Guest Post by Kalen Kimm from LoadDynamiX
A long B2B sales cycle can be relative. Generally, there is a positive correlation between the average deal size and the length of the sales cycle. The heavier the investment, obviously, the longer the sales cycle tends to be, as pointed out by MarketingSherpa. They also go on to state that about 40% of marketers surveyed cite “marketing to a lengthening sales cycle” as an important B2B marketing challenge.
So how long is long? A general consensus might agree that a sales cycle of 12 months or more would tend to be a somewhat long sales cycle. Either way, the length of your B2B sales cycle can vary according to the immediacy of the buyer’s needs, but you must at least know what your baseline (or average) sales cycle length is.
The question then becomes for those B2B companies engaging in a longer sales cycle: What is the best way to work within the framework of a more lengthy B2B sales cycle? At LoadDynamiX, as a leader in storage workload modeling, analytics and performance validation, we tend to work in a 6-18 month sales cycle, so we have specific experience in this arena. Here are a few ways we choose to manage an extended B2B sales cycle.
Let the Sales Cycle Run its Course, But Position Your Pawns Accordingly
Some products and services (especially those that represent a relatively ample investment) simply take longer to make their way through the B2B sales funnel. It’s usually best to accept that you are working within a longer sales cycle and pursue the very best strategy to move the deal along at every juncture. Many B2B sales managers spend resources attempting to shorten their sales cycle, and we’re not advocating that those attempts are futile. By all means, if quicker cash flow is important to your revenue cycle, go for it. Realize though that there are diminishing returns with these efforts. You can likely never get a $100,000 purchase to happen in a few days. The advice is to recognize what the baseline is for your B2B sales cycle, accept it, and operate as best you can within that framework.
Go the Extra Mile in Painting a Clear Picture of How Your Solution Solves the Buyers’ Challenges
This should be a heavy focus of your presentation and further communications with B2B sales prospects throughout their path through the sales funnel. When you as a seller can speak in terms of the buyer’s specific challenges and how your solution can be a solution to those issues, you’ve already won half the battle. We recently posted an article on the LoadDynamiX blog that speaks to this issue. In the article, we talk about the importance of benchmarking storage technologies, not only before a purchase, but during the lifecycle of firmware updates. In our world of Enterprise storage technology, there is no better way to show how the solution will solve challenges in their technology environment than to benchmark and test it in the environment.
Stay Top of Mind by Surrounding Your Prospects with Information on Your Solution
B2B sales professionals can take a page out of the books of their marketing counterparts, and institute various tactics to stay top-of-mind with prospects who are top-of-the-funnel. When working within the framework of a longer B2B sales cycle, it is absolutely crucial that you stay top of mind as they make their way through the pipeline. With elements of social selling, marketing automation campaigns, and other marketing methods, you can ensure that your prospects think of you when they are ready to enter “buying mode.” At LoadDynamiX, often we’ll use a soft approach in our communications with our prospects and surround them with information on data storage technologies. One of the key phrases in these soft approach type emails is, “Hey Mr. Prospect, I saw this piece of information and thought of you…” It conveys a personal touch without the components of a hard sell.
Engender Trust and Confidence in Your Company and Your Solution
One of my favorite Zig Ziglar sayings is this: "If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you." This is key to maintaining a positive relationship with B2B sales prospects throughout a longer sales cycle. There are a few key ways to engender trust and confidence in your company and your solution. You have to be seen as an authority. When you can incorporate elements of consultative selling, you position yourself as an “assistant buyer” instead of a salesman. If you can get the buyer to see you as an ally who has their best interest at heart instead of a B2B sales pro chasing a commission, you’ve built confidence with the prospect. Another way to build confidence is to expose the prospect to case studies where the challenge solved may be similar to theirs. The prospect can then proceed through the life of the sales cycle with the confidence that, “Hey, these guys have solved my problem before.” At LoadDynamiX, we feature a number of Case Studies about how companies are using Load DynamiX to save money, optimize performance, reduce risk, and accelerate time to market. (View our Case Studies here.)
