We’ve been talking at length about B2B lead generation and generating leads for sales in our last two blog posts, so now it’s time we discuss B2B sales. After all, that is what all of your marketing efforts should lead to. You chase leads to get sales, which means we need to talk about the specifics of landing sales to know the unique challenges of the closing process. This is where B2B marketing can get frustrating, because B2B leads tend to need a lot more convincing to sign a contract than the average B2C consumer. They also need to be approached in the right way, and that can differ a lot depending on who you’re addressing—even if it is two representatives within the same organization.
What does it take to get B2B sales?
There is a difference between generating leads and closing a sale. Sure, leads are targets that are likely to make a purchase action, but you can’t bank on a lead offering any revenue to your business until a contract is signed. If you’ve been in the business of serving other businesses for a long time, you know that it is not always easy to get that sale, which can be hugely discouraging when you have poured substantial time and effort into the process.
We have mentioned a lot about account-based marketing (ABM) as a means of generating leads, and in the ways that it can surpass inbound marketing for capturing leads, it can do more to help you close sales. Here’s a closer look at what you should do to close a B2B sale with a new lead or retain existing clients, as well as the ways that ABM assists in each facet.
- Multi-touch campaigns – Sometimes all you need to close a B2C sale is one or two points of contact, but this is almost never the case with B2B accounts. There are many reasons for this that we will detail shortly, but the important takeaway here is that you need to plan for multiple contact points with a multi-touch campaign. If you are not persistent in your efforts to reach out to a lead, you are not likely to see much come of it. This level of contact may be perceived as annoying or intrusive to the average consumer, but with B2B sales, it’s what is necessary—and expected. However, if you are using ABM, you will be better equipped to understand how often, when, and in what medium it is most appropriate to contact leads, because you will be focused on a select few. You can easily track the line of communication with a certain lead and be tuned in to when it is time to follow up again.
- Personalized messaging – Of course, as you continue to reach out to promising leads, you can’t use the same message every time. Especially as you draw nearer to a purchase action, you should be showing your clients that you understand their needs and can offer solutions that are tailored to them. That means customized messaging, which is the bread and butter of account-based marketing. You’ll have more background research going into your campaign, so you can send the right message to make a sale—or at least keep the client moving in the right direction.
- Clear connections between marketing and sales actions – If you cast a wide net to draw in leads and still have successful sales, how will you know how much time and resources you have dedicated to the single client that made a purchase within your overall marketing budget? It’s not impossible to figure out, but this question doesn’t even come up in an ABM campaign. Why? Because you have selected your leads before you even started trying to reach them, so you know exactly how much effort you have put in. Why is it important to know that? Without this information, you really will not know if you are seeing a sound ROI on your marketing budget, which means that you could be losing money. ABM requires actively monitoring campaigns and adjusting to client needs throughout the process, and that will give you the immediate insight to know what has led to a purchase action or what has broken a deal. This solid connection between marketing and sales action is something that is distinctly lacking in inbound marketing, and that may not be an affordable drawback when you are dealing with the high stakes of B2B sales.
Why are B2B sales different?
You may be thinking that to close B2B sales, you need to coddle your leads and dedicate a lot of attention to get them to close. And you’re not wrong. The power in the B2B sales relationship lies with the buyer, and this has only become truer as more information has become widely available online and technology has transformed the way that buyers and sellers communicate.
- The long sales cycle – Inherently, the B2B sales cycle is longer than the B2C sales cycle, because impulse purchase decisions are basically non-existent when you are shopping on a corporate budget. Not only does the purchase decision have to be more rational and methodical, but it’s often not a decision made by just one person. When two or more people have to agree to pull the trigger on a sale, it is simply going to take longer. Another consideration you have to make in the prolonged sales cycle is the fact that general information is available in abundance for corporate buyers to research before they ever talk to a sales representative. That means you need to have something tangible and detailed to offer as you approach leads, because they will have little reason to follow up otherwise.
- A more detailed pitch – When you are marketing to other businesses, you should be breaking rules that would apply to the B2C marketplace. For example, industry jargon would be frowned upon for marketing to the general consumer, but without specialized terminology, your B2B sales pitch will be pretty thin. Overall, you want to emphasize detail, length, and hard facts over emotional drivers and mass appeal when designing content that will take leads through the buyer’s journey. You might also be working harder to form a personal relationship with leads and existing clients, because this will go so much further with corporate clients than it might with individual consumers.
- A harder-to-reach audience – Let’s say you’ve done everything right to nurture a promising lead, and they still do not ultimately close on a sale. What went wrong? If it’s any consolation, it probably is nothing personal. Even with sound market research and strong communication, clients can back out and leave you with nothing for your efforts, because B2B clients are a hard audience to reach. Here’s why that’s the case:
- Multiple contact points – As we mentioned, it’s usually not just one person within an organization that you are trying to reach—especially if you are targeting large corporate clients. That means that even if one point of contact is totally on board, the sale could die if someone else comes in and disagrees. This is where strong client relationships can be valuable, because you will gain more advocacy to keep your company in mind when choosing among sales offers.
- Steep competition – Digital mediums have made marketing more accessible to businesses, which is great for small businesses who may not have stood a chance getting noticed in advertising in the past. However, this also means that there is more competition for any given service and that the clients you are trying to reach are being inundated with more marketing materials than ever.
- Busy schedules – While landing a certain sale may be huge for your business, the client may not be thinking much about that sale until you come back to remind them. Decision makers in businesses of all industries are busy, and they tend to take the mentality that if someone wants to close a sale, they’ll be back to do the legwork. You should never expect that a sale will close if you are requiring that the client puts in work to get there. In addition, you should not assume that a sale is dead just because it’s been longer than you’d like since a client has responded.
How do you track your ROI with B2B marketing and lead generation?
Because it does take months or even years for the B2B sales cycle to carry out, you cannot rely solely on checking in on campaign results after the fact. You need to measure and analyze at every phase and take note of what is and isn’t working. However, you will find that this is one area where ABM truly pays off. It directly aligns sales with a marketing effort.
As a premier Phoenix marketing agency, we at Nuanced Media are always willing to answer your B2B and B2C marketing questions. Are you seeing successful sales with your B2B lead generation methodology? Do you feel like it’s harder than ever to close a sale? Share your answers and any thoughts or comments on our blog series with us, and don’t hesitate to share this article on Facebook/Twitter if you enjoyed reading it.
Ryan Flannagan is the Founder & CEO of Nuanced Media, an international eCommerce marketing agency specializing in Amazon. Nuanced has sold $100s of Millions online and Ryan has built a client base representing a total revenue of over 1.5 billion dollars. Ryan is a published author and has been quoted by a number of media sources such as BuzzFeed, CNBC, and Modern Retail.