It’s commonly accepted that the large majority of today’s B2B buying process is completed before vendors are even aware that there is an opportunity. Imagine that! Or better, reimagine what you can do about it.
The challenge facing vendors is how to increase their visibility earlier in the buying process. We all learned the typical sales process in Sales 101. However, that’s what’s hindering success in today’s marketplace. Throw it out!
Think in the terms of your buyers. What’s on their mind? I bet they’re asking questions like these:
“Is there a better way?”
“How much is what we’re doing today costing us?”
“How do I justify asking for such a large expenditure?”
Buyers are doing research and answering these questions alone; meanwhile, they are invisible to vendors. With the right approach, though, you can help answer these questions and identify prospective buyers.
Step 1: Help prospects identify their own performance gaps.
The buying cycle begins when prospects start to question their status quo. By making assessment tools available to your target market, you can help buyers identify their performance gaps and, at the same time, position yourself as a resource to help buyers solve their problems. Read how one of my clients, Halogen Software, uses this approach for demand generation and lead capture purposes.
Step 2: Help prospects understand the value of your offering.
The next step in the buying process is for buyers to ask themselves if the problem is worth solving. At this stage, buyers are starting to educate themselves about solutions and the financial impact a given solution can have on their organization. Giving prospects access to a value calculator through your website (or through a targeted campaign) is a great way to help them understand the value of your offering as it relates to their unique circumstances. Not only does this position you as an industry leader but you will receive leads that are often better qualified than those you receive from your other lead-generation activities. Another one of my clients, Nuance, uses a value calculator to raise awareness and capture leads by asking users to calculate their “hidden costs.”
Step 3: Show financial metrics that spur prospects to action.
Once buyers are convinced they have a problem and the problem is worth solving, the next logical question is, “But at what cost?” By now, prospects have narrowed their vendor evaluation to a meaningful few. To stand out, vendors must build upon the approaches advocated above and now show buyers their offering’s net value. An ROI tool is a great way to illustrate your offering’s net value and move buyers to action. I’d guess two-thirds of my clients use this method: 1) create demand and capture leads via an assessment tool and/or value calculator and 2) close deals using an ROI tool. Tribute is a representative example of how to use this one-two combination.
Vendors late to the party are often being played without realizing it. They see a lead come in and check the box for step one in their sales process, then check the box for step two, etc. What a waste of time! Vendors with the insurmountable advantage are those that identify buyers early and engage in meaningful exchanges around business value. It might take some imagination to accomplish this but I hope the ideas advocated above get you started.
How do you see your sales process? Is it aligned with established internal procedures created long ago? Or has it evolved to match how today’s buyers educate themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments section.