A good B2B sales process is a series of stepping stones designed to help salespeople guide leads to conversion. It starts with attracting prospects, then scales and evolves into a repeatable process for successful sales.
B2B is much different than B2C when it comes to sales, but that doesn’t mean that it’s entirely foreign. Many of the techniques and processes we will discuss today will be cross-compatible.
Nevertheless, what’s to follow is strictly for B2B sales processes. We’ll discuss why having a defined sales process in B2B is so important and discuss some strategies and steps you can take to implement your own.
Why you need a B2B sales process
The thing about sales is that no one sale is the same. You’ll deal with different industries, issues, problems, and needs, as well as various people. A good B2B sales process is valuable because it allows the salespeople to improvise and continue the push towards conversion.
But it’s not all adlib. No, much of it needs to be a rigid structure so that your sales team always has a guiding light to get their direction straight.
So, while being able to improvise in the middle of a sale is nice, a good B2B sales process also provides the following:
- A rigid process for new starters to get up to date.
- When broken down into stages, the sales process makes it much easier to identify what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs improvement.
- The tighter the structure, the harder it will be to overlook or skip an important step.
- Forecasting becomes much more accurate when you can see exactly where the lead/prospect is in the sales funnel.
- A properly structured B2B sales process opens a feedback loop between you and the customer.
Of course, this is a very short list of benefits for a properly structured B2B sales process. In reality, the sales process will evolve a lot more than just sales.
But let’s break it down a little further. Defining your B2B sales process and sticking to it can yield amazing benefits for the entire company. I’m not talking about minute details here. We’re talking about:
- Higher conversion rates.
- Bigger deals.
- Less time spent making guesses.
The 8 stages of the B2B sales process
Okay, now we understand what a B2B sales process is and how it can help us, but how do we put that into practice?
I’ll break down the sales process into eight stages to make it a little easier. These are the stages you, as the salesperson and the lead, will take to make that final conversion touchdown.
Starting from the top, we have:
1. Lead generation
To nurture a lead, you have to generate them first. Every sale starts here, and it’s a vital first step to making sure your leads make it to the end. This is the process of finding your qualified leads.
Qualified leads can be boiled down to those who have expressed interest in your brand, product, or service.
Read more: Lead Generation 101: How to get started?
Just like leads need to discover what you’re all about, you also need to discover what they’re all about. Every good salesperson knows what they’re selling inside and out, but every great salesperson also knows who they’re selling to. You can think of this as a preliminary discovery in a court system. Before the process starts, you have to identify the possible defendant (or lead in this case).
The discovery stage of the sales process is all about research. You need to know who you’re trying to sell to by connecting with them on LinkedIn, checking their activity, and gathering insights so that you can better sell to them. You can also conduct qualification calls to refine this process, but we’ll get more into that in the next section.
More than that, you should be visiting their website, seeing what they’re talking about and who they’re associated with. Pay attention to how they speak and how they approach problems. Then, take all of this information and read up on the latest news in that industry or sector.
It’s not a quick process, but remember that we’re after big deals here. The more research you put in, the more you can discover. The more you can discover, the better equipped you will be to address their pain points directly and sell them something worth buying.
So you’ve done all the grunt work, and now it’s time to start making some moves. You have to qualify all of these leads to focus on the ones with the highest potential to convert.
To do this, I highly advise using a lead scoring system. The more boxes they tick, the higher the score and the more pre-qualified they will be.
When you jump into calls with them, try asking open-ended questions that will drive out more information. Focus on their pain points and use everything you’ve learned about them so far to determine whether or not you can help them.
4. The sales pitch
The next stage in the B2B sales process is the pitch. You should understand the pain points and struggles your leads are going through. Using that information, you should come up with a pitch. This is where you explain your solution, what it can do for the lead, and why it is the best.
Nobody is going to nail this on the first try. It takes some tweaking, patience, and a little bit of creativity to make a good sales pitch.
Here are some points that you should consider adding to your sales pitch:
- Show that you’ve done your research. Quote some of the prospects that the prospected company prospects to.
