Insights with Impact
sales + revenue
How to set powerful strategies, empower your sales team, and captivate customers.
When you hear the word “sales,” do you think of the act of selling or the amount of money it brings in?
That’s actually a trick question — they’re both right answers. The concepts are two sides of the same coin and completely intertwined. The better your sales organization is when it comes to helping clients and prospects make a buying decision (sales as an action), the bigger the impact on your bottom line (sales as revenue).
These days, buyer expectations, product complexity, and information overload are making the task of selling — and generating revenue — more challenging than ever before. Consider that:
longer sales cycles than 5 years ago
or more people are typically involved in B2B buying decisions
of deals end in no decision
of sales people expect to miss quota
So how do you beat these numbers?
Improving sales as an activity means enabling your salespeople to become more than just pitch makers and order takers. Salespeople need to be seen as trusted advisors who can calm a buyer’s nerves, cut through the clutter, and build a realistic, yet compelling, business case.
Increasing the revenue side the sales coin depends on accelerating the momentum along the customer journey by creating a sense of urgency — without coming on too strong.
But with nearly 60% of deals ending in no decision, it’s hard to know where to even start. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. In this set of Insights with Impact, we’ll cover the ins and outs of B2B versus B2C marketing, strategies that connect with customers to drives better sales conversations, what makes a successful salesperson and sales leader, plus how to best enable sales teams to succeed. The goal is to help you understand the dynamics behind more effective sales — no matter how you define it — and apply them to your business.
In a hurry to find a specific answer? Use the links below to jump directly to the section you’re interested in.
WHy does INSIGHT SELLING matter?
In the vast majority of cases, companies that sell to other businesses have a different sales process than companies that sell directly to consumers. That’s why we have the two terms: business-to-consumer sales (B2C) and business-to-business sales (B2B).
Here are three key areas that set B2B apart from B2C:
B2C sales are often impulse buys that don’t require a connection with a salesperson. You might seek advice when buying a computer or a car, but most B2C transactions — especially online ones — involve very little human contact. As we’ve seen above, B2B sales often involve multiple decision-makers and require a great deal of handholding to get to a buying decision.
Most B2C transactions are quick, with the exception of big-ticket items such as houses, engagement rings, and vacations. With B2B selling, quick decisions are the exception rather than the rule. Most B2B deals take weeks, months, and occasionally even years to negotiate. And, as we talked about above, these sales cycles are only getting longer.
3. Decision Mindsets
While all B2C and B2B transactions fulfill specific needs, the mindset of someone buying a new pair of jeans or an ice cream cone is a lot different from an enterprise that is choosing a new cloud provider. When jobs are on the line, or decisions require changing the status quo, buyers are much more cautious.
Key Takeaway: If You’re Selling B2B, Don’t Act Like You’re Selling B2C
- B2B sales are fraught with more risk than most B2C sales. B2B buyers are reluctant at best. Most likely, they’re short on time, overloaded with complex information, and concerned about making a bad decision.
- Salespeople make a big mistake if they approach a B2B deal like a B2C transaction. When B2B salespeople fail to appreciate the pressures their buyers are under:
- 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared
- 89% of sales conversations are disappointing to senior decision-makers
THE TYPICAL B2B SALES CYCLE
We know that sales cycles are getting longer, but just how long are they, really?
According to Marketing Charts, nearly three-quarters of B2B sales cycles take at least four months to close, with nearly half taking longer than seven months.
Another study, from Harvard University, obtained similar results, asserting that at least 25% of B2B sales cycles take a minimum of seven months to close.
Lengthy time frames give buyers plenty of opportunities to stop the process or go with another company that may they perceive as more knowledgeable and trustworthy.
The Perilous B2B Customer Journey
In our hyper-connected world, the B2B customer journey often begins with a buyer doing research online. It’s a comfortable feeling of being in control because they don’t have to talk to a salesperson.
After getting a feel for the companies in the marketplace, the buyer might reach out to a few organizations for more information, a sales meeting, or even a live demo. Or, based on his or her research activity, a buyer may receive inbound messages from different companies.
