Sales, Marketing and Communication

How (not) to make a B2B sale

Selling business to business (B2B) can be a difficult and exhausting process. Often it takes a long time for a potential customer to say “yes” and you risk a huge amount of “no thanks” along the way. But without selling we have no business, so there’s no way around it. In this article we’ll show you five classic mistakes to avoid, and we’ll give you five steps to the extraordinarily good sales process.

 

5 things not to do

Many B2B sellers make the same mistakes over and over again, and those are the mistakes you need to avoid if you want to master the extraordinary B2B sales. Sales expert and author, Marc Wayshak, describes the most common mistakes in The Entrepreneur:

 

1. Selling to low-qualified buyers

It’s easier to gain access and time with these people but they don’t necessarily have the authority to buy what you’re selling. However, they do have the authority to say “no thanks”.

 

2. Focusing on your product or service’s features and advantages

This is simply no longer interesting. B2B customers would much rather hear about the effect your product or service can have on their own business. A lot of B2B sellers focus too little on the specific outcome of their solution.

 

3. Focusing on only one option or one channel

A classic sales mistake is to make a proposition or presentation with only one option. This makes the buyer seek out alternatives from your competitors in order to identify the value of your proposition. A “fixed” proposition is not as valuable to the customer as a proposition divided into several options ranging from a cheaper solution which solves their problem to a more expensive solution with the most possible value.

 

At the same time, many sellers also limit themselves to using only their phone or online communication when it comes to speaking with potential customers. These tools are definitely efficient and invaluable, but when it comes to expensive products and solutions that require a high level of investment it’s often necessary to meet face to face. The Likelihood of closing a deal grows when we meet in person.

 

4. Underestimating the importance of value creation

Potential B2B customers will often ask what it is exactly you can offer their business. Do you have an answer ready? Which value do you create? It’s important that B2B sellers have their value proposition memorized – briefly and accurately.

 

5. Offering discounts and deals too fast

In B2B sales, low prices easily attract customers with a low level of potential. The ideal customer is more concerned with the value and the quality of your product or service than its price. You may even risk your perceived value dropping if you set the price too low, for instance via discounts, hoping to lure the customer in. Usually, it's a good idea to stick to the actual price and take pride in what the customer gets for his or her money.

 

5 things you must do

Now you know a bit more about what not to do. But of course, you can always make your B2B sales approach even sharper by also addressing what you must do! Here, award-winning author on sales topics, and editor at Inc.com, Geoffrey James, gives you his take on five elements that describe the extraordinary sales process.

 

1. Adjust the process so it matches the customer’s preferred buying habits

Our sales work is often characterized by a focus on how our sellers wish to sell our products or services. The idea is that the customer must be persuaded into listening and convinced to buy.

 

Typically, that process looks like this: 1) the customer is contacted, 2) a meeting is arranged, 3) the seller gives a presentation, 4) a contract is signed and 5) the sale is closed.

 

However, the extraordinary sale focusses on how the customer expects and prefers to buy the type of products or services you wish to sell. The customer has a problem or a need, you can help solve. The customer isn’t here to buy your product, you’re here to help the customer.

 

That’s why the process consists of smaller decisions made by the customer, which may look like this: 1) the customer identifies his or her needs, 2) the customer allocates a budget, 3) the customer collects offers, 4) the customer evaluates alternatives and 5) the customer and the seller reach an understanding.

 

2. Define milestones for all the process steps

The traditional sale often squeeze the sales process into the sellers’ monthly or quarterly sales calendar. The result is that sellers get more and more aggressive around the time of deadline.

 

However, in the extraordinary sales process, seller and buyer agree upon the most likely milestones for each step in the buying process. This way, the seller can always locate where and why something went wrong during the process – if something goes wrong!

 

3. Define how the seller helps reach every milestone

A lot of sales processes include the seller sitting around waiting to hear from the customer if he or she are need help or more information.

 

Instead, the extraordinary sales process includes a mutual understanding between buyer and seller concerning what the seller must deliver for the customer to make the best decision.

 

4. Identify stakeholders and their roles

Usually, we use the sales process to persuade a specific decision maker to buy our product because we assume that this person has the authority to approve the deal and sign the check.

 

But even in smaller companies we find that several people hold the power to buy as well as block the decision to buy. That’s why we have to address possible stakeholders’ concerns in every step of the buying process so that we can persuade them that our product or service is the right solution to their needs.

 

5. Minimize operational work

Many sellers are deeply dependent on CRM systems to segment, analyze and update every sale. But is the energy we use on this task well spend compared to the value it brings us?

 

The good sales process is manageable and, as explained above, broken into practical parts. It can be explained and presented in few minutes, and even though we still use CRM systems (after all, we need to manage our contacts) we only use it in situations where it clearly makes the sales process easier. This means we use CRM to chart only the most important information such as contact details, dates and agreements. The rest is left out as we focus exclusively on dialogue with the customer.