- Explain yourself, but also keep that sense of curiosity. Never over-explain, as it’s a quick way to bore your prospect and send them running for the hills.
- Try not to focus too much on features. Focus on issues that your solution can solve.
A good sales pitch will only last around 30-40 seconds. Any longer than that, and they won’t remember what you said. Any shorter, and they will wonder why it’s no longer. Practice in the mirror if you have to, but make sure that the pitch is as well structured as the rest of the B2B sales process.
Or, you can use this opportunity to conduct a demo call. This will allow you to give the personal attention the prospect needs while showing off what you’re selling. Sure, it’s not 30 seconds, but it is a good option for those seeking additional guidance.
5. Question handling
Even after qualification and the sales pitch, a prospect will rarely be ready to pull the trigger. Most likely, they will have some objections or questions that they need answers to before they continue.
The key here is to remember that the prospect cannot be wrong. As silly as their question might seem, even if you feel you’ve already answered it, they need a steadfast and genuine answer. These questions will give you more insight into what they need, and you can adjust your strategy based on what they ask.
As time goes on, you will have heard many questions multiple times, giving you the ability to answer them promptly. This is ideal in the B2B scene because your prospects are looking for fast answers. If you can’t provide, they might just end it there.
6. Closing the deal
At last, we’ve arrived at the point in the B2B sales process where all your hard work will pay off. Once you’ve reached this point, it’s all kind of downhill. You’ve qualified leads, pitched to them, answered their dying questions, and now they’re ready to commit. You’ve provided them with a solution they simply cannot pass up.
It’s important to note that big deals often mean discussions and negotiations. This could mean a custom feature is thrown in for them or a price reduction for a two-year contract. Either way, you need to be ready with a quick answer once again.
You must discuss the next few steps with the new customer in this discussion. Ensure all their questions are answered, and you have all the information you need to process their requests. By the end of this stage, there should be a signed contract.
7. Following up
That’s the first step in the relationship between you and the customer. After everything is said and done, a follow-up email sends a good impression.
In this email, outline what was discussed with the customer in the previous discussion. Summarize your interactions up until that point, and provide the next few steps in writing for them. Make sure you add any helpful information that may not have been discussed before there, too.
You can even automate this email process so that they have this information almost immediately. Sending personalized emails doesn’t have to take forever. Just make sure you’re using a tool that’s capable of doing what you need it to do, scaling as deals get bigger and the need for personalized follow-up emails grows.
Following up like this leaves the sale on a positive note. This top-tier service will leave the door wide open for future sales. It sets the relationship between the company and the customer off on the right foot.
8. Checking in
You don’t want to be bothersome, but after everything is said and done, checking in with your customer really is the icing on the cake. Ask them how they’re doing, how they like your solution, and what you can do to improve it. Again, this will provide some valuable insight that you can take with you into the next sale.
This is called the feedback loop, and without a structured B2B sales process in place and without taking all of these steps above, it would be a lot more difficult. You see, a good B2B sales process is always evolving. This feedback provides you with the push necessary to make those improvements.
How to build your own B2B sales process
Now we’ve reached the point where we can build our own B2B sales process. Like many things in marketing, this depends on your unique business, audience, and goals.
You will certainly figure all of this out along the way. As I’ve mentioned above, this process will take tweaking, adjusting, and evolving. Here are a few things you can do to start off on the right foot and propel yourself towards success.
1. Define the buying process
Before you build your sales process, you must define the buying process. These are the steps that the lead will take to get to the final goal: conversion. Depending on the actions the lead takes, the buying process can evolve, requiring additional or different actions on your part. This process, of course, is different from the sales process.
As you can see in the buying process, there are many avenues that a lead can take in each step. Ideally, you will have a response ready to go no matter what they decide to do.
Defining the buying process for your B2B sales is important because it lets the salesperson know exactly where the prospect/lead stands. For example, if you have a lead just now exploring options in the buying process, it could scare them off quickly to hit them with negotiations. You have to line these two processes up to really maximize their efficiencies.
2. Define sales stages
Speaking of lining up these two processes, you might want to do that beforehand, too. Defining the sales stages in such a way that they line up with the buyer’s journey is essential to the longevity and success of your B2B sales process.
