Updated: Jun 22, 2022
B2B selling has always been more challenging than B2C, selling to end consumers, because there are multiple people, departments and a lot of politics involved in the buying process. But since Internet really took off, it became even more complicated and difficult. Whether it's B or C, the modern customer, or the invisible phantom, primarily stays in the digital space to gather information and make purchasing decisions.
In the past, sales was involved in the procurement process from the very beginning, accompanied the customer, also at extensive business dinners, and thus also had a certain amount of control over the buying process.
Today, things look different: The buyer has become comfortable and makes his decisions based on countless pieces of information from the Internet. Sales is usually only involved in the decision-making phase, where already selected suppliers are finally evaluated and compared. And this process is also increasingly shifting into the digital space. Thanks to video calls, virtual events and Metaverse.
Buyers today spend nearly 70% of their time doing their own research before contacting your company. So you need to focus on presenting yourself before you're approached
So it's not bold to say that sales as we know it has lost control of the customer sourcing process and it feels to them like they're chasing a phantom. A someone who is not interested in you as a supplier or vendor, but only in what he gets from you, respectively what benefit your offers bring him. No loyalty, pure opportunism.
So it is time to face this new reality with modern technology. Sales has become a technology game, with digital marketing, AI and hyper-automation playing an increasingly important role. We've reported on this before.
The interplay between marketing and sales needs to be redefined
The traditional roles of sales and marketing are now obsolete as buyers identify and research products and vendors, make purchase decisions, and engage with product experts through a variety of digital channels.
So it is no longer enough to take an isolated approach that treats sales and marketing as separate functions. Companies should seamlessly integrate their customer experience into the customer journey across all stages of the buying process.
The best sales innovators are leveraging targeted data and technology across their organizations to attract and engage potential customers
These companies are starting to centralize marketing and sales operations and gain insights from internal and external data sources, including web and email scrapes, information from virtual calls and pitches, and other analytics. Without data, nothing works.
These enhanced insights enable data-driven prospecting and thus finding new leads for your business. In the days of traditional sales, this was done through cold calling and knocking on doors. The digital age, the boom of social media and marketing automation have completely revolutionized customer acquisition strategies.
Whereas, the actual basis for lead generation is still the same. Target audience and smart content. What's new are the channels to spread the gospel.
1. Know your target customer
You can't find good leads if you don't have a clear idea of your target audience. We're talking about the ideal customer profile and personas here. What age group do they belong to? What is their profession? How would they like to be contacted? What touch points do they respond to? And so on and so forth.
It certainly makes sense to use a customer data platform, which constantly collects data from interactions with prospects and customers and then makes it available to marketing and sales staff in the sense of a 360-degree view.
This will inform the strategies you use to target future customers, as you will have a better idea of what has been successful with previous prospects.
Put your time and resources into finding a target audience that truly fits your product or service, and adjust your acquisition methods accordingly.
2. Smart content
This much in advance: "Content is King" and you can't do without it anymore. You need to get noticed with smart content and, if possible, establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. And very important to understand: Online content is also increasingly including video content and e-books in B2B sales.
We've already published quite a few articles on #B2BmodernSelling about this. I definitely recommend this one to read: Why Thought Leadership Is So Important to B2B Sales Success.
Whether it's a short blog with insights from your company's perspectives on current debates or new technologies in your field, or a long and in-depth article: Incorporate good search engine optimization into all blog articles to ensure your content ranks well on search engine results pages. For example, organize your content into topic clusters. This means that if one piece of online content performs well, it will improve the ranking of all other content on that topic.
Being a thought leader means that potential customers will associate your Company with a knowledgeable reputation in the industry. This type of built trust will prove very helpful as you move to more direct sales tactics with these customers.
3. Social selling
Almost half of the world's population has some sort of social media account. So it makes sense to move B2B acquisition into this space as well.
As mentioned earlier, you should decide which social media platforms to use to reach out to your prospects or target customers based on their preferences.
Posting content on your own pages is just one aspect of social selling. You can also interact (like, comment, share) with posts from prospects. This helps build rapport and convey that there is a human personality behind an often faceless business account.
In B2B sales, social selling is about building and maintaining relationships with potential customers on a deeper level than has been the case in the past. The goal is to influence them throughout the buying process, from generating interest in your product to completing the purchase.
4. Content reuse
The Internet today is global and the content you create should basically be too! Of course, where appropriate, the core messages need to be adapted to local conditions (language, currencies, specific customs, etc.).
But many content formats are best suited for different platforms, and that means you don't have to create something from scratch every time and for every channel. Many tools help you automate these processes (Check out our Yellow Pages Directory For Modern B2B Sales Technology).
Content repurposing tools are powerful and efficient marketing tools that allow you to place content at all touch points with your customers, including website, email, and social media.
5. And finally: Arrange a business lunch or dinner
Social media has changed the game for sales. It's no longer just about selling to individuals face-to-face. It's about building relationships through social media and then converting those relationships into organic leads.
For example, use social media and the Internet to search for networking events you could attend. This will also give you an idea of the type of potential customers each event attracts.
After you meet a client at a networking event, you can connect with them on social media. This way, you can continue to build your relationship after the event and have a way to stay in touch with each other and engage them with their thought leadership content.
Online networking doesn't have to replace face-to-face contacts; however, it will help you meet new people more efficiently.
So as we can see, B2B Buying is more complex than ever, buyers are more unpredictable than ever, and competition is greater than ever. Most salespeople don't even get a chance to introduce themselves to a potential customer because they've already been ruled out by the potential customer during internal (digital) research.
But if you use the tips in this post, they can help to catch the phantom and maybe even do some good business with them.
Summary: Today's buying process takes 22% longer than it did five years ago. (Biznology) 58% of B2B Buyers say the length of their procurement process has increased. (Business2Community) 65% of B2B Buyers have been influenced by online content. This includes websites, blogs, videos and e-books. (LinkedIn Research)