - health and safety, compliance, information security, and so on. They may well have a powerful role of veto, but the chances are you will never meet or speak to them directly...
So you see it is far more complicated than it sounds, and B2B purchasing decisions are rarely taken by one individual in isolation. Even when they are decided by one person, that person will ultimately have to justify it to others internally.
So, your sales persuasiveness will have to convince them emotionally to become invested in what you’ve got, but then they’ll need facts and figures - both to reinforce their own decision, but to help them sell it on to others who will need to approve it.
B2B sales cycles and relationships
The buyer is clearly not the only big differentiator between B2B and B2C. A sale can take a lot longer, and involve multiple touchpoints along the way. For sales people, this can mean handling a significant amount of uncertainty - is this deal going to happen or not? When they’re working a lead for months, this is very different to a quick cold-call.
Of course this can lead to a huge potential pay day, when those months of work pay off and a contract is signed. On their side, they may have a lot of discretion about how to accomplish the sale, from an entertainment expense account to flexibility on pricing.
Certainly when it comes to nurturing relationships with existing customers, the role becomes as much about account management as sales - while maintaining continual alert to potential upsell opportunities and referrals. This delicate dance has had to move online during the pandemic era, and your business cloud phone system and integrated CRM is a lifeline here.
It’s a lot easier to stretch an expense account when you can leverage video calling, in combination with thoughtful creativity. In the “before days” perhaps you’d take a client out for a lovely lunch or convene a high-profile event to showcase your new product range, whereas now you can consider:Shipping them something physical which is related, but peripheral to your product.
Say you are selling high-end noise-cancelling audio equipment, how about a pair of soft slippers which reduce floor noise and keep them cosy while working from home? Or a mouse-mat which also acts as a sound baffle for their desk mic? Invite them to learn more about your new WFH-optimised acoustic system in a one-to-one call, during which you can point them at pre-prepared product material, such as a 3-d walkthrough or specification sheet (the Ringover Crankwheel integration makes this easy to manage without interfering with the call itself)
Follow up with links, answers to any queries they raised, and a personally tailored proposal to supply their whole team with the solution they need - complete with detailed product specs, and reinforcement of the intangible outcomes (such as the higher productivity of virtual meetings, when everyone is using professional quality headphones and mics)
Your cloud phone system and the B2B sales journey
While management of existing accounts will generally wind up the purview of a single agent or small team, there may be more than one link in the chain when it comes to initially bringing in the new business to start with.
Your product, and the service you offer with it, will be unique - and therefore, so will your user journey. Mapping this out to start with is key, and you’ll want to bring in a range of metrics from your communications system to help define and describe this:
- How many calls, on average, does a sale require?
- What is the preferred mode of communication - phone call, video call, email...?
- How much admin time is needed between sales calls, and how could your CRM integration help reduce that - keeping your top sales people talking, instead of updating?
You can extract this data from your Ringover dashboard, and use it to model the whole cycle. This data will also highlight your exceptionally productive and effective sales people too, and their unique attributes.
For example, you might find that Alice and Bob have similar sales volumes - but Alice closes a large number of smaller sales fast, because she is super productive and efficient, whereas Bob is driven by flashes of sporadic genius but lots more downtime.
Without wanting to dilute the Bob magic by fixing something which is not a problem, you could potentially set him up with a power dialler or other productivity fixes - while Alice could be steered to work her unique charms on higher potential leads from bigger firms.All the data you need, is there in your Ringover system.
Your analysis might also suggest unique strengths come to the fore at different parts of the sales cycle, and the complexity of B2B also means you have the potential to divide and rule. What if Charlie focused on lead generation, Dani on closing, and Ed on follow-up and retention?
It might sound counterintuitive, but introducing different teams to different elements of the process could actually shorten your sales cycle, as well as improving its outcomes. By focusing on one specific interaction, an agent can develop deep expertise and proficiency, and experiment with different approaches to the blocks and objections which arise time and again.
Are people falling out of the funnel at one very particular point? Is there one killer objection which derails a significant proportion of deals? Differentiating the expertise in this way enables a deep dive into exactly what’s happening at every stage, and if numbers are large enough, you can even AB test different approaches simultaneously.How about the calls in which that particular objection was raised BUT then successfully overcome?
A focused team can not only identify those calls quickly, they can retrieve the recordings from the Ringover dashboard, and analyse them for the success factors which tipped the scale. This can then be collated into specific briefing and guidance for the next shift, in order to optimise future sales.
Customer-centric B2B sales
A lot of the time, making a buying decision as a B2B customer doesn’t feel like you’re engaging with a sales process at all.
This is largely because the buyer calls the shots - they have to, and it’s their priorities and timeframes which drive the buying cycle. It’s highly unlikely that a cold caller is going to persuade a procurement director to chuck out all the organisation's printing and copying equipment and replace them with what the sales exec has to offer, if there are 4 years left on the leasing of the present equipment.
Additionally, time is money, in business - so a badly timed direct approach can actively damage a brand’s reputation.Does this mean cold-calling doesn't work with B2B sales? Far from it. It’s all about the right moment - being able to present the right solution at the right time, means you’re solving a problem for the customer, not trying to take their attention from doing their work in the first place.
Ringover phone systems actively support B2B sales in many ways, such as:
- Enabling sales people to work from anywhere on any device - they can take a call, and solve their customer’s problem, wherever they are. This means the customer doesn’t have to sit with their problem while awaiting a callback, or go straight to the nearest competitor, when they have explicitly raised their hand.
- A smart interactive voice response (IVR) system - this will route the inbound caller straight to the right person fast. This means connecting with the expert for that stage of the sales cycle, as described above, instead of the person they might be seeking or asking for - because the customer doesn’t know what they need to know, in order to proceed to the next stage in their purchase.
- Smart routing and queuing, minimises waiting times -You know who your gold star VIP customers are, with the highest lifetime customer value - and with an integrated CRM (like HubSpot or Zoho) you can put those calls right to the top of the queue, ensuring they are attended first time every time.Insight cards from your CRM mean that whoever is there to take the call, they’ll have a quick cheat-sheet in front of them indicating exactly who’s on the line - and where in the B2B sales cycle they are, to support optimal responsiveness.
- Click2call website integration - makes sure your advertising creative funnels new business directly into your sales machine, without your customers having to actively dial anything, or copy and paste your number from their browser to their phone app. You can even set up localised inbound calling numbers, to minimise their costs and provide the greatest reassurance and familiarity before they even make contact with you.
- Power-dialling - keeps your top rainmakers’ time spent on calls, not punching numbers - which not only has a minimum direct time cost, it also breaks the rhythm of calling which so many top performers embody when they’re truly in the zone out there.
- Elastic scaling- meaning you can respond rapidly to surges in demand, with no hardware costs or equipment downtime. And the manager can supervise this intuitively through their own dashboard at all times.Above all, a business cloud phone system like Ringover keeps your agents flexibly and responsively connected to all the tools they need to do business - from their CRM to product information to support and helpdesk solutions, as well as seamless collaboration with their colleagues.
This means they are right there one click away when your customer or prospect wants to talk to them - delivering a fully customised sales process which aligns with the desired customer journey, and helps to solve customers problems exactly when the need arises.It means your sales people can focus on providing those solutions, aligning sales and marketing, and supporting your enterprise to become truly experience focused - creating the best possible outcomes for both sides in the deal.