Make Sure that There are Next Steps in Your Communications, Where Appropriate
Where appropriate… That’s the key phrase here. When you send communications as part of the top-of-mind soft approach mentioned earlier, that’s a touch point designed to give the prospect more exposure to your solutions, and not necessarily deserving of a call-to-action. However, when engaging the prospect with specific bi-lateral communications that are addressing, perhaps, the proposal you sent, or the presentation meeting you just had with the prospect, it’s usually a good idea to include a firm call-to-action. For example, instead of sending a proposal and ending the email with, “Let me know what you think when you get a chance,” it’s better to include a firmer next step. Alternatively, you might write, “I’ve taken a moment to outline some of the finer points of how our storage solutions might solve some of your challenges. I’d like to schedule a follow-up to outline some of these and go over the proposal together after you’ve had a chance to digest it a bit. How is next Wednesday at 3PM?” In a longer sales cycle, the mantra of “Always be closing” changes a little and becomes “Always be advancing.”
Photo credit: ProteusB2B
In reviewing some articles from the recent past in my Feedly, I landed on one of those “must-click” headlines, this one from MarketingSherpa… How a B2B Marketing Team Used Zombies to Win Over the C-Suite
Uh, yeah. How could you not click on that, right?
What I found was a short explanation of a unique B2B marketing campaign by Christine Nurnberger of SunGard. She goes on to say how, when she arrived to the SunGard team in 2012, sales and marketing alignment at SunGard left a little to be desired. Marketing wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain, contributing only 3% to the sales pipeline. Sad… considering they executed well over 1000 marketing campaigns the previous year.
I don’t think they’ll have that problem anymore if they keep rolling out awesome B2B marketing campaigns like the one below, though.
Christine told the audience at the 2014 MarketingSherpa Email Summit about some of the factors that turned it around for SunGard marketing. She explained that they put increased emphasis on intuitive content marketing, with some campaigns having an eye towards creativity.
And for one of their greatest campaigns… a press kit aimed at C-level technology executives that had them buzzing about SunGard and feeling more prepared for the impending zombie apocalypse.
Check out the video clip below from the summit, where Christine tells us about that two-node direct mail campaign, targeting 56 CTOs in the later stages of the buying cycle:
- The first node was a direct-mail campaign made up of an eye-popping box with a single thumb drive – on it, a personalized video announcing that, in the coming days, they would receive another package with everything they needed to survive the zombie apocalypse.
- The second node was a zombie apocalypse survival kit… specifically a copy of World War Z, two tickets to the movie and “zombie repellant” (silly string) – all in a strange camo backpack.
The result? “We had sales people for the first time calling us up and saying, ‘Can we do more of these? We walked in to close the deal, and we saw it on the CTO’s desk,’” Christine said. By the end of 2013, marketing’s contribution to new revenue had ballooned to 40% with the average deal size tripled. Great results I’d say. Kudos to you from one marketing nerd to another, Christine.
When it comes to B2B sales reps, the old maxim that 20% of the sales team produces 80% of the business is somewhat true. But what makes that 20% shine over and above the other 80% of their peers?
Quite a few traits make up a great B2B sales rep. These are a few you should look out for. Whether you’re a B2B sales manager recruiting talent or a B2B sales rep looking to better your productivity, these are the traits you should look to progress:
Always Advancing Deals
The old adage that B2B sales personnel should always be closing has been officially modified. Especially in the context of a complex sale, the goal of the B2B sales rep should be to advance deals wherever possible. Closing too early can actually be a detriment in a complex sale. But if you are consistently asking the prospect questions that move the deal along, you’re already winning. Questions like:
- Would it make sense if we outline our service offering in a proposal?
- Would it make sense if we summarize our terms in a Service Agreement?
- Should we start allocating resources for your program now or wait until next week?
In bilateral communication, always ask for the next step and never ask what the next step should be. Guide the prospect down the path.
