B2B sales have never been easy, but in the past 20 years, constantly changing technology and evolving sales methods have made common B2B sales challenges even more difficult. Gone are the days where you send your sales team out to that new factory they’re building over in Ohio to pitch your product, and gone are the days of cold calling. The internet and social media has completely overhauled the way the B2B consumer finds and purchases products.
If you’re like many B2Bs out there, you’ve probably recognized the change. If you’re looking to stay relevant in this new technological age, inbound is one of the best ways to start solving some of the most common B2B sales challenges. (Learn more about the basics of inbound marketing here.) Whether you’re a B2B business owner or sales rep, you likely already what your sales team faces on a daily basis, but we’ve got a few ideas for you, proven to solve a lot of those unique challenges:
B2B Sales Challenge #1: Technical Products
B2B products are often complicated technical products. And even if your buyer has a degree in engineering, they might not know that your product exists. That’s what makes B2B products so difficult to sell.
Your client doesn’t need a long drawn out sales pitch, they need an education. They need you to tell them why your product or service provides a solution to a problem in their industry, and they need to know how. They’ll want to know how it works, how it fits into their production process, and what their ROI is going to be.
The Inbound Marketing Solution: Content that Educates
We’ve talked about it before, but what the modern B2B consumer really wants is content that allows them to learn about the product on their own. They want to be able to peruse helpful information at their leisure, until they decide what’s best for them and their company. For the B2B sales team, this should come as a relief. If clients are educating themselves on products and business solutions, that means your sales reps spend less time doing it face-to-face. This saves them time, and saves the company money.
You just have to make sure that you’re still the one providing the information they need. Inbound marketing comes in handy here, because you can create all of that educational material that potential clients are looking for, and put it up online where they can peruse it in a way that best suits them. By providing content in a bunch of different formats, like blogs, infographics, and even informational videos about your product, your clients are able to learn in the way that best suits them.
B2B Sales Challenge #2 – Buyers want to control their buying cycle (and it’s long)
Purchasing a heavy-duty piece of manufacturing equipment requires a bit more thought than that 25¢ cup of lemonade on a hot day. A B2B purchase is the furthest you’ll ever get from an impulse purchase. It takes a long, long time before a client decides to bite the bullet on that expensive machinery. And it makes sense. No one wants to buy an expensive software solution for their company, or a million dollar piece of equipment only to find out it doesn’t provide the service or ROI they were expecting.
These are major sales, at a high price point, and they require a bit of due diligence. That’s why most modern B2B buyers want to control as much of that buying cycle as possible. They have to ensure they’re going with the right product from the right company before they present it to higher-ups. Once that happens, they’ll still have to wait for budget approval before they can make the purchase. All this contemplation leads to a long buying cycle, which as you know, is frustrating for your B2B sales dept.
Inbound Marketing Solution – Content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s cycle
You already know that your B2B buyers have to go through each stage of the buyer’s cycle: awareness, interest, consideration, and decision. Make sure that you have content that helps those clients in every stage of the cycle. If you’re answering their questions all the way through their buyer’s cycle with quality, educational content that they can trust, you’ll be able to close a deal considerably faster than if you wait for them to figure it out on their own or set up a meeting.
Whether you devise a foolproof set of infographics, gated content offers, free trials, blogs, or webinars, your content has to speak specifically to each client. This means you need content for potential buyers that speaks not only to where they are in the buyer’s cycle, but also to their industry and market. By answering their questions, regardless of their place in the decision making process, you develop authority, and draw them through to a final decision much quicker than if they’re left to their own devices.
What’s more, this method is helpful and relationship building. Potential clients are able to easily access the information they need, without feeling like they’re being sold to, or forced to make a decision before they’re ready.
B2B Sales Challenge #3 – Multiple Decision Makers
Let’s say a production manager wants a solution to increase production efficiency. When she comes to your company for the product that will provide that solution, she not only has to gain approval from her higher ups, say the CEO and CFO, but she’ll have to work with the production engineer to ensure that the new solution can be integrated smoothly into the production process. This means that at the very least, the B2B sales team has to convince four people that this is the right purchasing decision.
Inbound Marketing Solution: Content for each audience
The best solution to the multiple decision maker issue is to provide content that addresses each decision maker’s greatest concerns. Let’s think about it: the production manager needs to know how your product or service will increase efficiency. On the other hand, the bigger players, like the CEO and CFO, need to know how this purchase will affect their bottom line. And last but not least, the production engineer needs to know the specs and info on the product, so they can ensure it will function seamlessly with production, and so they can determine how and where to install it.
To make sure that you’re answering everyone’s questions, inbound marketing best practices suggest you develop buyer personas. You can then use those to create content that targets each decision maker. By providing solutions for each party’s pain points, you’re working to get everyone on board with your product, and reach a decision that satisfies everyone.
B2B Sales Challenge #4 – Proving ROI
Finally, another challenge that B2B sales teams face is proving that their methods are effective, especially when it comes to marketing. Many B2B companies are reluctant to invest more money in their marketing practices because they aren’t sure the ROI will be favorable. But consider this: when your inbound marketing method is effective, your sales team has less work to do, and can focus on converting important, qualified leads.
By implementing an inbound marketing strategy that speaks to all of the major decision makers, educates buyers about your product, and speeds up the notoriously long buyer’s cycle, your sales team really only has to handle the most productive part of the sales process: closing the deal. But how do you prove it it’s working?
Inbound Marketing Solution – Metrics and Analytics
Your inbound marketing strategy will work to feed you the most qualified leads, will help you weed out the leads that aren’t qualified or the buyers who aren’t yet serious, giving your sales team the opportunity to really focus on the leads you know show great potential. Best of all, an inbound marketing strategy is easily monitored through website metrics and analytics. Over time, this is the easiest way to prove ROI.
When you implement inbound marketing best practices, you’ll be able to see who’s coming to your website and what they’re interested in. Based on this online behavior, you can judge where they are in the buyer’s cycle. By monitoring site and search engine metrics and analytics, you’ll be able to learn what you’re actually getting out of your inbound marketing strategy. That’s invaluable information that not only proves ROI, but helps your sales team close deals, and shows you how to refine your strategy to further increase ROI in the future.
Are you a B2B Manufacturer? For more information on how inbound marketing can boost your ROI and solve the most common B2B sales challenges, check out our B2B Manufacturing Guide to Inbound Marketing below: