It doesn’t matter what your revenue goals are this year; you need a sales strategy for your B2B business to guide resource allocation and activities.
The strategy should outline the classic five:
Your sales strategy needs to address the following:
One question I always ask my clients when they make the shift from referral based sales to proactive sales outreach is whether their current best client is still their best client.
Your best clients may be some version of the people or businesses you’ve previously served or even a group you’ve defined by demographics, geographics or psychographics.
None of these are wrong, unless you haven’t asked yourself recently if that client is still your best client.
This one strays a little bit into marketing territory, but it’s essential for a B2B service business in order to avoid commoditization and sell value. More critically, it’s what everything else in your sales strategy flows from.
Most likely you’re already offering some degree of customization in your services, but what is it about you that makes you particularly attractive to the people you’ve defined as your best target clients?
Even the most sophisticated sales effort will struggle if you are unable to articulate why your target client should buy from you and not from someone else. It’s usually a combination of your service offering, your specialty expertise, the way you interact with clients and your brand values.
Unless you truly have the best customer service in the area (validated by an outside source) telling clients that you have excellent service isn’t going to cut it. Neither is the fact that you’ve been in business for 15 years. Clients don’t care. They only want to know how you’re going to solve their particular problem in a way that has value to them.
Are you a local specialist? Do you work with clients from coast to coast? Within North America? Globally?
A key part of the sales strategy for your B2B business is where you’ll seek client prospects. Many of my clients tend to feel more comfortable in their local region because it’s familiar. That may make sense if your regional knowledge and expertise is a part of what makes you unique. But if your service offer is what makes you unique, why not offer it to a wider marketplace?
Distance is no longer a barrier for the majority of B2B sales strategies.
The most important part of a B2B sales strategy is timing. Unless your service is very low in value, the majority of your B2B clients will be purchasing your service out of an annual budget. This creates ‘selling seasons’ that may be based on the calendar year or an arbitrary fiscal year. Some selling seasons are determined by other factors like weather and availability.
It doesn’t matter what your target market’s selling season is as long as YOU know what it is.
Knowing the selling season for your target market is only useful if you also know the average sales cycle length. For many B2B service providers, September through mid December are key selling times because their clients are preparing budgets for the following year and their sales cycle is about three months in length.
If your sales cycle is six months or longer, you’ll need to back up your activity to align with the budget planning and decision making timeframe of your target market.
There’s more to the ‘when’ of your sales strategy – are there times of day when your clients are more likely to be open to a sales approach? Days of the week? Are there major events in your target industry that you should be aware of and possibly attending?
Selling should always be happening regularly and consistently because of the way people buy, but you’ll want to know and understand the selling season for your defined target market.
Ideally your sales activity is aligned with your marketing activity, but you’ll want to define how you and your sales team (even if it’s just you!) will engage with prospective buyers.
Yes, purchasing has shifted more and more online in recent years, but this is less the case for B2B businesses than consumer businesses. Initial research may take place online, but rarely is a major B2B purchase made without talking to a human being.
It is precisely the nature of customized services that make sales strategies so critical. I challenge anyone to purchase a service designed to solve a very specific issue without speaking to a salesperson. In B2B sales the salesperson should become an advisor who will help clients determine the biggest need and the best way to solve it within their budget.
Determining the combination of activities that will get you in front of the right customer at the right time is probably the second more important component of a sales strategy for B2B businesses.
The number of ‘touches’ will vary depending on your marketing, your target clients and the size of the eventual sale and it will always be far more than you think you need. Remember, your prospective clients are not sitting around waiting for you to call. But if you don’t call, someone else will.
The bottom line? Every entrepreneur should have a sales strategy for his or her B2B business. Consumer businesses can find success through marketing and online sales alone, but the larger, more involved B2B sale needs a strategy to determine who to sell to, what you uniquely offer, where you’ll sell those services, when you should maximize sales activity and how you’ll reach out to prospective clients.
You don’t need a long, complicated plan, but you do need a strategy for you will grow your B2B business.
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