The Worst Stat Ever for B2B Sales People
As a lifelong learner of all things B2B sales and marketing I’m always somehow still amazed at how we manage to hit an all-time low with each new stat that comes out about how hard it is to sell business-to-business (B2B) services.
B2B services are the things companies typically outsource like legal services, insurance, technology, financial services, HR services, commercial real estate etc. These are the services businesses need in order to be operational, successful, legal, compliant, etc. If it’s a service and it’s for a business, it’s falling into the category of B2B services, a category which nobody gets excited about buying (unless you’re buying interior architecture services for your new office space from DLR Group | Staffelbach then the check is much more fun to write).
Long sales cycles, multiple decision makers and complicated buying processes that fail to follow the neat and tidy sales funnel we all learned about in the 80’s are just a few of the things that make selling B2B services so difficult. But there’s one stat that I think illustrates this the best, and it’s this one:
When a sale rep (or business development person) calls on a business decision maker there is a 97% chance she or he is not in the market for the business service that even your best sales rep is trying to sell them.
So you’re telling me there’s still a chance? There is, a 3% one (Vorsight).
So what does this mean? Given the minute likelihood that your prospect is going to magically be in the market for what you’re trying to sell him that day, if you haven’t adopted lead nurturing as a component of your sales strategy, you too could become one of the many casualties that give up way too soon. What is lead nuturing? It’s really just a fancy way of describing the process of building a relationship with a prospect long before they’re ready to buy from you.
So how do you nuture leads? Well, the good news is the answer doesn’t involve rocket science although some content marketers and online sales gurus want you to believe it does. You put yourself in the prospect’s shoes (think customer empathy) and imagine what you would want from somebody trying to sell you something that you don’t need right now but you might need in the future.
You then arm your sales organization with those things — the tools and information (what we now refer to as “content”) that they need to develop relationships with buyers like you, during every stage of the buying process, and watch what happens; progress! And given that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads (Annuitus Group) you can quickly see the cost benefit especially if you’re among the 65% of B2B services companies who haven’t adopted lead nurturing yet (Marketing Sherpa).
So what goes into a lead nuturing campaign? I’m glad you asked. Chances are you’re already making this way more complicated than it needs to be.
Below is a laundry list of ways to nurture leads that won’t likely turn off your prospects yet provide them with useful information to support their buying journey while maybe even getting them to like you in the process. And because people do business with people they like, this would be a very very good thing.
While I recommend a customized solution that truly reflects your brand, mission and target audience, below are 10 easy ways to nuture your leads and arm your sales people with the tools they need to stay in front of their prospects keeping them top of mind so when the time does come when they’re ready to do business they have a tremendous advantage.
Email – Get straight to the point, show you’ve done your homework and quickly deliver what you’re emailing them about and why it will benefit them. I love mailshake for best practices in email outreach.
A phone call – most often a voice message – “Did you get my email?” “I’m really excited about visiting with you although now may not be the right time. I’d love to keep in touch if that’s ok with you – if not, let me know in your response to my email which will break my heart but I’ll live (although I really won’t want to).” Humor and humility gets people every time — but you have to be smart about it.
A hand-written note – The lost art of etiquette can be your new secret weapon if you take the time to do what 99% of everyone else fails to do which is send a hand-written note as a follow up — but don’t forget to drop in your business card. I watched a BD person secure a signficant piece of business for their company because her business card happened to be in the desk drawer on the day her prospect realized he needed fractional CFO services and just like that, she got the deal (as a result of this and a solid lead nurturing effort).
Recirculating news – Set up a Google alert for those companies you are really trying to do business with which pushes an email to you when they hit the news. Staying informed about your prospect’s business which also gives you a reason to reach out are two good reasons to set up Google alerts. Send a quick note of “this is great, congratuations” or ‘in case you didn’t see this I thought I’d pass it along!’ is something none of your competitors are doing and is a great way to differentiate yourself and stand out.
Case studies – Use of case studies especially when you align the case study with the prospect’s industry is a highly effective way of instilling credibility and creating a product for your prospects. Dallas-based Sendero Consulting calls their case studies client journeys which succinctly breaks down the challenge, the approach and the end result in a way that is easily digestible and well organized for the prospect.
Research shows what’s most important to buyers is that you have industry expertise (theirs) and are uniquely qualified to serve them. Think about targeting companies by industry and serve up a case study that best reflects the industry of the company you’re targeting
Tickets and invitations – Never underestimate the power of an invitation to a cool event, concert or sports outing. If the invite is social in nature, I believe there needs to be some rapport already established for this to make sense, but business events that your company or another may be hosting is definitely appropriate for colder prospects.
Nominate – If you know a company or its people are doing great things, take advantage of the many business award programs around Dallas and make sure your prospect is aware of the program or even nominate them when possible. It’s a great way to add tremendous value and generate good will.
e-Newsletters – Newsletters are notorious for their effectiveness in relationship and community building but creating one that’s interesting and useful to those outside of your organization is not as easy as it may seem. Make sure you really think about the objective of the newsletter and commit to producing great content monthly or quarterly so this contributes to your lead nuturing initiatives in a beneficial way.
Be where your prospects are – Getting out there and creating opportunities for chance encounters with people you’re trying to business with is one of the most important things you can do to establish a rapport with prospects. Face-to-face interaction is one of the most effective ways of doing this quickly, not to mention how it helps to reduce risk for the prospect when they consider your service in the future (they sort of already know you). This reminds me of the time a client was standing in the back of the room at an executive breakfast event facing forward chatting with another guest for several minutes before they decided to formally introduce themselves turning into one another. My client quickly realized he was talking with a prospect he was trying to get a meeting with for months, with no success. They both realized it at about the same time and broke into laughter, shortly before setting a time to finally meet.
Engage on Social Media – Keep up with prospects by engaging with them on social media. Comment or ‘like’ social media posts and engage with your prospect when they solicit feedback from their social communities. It shows you’re paying attention and taking an active interest in their business.
In summary, if you resort to sending only sales information about your company everytime you make contact with a prospect or even worse, sales pitches disguised as content (a mistake I see alot of companies make) you’re doing yourself and the prospect a huge injustice.
Sunny Nunan is the Founder of Core24 which provides best in class business resources to mid-market companies in Dallas, Texas and The Admin Awards, the country’s first and only awards program that publicly recognizes the invaluable contributions of Administrative Professionals.