March 18, 2011

B2B sales and marketing

Improving your business-to-business sales and marketing technique can deliver significant returns. The trick is to put yourself in the customers’ shoes.

We share the steps for improving your business-to-business sales and marketing technique so that it can help deliver significant returns.

Business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing can be a lonely space. While there are countless books, professional development courses and seminars aimed at business-to-consumer marketers, there is comparatively less on the subject of B2B sales and marketing.

“There’s little guidance the B2B marketer can get on what ‘good’ looks like”, says Hugh Macfarlane, CEO of marketing consultancy, MathMarketing, and author of The Leaky Funnel. “The B2B discipline is largely populated by people learning the art ‘on the fly’.”

In training and speaking with businesses of varying sizes, Macfarlane advocates ‘Funnel Logic’ (a system used to improve sales and marketing effectiveness) and an unwavering focus on the customer. Admittedly, the funnel metaphor is no revolutionary concept but Macfarlane’s principles and methodologies for enhancing B2B sales and marketing practices are extremely practical and results driven.

“We see a lot of businesses that look at the sales process and think ‘what are we going to do?'” he says. “But what we really need to ask is ‘what does the customer want to do?’.” The methodology for successful B2B selling is to completely step out of your own shoes and into your customers’ shoes.”

Funnel logic dictates that there’s always a series of steps a customer takes on the purchase journey, from ‘who are you and why are you calling me?’ to ‘hey, that’s a great idea – let’s do business’.

According to Macfarlane, the methodology for successful B2B selling can be dissected into four fundamental steps:

  1. Determine the progressions a customer must make on the journey from prospect to buyer.
  2. Determine how many buyers need to make those progressions for you to reach your revenue goals.
  3. Identify tactics good enough to achieve progressions at that rate.
  4. Measure what’s actually going on.

“Selling is really about changing opinion”, says Macfarlane. “Our advice to resource-poor businesses is not to continue to try a multitude of trial tactics but to focus on one, two or three really good tactics that will progressively change opinion over a period of time, and find a way to execute them rhythmically, say every month.”

“For example, if you’re going to write a blog post, write one a week. If you’re going to produce a white paper, produce a series. If you’re going to do an email newsletter, do 20. Then repeat the cycle over and over and progressively change opinion.”

Mark Roberts, Manager Letters Portfolio, Postal Services, Australia Post, says ongoing communication is critical to ensuring a successful B2B customer relationship.

“Providing something of value over and above the product you’re trying to sell is key,” he says. Increasingly, this is content, in the form of a regular direct mail newsletter, website or social media platform that’s useful to your customer but also evidences your ability to help solve their problems.”

Taking that leadership position in adding value and highlighting strengths is a winning formula for B2B. Macfarlane mentions Combo, an IT services company that has featured three times in BRW‘s Fast 100, as an example of a business, which despite its fantastic growth, recognised a way to improve on its B2B sales strategy.

“We were engaged to improve their marketing but we actually improved their sales process,” says Macfarlane. “It wasn’t complicated. We worked out what problems Combo solved better than anyone else and built some sales meeting tools that would reinforce that lead. We also gave Combo some tools to cement that lead to the buyer.”

“By just reinforcing those basic fundamentals, Combo reinvigorated growth and now have four months of better-than-target performance.”

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