Setting Well-Documented Goals
In B2B sales, goals are not just pie-in-the-sky numbers. B2B sales closers are defined by their numbers, to a large extent. The sign of a great B2B sales pro is one that’s not shy about publicizing their goals… extra points if they write their goals down in a place where they can see it every day.
Consistently Asking Questions of Successful Peers and Managers
If you want to be the best, ask the best how they managed to realize so much success. A dead giveaway of a great salesperson is if they buddy up to their more successful peers in an attempt to follow their blueprint. B2B sales managers often find it to be a sign of strength when their reps ask about closing strategies, or possible paths to take to close a deal. These are the questions B2B sales managers love to answer. It shows that the rep has initiative enough to ask what’s been successful in the past, rather than be a “lone wolf” sales rep.
Preparation and Research for Every Call
Sometimes B2B sales reps have back-to-back-to-back calls. It’s a busy job. But a successful B2B sales rep prepares for presentations by researching the prospect’s company, at a very minimum, despite their busy schedule. Additionally, they will identify past clients they’ve served that have a similar situation or challenge that the company has solved.
Even When Marketing Provides Leads and Appointments, the Rep is Still Hunting for Self-Generated Opportunities
This is the hunger factor. These days a well-oiled marketing machine churns B2B sales leads and appointments for their Sales department to put into their pipeline. An exceptional B2B sales rep will look to augment the influx of Marketing Qualified Leads with appointments of their own that they’ve generated from networking, hunting, calling, emailing.
This is our second year at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual conference for users and developers. Last year, we were new to the party, but this year, we had much better expectations of the goings-on in San Francisco.
Below are a few key takeaways from our first full day at Dreamforce:
- Transactional, off-the-cuff sales prospecting is alive and well. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been engaged in conversation with friendly, like-minded sales and marketing professionals. Whether there’s an opportunity to do business or not, we always approach networking activity with an open mind and a smile. You never know when you may be able to help connections down the road, and vice-versa.
- Badge-scanners are everywhere. They’re like zombies. Rarely has anyone in the expo asked a qualifying question to see if I’m even a prospect. It seems they just want to give me a foam football and scan my badge. More on this concept here: 3 Ways for B2B Sales & Marketing Pros to Work Tradeshows & Conferences
- Apparently, the term BANT is growing stale. As sales professionals, we’ve all heard the acronym BANT (Budget, Need, Authority, Timeline) used in terms of qualifying prospects. We sat in a session hosted by Ken Krogue of InsideSales.com, and one of his slides was about the semantics of the term BANT and how it’s becoming obsolete. He prefers the term ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money). He mentioned that in a study InsideSales released, budget for projects was rarely a consideration for buyers anymore. They either have the money or they don’t and less often are working in a stringent budget.
All in all, it’s been a great show so far. This entry may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but after the conference, we’ll be issuing some hard-hitting takeaways here on the blog so stay tuned.
If you’d like to connect at the conference, click here:
It’s about the time of year that B2B sales managers and executives start thinking about projections for 2015.
It’s the time of year that we ask questions like:
- What’s our revenue goal in 2015?
- What are we going to do in terms of sales enablement to get to that projection?
But we all know that B2B sales revenue is a direct result of the number of “at-bats” your sales team can get with prospects. Specifically…
According to current closing ratios, how many B2B sales appointments do you need to reach your sales revenue goal?
One of the many resources that we happily share with the B2B sales & marketing community is our super-simple Sales Appointment Calculator that can help forecast roughly how many sales appointments you’ll likely need to reach those 2015 target numbers.
You may bank on your internal team to generate leads and appointments, or perhaps your company uses appointment setting companies like SalesStaff. Either way, the number of sales appointments you will likely need in 2015 to reach your goal is a number you should know… by heart.
