With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic there is a huge amount of pressure being applied on sellers to adopt new tactics that align with the changes in how buyers want to interact.
Today, with the change in the whole buyer-seller dynamic its apparent that buyers don’t overly rely on direct contact with salespeople or even trust information from corporate sources.
More and more buyers are self-educating on your products and services. Information is readily available, one-click away, and from friends and co-workers now placed at the other end of a video call – all ready to give advice and make recommendations.
All too often, companies define how they approach a particular market in vague terms, failing to really connect or develop their sales resources to meet the demands of motivated buyers.
Taking a “show me the money” type attitude does not fit today’s environment or keep pace with how the B2B buyers behaviour has rapidly evolved.
The buyers thirst for knowledge, information and ways to self-educate, puts them in a position of negotiating strength. Gone are the days of “buyer beware” – now buyers, whether they be end consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B) are holding the power.
The Changing B2B Sales Process
With so many potential touch points now in to the sales process the sales cycle is fast becoming longer and more complicated, plus:
- Budgets are tighter so money needs to go further and the ROI needs to be stronger
- The fear of failure – making a bad decision it is better to put it off rather than be blamed for getting it wrong
- Buyers have more options now that ever to choose from because of a global market place that is searching to match products with buyers
- More stakeholders are involved in the decision making process, so different agendas and an increased level of complexity is added
- Reaching a consensus is a challenge with more people involved
- Buyers want to interact differently, so you cannot reach them all in the same way
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales Prospecting
Within B2B sales there has been a change from the traditional way of prospecting (outbound) to one that is much more buyer-centric, referred to as the inbound methodology.
Outbound activities are typically associated with pushing out a message to an uninterested audience that may be tempted to just “switch off” or ignore your communications.
What is outbound prospecting?
- Cold calling – an unsolicited call
- Cold emailing – an unsolicited email
- Social spamming – unsolicited social media messages and contacts to sell a product or service
What is inbound prospecting?
- A call to engage with a lead who has already shown some interest by being on your website, downloading content, liking your social media posts, etc.
- An email to develop a relationship with a lead who has already started to have contact with your company, opened your emails, downloaded some content, etc.
- Using Social Selling to develop an already warm relationship by answering questions across targeted social networks and introducing leads to useful content as part of offering free advice
There is mounting pressure on companies now to shift their sales strategy, as the traditional outreach activities are not happening, as events are cancelled or postponed.
The changing status-quo
Before a salesperson has even started to get ready to make contact, prospects are already 57% of the way through the sales process. A result on their online endeavours to self-educate and research what they need.
If you think about your own personal shopping experience, with the shift to online sales, we as consumers approach buying goods and services today with in-depth online research, avoiding unwanted sales calls and emails and take the first step towards a purchase when we are ready.
The Buyer’s Journey – taking a “buyer-centric” approach
To understand more about how your target audience want to buy, you need to define the buyer’s journey. What makes your ideal buyers “tick” – what is it they are looking for, what are their motivations and fears.
A buyer’s journey can be used to pinpoint the behaviour and needs of your buyer personas at each stage of their sales cycle. For example, may be they are early in the buying process and need to be made aware of what their symptoms are. Helping them come to their own conclusion on what their problem is, rather than trying to sell an answer prematurely to a question they have not asked.
The buyer’s journey can be divided up into three different stages; Awareness, Consideration and Decision – when the customer finally makes a purchase.
A target market can be a small part of a large population that you as a business will use to categorise customers. A buyer persona is a representation of who the individual buyers are, a definition of your ideal customers within this larger group.
Wants & Needs – A “Buyer’s Persona”
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on insights, information and data that you have plus any available research.
Having a well defined buyer persona will help you achieve a number of things:
- It’s easier to create an engaging story that your audience will engage with when you write with a real person in mind
- It humanises your customers by painting a portrait of them
- It helps you work out the pain they experience and how you should present your solution
- Targeted and relevant content will help build trust and authority in what you say
- It will reduce the length of a complex sales cycle
- It presents an opportunity to describe bad as well as good clients, a negative persona can support effective use of your time – no reason to target particular customers if you know they will never convert to a sale
By developing a buyer persona, you’ll learn more about how they digest content or their research sources – critical when before you relied on meeting them at the annual trade conference. Understanding how they behave means you can target them at different, digital touch points with a relevant and impact message.
To help you be creative download our Buyer’s Personas templates and guide, to get you started and understanding your buyers better.
The Value Of The Sales Funnel
A sales funnel aids visualisation of what type of content needs to be delivered to which buyer persona depending where they are in the buying journey.
The layout of the sales funnel will be different for each business, but we can think in common terms of top of the funnel (TOFU), middle (MOFU) and bottom (BOFU).
The funnel tracks B2B sales prospects as they go from discovering their problem right through to shortlisting vendors and making a purchase. For each stage, there is a variation in both the content message and format.
As prospects progress down the funnel their needs become more specific to addressing particular problems, pains and priorities.
The funnel is wider at the top because this reflects the efforts of marketing to attract as many qualified visitors as possible. The funnel then narrows as visitors are at differing stages of qualification and readiness to buy, and less in numbers as they progress toward a sale.
Invest In Education
Being able to provide the means to educate and inform visitors to your website will make you stand out from the crowd. Being generic in your offering means that you are compared to everybody, a risk in an overcrowded market.
A role that your business can learn to adopt is one of offering information for free, acting as a trusted advisor. It is a more effective tactic to teach what are the right questions to ask, keeping buyers attentive and able to address their problems rather than let prospects source this online from your competitors.
So Why Should You Care About Content Marketing?
For your sales and marketing to be successful in the current situation, it relies in a big way on content creation.
Potential customers need validation that you are trustworthy, knowledgeable and have built up authority. The best way to support a validation is through the quality and accessibility of your content marketing.
It is a world where “content marketing rules”, buyers are more likely to trust third party endorsements rather than from your own corporate sources.
To get the production, distribution and analysis of your content flowing you’ll have to build a robust content process.
A good starting point is to look at creating a clear and concise content brief, documenting budgets to themes to methods and goals. At the same time you will need to define the target audience, tapping into your knowledge of the buyer’s persona to identify particular pain points that they will be looking to address – which you will use as keywords, titles and content drivers.
The purpose of inbound sales and marketing is to make your target audience aware of your business by creating content that is interesting enough to engage with and be shared and endorsed.
With so many things constantly changing in the market, having an open and transparent sales strategy, one that builds trust and is clear in the value that your products and services bring, is just want prospective buyers are looking for at the moment.
Let me know if you need help to draw up your plan of attack, with the new normal of how we do business now.