B2B Sales Process: How To Convert More Prospects, Faster
Over the years I’ve seen every kind of lead you can imagine.
The leads I love most are ones where the prospect shares a real problem. And they’re urgently hoping our client can solve it. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Wanna know my LEAST favourite kind of lead?
It’s when these same prospects don’t close.
I mean, how is it even possible? Often they’re literally BEGGING to meet up. How could they not close?
After seeing a few of these ‘done deals’ not close, I began to ask our clients about their sales processes.
It turns out that some companies don’t have a sales process. At all!
Other companies have a general selling framework they like to use. But they don’t have a defined way to take an expression of interest through to becoming a new client.
In other words, they’ve got red hot leads that want to hire them. And no way to capitalize on the opportunity.
That’s not good.
So it’s not surprising that OMG found that 92% of companies they evaluated had meaningful issues with their b2b sales process.
So BEFORE you start getting sales leads, figure out what you’re going to do to close those opportunities.
Makes sense, right?!
In this article we’ll take a look at how to build a replicable B2B sales process that consistently brings in new clients.
Let’s get started!
Why You Need A B2B Sales Process
If you’ve read this far then you probably already get why having a formal sales process is important.
But in case you’re sitting on the fence, here are some of the highlights.
If you’ve read this far then you probably already get why having a formal sales process is important.
Your bills are coming in this month, no matter what.
The power company wants its money for last month’s electricity. And they don’t really care what your sales pipeline looks like. They just want to get paid, now.
The same is even more true for your staff!
So you’ve got to have consistent revenues to offset costs. And a b2b sales process is the way to make that happen.
Research shows that companies with a defined B2B sales process generate 18% more revenue growth than those that don’t.
So it’s worth taking some time to build concrete steps around client acquisition.
After all, knowing what to do and when to do it is key to success in any venture – not just sales.
Better Sales Rep Onboarding
Even the best sales reps seldom start closing deals on day one.
It usually takes them several months to get up to speed, and start generating revenue. A defined b2b sales process makes this go much faster.
And the difference is significant.
Companies with a strong onboarding program are more productive 53% faster than firms that don’t.
Sales reps don’t want to guess at how to do their jobs. They want to work for a company that already has things figured out.
Accurate Sales Forecasting
Management needs to be able to predict future revenues to make decisions.
Without good data, they are stuck making uninformed guesses. Or not making any decisions at all.
Most b2b sales processes include a CRM. The CRM enables managers to assess every stage of the sales pipeline.
They can then adjust company strategy as needed.
Elements Of A High Converting B2B Sales Process
Just going through the motions to create a sales process won’t do much. You’ve got to be willing to deconstruct everything you do. This will enable you to maximize the benefit for each step..
Here are 5 ways to optimize your b2b sales process.
Incorporate Client Activity
What happens if the sales rep is selling, but the buyer isn’t buying?
Yeah, not much.
Too often sales reps overestimate prospect interest. And they move prospects through stages of the sales process prematurely. This typically happens when the prospect is giving the sales rep positive feedback. But in reality, they just don’t want to hurt their feelings.
To prevent this from happening, create exit activities for each stage of your b2b sales process. Ideally, these activities should be completed by the prospect, not the sales rep.
Exit actions don’t have to be onerous. For example, ask the prospect to pick a time to speak. When the prospect responds it confirms their continued engagement.
Remember, talk is cheap. Just because a prospect indicates some interest doesn’t mean they are ready to buy. Let them decide how quickly things progress.
Establish Clear, Attainable Goals
The point of a B2B sales process is to help you acquire clients effectively.
So it makes sense to first define what effective client acquisition looks like. How many new clients will you get per quarter? How will you increase wallet share from existing clients?
Decide on your revenue targets and work backwards. How many new deals are required? How many meetings? How many sales leads?
And so on.
Knowing where you end is the first step to a strong start.
Measure What’s Important
B2B sales processes are broken into steps. Within each step you’ll have at least one trackable KPI.
KPI stands for KEY Performance Indicator. Try to create as few KPI’s as possible. This will keep you focused on the most important outcomes for your organisation’s success.
