For some people, the B2B sales process is second-nature, the sort of thing they are immersed in. However, it is often beneficial to think about it in a more systematic way. By breaking the entire B2B sales process down into its seven steps, sales professionals should be able to better gauge where each of their leads are within the process.
This will help to ensure that enough prospecting work is being done at any given time, for example, so that not too much time is being spent on other activities. By understanding where you stand with your sales activity at each step, you should be able to ensure your sales achievements are more constant and less prone to ups and downs.
The B2B Sales Process: From Lead Generation to Pitching
To begin with, all B2Bsales processes start with prospecting. B2B salespeople simply cannot expect to make an offer to their potential clients unless they have put in the groundwork. What is involved?
Prospecting means identifying the sort of businesses you ought to target with your sales processes. Maybe you will decide you want to sell to certain sectors, within a given geographical area, or you will be best off targeting SMEs as opposed to large corporations. Once you have worked out who your prospects are, it is time to move on to the next step.
The difference between prospecting and lead discovery is clear. One involves identifying the type of customer you want to sell to while the other involves generating leads within those targeted groups. Let's say, for example, that your prospects are garden centers within a 100-mile radius. Your lead discovery process would be researching who makes the decisions at these businesses and who is responsible for their buying strategies. Lead discovery could be as simple as picking up the phone and asking the receptionist or it could involve looking on their website or professional social media sites, such as LinkedIn, for instance.
With your B2B leads discovered, the next stage in the cycle is to qualify them. Lead qualification usually involves an open-ended conversation with someone. During it, you will try to as certain whether they are a true decision-maker with the potential to become a customer. You'll also want to know what sorts of products and services they procure, if any, as well as any budgetary constraints they might be working under. All of this information will be useful when you go on to make your offer.
Moving From Pitching to Closing a Deal in the B2B Sales Process
The next phase of the B2Bsales process moves beyond the qualification of your sales leads to a more direct form of selling, ideally resulting in an order being placed, of course.
Make an Offer
When you make an offer to a potential new client, you are effectively pitching to them. What you offer will often depend on what you found out when you qualified your lead. Pitching a service the business does not need is a waste of time, for example. Ideally, your offer will be tailored to the client's needs and desires, arousing their interest and prompting them to find out more. Emphatically, a pitch is not just a list of benefits and features. The best ones are short and stick to the essentials. Making an offer can be done in-person and on the phone, but it is also possible to do it online these days with video conferencing technology.
All B2B salespeople have to handle objections. Few clients will want to place an order directly after a pitch. They'll give reasons why they won't instead. This is not as negative as it sounds because it means you are progressing in the B2B sales process. Listen to these objections and make counter-arguments that don't close the conversation down. Think of it as though you are being stress-tested rather than being shut out and provide extra information to overcome any opposition you may face.
Closing the Deal
Once you have successfully dealt with the objections your selling has been exposed to, it is time to move on to the final stage before a deal is struck. This is called closing. When you close a deal, discuss pricing and delivery options. Perhaps you will sell items at a reduced price for a bulk purchase, for instance? Closing means getting ad eal arranged in principal before contracts are signed and payments are forthcoming.
The Importance of Your Follow-Up
With the deal on the table, it is important to follow-up some time afterwards. Salespeople who simply move on and never follow-up with their client could be missing out on repeat business. Nurture your relationship so that the likelihood of future orders being placed is maximized. Remember that a successful follow-up could be as simple as calling to say 'thank you' for the order.