At some point, other stakeholders from the buyer’s organization get involved, to give their opinions, raise their concerns, and grant the appropriate approvals. Things start to get really confusing as sellers claim their solutions are the best, and as buyers get overwhelmed by information that is unclear, presents mixed messages or often conflicts with other companies’ assertions.
62% of the B2B customer journey takes place outside of conversations with sellers.
55% of customers say they encounter an overwhelming amount of trustworthy information during the purchase process.
44% of customers struggle with the fact that information from various suppliers, while all seemingly trustworthy, is contradictory.
15% of B2B customer buying time is spent trying to reconcile or de-conflict information.
SALES FRICTION AS AN ASSET
Multiple stakeholders, confusion, frustration, and fear are all factors that can slow down the B2B sales process or worse, bring it to a screeching halt. With so much friction, it’s a wonder any deals get closed at all.
But what if all that friction could be turned into a sales opportunity? According to Gartner, buyers love it when they find B2B salespeople who “consciously work to differentiate themselves by helping buyers navigate, prioritize and, ultimately, make sense of all the information they encounter to make a large purchase with little regret.”
Sellers who understand the friction points — and can help buyers through them — are the ones who win deals.
WHICH SALES APPROACH IS BEST?
Smoothing over friction points requires a sales strategy that empowers your sales team and captivates customers. Much has been written about the different B2B sales strategies available, and every approach seems to have its supporters and detractors.
Solution selling, for example, was declared “dead” years ago — but it remains one of the most popular approaches out there. Using this methodology, sales reps ask lots of questions about customer pain points, and then show buyers how their solutions address them. While it can still be effective, solution selling was a lot more powerful before a richer amount of information became readily available to buyers.
Other popular B2B sales methodologies include:
- SPIN Selling
- N.E.A.T. Selling
- SNAP Selling
- Conceptual Selling
- Inbound Selling
- The Sandler System
- CustomerCentric Selling
- The Challenger Sale
- Sense Making Sales
Several of these approaches — most notably the Sandler System, CustomerCentric, Challenger, and Sense Making Sales — are different angles into a broader category of selling called Insight Selling.
Insights Are the Key to Successful Sales Today
Insight Selling puts the salesperson in the role of a trusted advisor or collaborator who offers insights to buyers.
The Challenger Sale, for example, positions the salesperson as someone who educates buyers, not only about the product or service in question, but also about larger business issues and trends. As teachers, Challengers aren’t afraid to push back against their “students” (buyers), if it is in service to the buyers’ ultimate goals.
In Gartner’s Sense Making model, sellers “know how to engage customers with information the right way to build their confidence and reduce skepticism, leading to high-quality deals. They accomplish this during preparation and customer interactions by:
- Connecting customers to relevant resources
- Clarifying the complexity of information
- Collaborating in customer learning”
Research continues to show that insights are the key to effective selling:
- Salesforce Research found that 78% of business buyers seek trusted advisors—not just salespeople—that add value to their business
- LinkedIn discovered that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales professional who offers new insights into their business
- DemandGen Report asserts that 89% of B2B buyers prefer vendors who “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.”
Here at Visible Impact, we see time and time again that insights accelerate the sales cycle by gaining executive attention during the engagement phase of the customer journey.
QUALITIES OF SUCCESSFUL SALESPEOPLE
Only 10% of sales people have actively embraced insight selling.
So if Insight Selling is so effective, why aren’t more salespeople embracing it? What qualities enable salespeople to become better educators, advisors, and collaborators?
The chart below, from Salesforce Research, outlines the new skills needed by salespeople who want to become effective insight sellers. Many of these are so-called “soft skills” — human factors like the ability to listen and building a personal rapport. Others, such as engaging at the right time and providing clear, actionable information, can be boosted by consistent messaging as well as tools like marketing automation, and data-driven personalization supported by AI and ML.
According to HubSpot, insight sellers must be able to work with buyers to answer three key questions:
- What do I want the buyer to learn?
- What do I want the buyer to feel?
- What do I want the buyer to do?
Insight Selling asks more from each salesperson, but in the end it’s much more rewarding. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to enable your sales teams to succeed with Insight Selling.