Measure your KPI’s religiously, and commit to regular improvement in those areas.
Whenever possible, use technology to simplify the tracking and monitoring of your activity. Simple tools like a CRM can show month over month performance. And they make it easy to catch problems early.
Identify & Involve Stakeholders Early
The way organizations buy continues to evolve. Not only can buyers do their own research before becoming a lead. There are also far more stakeholders involved than ever before.
There are now 6 – 8 stakeholders involved in every major transaction.
This matters to you because every single one of them has their own priorities and agenda. And if they get involved in the later stages of the buying process, the deal could fall apart.
So make an effort to identify and involve everyone as early as possible. When decision makers join early there’s less chance of an unpleasant surprise later.
Involving all the stakeholders will pay unexpected dividends at times. If your primary contact leaves the company many months of work could be lost. But working with the entire team of decision makers eliminates this problem.
Make Your B2B Sales Process Predictable & Replicable
The key to a great sales process is a high level of definition and clarity.
B2B sales processes are broken into 6 – 8 steps. For example, a lead generation step.
Within each step, there are many workflows that need to be executed to achieve the target outcome.
The more specificity you have for each workflow, the more likely it is to be successful.
Being granular will help you quantify your inputs. And you can later compare activity against the outcomes achieved.
A high degree of documented workflow also means new staff can learn tasks with relative ease. And the loss of a few key staff won’t cripple your firm while their replacements figure out what to do.
How A B2B Sales Process Works
Every company is different. And no two sales processes look the same. Depending on what you sell, your sales process may have fewer systems than the ones described below.
With that caveat, here are 8 steps that are common to most companies.
Prepare Like Your Business Depends On It
You’ve heard the expression, ‘measure twice, cut once.’ It’s even more applicable to business than high end carpentry. Don’t skip this step!
Before you start selling anything, evaluate the landscape for your industry.
You’ve probably got some existing competitors. Look how they are selling their solutions. Why are they doing it that way? Why don’t they do it another way? If they’ve been around for a while, they probably know something you don’t. And it’s probably reflected in their business model, and their sales processes.
Next, research your best prospects. Is the market large enough to support a new player? Will prospects with an existing provider be willing to switch? Why don’t some prospects already have a provider?
If the market size is large, what niches are underserved? Where can you add value beyond what your competitors can offer?
The more you know about your direct competitors and prospective clients, the better off you’ll be when it’s time to get in front of buyers.
Do Prospect Research
Now it’s time to do some detailed prospect research.
Build a detailed list of the companies that are a good fit for your solutions. If needed, enlist the help of a b2b lead generation agency to help with this step, and with the outreach. Proper research requires a number of tools. And it will probably be more cost effective to work with an agency than doing it on your own.
During this phase do some preliminary qualifying. Effective sales targeting is the secret to getting a high ROI in lead generation. So be very intentional about who you want to work with.
For example, narrow your focus by criteria like headcount or the technologies they are already using.
If you don’t pre-qualify your leads you’ll end up with companies that aren’t a good fit. You might get a meeting, but you’ll never get a sale if they don’t have a need or a budget.
Next, identify decision makers who are well placed to get your solution adopted.
Within each firm, map out the stakeholders who will be a part of the decision making process. Try to find at least 4 people for each company. This will give you multiple ways to start and nurture a relationship with the organization.
Do Lead Generation Outreach
The next step in your B2B sales process is to engage with your prospects, and get meetings.
Decide what channel or channels you’ll use to contact prospects. Will you focus on email, phone, Linkedin, or maybe all of the above? The right channel for your business will depend on your budget and target ROI. Here’s a comparison of cold email vs cold calling.
Second, most companies incorporate email outreach into their lead generation. Cold email works incredibly well, and the ROI on email outreach is second to none.
But getting cold email right is a bit of a science. If your messages don’t get delivered your prospects will never know about your solutions. And if your emails end up in the spam box then your campaign won’t perform. No one wants to work with a company in the spam box.
Finally, consider the needs of your prospects. The process of connecting with decision makers is a bit delicate. Everyone has different expectations from cold email. And if you don’t get it right you could end up alienating your best opportunities.
