B2B Sales Cycle:  The Game Has Changed

B2B Sales Cycle: The Game Has Changed

Sale Cycle

From one sales professional to another, after close to 20 years in various B2B sales roles and industries, I feel confident in saying one thing with absolute certainty…

The game has changed in the B2B Sales Cycle.

This is not only true for the constantly evolving sales process and methodology, but for customer decision making and technology as well. Nothing like pointing out the obvious, right?  Back when I started my sales career the mantra was “people buy from people they like and trust” and the concept of “solution selling” was just starting to gain traction. My manager armed me with a phone card, and the yellow pages were my lead list. The sales team shared one computer because no one was sure if that email “thing” was ever going to take off. On a side note, before I date myself completely, my first employer was not exactly on the cutting edge of technology. From a customer perspective, voice mail was the new gatekeeper, and if a prospect had a question they picked up the phone and called sales.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. While likability and credibility are still critical components of a sound business relationship, to gain a prospect’s attention you need to tell them something that will separate you from the pack. While email has become the communication vehicle of choice for many sales reps and customers alike, it has also amplified the “noise” of vendors seeking a share of wallet. Technology has afforded sales the ability to reach more qualified prospects, more quickly and more often. As a result, prospective customers are inundated with a barrage of messages around how a product or service will save them time and money. At the same time that technology has made it easier for sales to reach out, it has also made it easier for prospects to shut sales down. Additionally, prospective buyers now have the resources available to research how to fill their needs without involving a sales professional, and that trend is increasing every year. The vast majority of people in today’s business environment are tasked with doing more in less time, so as the noise of vendor solicitations continues to increase, prospects decide to shut off communication by ignoring the incoming messages and conducting their own research as needs arise. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with this approach. Has the prospect identified the need correctly? Has the prospect considered all the possible alternatives? What real issues within the company aren’t being addressed? Often, it takes a professional from outside the organization to identify problems and find optimal solutions.

As a sales professional, ask yourself this question. What is the value to me of knowing when a prospect is interested in my solution before they have identified themselves to me?

Before you answer the question, here are a few interesting data points from various research studies. Over 40% of businesses now conduct research prior to engaging a vendor, at which point they have already completed close to 60% of their decision making process. Of the businesses that conduct research on a vendor’s website less than 2% identify themselves by filling out a contact form. Over 70% of vendors that engage with a prospect first, get the deal.

Based on that, let’s assume you agree there is value in early identification of prospects visiting your website, but you are now struggling with quantifying what that value is. As a sales professional, you know your close ratios, your average selling price and how many additional qualified opportunities you or your sales team can handle. Multiply the additional opportunities by your average sales price and your close ratio and you should have a reasonable guess of additional sales potential. Be warned, depending on your business model, your result may look too good to be true. Just remember, it is still up to you and/or your sales team to follow a solid sales process to close the additional opportunities. In today’s environment, part of that process needs to include client centered impact messaging and consistent follow up. Having that messaging and consistency take place with someone that has already shown interest should increase the probability of a business relationship significantly.

Since you’re reading this blog, you may already have VisitorTrack, in which case, congratulations, you have what you need to get started in targeting the prospects that have already shown an interest in your offering. It’s easy, but you can always call us to get some guidance.  If you don’t have a tool for early identification, considering the trend and your company’s specific challenges, you may want to look into it. The science (yes I said science instead of art) of selling continues to evolve and initial engagement is becoming more and more challenging. Good luck in your selling efforts.