It’s not uncommon for B2B sales professionals to be challenged by factors that contribute to long buying processes: customer service, engineering, finance, marketing. That’s why many rely on tools to streamline their process and organize efforts. In order to be truly effective, sales tools should align with buyer needs in a way that will help sales professionals overcome specific challenges. But how do you know which tools to use?
First, it’s important to understand the challenges you’re aiming to solve. According to recent research from Richardson, 350 B2B and B2C sales professionals cited top challenges across four key areas: productivity, prospecting, negotiating and closing. I'll dive into the top challenges from three of these areas and share tools to consider using.
The top product challenges cited by sales professionals were spending too much time on administrative or non-selling activities (49%) and finding the right marketing assets to support their selling efforts (17%). These challenges are very similar and speak to the lack of organization most companies have when it comes to creating, approving, storing and updating content assets. Organizing assets presents a huge opportunity for marketing and sales organizations. Imagine the revenue gains that could be realized if you could increase the time your sales team spends selling!
One solution is to use a digital asset management system (DAM). DAM serves a different purpose than a CMS. DAM is a business process, enabled by tools like Showpad, Brand Folder or Canto Cumulus. When optimized, this process allows you to store, organize and retrieve various types of content. Content can usually be accessed from any location or device. Some leverage artificial intelligence to make the process even more robust or apply an intelligent content approach.
The end result is a fully digital database that brings together files from unstructured sources. So rather than your sales team looking through Outlook, their laptop, your website or any number of file locations, they can go to one place and search for the appropriate asset. Not to mention marketing can have greater control over versions and help keep messaging consistent.
The top prospecting challenges cited were creating a targeted prospecting strategy (17%), quality of leads from marketing (14%) and gaining appointments (12%). These challenges are very closely related, and it goes without saying you should not try to solve a "strategy" problem with a tool, so my thoughts are not an attempt to do this. Instead, let's look at the context of these with a focus on the second and third tactical challenges. The overall issue is a lack of marketing and sales alignment. The easiest tools to develop are SLAs (service level agreements) that outline what marketing and sales will do to accomplish the business objectives determined by senior management.
From there, you should look at ways to use your existing CRM, email or marketing automation (these are both marketing and sales tools!) to help improve prospecting-related activities. These tools can greatly increase the effectiveness of a well-defined prospecting strategy and help identify quality leads through lead scoring.
The last challenge, gaining appointments, can be both a strategy and tactical problem. On the tactical side, gaining appointments can be the result of inefficient scheduling practices. Most appointments with B2B sales professionals are scheduled through email: everyone shares times that work, and by the time a specific day/time is agreed on, schedules have changed. Your buyer can lose interest, become engaged by a competitor or resolve their problem in another way. To succeed today, buyers need to have more control, and sales needs to respond in a different way. There is a better way.
I personally use a tool called Calendly, but many other online scheduling tools exist. The core idea is to make it simple for buyers and sellers to come together. I've reduced the number of emails it takes to schedule a prospect meeting to one. I've also increased the conversion rate from quality lead sources like our contact form by reducing response time and putting the prospect in the driver’s seat. I simply sync my Outlook calendar with Calendly, include a link in my emails and let the prospect select a time that works best for them. Some of the technologies allow you to place code directly on your website and use complex logic to get the right sales person or team connected with your visitor.
The top closing challenges cited were competing against a low-cost provider (24%), differentiating product/service (19%) and creating a compelling case for change to avoid a "no-decision."
Competing against a low-cost provider is sometimes a segmenting or value proposition problem. Let’s assume that’s not the case, and your solution delivers more value but does come with a higher cost. In this case, both marketing and sales need to work together to tell a compelling story. The typical approaches here may not work. Content such as blog posts, emails, social posts, brochures, case studies, PR, etc. could get lost in the many other communications the prospect is seeing. What you need is highly personalized and engaging content outlining the value you will deliver.
Sales professionals are great at delivering personalized and relevant messages, however, they often fall back to phone, email or in-person where possible. We know the power video has, and most times sales professionals have a laptop or mobile device with a camera readily available. Platforms like BombBomb and Vidyard allow your sales team to deliver highly personalized video—eliminating typing out long emails or leaving voice mails that nobody listens to. Think of these services as a combination of marketing automation and video.
With the right tools in place, and when deployed appropriately, your team can sell the value of your offer early on (and throughout the buying process) in a unique way that will set you apart from the competition.