I’ve always been interested in sales. Not just the act of selling itself, but the psychology of how to convince a customer that you are offering a solution to their problems, rather than trying to convince them to part with their cash. The advertising industry has perfected the art of convincing customers that wants should be needs, but most of what we think of as sales and advertising relates to the B2C marketplace.
B2C means Coca Cola or Fairy liquid. It’s the products that you go out and buy. Those companies need to develop marketing campaigns that remind you why you need them. In some cases, these can be very clever – look at how Heineken beer has become a very subtle staple of the James Bond movies. In others, like most washing powder ads, it looks like the format has not changed for decades.
But there are also B2B relationships and although there are naturally fewer customers in the B2B world, it is also extremely important..
B2B sales has been traditionally very relationship based over the years. A company manager will buy from a company that meets the correct criteria, offers the right price, but more importantly has people he or she feels trustworthy. Often these relationships will endure over many years, so a manager leaving one company for a rival can often win business from previous clients – if that manager previously did a good job managing the relationship between the two companies.
There are some very smart changes that are changing the B2B sales process though – reflecting the complexities that have transformed how B2C companies market themselves. This Inc.com features dates from one year ago, but the observations are still valid, and are in fact accelerating:
- Content Marketing: content is more critical than ever before, specially when companies are in the process of developing a relationship. When a manager you don’t know gets in touch to talk about a product, a natural reaction today is to Google that person, or check for them on LinkedIn, or at the very least to Google the company. What comes back from these search results is becoming a critical part of the sales process – managing the content that is published in your name is now essential.
- Information availability: companies have never before has so much access to so much information. They can compare your products with your rivals, check prices, check if there are similar competitors anywhere in the world – and all almost instantly. There is no longer any concept of a local sale, any company can deal with any other company.
- CRM: systems like Salesforce are systematically supplying more information to sales teams than ever before. CRM used to be an expensive mistake in many companies because it was not implemented well and often not used, but now it’s easy to use and offers a formidable insight into what your customer or prospect needs.
B2B sales are being transformed by these processes and companies not exploring all three areas will struggle in a more flexible environment where marketing, sales, and relationships blur together. How has your own sales process evolved recently? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.