Simply enter a few figures in the formula below and we’ll output an approximation of the required B2B sales lead/appointment volume to reach your 2015 revenue target:
Above all the clanking of glassware, and the chorus of the crowd, “One more, please” will be heard continuously throughout a tireless tavern. Foraging for alcohol is not the only reason they flock to the bar top, nor is the alluring ambience of flickering lights, sticky floors or smoke-filled rooms. Patrons will be found perched upon their stools for hours on end, chattering about with their comrade and friend, the bartender. He listens to their issues and satisfies their needs all without burdening them with his own; and in return they remain loyal and devoted patrons.
Is there something to be learned from our trusty bartender when it comes to B2B sales? We think so.
- Meet their needs, not your own. Part of being a bartender is becoming observant of your client’s needs, listening to their story, and understanding what they want. Your business is to meet those needs and what they desire is what you should provide. Would a successful bartender serve a colorful, fruity and decorated martini to a stout, bearded bear of a fellow? Perhaps they would, if that is what he enjoys. Not all of your clients will fit into a “perfectly shaped box”, learn to think outside of that and focus on each individual, each desire and each need. Severance will gain trust, and you will find that they will respect your decisions and keep coming back.
- More listening, less telling. When we begin to feel the pressure of making the sale and the stresses of meeting goals, it can easily become nothing more than a game, a hunt for the biggest payoff. We ruffle up our tail feathers at one another and we begin to lose sight of what connected us in the first place. We strive to have a kinship with someone who will listen to what we need, who will be the friend that we can count on without worry. Don't be that guy. Your client did not take time out of their day to hear about how you need to get that last commission in before month-end; they want their needs to be understood.
- Keep their drink full. By that, I mean, be attentive to their situation and take your cues from the prospect. Figuratively, if all that they want to do is stay perched on their stools and bicker about the weather, then so be it. Let them stay, and soon they will begin building their basket up to the rim. Take that time to pay attention to those small details that are often overlooked, keep a log and take great notes. If a new product comes in that you think might help them, pass it on and make them feel fuzzy that you thought of them.
As B2B sales pros, sometimes our end game should be listening to the call of “One more, please.”
With Dreamforce just around the corner, tradeshow marketing is top-of-mind for us.
If you spend the time to maximize your efforts, marketers can see a clear path to revenue with tradeshows and conferences. But, if you fail, you could blow a huge portion of your marketing budget on fruitless activities. Some tradeshow booths will be successful and some will bomb… the worst of the bunch will fail miserably and be tens of thousands of dollars poorer for it.
You need to make sure you know what you're doing and that you have a solid strategy. Firstly, you must dodge these five easy ways to fail miserably at tradeshow marketing.
Meh… Don’t worry about pre-marketing for the event. We’ll have plenty to do while we’re there.
Wrong!! You need to shout about your presence at the tradeshow from every mountaintop available to you. Blog about it. Include items in your email marketing campaigns. Blast it out on social media. Have Inside Sales Reps identify likely prospects and call them directly to set up meetings. All of your pre-marketing efforts should be geared to advancing likely prospects into some face-to-face meet-and-greet at the tradeshow. Get that calendar full. (For more see our article: 10 Ways to Pre-Market for Dreamforce (or any other conference for that matter))
Let’s just pick an event that looks pretty good and go.
Wrong!! This one is probably the easiest mistake to make, but on the bright side, it’s the easiest to avoid also. You have to do your homework. First, identify why you want to exhibit. Identify what your goals are (ie. Bring home 50 qualified sales opportunities). Then do some research on what the profile of attendees is. Will your prospects be there in large enough numbers to justify the lead potential? What is your cost-per-lead going to be if you meet projections for the show? For any show you're evaluating, look at the demographics of past attendees. Call the event organizer and ask pointed questions about attendees. Another clue is to take a gander at past exhibitors. Are similar companies exhibiting at the show? Do they continue exhibiting?
Let’s not drop too much into the booth – my presence and the foot traffic should be enough... I’m a master salesman.