Here are some tips that will ensure you get high reply rates from cold email.
Do A Needs Analysis
When you get a meeting it’s tempting to charge in and tell prospects about your company, and solutions you offer.
But that would be a mistake.
Your prospects don’t want to know what you think. They want to feel heard, and possibly learn something in the process.
So make your first meeting all about listening to the prospect. Ask open ended questions that elicit expanded responses.
Open ended questions help the prospect understand their situation. And gives them time to explore the problem in their own words.
Gong.io found that the best B2B sales reps speak about 43% of the time, and listen 57% of the time. You can do the same!
Remember, your job ISN’T to give your prospect pain. Good questions simply help the prospect understand their own frustrations. You can’t give someone pain, you can only help uncover it.
If you do a thorough needs analysis, prospects will feel like you understand their situation. And you’re well qualified to make an informed recommendation.
Make A Proposal
Now that you have a deep understanding of your client’s requirements, it’s time to make a proposal.
Your proposal can immediately follow the needs analysis. Or you can arrange to meet again in a few days so you’ll have time to prepare something more substantial.
Either way, try to deliver the proposal in person. This gives your prospect an opportunity to voice concerns. And you’ll have a better sense of what they’re thinking.
It’s easier to just send over some documentation. But this approach makes it impossible to gauge reactions. And meeting in person allows you to handle objections in real time.
Your proposal should include:
- Information about the company
- Proof of expertise and ability to deliver the desired results
- And detailed information about solution implementation, including pricing
Make professional looking proposals using online tools like Proposify or PandaDoc. Both have a robust free tier. And templates you can use to standardise your business proposals. Your prospects can even sign the document online, right in the proposal.
Part of making sales presentations is dealing with reasons why prospects CAN’T buy from you. Or at least not right now.
Well, there’s some good news. When a prospect asks a lot of challenging questions it sometimes feels like nothing is going right. But in reality, a tough sale means the prospect is actually interested in working with you.
The opposite is also true. Prospects that tell you all the things you want to hear are the ones that are more likely to blow you off later. They didn’t challenge you on your ability to deliver, because they have no intention of buying.
Here’s the next piece of good news. Many objections aren’t based on insurmountable, logical reasons. Most sales objections are based on trust. And trust can be earned.
If you’ve made more than 20 presentations then you KNOW what objections are going to come up. What do prospects ask about you, or your company, or your ability to deliver?
Address common objections in your presentation process. The more you get ahead of objections in the presentation phase, the less likely they are to come up later.
Give the prospects strong reasons they can trust your expertise. And provide assurances you can achieve the results they want.
As the title suggests, the last thing is to close the deal.
If everything went according to plan then closing the deal is just a formality. And it’s time to celebrate!
Unfortunately, things sometimes don’t go according to plan.
During the closing phase you find out what went wrong during a previous stage. For example, you may learn there is an important decision maker who wasn’t included in the meetings. Or the prospect has a serious objection that hasn’t been resolved.
The prospect wants to make a responsible buying decision. So sometimes the closing phase requires redoing previous steps.
Other times they receive new information that changes their outlook on the situation. And it changes their opinion on your solution.
This is normal.
Look for ways to stay connected to the prospect. Continue to educate them and provide value without pressure. If their need is real then your respect and effort will make you the front runner in any deal.
Onboarding & Next Objectives
Your company should have a formal client onboarding process. You want the client to know how excited you are to be working with them.
And it’s a good opportunity to introduce other employees that will be involved in the project.
Your new client may never be as enthusiastic about your company as right after they’ve signed the agreement.
So use this pre-work period to tee up future opportunities for this client.
For example, if your priority is getting b2b testimonials, then ask whether they might contribute. Most people will agree because it means you have to do a great job on their project.
Or maybe you are keen to offer your services to other departments in the same organization. So you could ask for a future introduction to their colleagues.
And so on.
Remember, you aren’t asking for anything now. You’re just setting an expectation with the client for how you’d like to collaborate in the future.
Build A High Performing B2B Sales Process
Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.