You might only have 5 sales stages, or you might have 12. What’s important is that they make sense for your company and do what they’re designed to do: sell.
I’ll give an example of some sales stages as the prospect makes their way through the funnel.
- Introduction meeting
- Sales presentation
- Demo call
- Follow up
These stages will be reflected in the sales pipeline of your CRM tool.
As you can see, these stages don’t need to be overly complicated. They just need to be defined. Take everything we’ve discussed until this point and draw out your stages. Undoubtedly, they will be added to or taken away from over time, but a good definition up front is the best way to get started.
3. Define each stage’s objective
Now we have two processes: The buyer’s process and B2B sales. Both of these processes should line up to support each other, and each stage of both will need objectives.
Again, this will be unique to your company, but there are a few questions that can help you define these objectives at each stage. Here are some examples of those questions:
- In each stage, what is the targeted outcome?
- What is the goal of each stage?
- What is the sales team supposed to accomplish here in this stage?
If you even find yourself lost in or unsure about a certain stage, point yourself back towards these questions. Feel free to add to this little list and use it as a guiding light anytime you want to add or take away from the processes.
4. Define necessary actions
We have defined the objectives at each stage, so it’s time to define the actions we need to take to meet those objectives. There’s not a lot to say here because many factors can contribute to these actions.
What I will say, however, is that each action needs to be clearly defined. In most cases, it will be a series of actions that leads to the prospect’s promotion to the next stage of the given process.
5. Define the sales tools you’ll be using
In the world of marketing and sales, tools are important. Some might even say sales and marketing would be impossible nowadays without these tools.
Because of this, you will need to define the tools that will be needed in the B2B sales process. Go into detail and break down the stages according to what tools will be needed at certain points. In some cases, you might use a tool across multiple stages.
For example, you might use a CRM from beginning to end and an email automation tool to streamline and automate communication.
A sales tool isn’t always some online SaaS. You can loosely define a sales tool as an asset that aids in a sale. With that definition in mind, a case study, how-to guides, and customer references could be a sales tool.
Now you see why it’s essential to have these tools defined for each stage and action. It can get complicated, so ensure you know exactly when to utilize a certain sales enabling tool and align the entire sales team on how to use them.
6. Define the marketing tools you’ll be using
Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand. Without one, the other would not exist. They rely on each other to get conversions and increase revenue, so of course, it’s important to define the marketing tools as well as the sales tool.
In many cases, it’s due to the marketing team’s efforts that the leads find your company in the first place. And, like sales, marketing tools aren’t always something as simple as WordPress. In fact, blog articles, ebooks, webinars, and newsletters are all marketing tools.
Carefully dissect your B2B sales process as it relates to the buyer’s process, and decide when certain marketing tools need to be implemented. Ensure that both the sales and marketing teams have access to these tools at all times.
7. Continuously improve
You will never be perfect. That’s not a statement designed to discourage you. Instead, it should serve as inspiration. That’s an opportunity to increase sales, close more deals, and send your profits soaring.
In each stage, with every objective, and after every sale, your first thought should always be, “How can I improve this”? Improvement is inevitable if you go into the sales process with that attitude.
Take all the feedback you can get and apply it to this improvement process. Learn what customers like and, more importantly, what they don’t like. Take what they have to say to heart and try to encourage an environment where all teams (not just sales) aim to evolve their skills and benefit the company.
Conclusions and takeaway
The B2b sales process can be as complicated as you’d like it to be. In truth, it will be a little overwhelming at first. Defining something that can be this complex is a daunting task, but that’s why it will constantly need attention and improvement.
While your brand might not change much, and the things you’re selling might remain the same, everything around you, including your competition, will change to meet the market’s demands. Consumer behavior, customer demands, competition, and market trends will undoubtedly influence the way you do sales. You will need to keep pushing for improvements to keep up.
All of this is to say that simply by being here in this article, you’re taking the steps needed to improve, understand, and define your own B2b sales process. Take it one step at a time, and use every interaction as a learning opportunity. Even if it takes a long time, you will see improvements.