B2B or Business-to-Business commerce entails a situation where two business organizations conduct a commercial transaction. The examples of such business transactions can be the sourcing of materials for the production process, the requirement of services for operational needs, and re-selling of services and goods produced by others.
When compared with B2C or Business-to-Customer commerce, the sales model in the B2B domain is more strategic and designed to appeal to the rationale of the buyer instead of emotions. The criticality in B2B sales comes from the fact that the parties doing business often have a professional legal counsel and staff that gives them a comparable power of negotiation.
The estimated B2B market size is also more than double the B2C market. This not only puts forth a major competition but also puts pressure on the B2B sales professionals to crack a better deal with a better organization.
Responsibilities of a B2B Sales Professional
To succeed in the B2B market, a sales professional needs a lot more than just people skills and bear a lot more responsibility than a B2C sales representative. A simple error in a B2B contract can lead to an insurmountable loss. Let’s look at the responsibilities faced by a B2B sales professional:
Presentation with Impact:
The most important skill for a B2B sales professional is effective communication. When you go to a client for a picture, the first 10 minutes are crucial and define whether the deal will be a success or not.
Managing Multiple Stakeholders:
The term stakeholder refers to small groups and individuals who play a key role in the organization and its activities, for example, a new project. For a B2B sales professional it is essential to maintain a cordial relationship with each stakeholder, understand their expectations, and fulfil them in the best possible way. Following are the skills required to manage multiple stakeholders:
1. Identifying & Prioritising Key Stakeholders – During the start of a project the stakeholder base if vast and includes everyone from a senior executive from the client’s team to a junior staff from your team. But the difference lies in the power and ability to influence the execution of the project. The skill to identify and prioritize the key stakeholders is essential for a B2B sales professional.
2. Understanding & Aligning the Expectations – There are always several whys, whats, whens, and hows when a proposal is made. And each stakeholder has a different expectation. To ensure that the project runs smoothly it is necessary to get every stakeholder almost on the same page. It requires frequent communication, exploratory conversations, and prioritizing the key stakeholders and their expectations.
3. Resolution of Disputes – No matter how efficiently things are planned there are always some issues that arise in stakeholder engagement and management. So, dispute resolution is an essential skill for a B2B sales professional. The simplest way is to listen to the grievance of the stakeholder and reiterate it back in your own words. This not only assures the stakeholder that you understand the issue but also help clarify is there is a mistake.
4. Be Easily Understandable – You may be using jargons and technical terms among your peers, but not all your stakeholders understand them. To maintain transparency, you must ensure that the communication is in an easily understandable language that also involves explanations of the technical terms used.
Creating Customised Product/Service:
The B2B domain seldom deals with off-the-shelf products and services. As every business is unique, their requirements too are different. So, every business looking for a B2B product or service wants to get them customized according to their specific requirements. To give your client what they want, you need to be able to ensure that the checkpoints below are followed.
1. The Pain Points – Asking the main stakeholders about their expectations from the product/services and making a prioritized list is the key to put forth the best possible solution. In an ERP system, for example, the upper management may ask for the option of fetching the metrics in a customised manner while the end-users who will ultimately use the system may ask for a smooth UI/UX.
2. The Middle Ground – The main questions while prepping a customised a product/service are-
a. What is the expectation?
b. What is feasible?
c. What can be done?
A successfully delivered customised product/service is created by merging the answers to all these questions. A B2B sales professional must have the ability to confer with both internal and external stakeholders to find the answers to these questions and deliver the best product/service possible.
3. Deliver What is Committed – Once you have successfully decided the middle ground and committed what the client will get, you have to ensure that your team delivers it. This requires constant communication with the internal stakeholders, i.e., the team working on the project and making a checklist on the things that need to be done.
Ensuring Timely Delivery/Deployment
Any delay, no matter how small, can lead to a loss in revenue and operations for both the parties involved in the B2B transaction. Timely delivery can be ensured by involving a buffer period in the time of development of product/service to compensate for debugging, reworks, and delays due to unavoidable circumstances. In the worst-case scenario, if a delay happens, communication and honesty are the best policy.