ENABLING SALES TEAMS TO SUCCEED
Good B2B selling values communication and education over a hard sell. It’s the B2B salesperson’s job to minimize risk throughout the sales process, by building trust through:
Show buyers that you appreciate the needs of each stakeholder, as well as the business as a whole.
Provide examples of past successes, and make a compelling business case with verifiable ROI.
Assure buyers that you won’t disappear when the deal is done, and that you’ll be there to adapt solutions as their needs evolve.
Knowing what qualities a salesperson should have, and what actions they should take, is a good start, but effective Insight Selling also involves something called sales enablement.
Sales enablement is the process of providing sales teams with the tools they need to become the trusted advisors, educators, and collaborators that buyers crave.
When done correctly, sales enablement makes it possible for salespeople to generate momentum throughout the customer journey and accelerate every stage.
Salespeople who are enabled to succeed— armed with information, ideas, and insights that are backed by proper sales training — are the ones who close more deals, faster.
Sales Enablement Works
84% of sales reps can achieve quotas when their employer uses best-in-class sales enablement strategies. (Aberdeen)
96% is the likelihood that companies using sales enablement will achieve a competitive level of sales sophistication. (Aberdeen)
5X earning power of reps who use information from a sales enablement practice and actively pursue leads. (Top Sales World)
Sales Enablement Requires Strong Alignment between Marketing and Sales
According to Salesforce, “the root of sales enablement is the ability to integrate marketing and sales, along with other departments, to improve an organization’s sales effectiveness. [Sales enablement professionals] work with sales and marketing to manage content and assets, update guidelines and best practices, assist with sales onboarding and training, and much more. Sales enablement makes it easier for salespeople to sell and buyers to buy.”
Getting sales and marketing to collaborate isn’t always easy, but the potential to generate amazing growth through sales enablement could be the ideal motivation for the two departments to engage together.
Hubspot details best practices for bringing the two traditionally separate entities together. These include:
- Meeting regularly
- Establishing a content creation process
- Showcasing sales expertise in blogs and social media
- Letting marketing listen to sales calls
- Having fun and get to know each other
Even if your sales and marketing pros don’t become BFFs, the results they’ll get through sales enablement should keep everyone focused and working together to achieve ever increasing revenue goals.
3 Critical Elements of Effective Sales Enablement
At Visible Impact, we believe that successful sales enablement relies on three important factors:
Across every touchpoint and medium, it’s important to tell a memorable, consistent story that sets your company and solution apart. Making this a reality involves drawing on the collective insights of key stakeholders: executives, marketers, product teams, and salespeople.
SALES ACTIVATION RESOURCES
Coaching sessions, training manuals, videos, and other assets can help salespeople lead and participate in insights-driven conversations that propel deals forward. These resources should be developed from your unified messaging strategy and should be easily accessible to — and actually used by — your sales team.
ACTIONABLE ASSETS FOR CUSTOMERS
It’s important to give your prospects other forms of information that dovetails with every sales conversation, to keep them engaged throughout the buyer’s journey. These assets — social content, whitepapers, success stories, webinars, brochures, nurture campaigns, infographics, banner ads, and more — should also be based on your unified messaging strategy and be vividly articulated and visually compelling.
Master the message by building a memorable, differentiated story that draws on the collective perspectives of executives, marketing, product teams and sales.
Make conversations matter by enabling sales teams to have insights-driven conversations that propel deals forward through coaching, videos, and playbooks.
Engage your target audiences to heighten awareness with vividly articulated, visually compelling digital assets, from infographics to presentations to interactive whitepapers.
Without the synergy of these three elements, sales enablement is destined to fail. Even the latest technological bells and whistles of sales enablement, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, customer data platforms (CDPs), and marketing automation tools, won’t make sales enablement effective without these three elements working together.
When you think about it, when you’re selling B2B you’re really selling H2H—human to human. And that’s why insights and ideas matter insights rule the day in B2B sales. Train your salespeople to be educators and advisors, and make sure your messaging is informative and consistent across every touch point.
Empower Your Sales Team and Captivate Your Customers
We hope this guide gives you a great deal to think about when it comes to improving sales as an activity and sales as revenue within your organization. And if you’re ready to start planning an initiative but still have questions, we’d love to start a conversation with you. Connect with us using the form below:
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