Not terribly long ago, acquiring new business called for expensed lunches, in-person meetings, and the artful challenge of “landing a new client.” But just as with product offerings and service logistics, 2020 pushed us to pivot and reimagine how we do business — even how we acquire new business.
What was once courted lunches and in-person demonstrations are now virtual experiences and at-home lead generation. But the question many B2B industry veterans have is, yeah, but will it last? And if so, what does that mean for my sales approach?
Short answer: The B2B sales cycle has indeed evolved, and we’re not looking in the rearview mirror. But before you press your fingertips to your temple and wonder how you’re going to reinvent the wheel, relax; we’ve got you covered.
What Is A B2B Sales Cycle
The execution may vary with trends of the time, but the fundamental principles remain relatively similar. The B2B sales cycle can be broken down into eight stages:
- Lead generation. The process of finding qualified leads and connecting with people who have expressed interest in your product or service.
- Discovery. Before you go on a first date (at least in the 21st century), what’s the first thing you do: Google them. Before your discovery call, you’re doing the tedious research necessary to secure a lucrative deal.
- Qualification. Finally, “the first date,” or the sales call of a prospective lead. They will be assessing you and your company’s qualifications just as much as you are assessing them.
- Pitch. Understanding how you and your services or product will fit seamlessly into their business equation.
- Objection handling. Dealing with the initial “no.” Very few clients will sign or buy on the spot; how we nurture the relationship moving forward is key.
- Closing. As the name suggests, it’s how you end the call with free perks or added value.
- Follow-up. Leave a good impression by following up with your client.
- Check-In. Keep the dialogue going with regular check-ins; nothing fancy, a simple email asking about their season in business is fine.
The Importance Of a Focused B2B Sales Cycle
You have likely been on both sides of the sales cycle. In a simple, eight-step sequence, we’ve outlined what a B2B sales leader must do to experience success:
- Establish credibility
- Build and maintain rapport, trust, and connection
- Develop a mutually beneficial relationship
If you haven’t already, allow us to connect the dots: success is more readily available once you can:
- Provide credentials and proven results
- Demonstrate business acumen and industry relevance
- Leverage avenues of communications
The most impactful ways to do all of the above while also producing ROI include:
- Investing in your public relations
- Leveraging tools in communication and media
- Adopting new technology
If you are slow to maximize available resources, you could be leaving opportunities on the table or harming your credibility as a brand.
How the Sales Cycle Has Changed Since 2020
In the last year, the B2B sales cycle has accelerated at supersonic speed. Consulting company McKinsey recently shared their findings in a 2021 report.
New Normal #1: Stakeholders prefer a digital reality
According to the global consulting firm, “More than three-quarters of buyers and sellers prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions.”
How to embrace the change: While most businesses were leaning toward a remote landscape, this means building credibility and community online is all the more important. As a PR agency with roots in social media marketing, we’ve evolved with the changing trends and have seen what has a lasting impact on our industry.
New Normal #2: B2B buyers are making big online purchases
Something new we’ve seen as a result of the past year is a change in B2B buyer confidence. Previously, buyers would make small-ticket purchases, but now they are ready to spend five figures (even more) in the B2B space. Reportedly, “70 percent of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27 percent would spend more than $500,000.” B2B industry leaders also share that digital selling is as effective as warm leads, meaning your company can’t afford to skimp or gloss over the value of a digital connection.
How to embrace the change: Connection and community; rinse and repeat. Having a beautiful website and a handful of reviews doesn’t cut it in 2021. To succeed in an oversaturated market, your company should be offering a superior digital experience. From how visitors engage with your website to how you position your brand on social media, all published content should have a call for action or opportunity for engagement.
New Normal #3: Video and live chat are the mediums to embrace
Love it or hate it, Zoom and video conferencing tools are here to stay. But even someone with limited engagement can attest to Zoom fatigue and the temptation to take calls with their video off. Nevertheless, B2B sales are being held via video conferencing, and it will be the sales leader’s job to build a memorable experience.
Super Office shared the following stats:
- Only 29% of buyers want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product,
- 57% of buyer decisions are made before buyers even pick up a phone to speak to a supplier,
- And, 34% of salespeople admit that closing deals are getting harder.
How to embrace the change: In addition to creating a warmer, more engaging virtual experience for leads, it’s time to rip off the Band-Aid and adopt the power of artificial intelligence, or AI. With tools like LivePerson, you can be accessible for extended business hours, ensure quality assurance, and limit human error.
New Normal #4: Transparency Builds Trust
There was a time when an air of mystery surrounded a product’s pricing and availability. Not today — buyers want the guesswork taken out of the business acquisition. Writer Amanda Mercer of Drift shared, “Everlane made a connection with me that was bigger than their product. Using phrases like, “radical transparency” and “simple basics sourced from ethical materials,” they told me exactly how their products are made and made me feel like I was joining them in a movement to push towards a more sustainable future.”
How to embrace the change: What is the aspirational message or experience you’re selling to fellow business owners? Is it the idea of cutting-edge technology with astonishing results? Do you promise a niche-focused method when someone does business with you? Whatever the case, a unique visitor shouldn’t be on a cat-and-mouse hunt for information. Instead, lend a high level of transparency related to your mission, partnerships, and philosophy — and have the published testimonials, credentials, and PR to back it up.
We’re moving toward a more digital world. And in such a world comes opportunities for growth. If you don’t want to leave money on the table or be made to feel left behind, there has never been a better time to embrace technology, digital communications, and online communities to stay relevant in this new world of B2B sales.
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