In our increasingly knowledge-based society, where, it has been argued, customers know more about your products and services before you call on them than ever before, we have seen a fundamental shift in the way successful B2B companies sell. Welcome, consultative selling.
Only roughly a third of B2B sales leads are “buy-ready” when they are first identified. To convert those leads into sales requires a deft touch, a little patience, and the application of proven digital marketing techniques to establish your organization as the preferred solution to your target’s need.
It could be reasonably argued, then, it is much more about teaching than it is about selling for B2B marketers.
The hard-bitten mantra “Always be closing” that once fueled sales organizations 20 years ago has been gradually replaced by “Always be teaching.” Or, said another way, let your prospects know about tools and strategies that can make them more successful and profitable and address common pain points they experience; ideally, of course, tools and strategies you can offer them. It’s called consultative selling (or, sometimes, solutions selling) and it works.
There are six stages to consultative selling (or solutions selling):
- Stage 1: Target and Qualify
- Stage 2: Explore and Assess
- Stage 3: Access and Develop Solution
- Stage 4: Present Solution and Follow-up
- Stage 5: Negotiate and Close
- Stage 6: Implement, Follow Through, Assess Results, and Expand
So, how can you get from 1 to 6 in your B2B marketing and sales efforts? Here are three proven ways digital marketing can help get you there:
Make your B2B targets aware that you understand their pain
Blogs, social media, and email content that identifies the problems your targeted company likely experiences is the easiest way for sales targets to put you on their radar screen. Each of these tactics is key to wooing your way through the buyer’s journey and establishing trust. Identifying the problem is only half of the equation, of course; you also must outline strategies or tactics to solve that problem (that just so happens to align with your offering). When you do that you have a much better chance of getting them to call you, as opposed to you having to call on them.
Content, in all forms – infographics, checklists, and videos – is king: if you can speak the language of your target’s pain points you arithmetically increase the probability of them calling or coming to you – when they are ready to pull the trigger. That makes actually closing the deal much easier because your target comes into the conversation already prepared to buy. You’ve done your sales work without even having to call on them.
Don’t Hard Sell
I know. It feels wrong to say that because we’ve all been hard-wired to build an effective marketing/sales culture, but it’s true. You want your targets to see you as a thought leader and a valued provider; that’s when they come to you. But that’s also very difficult to achieve when you’re practicing old school hard selling techniques. You want your targets to think: “if they know this about my company (or industry), and are giving it away for free… what else do they know and how can they help me?” This is the key to consultative selling. Good thought leadership, where your company is seen as the answer to the problems your target needs to address, is a much more effective and productive sales cycle and fosters better long-term engagement.
Track and Analyze the Data
It can be pretty easy to identify when your sales target is ready to hear from you directly. By lead scoring their interactions with your digital marketing campaigns – what they are opening and what they are clicking on – you get actionable clues to help shape your continued nurturing efforts with that target. Develop response strategies that are tailored to the actions your target has taken; if they are downloading your white paper outlining your solution to one of their common problems, it’s a good time for a solutions-based call or email.
Is your B2B company ready to be a thought leader?
Phil Loscoe is Managing Partner at RDW with a few decades of experience leading client strategies in healthcare, construction, higher ed, lottery services, and other industries. He also believes he is the world’s biggest Notre Dame football fan.