Any B2B marketing or sales team will tell you:
Getting customers to make a purchase isn’t exactly like shooting fish in a barrel.
In reality, it’s more like casting a line into a lake in which only one or two of the hundreds of fish swimming around are actually hungry. To make things worse, dozens of other fishermen are also casting their lines in the willing spot you are. And, of course, even if you do manage to hook one of these hungry fish, you’ll still have some work to do to reel them aboard.
Okay, enough with the fishing metaphors.
The point is, getting prospective customers to believe in your company, become interested in what you have to offer, and hand you their money isn’t easy. A number of things need to line up perfectly to get a single customer from Point A to Point B - and a lot can go wrong along the way.
In this article, we’ll discuss the process of making B2B sales in terms of:
- Making prospective customers aware of your services
- Getting them interested in what you have to offer
- Getting them to make a purchase in exchange for top-quality service
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Getting Customers to Believe In Your Brand
If you want to have any hope of bringing a customer on board, you need to get them to believe that you can help them.
Ultimately, this comes down to two things:
- Truly knowing your target customers
- Building a trusting relationship with them
Let’s begin with that first statement.
Know Your Customers
As reported on IQS Research’s blog, “B2B customers want to be understood, and they want you to be proactive around that understanding.”
In other words, you need to know who your target customers are, what they’re looking to receive, and how your company is equipped to give it to them.
Here’s an example of a typical B2B persona:Source
While each of your actual customers will be unique in some way, it’s more than likely that you’ll be able to categorize them based on which of your consumer personas they fall under. This allows you to approach engagements and meetings in an informed manner, as you’ll have a general idea of what that particular customer is looking to get from your company.
As for the effectiveness of creating and using customer personas, there’s really no question. Take a look at some of these stats, as collected by Protocol 80:
- For one company, developing buyer personas contributed to a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing, 10% increase in leads sent to sales, and a 72% reduction in lead conversion time
- Buyers are 48% more likely to consider solution providers that personalize their marketing to address their specific business issues
- Using marketing personas made websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use by targeted users
Knowing all this, it’s regarding surprising that, as of 2014, less than half of B2B marketing teamsMainlyuse personas at all. What this means is, by adopting the use of personas in your marketing and sales campaigns, you’ll have an advantage over most other B2B companies in existence, as you’ll to be prepared to create individualized, targeted touchpoints for customers at any stage of the buyer’s journey.
Another aspect of getting prospective customers to believe in your brand is to establish a sense of trust within them.
Mainly, you want potential buyers to know two things:
- Your company can provide what you say it can
- Giving you their money is guaranteed to result in their success
We’ll get more into the first part in the next section when we discuss social proof. For now, let’s talk about providing potential customers with a guarantee of success.
The nature of B2B relationships is such that failure on your end to provide for your clients will almost assuredly result in significant monetary and business-related repercussions on their end. In other words, forging a relationship is a huge commitment on your customer’s part - one they most certainly aren’t going to take lightly.
And, on your end, talk is cheap. You can make any claim you want about how great your service is, but until the phrase “money-back guarantee” comes into play, your potential customers will have no reason to trust that you’re telling the truth. But, by taking the risk off of them (and placing it squarely on your company’s shoulders), you “double down” on your claim that you’ll be able to give them exactly what they’re looking for.
Getting Prospects to Bite
Once you’ve determined that a particular lead is within your target range, and you’ve begun attracting them to your company, you still have some work to do to truly get them thinking in terms of doing business with you.
In this section, we’ll discuss what you can do to nurture prospects into opportunities - and eventually into paying customers.
We’ve already discussed the notion that each of your prospective customers is unique regarding what they need from your company.
Knowing this, taking a one-size-fits-all approach to offering your services doesn’t make sense.
Think about it:
If you offer a comprehensive package consisting of ten individual service features, but a single customer only needs to utilize six of them, they’re not going to want to pay full price for the whole package.
That being the case, you have two options:
- Maintain rigidity within your service and pricing plans, and lose the customer for good
- Become flexible, and make 60% of your service’s full price by providing only the services your customer deems necessary (and, in the process of doing so, keep said customer onboard long into the future)
While you’ll ideally want to target customers who are willing to pay full price for your entire service, there may be times when that simply isn’t the case. Again, by remaining flexible, you can avoid missing out on a ton of less-than-ideal customers (instead of ignoring them while chasing after a white whale).
As we said earlier, getting prospects to trust that you’re able to provide for their needs is tough to do, as they’ve yet to actually see proof themselves.
Luckily, like their B2C counterparts, B2B customers tend to look to their friends, family members, and colleagues when deciding whether or not to engage with a company any further.
According to data collected by IronPaper, 72% of B2B consumers trust brand recommendations coming from a peer or individual within their network. Furthermore, 68% of B2B consumers trust the online opinions of fellow consumers. On the other hand, only 29% of consumers trust company-generated content that lauds said company’s services (which should be pretty obvious).
So, the more user-generated (or user-centric) content you use, the better. By presenting case studies, interviews, service reviews, and the like to your prospective customers, you provide real-world proof that your company indeed can walk the walk.
Getting Customers to Buy
Even after you’ve gotten a prospect to show more than a passing interest in doing business with your company, things can still go awry if you get lackadaisical in your customer-facing efforts.
For one thing, you have to remember that B2B purchases are much more complex than the typical B2C, one-touch purchase. According to Act-On, as many as six individuals within a client organization have a say in whether the company does business with you or not:
As the provider of a B2B service, your job is to be able to reach each of these individuals at their level, with the exact information they need to move forward with a purchase. Ideally, you’ll have created an arsenal of multimedia content tailored to each stakeholder’s interests, and are prepared to present this material to them on an as-needed basis.
Going deeper than that, you also need to make yourself accessible to these individuals at all times, as well. As we’ve talked about before, B2B consumers have completed most of their research by the time they decide to reach out to a service provider. So, when they are ready to reach out, you need to be ready to give them the information they need.
Once your customer is entirely ready to make a purchase, you need to be sure that the purchasing process goes off without a hitch. Again, this means making your team available to the appropriate stakeholders within the client company and working with them to streamline the payment process.
The easier it is for your prospects to navigate the conversion process with your company, the less likely they are to turn tail and run at the last moment. Additionally, streamlining the logistical processes of doing business with your company can, in turn, increase the trust and rapport built between both parties.