B2B Sales Strategy: How to Form Strategies That Win in B2B
With today’s B2B decision-makers having access to more buying information than ever, they need less and less input from salespeople. That’s why it’s imperative for sales teams to create and execute a targeted B2B sales strategy to help them consistently and predictably win new and repeat business.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about B2B sales strategies including what they are, why you need one, and some solid starting points for creating your own.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is a B2B Sales Strategy?
- Why Is a B2B Sales Strategy Important?
- Common B2B Sales Strategies
- Sales and Marketing Alignment
- Lead Nurturing
- B2B Sales Enablement Tools
What Is a B2B Sales Strategy?
A B2B sales strategy is an action plan that a sales team designs and carries out in order to convert as many prospects as possible into customers. The best B2B sales strategies are often co-created by sales, marketing, and customer success teams.
The goal of a sales strategy is to empower sales reps with the mindset, resources, and action steps they need to persuade buyers from your target audience to purchase your product.
The specifics of any given sales strategy — things like the target market, the resources involved, the investments of time and/or capital required the role marketing will play, etc. — will be unique to each individual company and team. Teams should take care to design their strategies using the most up-to-date and thoroughly-researched data available.
With that being said, all of the most successful B2B sales strategies have one thing in common: they’re designed with the buyer’s journey in mind.
It’s important that you create your sales strategy with the ultimate goal being to proactively meet prospects’ needs throughout their journey to purchase.
Of course, that’s not to say that your sales strategy should ignore the needs, goals, and resources available to your own business — sales strategies are ultimately designed to benefit the teams that create them. But the most successful ones are written from the mindset of aiming to serve the customer, rather than aiming to meet quota.
With that in mind, a high-quality B2B sales strategy should be an actionable, repeatable, and scalable process; in other words, successful execution of the strategy should produce tangible, predictable impacts on your bottom line.Enable your team to run a repeatable sales processTrack, analyze, and standardize what’s working
Why Is a B2B Sales Strategy Important?
It’s been well-known for a while that the internet permanently changed what it means to sell products. In today’s digital world, where access to information is virtually limitless and instantaneous, buyers can easily navigate most buying decisions without any input from a sales team.
In fact, current data shows that about 52% of buyer decisions are made before ever making contact with a sales team.
Compounding this challenge is the fact that buyers today are not only more independent but also more skeptical and more fastidious — both of which have increased the length of the B2B sales cycle by 22% in the last five years.
A targeted sales strategy can mitigate these issues. It allows salespeople to design a proactive plan for meeting buyers where they are instead of waiting to react (at which point decisions have usually already been made).
In addition to providing sales reps the opportunity to proactively meet buyers’ needs, there are several other benefits to developing a sales strategy:
Each component of the B2B sales strategy improves your funnel’s revenue-generating capacity. It enables sales and marketing to optimize their outreach efforts to generate and maintain new and repeat business. A well-designed sales strategy allows your sales team to make the strongest possible case for your product’s unique selling points.
Common B2B Sales Strategies
While it’s true that the best B2B sales strategies are tailor-made for the companies deploying them, there are a few well-known sales strategies that almost every successful company draws from as they create their own.
Before your teams collaborate to design your company’s B2B sales strategy, make sure your sales and marketing departments have a thorough, shared understanding of the following:
- Your current sales process and the resources it requires
- The specifics of your target market, including their content/engagement preferences
- How many decision-makers are involved in the purchase process, and how they prefer to interact
- How long you can afford to stretch a sales cycle as you optimize your new sales strategy
Once your teams are on the same page about these details, you can start looking more specifically at how you will design the various components of your sales strategy. There are several well-known, data-backed B2B sales strategies that can help you get the ball rolling as you create your own.
Strategic selling is an approach that requires the sales rep to extend their research far into the organization chart of the prospect company.
Usually starting with just a single point of contact, the sales rep must then work to identify and research several additional potential contacts within the organization. Ideally, these will be people of varied roles and levels of influence within the purchase decision.
Once the list of contacts has been established, the rep works to learn about each contact’s influencing factors and develops individualized pitches to meet their various needs.
The strategic selling strategy works because it allows sales reps to display the full range of your product’s capabilities by pitching them all to different people. Once each contact feels assured that your product can solve their individual pain point, they make easy work of convincing one another that your product is a worthy investment.
In a solution selling strategy, the salesperson makes a concerted effort to focus the conversation on the prospect’s needs and challenges.
In other words, a solution selling approach advises reps to stay far away from the traditional “features and benefits” spiel and instead prioritizes a prospect-focused conversation that uncovers their deepest pain points. This kind of insight then allows sales reps to create a custom pitch tailoring the solution around the prospect’s needs.
Sales reps using a solution selling strategy should plan to spend a lot of time educating their prospects. This takes some practice and mindset work, but it pays off. Ultimately, the solution selling strategy delivers because it places the seller in the role of trusted consultant to the prospect. This helps the prospect feel valued and cared for throughout the sales process.
Account-based selling (sometimes also known as account-based marketing, or ABM) is one of the most popular B2B selling strategies out there. In fact, it’s more popular than ever — in 2019 Gartner saw a 50% increase in $10M+-revenue companies adopting this strategy over a period of just two years. Nearly 75% of these top-performing companies use some kind of account-based selling strategy.
In account-based selling, the sales team treats every prospect company as its own market of one. It is a multi-touch, multi-channel strategy that requires targeted, strategic collaboration with a variety of stakeholders and decision-makers within the target company.
To implement account-based selling, you need robust data from either your existing customer base or your target audience; you’ll use this to identify common characteristics among your target accounts and create custom value offerings for each.
This strategy is almost all prospecting — sales reps’ research and qualifying questions provide the scaffolds for the little bit of pitching that eventually takes place as part of this B2B sales strategy.