Managing Client Relationships
Establishing and maintaining healthy client relationships is crucial for the growth of any business because a happy client is your best promoter. You must excel at the following points to be able to maintain such relationships.
1. Regular Updates – This is one of the most important client management skills. Every client wants to know the progress report on a timely basis. You can agree upon a regular interval at which you will provide updates, be it daily, weekly, monthly or all of them. This will help you create transparency in your relationship with the client and will increase trust.
2. Reasons to Celebrate – There are always some small and big successes in a B2B project. Be it reaching 10,000 impressions in a marketing campaign or the successful creation of the first prototype of the product, keep the client informed of each checkpoint achieved. This will not only tell them that the things are going on the right track but will also boost the morale of your team.
3. Patience – You will always face tough clients in the B2B domain. Someone may want a certain aspect of the project explained again and again, while the other may keep asking you to make changes or change their requirements every now and then. At such time patience is a virtue that will lead to success. Consider your client as a new team member who needs to be explained everything about the company and the project. Once you solve their queries, both of you will get a better understanding of the project.
4. Engagement – Most client relationships start with the pomp and show with timely interaction, weekly meetings, and daily updates. But as the client gets old, the relationship often fades and the sales professional starts caring just about deadlines. Keep your client engaged with the reasons to celebrate and regular updates.
5. Client’s Niche – Build your knowledge about the client’s industry and make a habit of being up-to-date to the internal news. Not only will this save the client’s time of having to explain to you everything but might also establish you as the go-to-person for advice.
6. Honesty is the Best Policy – Unexpected setbacks during the development of the product/service can happen. But make sure that you tell the client about it along with how you are going to manage it and how long will it take. This way you will be able to maintain the transparency and improve your image in their mind.
Technology in B2B Sales
Technology has made life easier for everyone. And when you are working in the B2B sales domain you have the responsibility of maintaining hundreds and thousands of contacts, multiple sales pitches lined up for the month, loads of data to be crunched, and finding new ways to reach out to people. Here is how some technical skills can help you excel.
1. Cloud-Based CRM – Customer Relationship Management Platforms have been commonplace for a while and return $8.71 as sales revenue for each dollar spent. The numbers are great, but with the advent of the cloud-based CRM you can access everything from your client list to their buying habits anywhere, anytime. These systems are scalable as per the increasing demand are ideal for boosting your productivity.
2. Big Data – With most of the data about your prospective and present clients available on your cloud-based CRM you just need to analyse it to take accurate business decisions. Using Big Data tools and AI you can easily get predictive analysis to forecast sales results, more targeted prospecting with characteristics like that of your best buyers, and improved data maintenance.
3. Automation – With automation tools designed for sales you can streamline the outreach process, automate the process of lead scoring and routing, and also automate the creation and delivery of reports.
4. Social Media – With platforms like LinkedIn, you can easily find what is the requirement of which business and easily reach out to them. There are also various social tools that will help you in social listening, sentiment analysis, and key buying indicators.
While the B2B sales professional does their best in the acquiring and execution of the projects, their success majorly depends on the operations and management teams. Here is how organizational behaviour should be:
1. Cognizant – The organization should be aware of the fact that no newly hired sales professionals can bring in leads from the very first day. Any good sales professional starts with building the sales funnel when they join an organization and it takes them 3-6 months to start being productive and bring in leads. So, initially, the organization should ask for reports on the daily activities for building the funnel. Also, the organization should know that the sales professional starts being highly productive in 18-24 months of joining the organization.
2. Supportive – Once the sales professional commits to the client about the product/service to be delivered the production team cannot say the things are not achievable. Doing so would not only put a negative impact on the image of the sales professional and hamper their productivity but also gives a negative image to the organization.
Role and Impact of Acelot In Organization’s Growth
Acelot, being a team of B2B domain veterans, offers training programs for skill development in B2B sales customized according to the type of your organization. Not only do we train you in the skills required to be efficient as a sales professional but also gives detailed insights and anecdotes on the challenges people usually face and how to tackle them.