It’s no secret that selling to other businesses is tricky. You simply won’t succeed if you don’t take B2B selling for what it is: a high-stakes selling game that requires an entirely unique approach from direct-to-consumer selling.
Before we dive into the insider tips, let’s get crystal clear on what B2B selling entails.
What is B2B sales?
The term B2B sales refers to business-to-business sales: the transaction of goods or services from one business to another instead of from business to consumer. Compared to selling to consumers, B2B sales deals often have higher dollar values and longer sales cycles.
When done right, B2B sales have the potential to be both extremely lucrative and deeply rewarding. As a B2B sales professional, it is important to develop a sales process that works for your business, prospects, and overall goals. Here are key steps you may want to include in your B2B sales process.
How to create a B2B sales process.
Conduct market research.
Determine your ideal buyer persona.
Map out the buyer's journey.
Close the deal.
Track your results and improve.
Now let’s walk through what a successful B2B sales process could look like.
1. Conduct market research.
Begin the B2B sales process by performing high-level market research to understand the current state of demand for your offering. Get clear on who your competitors are in your segment, and familiarize yourself with their techniques and strategies to understand what messaging your prospects are hearing from other sources.
2. Determine your ideal buyer persona.
Take time to identify what companies fit your ideal buyer persona. In addition to considering what your prospects sell or offer, be on the lookout for contextual information about how business is progressing. Have they recently launched a new product? If you are selling to startups, did they recently close a round of fundraising? Have they had any leadership changes in the past six months? This information can help you determine if companies are ready to invest in your offerings, and is a helpful addition to your buyer persona information.
3. Map out the buyer’s journey.
Now that you are clear on who your audience is and how your offering will serve them, it's time to map out how the customer will purchase your offering. To do this, walk through the steps a potential customer could take to reach your product or service. Typically, prospective customers go through the following stages when making a purchase:
Awareness — The buyer realizes they have a problem or pain point that needs to be solved.
Consideration — The buyer determines how the problem could be solved, and is researching different products or offerings that could help.
Decision — The buyer is comparing available options, and determines which course of action to take.
As part of your sales process, you should be able to identify and track where your prospects are in the sales journey. Doing so empowers you to strategize so you can put forth tactics that will meet them where they are in the process. For example, if a company is in the awareness stage of a buying decision, inundating them with pricing or specific offering information wouldn’t be appropriate because they have not indicated wanting to make a purchase to solve the problem yet. They are simply acknowledging that the problem exists.
4. Qualify leads.
A sales qualified lead is a lead that is ready for a direct sales pitch. Everyone who shows interest in your offering will not turn into a qualified lead. When determining if a B2B prospect is sales qualified, ask them the following questions:
What is the problem you are trying to fix? — This question will help you determine what product or offer to recommend as the sales process progresses.
Have you tried to solve this problem before? If so, why didn’t the previous solutions work? — This question will give you important context about what will and won’t work to solve the customer’s problem. Additionally, you’ll know exactly what pain points to speak to if your product is the right fit.
Who makes the final purchasing decisions? — In B2B because you are not selling directly to a consumer, you may have to work with several points of contact to close the deal. Understanding who all needs to be involved to make the final decision, what that process will look like, and how much is budgeted will shape your sales strategy.
5. Meet face-to-face.
If you find the customer’s needs and your products or services are aligned, try to communicate face-to-face as much as possible. As we’ve discussed, B2B sales are higher-stakes in nature, and often entail greater deliberation. When you are able to meet face-to-face (in person, or via video) to answer the customer’s questions, deliver your pitch, and address concerns, you are able to build trust with the customer that can’t always be established over the phone or over email.
6. Close the deal.
As the sale comes to a close, the work is not done. If the end result is a sale, now is the time to facilitate an agreement outlining the terms payment will be exchanged for the product. Additionally, you may want to coordinate with your company’s service organization to ensure the customer has been onboarded and feels supported using your product.
If the end result is not a sale, thank the prospect for their time and offer to stay in touch to support any needs they have in the future. Often times a "no" is simply a "not right now" and you gained valuable insight that will support future sales.
7. Track results and improve.
High-performing sales teams are constantly measuring the results of their processes to improve. When you are regularly measuring and striving to improve the results of your organization’s B2B sales metrics, you and your team are able to improve productivity and overall performance. Key metrics B2B sales teams should be tracking include:
Sales Productivity Metrics — Measuring sales rep productivity will help point out inefficiencies in your processes that may be costing you sales.
Average Lead Response Time — In B2B sales, every minute matters. The sooner you can respond to a lead inquiry the more likely you are to land the sale, making average lead response time an essential metric to track.
Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads Conversion Rate — This measures how many leads brought in through marketing efforts become sales qualified. While it is often tracked by marketing organizations, it is helpful data for sales teams to be aware of to support pipeline creation.