Wrong!! I’ve seen tremendous, dazzling booths and I’ve seen a booth with a dude and a clipboard. If you’re going to invest in having a booth at a tradeshow, don’t skimp on the booth part. At the end of the day, you are competing in a sense with the other booths for a certain share of attention. You literally get only a glance to impress attendees. Include bold images to catch the attention of passers-by. By focusing on what you can do to help prospects with their challenges (at a glance), you stand a much better shot at landing some good B2B sales leads.
Let’s scan the badges of everyone that walks by… we’ll sort them out later.
Wrong!! You have to attract the right crowd or you’ll be spinning your wheels tirelessly following up with unqualified leads. It’s a result of anxious exhibitors wanting to draw everyone with a pulse and not losing sight of the fact that they came here for qualified prospects. Keep in mind that the booth visitors you really want are the attendees that you may be able to turn into clients.
Man, I have like 400 leads and 200 business cards. It’s just too much. I’ll get to them when I can.
Wrong!! If you’ve done well at point number 4 above, you should be excited to follow up with all of the attendees whose info you captured, because most of them will at least be qualified. Quite simply, failing to follow up effectively after the show is a nail in the coffin. You can all of the other things right, but if you fail at this one, it was all in vain. You need to follow up on the leads you gathered at the show. If you can’t, employ some help from other team members. The faster you touch your leads, the more recollection they’ll have of meeting you. There's always a justification in your mind to follow up on leads tomorrow… but, if you’re not careful, tomorrow can turn into the day after and the next week.
Guest Post by Pat McGloin from Partners and Simons
For years direct sales teams have been one of the most effective promotional channels in the Life Sciences industry. Long gone are the days where a biotech/pharmaceutical sales professionals could park their car at a hospital or large clinic and “walk the facility” prospecting with healthcare professionals and clinicians.
The reason for this is really twofold:
- The overall healthcare environment has been trying to do more with less. What does that mean? Staff hours are getting cut and clinicians and buyers are taking on an increasing administrative burden. Thus, their availability to meet with sales reps has decreased over time.
- Sales professionals selling into the healthcare space have decreased access to the healthcare professionals, clinicians, and buyers. The recent implementation of the Sunshine Act and increased adoption of programs like Vendormate have dramatically restricted access to clinicians.
The first reason outlined above is a function of the natural course of business, but the second can be more challenging to counter. It epitomizes a shifting market dynamic which is forcing Life Sciences executives to rethink their sales and marketing strategy.
The Sunshine Act requires that all producers of biotech/pharmaceutical/medical devices and supplies track and document their financial relationships with clinicians and hospitals. While the reason behind it may be noble, it has disrupted the traditional sales model that the biotech industry has used for many years.
In addition, programs like Vendormate create barriers between the biotech sales pro and the clinician – like forcing the sales rep to check in, restricting their free access to the facility, tracking their movement throughout the facility, and, in some cases, applying a fee to the sales rep in order to even meet with clinicians. Many times, if the sales rep’s company doesn’t have a contract with the clinicians, access will be totally denied.
In no uncertain terms, the productivity of the sales rep has been negatively impacted by many of these regulations and procedural barriers intended to constrain the rep’s access to and influence on the clinician. The bottom line is this: If biotech sales organizations continue to create sales channels the way they always have they will be at a huge disadvantage.
Sales and Marketing in the New Normal of Healthcare
How physicians prefer to acquire new information is changing: Recent research suggests that “two-thirds of physicians prefer to get information on specific therapies through digital channels...and a higher percentage (80%) of younger doctors held that view.” Creative marketing approaches, when used correctly, can complement a direct sales organization by increasing close rates and overall sales productivity. Targeted messaging delivered through approaches that combine e-detailing, lead nurturing and social media will communicate a more thorough understanding of your customer, delivering meaningful information in a format that is most convenient to them.
Quite simply, since market factors have negatively impacted the sales rep’s access to clinicians, a concurrent digital strategy works on two levels:
- Increasing touch points with existing prospects. By providing other digital touch points, companies can increase visibility of their brand and their products, buffering the long spells that may occur now in between face-to-face visits.
