In B2B sales, time is everything. In some cases, buyers are actively looking for an immediate solution, such as getting a banner printed for a conference in Munich next month. Or they might be looking for a new software provider when an incumbents contract runs out in 6-months.
Leads come to companies in a number of ways. Digital marketing and online adverts drive more traffic than ever. Word of mouth is another key source of referrals. PR is equally useful. No matter how a potential buyer finds you, this is the time they need to be proactively engaged.
And yet would it surprise you to learn that nearly 50% of inbound go without a response, or only hear back from a sales team after 24 hours? According to a Harvard Business Review study, only 37% of companies respond to leads within an hour. Whereas 24% take more than 24 hours, and 23% don't bother to respond.
Are messaging apps an answer to these problems? As always, it depends. In this article, we'll discuss the characteristics of B2B sales in the following parts.
- Chat With Leads over Messaging Apps
- Automate Conversations for Higher Productivity
- Instant Online Demos When Chat is Not Enough
What is B2B Sales?
For those new to sales, or who've only worked in consumer-facing roles, B2B sales and the B2B sales cycle might sound a little daunting or confusing. Don’t worry, it isn’t. What is B2B Sales? It simply means business-to-business sales, hence B2B. This is where a business primarily or only sells its products or services, which could be anything from software to shoelaces, to other businesses.
B2B sales are a huge market. In the U.S. alone, Gartner estimates this market is worth $9 trillion. Within that, approximately $1.1 trillion is conducted online (B2B e-commerce); a market that is double the size of consumer (B2C) e-commerce, currently worth around $512 billion, according to 2018 figures.
The B2B Sales Environment
Companies that operate primarily or exclusively in a B2B environment don't or rarely deal with the general public; also known as consumers. When businesses sell to other businesses they are involved in the value creation process. A service or product is provided, and that, in turn, is worth, to the client, more than what it was sold for.
Every company and individual involved in the value creation process is contributing to the overall value of companies they're supplying, therefore everyone wins, one way or another. Despite how process and value-driven B2B sales is, it all comes down to relationships between people. Those involved in the buying and selling process.
Often, this comes down to the relationship between a salesperson or account manager and the buyer, a budget holder, or end-user, or an influencer within the company who gets a budget holder to agree to a purchase.
What is the B2B Sales Process?
As we mentioned, B2B sales is about relationships between people. No matter how important a role price plays in the interactions between businesses, that is never the only consideration. When buying a product or service off another company you need to trust they will deliver. Trust the product or service does what they claim. In B2B sales, trust is everything. The B2B sales process is about establishing the trust needed between two or more companies, and the people in them. This is also known as the B2B sales funnel.
Sales funnels aren't necessarily linear. It depends on what stage two companies have started interacting, and, how one got in contact with or heard about the other. One company is usually the buyer, whereas the other is the seller. To explain the B2B sales funnel, in the simplest way, we need to know that it has the following stages (although there are some disagreements in marketing and sales on the exact number of stages):
Awareness: At the start of the B2B sales funnel, the fundamentals of B2B sales is that companies prospect for sales leads, which means contacting through a range of methods, such as lead generation (also known as demand generation), inbound marketing, and advertising (or all 3 combined).
Consideration: This is the crucial mid-point in the B2B sales funnel, where a potential client is finding out more and is either in direct contact about a product/service they want to know more about, or they're using a companies website and other assets to find out more.
Decision: This can be broken down further, into preference and purchase phase, before and during the actual sale/purchasing decision itself. At this point in the B2B sales funnel, direct contact is essential, unless a sale is being conducted through a website without direct contact required.
Loyalty: After the first sale is complete, the goal of almost every B2B sales relationship is to encourage further or ongoing purchases, and to ensure that a new client is referring other clients to a supplier. The ongoing relationships developed at this stage in the B2B sales cycle can be managed in a number of ways, including through an account manager and sales/lead or client nurturing marketing campaigns.
Why speed matters in B2B sales?
When it comes to online B2C sales, customers are more transactional and ready to make a purchase. Hence the vast amounts that go into ensuring e-commerce stores attract and convert as many customers as possible. We may not think of B2B sales in the same way. Potential clients are rarely immediately ready to make a purchase straight away.