Closed won Opportunities — This metric signifies a successful end in the sales process: when the lead becomes a customer by making a purchase. Tracking how many of your total closed deals result in sales (versus closed lost opportunities — how many closed deals did not result in sales) can help you understand the overall success rate of your sales process.
The following 9 selling strategies are real-world tips from insiders who routinely close huge B2B sales. Implement these account-based selling tips, and you’ll develop an approach that helps you close more B2B sales — right away.
B2B Sales Tips
1. Subscribe to your prospect’s content.
Does your prospect’s business have a blog, newsletter, or social media feed they regularly share content to? Give them a follow and check out their updates. This will help you understand their business priorities and how they engage with their prospective customers. It will provide valuable insight that will aid the B2B sales process because you can speak to how your offering will help your prospect serve their customers.
2. Skip straight to the real decision makers.
Most businesses put their buyers and purchasing managers on the frontlines of buying situations — but they’re not actually qualified to make any buying decisions. That’s why the most successful B2B salespeople skip right over those folks, and straight to the real decision-makers.
Don’t waste your time developing relationships with buyers or purchasing managers, no matter how convenient or comfortable it may feel. They simply don’t have the budget — or the authority — to make an actual investment in your product or service. Instead, sell only to the stakeholders who have the authority and budget to actually make buying decisions.
3. Sell actual business results and outcomes.
Businesses aren’t interested in your product or service. They’re interested in the results and outcomes you can help them achieve.
In the past, salespeople could close B2B sales by pitching the benefits and features of their products. Not anymore. Today, you need to focus on selling tangible, bottom-line business results if you want to dominate your competition in B2B sales.
To learn more, check out this video:
4. Be crystal-clear about your value proposition.
If you’re going to sell to a multi-million dollar business, you’d better be prepared to quickly and clearly articulate your value proposition. Many B2B sales go down the gutter simply because salespeople fail to clarify what sets them apart from the competition — and what value they bring to the businesses who buy from them.
When engaging with prospective businesses, make sure you are clear on your offering’s unique value proposition. B2B sales deals tend to be higher dollar values and higher stakes by nature. To win the sale, you have to be able to articulate the value your offering brings to the potential customer. Any prospect you engage with should be able to understand the problem your offering intends to solve. When put into words, this is called a value proposition.
A value proposition identifies what your prospect’s problems are, and how your offering can help you solve their problem. If you serve multiple customer segments that could be looking for solutions to different problems, you should have a value proposition in place for each segment.
The most successful B2B salespeople script and memorize their value propositions, so they can easily rattle them off at any given moment.
5. Get face to face with decision makers.
We’ve already talked about selling directly to decision-makers and skipping over those buyers and purchasing managers. But now it’s time to talk about how you should sell to decision-makers.
The answer is simple: Sell to them in person, whenever humanly possible. Hop on a train, get on a bus, book a flight, drive a few hours. Do whatever you must to get a face-to-face meeting with decision-makers at every business you’re trying to sell to.
When you’re selling high-end products or services that require a serious investment, you have to go the extra mile to meet your prospects face to face. Most of your competitors are still trying to close B2B sales over the phone. A quick trip can make all the difference between closing your sale — or losing it.
6. Stand behind your premium pricing.
Successful, profitable businesses don’t care about your prices -- in fact, they only care about the value you provide and the results you help them achieve. If you lower your prices when selling to businesses, you’ll only attract prospects who can’t afford to invest in valuable solutions.
To dramatically improve your B2B sales, stand behind your premium pricing, and watch as you close bigger sales more often — with better prospects.
7. Dig deep to discover challenges.
Seek to truly understand what’s going on at the business you’re selling to. What key frustrations are they dealing with? How much do those challenges cost the business on a monthly basis? How about on a yearly basis?
The answers to these questions can propel your B2B selling strategy to be more lucrative than you can imagine. It’s as simple as that.
8. Keep your emotions in check.
Selling to successful businesses is tough. Dealing directly with powerful decision-makers at those businesses is even tougher.
That’s why one of the best tips for closing B2B sales is to keep your emotions in check. Don’t take things too personally. Stay calm, and don’t be intimidated when you’re inevitably face-to-face with a pushy customer. If they sense you’re scared or nervous, it could jeopardize your sale.
9. Give three options in your B2B proposals.
Don’t make the crushing mistake of only offering one option in your proposal to B2B prospects. If you do this, decision-makers are exponentially more likely to shop around looking for other options, better prices, and different services.
Instead, give each business three options that vary in price and value. Let them choose whichever one fits with their budget and best address their needs. You’ll be surprised by how many go with the priciest option.
Which of these insider tips will you use to dramatically increase your B2B sales? Share your thoughts and goals in the comments below. And for more valuable advice on closing sales, check out this Special Report on 3 Closing Questions You Must Ask to boost your close ratio.
Originally published Oct 14, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated April 25 2022