- Inciting market response from new prospects. A strong digital approach broadens the audience of qualified targets that reps don’t have access to in the first place. By building credibility in your brand through digital strategy, companies can create hand-raiser opportunities, which leads to a much more meaningful conversation when a rep is provided first-time access.
Companies selling into the healthcare space must adopt these digital components that can positively affect the sales rep’s productivity and their ability to reach their intended targets. Think of it as providing air cover for the ground troops – where the ground troops are the feet-on-the-street sales reps and the air support comes in the form of highly cost-effective digital channels to assist the reps in their efforts. These new digital marketing channels are no longer a nice-to-have, but have become a must-have.
Pat McGloin serves as the Managing Director for the Life Sciences Business at Partners and Simons, a marketing services firm serving the healthcare/biotech and financial markets with digital and traditional communications expertise. Pat touts over twenty years of Life Science commercial leadership experience in a start-up environment, and for recognizable brands like Johnson & Johnson, Cytyc/Hologic and CR Bard. Pat has devoted his entire career to developing and executing commercial strategies in the life sciences space. The product lines he’s commercialized have generated over $1.5B in revenue. Connect with Pat McGloin on LinkedIn. Connect with Partners and Simons on LinkedIn and Twitter.
A rant if you please…
Wouldn’t life be easier for all of us if sales prospects made their way through the B2B sales funnel in a single-file, orderly manner? But unfortunately, the B2B sales funnel looks less and less like a funnel and more and more like a game of Chutes and Ladders.
B2B sales prospects aren’t always going to go through the funnel like we’ve laid it out in our minds – suspect, prospect, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, close. Each buyer is going to have their own unique path to your company’s offering and a unique path to doing business with you.
What happens first? The prospect might view some of your whitepapers or articles.
Then they might eventually engage a sales rep… but oh wait, they’re not ready to make a decision – go back ten spaces and nurture this lead.
Then they might re-engage and go through a sales presentation.
Then they create an internal evaluation committee to assess your solution… but wait, go back another five spaces because the CFO needs to convene with legal to see if your contract makes good sense.
Uh-oh, it doesn’t, and they come back and say, “Let’s change the scope of this proposal, and, by the way, can we get it for $2,000 cheaper?”
Hey wait, they have a new CEO and need to freeze the budget for another couple months.
The new CEO wants to see competing offers from other competitors.
“Can we redraft the proposal please?”
And then maybe they will do business with you.
There are a number of metrics that support this hypothesis that the funnel is no longer a straight line from top to bottom. For example, we know that sales cycles are getting longer. We know that there is a flood of information from outside sources, which can become a hindrance to your deal.
There’s no way you could ever use any type of software solution to predict each unique buyer’s journey. So adapt to the role of a 21st century B2B sales professional. Know that there will be hiccups in the process and always be nurturing leads that may go dormant in your sales funnel.
I like a good movie. Who doesn't? As a professional in the sales industry though, I'm particularly drawn to films that sensationalize the art of selling... and there have been many. We're going to have a little bit of fun on a Friday afternoon.
I recently watched The Wolf of Wall Street, and it didn't disappoint. Martin Scorcese does a great job with this film - an entertaining story, mixed with great characters, and a dash of Scorcese raunch.
The story of greedy Wall Street exec Jordan Belfort is one of tragic hubris - and Leonardo DiCaprio shines in his portrayal. Belfort is brash and unaplogetic, but he sure can get his team of salespeople in a frenzy. One scene in particular has Belfort inspiring his callers to sell more stock in the most sensational fashion imaginable. It got me thinking about other sales speeches I've seen in films - ones like the classic "put that coffee down" speech from Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross and Ben Affleck's speech to new stock broker recruits in Boiler Room.
I recently asked a question about community members' favorite sales movies in the LinkedIn group B2B Sales, Marketing, Social Media & Lead Generation and thought I would share some interesting answers (and movies you might not have thought of):
Which is your favorite? Take a look below and share your choice. (All videos are censored and safe for work.)
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Wolf of Wall Street