This is the first in a series of articles on how to win at every stage of the B2B sales journey. With practical tips on how teams can rethink their approach in today’s complex customer-led buying landscape, let’s start with prospecting.

New customers are the lifeblood of any new business whether you are a start-up looking for those first early customers or an established enterprise trying to break new territories. As we emerge from the pandemic and seek to reignite growth, connecting with the right customers to develop high quality opportunities early on is more important than ever.

But as more competitors enter the marketplace with ever speedier product launch cycle-times, getting heard above the noise is proving to be more difficult than ever. In fact, only 2-4% of all prospect messaging ever converts to leads.  Why is this and how can we fix it?

Getting Sales Back into the Driving Seat

Today’s B2B buyers are bombarded with prospect messaging.  According to research carried out by Gartner, 55%  of B2B buyers say they are overwhelmed with information much of it contradictory, adding to an already complex buying process. When buyers do engage they often complain about inexperienced reps unable to have good quality conversations about their businesses. With such a poor first impression, it’s perhaps not surprising that 67% of buyers prefer to research independently and self-serve, engaging with sales much later in the buying journey when they are close to selecting a vendor.

As a result of these buyer challenges, we see more and more commoditised opportunities and low value deals as sales struggle to influence customer thinking so late in the buying journey. Not a great place to be for any team trying to deliver a good sales outcome!  With customers so firmly in control, it seems we need to find ways to put sales back in the driving seat and give them a fighting chance of turning prospects into high quality opportunities.

But what do customers want from sales?

We asked buyers from a range of industries what would compel them to engage with sales early in the buying journey. We heard the same answers from buyers time and again.

“Sales must deliver better buyer experiences”

Buyers are increasingly frustrated with sales teams that are internally focused and unprepared to have relevant & meaningful conversations. They are much more likely to engage when there is evidence of joined-up thinking across team members and where teams can display the skills and capabilities needed to help them work through the buying process. Trust and credibility is key.

“Sales must add value beyond what can be achieved through self-serving”

All too often sales are unable to add ‘real’ value. Where there is limited knowledge of the buyer’s business or their marketplace, the experience serves only to add to buyer frustration. Providing tailor insights and access to expertise can add significant incremental value - well beyond what’s achievable with self-service alone. Helping buyers to educate stakeholders in this way builds consensus and advances the buying process. It’s a win-win situation.

5 things to do to compel customers to engage sales early in the buying journey

1.   Go ‘deep’ with personalised messaging

Go beyond generic prospect messaging that delivers little value and adds to buyer overload. Go deep with tailored stakeholder and buyer messaging that breaks existing mental-models and builds momentum for change. Engage the team in collecting and sharing insights about your prospects, their marketplace and their decision makers. Not only will this leave you better equipped to engage, it builds confidence too. And remember, often the smallest of insights can have the greatest of impact.

2.   Sell the value of early sales engagement

Engage with your prospects as a partner. Highlight the valuable role your team can play in helping prospects to identify problems, define opportunities and explore solution options. Be clear and upfront as to how you can help them make well-informed decisions at each stage of the buying journey. Describe how you can help them build requirements and validate vendor capabilities to ensure buyers choose the right future-proofed solution for their business needs.

 3.   Promote the skills & capabilities of your expert team

Shine a light on the skills and expertise of your people and introduce them early on. Build confidence and trust in your team’s ability to help customers drive creativity and innovation. Help them build their own internal knowledge and expertise to continuously reinvent. Celebrate the importance of customer connection and relationship building from the get-go.

 4.   Make each customer interaction highly valuable to them

Recognise that today’s customer buying processes are complex, non-linear and often have multiple stakeholders involved in decision making. Orchestrate teams around ‘jobs to be done’ at this (and every) stage of the buying process to optimise the customer experience. Always ensure the right team, with the right skills and capabilities are engaged at the right time.

 5.   Build buyer consensus to advance the sale

Bring buyer stakeholders together to build a shared understanding of the problem. Create a common ground of understanding and build advocacy for ambitious change. Measure buyer consensus across the buying journey, identify disagreements and help to resolve them. Help them to build a business case for a high quality solution.

If you’d like to learn more about implementing customer-first high performance selling or just want to shoot the breeze on the future of B2B sales, then don’t hesitate to contact us. We love helping organisations unlock the collective potential of their people.

In the meantime, why not download the eBook: The 3 Principles of Deep Performance Selling for more practical tips on how to achieve customer-first team selling.

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