A Permanent Shift in B2B Sales

There has been a permanent shift in B2B sales and marketing that has forever changed the prospect landscape for the traditional direct rep and their supporting marketing team. What is it?  It is the fact that enterprise buyers don't NEED the sales process from 10 years ago. They don't need it for product information, they don't need it for references, they don't need emails that tell them you would be happy to give them a "free quote" (do people charge for quotes?) They don't need anyone's help to compare to competitors. They also don't need to repeat things they have said before because no one wrote it down when they didn't meet BANT criteria, and they don't need to schedule meetings they don't want to have. 

Automate The Right Actions

Now, this doesn't mean that sales and marketing departments are going to be dismantled and automation takes over.  In fact, automation is next in line for an overhaul to map to what buyers want. Email communication shouldn't be about the vendor, it should be about the prospect. It should focus 100% on topics and issues that prospects are dealing with, and have more solutions to problems and a thought leadership focus vs. a "buy our stuff" focus. A recent SiriusDecisions study states that only 16% of companies have bought marketing automation and there is a skills deficit in the marketplace. What does that mean?  It means we get a lot of email about "buy our stuff."

What B2B Prospects Need

But prospects do need something....what is it? They need a quality experience with your company. THAT is what will set you apart more than anything. Prospects experience train wrecks on the front lines every day. Some examples are filling out forms and no one calls them back, they can't find a number, they call to get information and they get hammered with BANT questions, they have to provide a lot of information to get a simple data sheet, and they are treated as unimportant. An inquiry is more about "do WE want to talk to YOU Mr(s) Prospect?" Really, what needs to be in place is a vehicle to find information easily, they need to be able to contact you easily, they need access to a rep that's situationally fluent, they need someone to help them visualize the solution, remove obstacles, understand the long-term potential, correct any wrong information they discovered on their own.They need someone that is a professional that gets what it means to be in their prospects' shoes and the exposure a prospect has from making a bad decision.

This has been percolating for a while now, and lately has boiled over to a point that prospects have no more tolerance for a bad vendor experience. Social media has given prospects a voice to let the world know when they have a bad experience. So the way to make sure that user-generated content in the public domain is heavy on the positive.

What are some things you can do now?  

Because prospects are close to 65% further informed than in the past, you need to make sure their online experience is a good one because many times that is their first exposure to your solution. It will impact your sales. Here are 6 things to look at today:

  1. Is it easy to contact your firm? Can prospects find a phone number? This sounds absurd, but so many companies don't have their number on each page and when you do go to the "Contact Us" page, it is a form.
  2. Can they learn about you for free--no forms, having to join a mailing list, or disclose your identity. Not conceptual things but real data they can visualize working with you from.
  3. Have you had someone that is not part of your company, look through your site and tell you if it makes sense. One of the things that happens is operating in an isolated group, content gets created that makes perfect sense to you but prospects draw wrong conclusions again and again. You need to speak in your prospects terms, presenting your solution in a way they can quickly grasp.
  4. Do you have business savvy, situationally fluent people dealing with front line interactions? People get highly annoyed when they have to talk to someone that is more interested in their budget than helping to answer questions.
  5. Have you looked at your site on all computers, browsers, mobile, etc. Sometimes things that seem very simple are often neglected and links are broken, pages load wrong, etc.
  6. Do your emails use any space for verbalizing "ask for a quote now" or something like that. Everybody knows you are GLAD to provide pricing, it goes unsaid. Don't waste that split-second of attention saying something everyone knows--use your time wisely to state things that build trust and confidence in your solution.

Engineering the first stage of the sales cycle to seamless map at each touch point to something more positive takes effort. Taking the time to travel the road your prospects do in those early stages helps you create a great experience that pays off.