Making the big sale is an eternal B2B goal, but methods have changed in recent years.
Making the big sale in a business-to-business context has changed in some significant ways and stayed the same in others. While there exists a plethora of new channels to reach out to prospects through, and preferences have changed accordingly, the end goal has remained constant over the years. Salespeople still want to close the big deal and turn a potential buyer into a long-term source of revenue.
Evolving as a seller means mastering both kinds of skills, the modern and the timeless. B2B representatives who can balance these kinds of practices will become assets to their organizations. These are abilities worth training, as they can be developed and sharpened over time.
The state of B2B selling
The Association for Talent Development recently delved into the sales process by surveying almost 600 salespeople at B2B companies. The results show that some of the processes surrounding sales have indeed become more complicated and difficult in recent years. For instance, it’s currently taking a longer time to close a sale than it did in the past. More time between initial contact and signing a contract means increased chances for things to go wrong.
The ATD noted other complicating factors beyond the expanding length of the sales cycle. For instance, the sheer presence and prevalence of technology can get organizations bogged down. When there were only a few ways for companies and their prospects to speak with one another, it was easier to guide buyers down the path to a purchase.
The survey results further suggested that organizations should be engaging in sales enablement, to counteract the rising challenges associated with the extending and splintering path to purchase. The ATD called for more onboarding and training processes to get organizations ready for B2B sales excellence, with gaps existing between the perceived importance of these programs and their current implementation levels.
Today’s best practices
There are a number of ways to move sales conversations forward, some which have always been important and others which have evolved in recent years. These are the practices that representatives will have to learn to raise the level of their personal effectiveness and departmental success. For instance, Huffington Post contributor Danny Wong suggested that professionals today should learn how to deal with various personas at target firms. This means developing approaches to win over everyone from executive assistants to the members of the C-suite.
The latter group will each have their own perceptions of value and importance, and sales representatives who don’t have calculated pitches for each role may end up at a dead-end. For instance, CFOs will want a clear analysis of how the product will affect the budget and CIOs will want their technical concerns addressed. Marketing to the tech department is a particularly recent trend, and one that will set contemporary salespeople apart.
Other recent adjustments in the sales process include the encroachment of social media. The Harvard Business review pointed out that not only have social networks entered the sales tool kit in recent years, professionals should look beyond standard marketing approaches and go for deeper relationship-building. Nurturing prospects is still about paying attention to people and guiding them carefully toward a purchase, but salespeople who are adept at social media use have a whole new way to apply this approach.
Time to train
Equipping a sales department with the B2B outreach skills that will impress modern buyers is an important priority for any company with a business model based on establishing contracts. Sales acumen, especially the kind based on evolving practices and modern technology, can and should be taught and nurtured over time. Sales courses, customer service training, and courses on communication skills, such as those from MasteryTCN, can help in this regard.