Account-based selling works best for companies that have particularly long or complex sales cycles, or ones that typically require input from several stakeholders. Like strategic selling, account-based selling gives sellers the opportunity to address several unique selling propositions based on the different buyer personas inherently present in the process.
For as much popularity and success as account-based selling enjoys, there is perhaps no more relevant and pervasive sales strategy today than social selling.
A social selling strategy allows marketers and sales reps to leverage the power of social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to:
- Establish their company as a trusted expert and thought leader in the industry
- Attract, converse with, and provide value to prospects and customers
- Build long-term relationships with prospects and colleagues
With nearly 70% of B2B customers reporting that they use social media to research buying decisions, nearly all companies will benefit from adding a social selling component to their B2B sales strategy.
Social selling is so effective because it prioritizes the relationship over the sale. It gives prospects and companies the forum to connect in authentic conversation.
The better the conversation, the higher the conversion rate.
Tip: Check out our free guide below with tons of data-driven findings to enhance your B2B sales strategy.Sales Engagement Data Trends from 3+ Million Sales ActivitiesLooking at millions of tracked email activity over the past few years, this ebook is filled with our top studies and findings to help sales teams accelerate results.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
The nuts and bolts of your B2B sales strategy will outline the steps your sales team needs to take to meet their goals. However, even more important to its success than the specifics of your sales strategy is the careful alignment of your sales and marketing teams.
Teams with well-aligned sales and marketing teams enjoy:
- 20% annual growth rate
- 38% higher sales wins
- 36% higher customer retention rate
Aligning sales and marketing also increases annual company revenue, improves brand awareness, and increases average deal size.
On the other hand, a sales strategy created without collaboration between these two teams is almost certain to fail.
Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas are some of the most basic foundational components of your B2B sales strategy. Sales and marketing should work together to create detailed buyer personas for each prospect they’re likely to encounter.
These buyer personas will be particularly useful for teams using an account-based selling or strategic selling strategy. The marketing team can create custom, tailored content for each buyer persona, and sales can strategically use that content to nurture leads through the funnel.
Buyer personas also help salespeople prepare for and handle common sales objections.
On the flip side, salespeople can provide marketers feedback on what content resonates best “out in the field,” and marketers can use this information to refine the persona profiles. This feedback loop allows both teams to continue to address the needs and concerns of the market.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is another area where sales and marketing can mutually benefit from successful collaboration.
Sales teams can use their social media conversations to pinpoint specific commentary, buying signals, and pain points from ideal customers. This is called “social listening,” and is one of the biggest assets of a social selling strategy. Sales teams can pass this intel back to marketing, who can then, in turn, create highly targeted marketing campaigns for social media ads.
Sales and marketing should also work together to design a social media content-sharing strategy with a thoughtfully-planned cadence that speaks to the buyer’s journey.
Speaking of content sharing, sales and marketing should also work together to design several email marketing sequences for different customer segments. This content should also be designed strategically alongside the social media content.
Your email engagement rate, time to reply, and email reply rate are all important metrics to track that will help assess how efficiently your sales and marketing teams have aligned.
It’s also important that your sales strategy addresses those leads that are somewhere in the middle — the ones that represent a good fit but need more nurturing to move through the funnel.
Here are some tips for designing your B2B sales strategy in a way that meets the needs of all leads, regardless of their purchasing timeline.
Segment Your Leads
Segmenting your lead list like this enables sales to deliver hyper-personalized outreach and content at exactly the right moments.
Score Your Leads
Another way to determine which leads should allocate resources is with a lead scoring process.
There are several ways to score leads. Some assign points for specific attributes and behaviors, like the example shown here:
And some place their leads on more of a loose spectrum:
Regardless of the lead-scoring model your teams choose, it bears repeating the importance of sales and marketing alignment. The teams need to be aligned on how to define these various terms, scores, and rating scales.
Automate Your Campaigns
One of the reasons sales teams are reluctant to segment and/or score their leads is because the process can lead to a complex series of outreach campaigns. Meeting the content and timing needs of several highly specific subgroups is no easy feat, and the logistical challenges of the task can be a turn-off or downright impossibility for busy sales reps.
Use automation to your advantage here. There are plenty of tools available that can help marketing and sales teams store, organize, and analyze your content and outreach performance (we’ll go over some of those in the next section).Multi-channel campaignsPlan, execute, and track multi-touch campaigns for all of your customer segments
B2B Sales Enablement Tools
There are a number of tools in the sales enablement space that can support and improve your B2B sales strategy. The software you choose should allow all stakeholders in the sales process the ability to peek into the sales process, from the very beginning to the very end.
Sales enablement tools offer marketers and sales reps a place to store, manage, track, and analyze all of their sales content: long-form articles, ebooks, product guides, demos, white papers, case studies, and any other sales collateral your team relies on throughout the process.
Do not underestimate the importance of a varied library of industry-relevant content: a 2020 Edelman study showed that 49% of decision-makers report being influenced by thought leadership content, and 89% say it improves their perception of the company.
A sales enablement platform can help you leverage your content in a valuable way. Here are a few of our favorites.
Cloze ensures alignment between board-level revenue strategy, sales strategy, and tactical execution. It helps you optimize conversion at every stage with buyer alignment and relevant messaging. It also offers training and coaching programs based on the analytics of your execution.
Fision helps strengthen the bond between sales and marketing. It gives reps 24/7 access to selling materials and the ability to customize brand-compliant material with a template builder.
MindTickle helps teams identify winning rep behavior and conversation. This platform leverages gamification and microlearning tools to make optimizing the sales process fun and engaging.
Does your team have a B2B sales strategy? How effective is it? What steps can you take today to further optimize it?
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