Why the tide has turned on the B2B sales experience

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A branded sales experience – getting upstream in the B2B buying process

B2B buyers tend to prefer to stay loyal to a few suppliers that they trust because they don’t want to have to start over with a new supplier that they don’t know. As we mentioned earlier, multiple stakeholders can be involved in complex B2B purchasing decisions. The whole process can take months. It’s a significant investment. Sticking with your supplier makes future decisions a whole lot easier.

But, if all businesses just stuck with their supplier, where would opportunities to build the pipeline come from?

The answer is to get upstream in the buying process – despite the headwinds that are making that more difficult. There are two things businesses can do to get upstream and steal a march on their competitors.

Word of mouth referral – by generating positive word of mouth endorsements from existing clients or other contacts in order to get the attention of potential new clients. The best B2B organisations make securing introductions from their current to potential clients a regular activity.

A branded sales experience – by developing and implementing a sales experience that is customer-centred, consultative and focused on delivering business outcomes that are valuable for the client. Adopting a customer-first approach can help an organisation get the attention of potential clients ahead of the competition.

Let’s look at what we mean by a branded sales experience and why it is so important in establishing competitive advantage:

A hallmark of consistency – the purpose in developing and implementing a branded sales experience is to establish a consistent way of selling that becomes a mark of excellence in the way in which the organisation interacts with its clients and potential clients.

Designed from the customer back – designing the sales experience from the needs of the organisation’s target customers is in itself unusual – and a point of difference. By aligning the sales approach with the company’s brand promise (thus the term branded sales experience) and organisational values ensures an approach to selling that becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.

Client-focused, not target-driven – because it is client-centred and focuses on the needs of the customer, a branded sales experience stands in contrast to most sales processes that are designed around the selling organisations monthly/quarterly/annual targets. The techniques that sales teams are typically trained in are designed to persuade the client to say ‘yes’ and as such, frequently come across as manipulative.

High levels of trust – by approaching the sales task through the lens of what is important to the client and their organisation, by making the conversation two-way and by progressing at the pace that is right for the client, the salesperson will over time earn the trust of his/her client.

Demonstrate value from the first interaction – when attempting to engage with a new client, the salesperson has to demonstrate value from the very outset. In our work with B2B organisations we refer to the importance of sending ‘advance signals of value’ based on a thorough understanding of the needs of the client. While competitors are asking questions (many of which could have been answered by referring to public sources) and describing what it would be like to work with them, companies which have implemented a branded sales experience show from the outset what it is like to work with them on the real challenges they are facing. As a client said to me many years ago, don’t tell me you are funny, tell me a joke that makes me laugh.

In short, a branded sales experience establishes a common way of working with clients that is consistent, competitively distinct and valuable for target clients. It’s what makes your business stand out.

Wrapping up …

Relying on old B2B selling techniques won’t cut it anymore. Rethinking strategies will require leadership to provide the vision, support, training and tools that sales teams need to adapt and deliver a revitalised sales experience. Those brands who are dragging their feet on this are in denial if they think that experience is something best left to B2C businesses. Any company with a customer delivers an experience – good, bad or indifferent. Bad or indifferent won’t win new business.

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