Most sales persons think their customers have so much information, and are so clear about their needs that when they engage with suppliers, their purchase decision is nearly complete.
In our work with companies around the world, we often see this is not the case. Buying complex solutions with the wealth of data available on any of them, the number of decision-makers involved in each purchase, and an ever-expanding list of options is an increasingly long task. More information creates more questions, with the result that buyers take longer and longer to make a purchase decision.
At the same time, the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today; furthermore, these decision-makers come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and locations. The divergence in personal and organizational priorities makes it difficult for buyers to agree to anything more than “move cautiously”.
Finally, the expanding range of options that B2B customers face requires increasing amounts of time for evaluation. Piling on more information and options just makes things harder.
1. Put the prospect at the centre
You need to manage the buying journey with a focus on pain points and barriers, instead of just promoting your products. Most B2B sales funnels tend to be organised around concepts like “Awareness”, “Consideration”, “Preference” and “Purchase”. This is all very supplier-centered (awareness of the supplier, consideration of the supplier …) and it does not touch some points which are crucial in any purchase decision, like identifying the early barriers and obstacles. So, the journey -in the buyer’s mind- starts earlier than the “awareness” stage; it starts with pain points and barriers.
2. Identify pain points and barriers early
In many cases these have nothing to do with the supplier; identifying them is the first step to a successful B2B sales campaign. Your prospects may struggle with their CRM, or staff satisfaction may not be at its highest, or their supply chain may not be efficient. Whatever the case, they’ll have priority issues and will assess solutions before they approach a sales person. They might explore in-house vs. outsourced options, technology vs. people and so on. At a later phase, they may agree on a suitable solution with other decision-makers and decide to approach suppliers. A detailed understanding of prospects’ activities and motivations during these phases is essential.
The best way to identify barriers and obstacles to B2B purchase is to reach out to your prospects, using the many channels available, and ask open questions. “What specific challenges do you encounter and at what stage?” “What information would have helped you make your decision faster?” Questions will change according to situations, and can be delivered through many channels traditional and digital; however, they remain your single most powerful sales tool. By clearly identifying the principal obstacles to purchasing, a vendor will be able to devise an effective prescription.
3. Make a powerful prescription
Give a clear recommendation for action backed by a specific rationale; present a concise offering, a view of your capabilities and explain complex aspects of the purchase process clearly. Make it unbiased and realistic; a promotional preposition may put off your prospect. A simple prescription might sound like this: “Working with customers like you, we’ve learned that if you enter the tender process early, your chances of success will multiply. To do that, you must do X and Y.”
Make sure your customers perceive you as being one step ahead, anticipating and eliminating obstacles. That will translate directly into business results; in fact, this is the biggest B2B sales driver we’ve found across the sectors we have been working on.
4. Measure progress in the buying journey
To eliminate obstacles to purchases, you must know what stage your prospects are on their buying journey, as each stage will have different challenges. Make sure you have a clear system to show you ow prospects move through the stages and how B2B sales opportunities progress.
We adopt a model called Total Prospect Management. Using this model, we can uncover needs and struggles by putting prospects at the centre of all our communications; we can track the progress of sales opportunities and build solid pipelines. We use this model for ourselves -of course- and we offer it to our clients; this way our clients can engage with prospects early, formulate powerful descriptions, give targeted solutions and be successful in their B2B sales.
Try and understand how prospects make purchasing decisions. Have a clear understanding of the customer journey in all phases and align marketing and sales to support that journey. This way you will simplify the buying journey, drive sales and earn customer loyalty.
Get in touch if you want to know how Broadley Speaking can help you with your B2B sales strategy.