Often, what a potential client wants is a meaningful conversation with a company they might want to work with. Buyers want to get a sense of past experience, competence, speed, effectiveness, and cost. At the same time, as a service provider, every inbound lead needs to be qualified.
A sales team needs to learn whether buyers have budgets, whether there is an urgency to what they need, and what sort of ROI they are expecting. Both sides need to be confident in the other before proceeding further.
How to Accelerate the B2B Sales Cycle With Messaging Apps
Faster is better, especially when handling inbound leads. According to that HBR study, leads that were called within 60 minutes of an inbound inquiry were “seven times likelier to have meaningful conversations with decision-makers than those who waited even 60 minutes.” Here are three steps you can use to engage quickly and effectively with sales leads.
#1: Chat With B2B Sales Leads over Messaging Apps
Whatever app or apps your business uses for conversations with B2B sales prospects (e.g. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), you'll have a higher level of engagement than email. Not only are responses quicker, having these conversations phone-to-phone is more personal. Real-time responses are more effective at directing queries in the right way.
Thus increasing the chances of qualifying and converting a potential B2B sales lead, providing the prospect is happy to use messenger apps, is a more modern, customer-friendly, and to many, a less intrusive way of interacting with a sales lead than through emails or calls. They can respond when they want. Neither party feels pressured or rushed and a new business relationship gets to establish itself along more natural lines than one that is only nurtured in busy email inboxes.
With the right tools and integrations, you can keep track of every conversation, get to know and segment your audience more effectively, build more accurate profiles, and ensure everything is still logged in a CRM.
#2: Automate Conversations for Higher Productivity
At this point, you may be thinking that B2B sales over messaging apps are all upsides and no downsides. That is simply not the case. The trouble with being on the selling side of the equation is that prospects will expect you to respond quicker than you would over email. On top of that, once the chat is over, you'll be left with a bunch of unstructured data.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with all these issues and it's not so different from dealing with email and phone calls. First, you'll need to get yourself a messaging CRM. A messaging CRM provides much the same tools an email CRM would. It will help you to keep a record of conversations and input contact attributed to structured data.
A key benefit of messaging is the small snippets of text in back and forth chats are a lot easier to automate than emails are. One way to give yourself a helping hand is to set up an onboarding automation at the beginning of the conversation. An onboarding automation will help you to get much of the same information that you would collect through a lead form on your website. You can ask the contact their name, the company they are from, and even more. A good messaging CRM will warehouse this data for you automatically.
Last but not least, you'll want to automate your frequently asked questions. FAQs are one of the most annoying issues with messaging. Your brain can give you the answer in a flash, but sometimes your poor thumbs just can't keep up. These days, with most messaging CRMs, you'll be able to create canned responses to answer these questions. Some will even allow you to send these responses automatically using AI, such as Rocketbots.
#3: Instant Online Demos When Chat is Not Enough
What if you've got a buyer who wants a demo right now? Also known as screen sharing apps for inside sales teams, with products such as CrankWheel on the market. Use these to provide online demos to those that want to learn more about a service/solution straight away, no matter where they are or what device they're using.
If you've been engaging with a prospect who's keen to have a demo and doesn't want to wait, then this is the ideal solution. Simply send them a link, and within moments you can be guiding a prospect through an instant online demo. Because you've been spending time getting to know them in a more personal way over messenger apps, the demo stage of the conversation is easier. Over business messenger apps, you should have already used the time to qualify them, show them you can deliver what they need.
So, now, using an instant online demo, this is a chance to take the conversation further and hopefully move this potential deal forward. Having the right apps in place is one of the most effective ways to ensure potential leads benefit from quicker responses. Beyond that, salespeople are even more effective when they've got the right materials in place. Such as demos, pitch deck, slides, and easy-to-adapt sales proposals to send out after a call.
Putting systems in place so that you can stay on the radar of a qualified lead is equally useful, such as marketing automation and email newsletters. To shorten the sales cycle, make it easy for leads to find you, to have a meaningful conversation over messenger apps, until they are ready to sign-off and move forward.
If you're interested in moving further with adopting messaging apps for your B2B sales process you'll find these articles useful: