13th May 2019

How to modernise your B2B sales process

Simon Wakeman
Chief Executive Officer

In a commercial world increasingly defined by instant gratification and frictionless transactions, traditional boundaries between B2C and B2B sales are disintegrating. Our research into the B2B sales cycle has shown us that the B2B buyer now behaves much more like a consumer, with expectations of a faster, more convenient and more personalised sales service crossing multiple digital touchpoints. Adapting to this new paradigm means bringing various channels together to deliver a consistent, cohesive experience which removes pain points for the buyer.


B2B is B2C

It’s more and more the case that B2B buyers are just B2C buyers in disguise. The same people who buy your products and services on behalf of a business are the very same people who use Netflix, Amazon and iTunes at home. Their expectations of an online sales process have been molded and shaped by these frictionless experiences - which almost never involve any face-to-face or telephone contact - and these expectations carry over into their working lives.

In their 2015 report, ​Death of a (B2B) Salesman​,​ ​Forrester found that 93% of the buyers they surveyed want to buy goods and services for their business online. In that same year, only 9% of B2B sales happened online.

Successful online service providers, such as Slack and Intercom, have built their businesses around a B2C way of doing things. They use digital to engage and inform, using great design to draw you in and provide all the information you need to make a decision.

They also make it incredibly easy to progress through each stage of the buying cycle, with a minimum number of steps and clicks before you’re putting your credit card details into a form and using their services.

This focus on bringing B2C values and methods into the world of B2B services has helped these companies grow at an astonishing rate, rapidly displacing their older, more established competition.

While it can be a challenge to implement these changes in a B2B business, if you don’t disrupt yourself, someone soon will.


Mastering multi-channel B2B sales

Modern sales processes take place over a number of channels. You can no longer afford for your website, sales team and marketing efforts to sit in distinct silos, they must instead form a single continuum that drives leads and customers to your business.

According to Google, ​71% of B2B research starts with a generic search​, making the discoverability of your website and content critical to your sales success. And once you’ve engaged a potential buyer, you need to use all the channels at your disposal to keep them with you through the buying process and beyond, whether they’re buying online or not.


Your website is a critical sales tool: avoid basic mistakes

Google reports that the largest age demographic currently in the workforce is millennials, with 46% of B2B buyers aged between 18 and 34. The younger the workforce, the more likely they are to be digital natives.

This new generation are no longer phoning salespeople and reading brochures. They’re heading to their favourite search engine to find and evaluate potential solutions. They’re looking for a solution to their problem, instead of searching for specific brands. Your website is uniquely placed to tell these buyers about the problems you solve.

Your website is now the first point of contact many will have with your business. It can be used by you to inform visitors, persuade buyers, and warm up leads before they contact you. It has never been more important to reflect on the role your website plays in your sales journey.

Common website problems can prevent B2B businesses from delivering a great online experience. Broken links, dead-end pages, and contact forms that go nowhere will stop a potential buyer in their tracks, or even prevent them from discovering your brand in the first place.

The following quick wins can bring a site up to date with basic buyer expectations:

  • Make sure all links are visible, understandable and go where they’re supposed to.
  • Make sure headings look like headings and act like headings and that they’re not just bold text pretending to be a heading.
  • Make sure navigation is easy to find, easy to follow, and prioritises the pages and sections that are most important to your buyers.
  • Make sure your website is always able to offer your buyers a way forward. If you find a dead end, remove it or connect it back up.
  • Make sure you’re using a limited selection of fonts and are using them consistently across your site.

A well-designed and well-kept website shows you care. And buyers love it when they find a business that cares.


The medium is the message: use video to inform, engage and convert

While the role of video has been the subject of much hype in recent years, there’s no doubt that it can be effective when used in the right way. Google found that ​70% of B2B buyers are using video to inform their buying decisions​; with 20% of buyers watching an hour or more of video before making a decision.

But a video strategy is about more than just making a few short advertisements and posting them on your social feeds. Video will only work as a sales tool when it plays a part in a larger, considered content strategy that takes into account the needs and concerns of your audience and addresses them in a format that’s right for the channel through which they’re being consumed.

A common framework for video content, and the one recommended by YouTube, is the hero, hub, hygiene model:

  • Hero content is narrative-driven or entertaining. It’s designed to cut through the noise of social media and bring new eyes to your brand in much the same way as a TV commercial. This is expensive content to produce, so you’ll probably only do it once or twice a year, if at all.
  • Hub content continues the story through introductions to your products and services, directly addressing the needs of your target audiences and showing them how you can meet them. They might include real case studies and testimonials from customers - this is the kind of video that can increase landing page conversion rates by 86%.
  • Hygiene content is made to answer specific questions that arise for buyers during or after the sales cycle. These videos are often much cheaper to produce and are optimised for particular search terms, so they tend to form the bulk of a video content strategy.

Choosing the right channels through which to distribute your content is crucial. Social networks make it easier than ever to create an engaging and up to date brand presence online. So, find out where your buyers are - Facebook, Instagram,Twitter - and go to them, ensuring that your content is optimised for the channel.


Personalise your sales journey: employ a bot

However much effort you put into creating distinct user journeys on your website that cater for all the needs of your varied customer base, the end result will always be something of a one-size-fits-all solution. However granular the segmentation of your audiences, you can never really know exactly what’s on a visitor’s mind when they land on your website. Unless, that is, you offer a live chat or chatbot experience.

Rather than forcing your customers to navigate to the content they need to answer their questions, an interactive chat feature allows them to ask those questions directly, and either get quick answers, or quickly get routed to the relevant content. Messaging is becoming an increasingly important part of sales and customer service, with Facebook recently reporting that 56% of people would rather message a business than call customer service.

The chief benefit of chatbots over providing real-time human assistance is that they provide round-the-clock, instantaneous service, so your customers never have to leave your website with unanswered questions. But additionally, chatbots can also ask questions of your customers, drilling into their needs and reducing the amount of time your sales team needs to spend on qualification.

Designing the conversational interface of a chatbot so that it addresses your customers’ needs can be tricky. But once you’ve done it, the same bot can often be deployed via social networks and messaging apps, adding to the number of channels through which you can engage potential customers at minimum additional cost.


Conclusion: know your audience (better)

We’ve presented three ways to improve your B2B sales experience for buyers: improving your website experience, using video to inform and engage, and providing instantaneous answers through chat features. But underlying all three is the need to continuously deepen your understanding of who your customers are, what they need, and how they want to interact with your business. Such an understanding is essential for delivering a unified sales experience across multiple channels. We’ll investigate that topic in the next post in this series...

To learn more about our B2B research, and for more insights on how to transform your sales process for today’s buyers, download “The modern B2B buyer” now.