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The B2B Sales Experience: How to Build a Successful Journey

How customers feel about your product—and how likely they are to buy it again—may begin before they have engaged with your brand, but it’s made or broken during the sales process. They’re already deciding whether they trust you and like working with you. 

When customers enjoy a successful B2B sales experience, where not only is their initial problem resolved by your solution, but they also find you to be transparent and easy to collaborate with and purchase from, they are more likely to complete the sale and become repeat buyers.

So, creating an easy and memorable customer experience that makes your buyers happy is worth the trouble.

In this guide, we’ll take you through what a B2B sales experience is, what it isn’t, why it’s so important for your bottom line and what challenges you might face.

Let’s dive in.

What Is a B2B Sales Experience?

The B2B sales experience refers to the journey that B2B buyers and existing customers have with your company at each of the five stages of the B2B sales funnel (listed below). It’s created by your prospects’ interactions with your brand, such as word of mouth, information found through the internet, and conversations with your reps throughout the B2B sales process; it’s made great by the savvy, human, and efficient way in which you deliver value to customers even before your product helps them.

The modern B2B sales funnel is made up of 5 stages:

  1. Awareness: a prospect is aware of your offering through targeted or organic advertising or research based on the business issues they need to solve
  2. Interest: a prospect recognises your offering may help their business, and wants to dig deeper to determine whether your brand is a good fit
  3. Decisioning: a prospect is now aware of how your offering fits their needs, but is still weighing up the pros and cons (they might ask for a demo at this stage)
  4. Action: a prospect either makes a purchase decision and becomes a customer or decides to postpone or opt out of the sale
  5. Retention: a prospect decides whether to renew your service; they may also share feedback with peers, online or via sales references

In short, B2B sales experience means keeping your customers happy before, during and after they purchase your product or service.

So, why is building a successful journey essential?

Without an easy-to-navigate, omnichannel, fast and pleasant customer experience, your prospects won’t begin to make their way down your B2B sales funnel whatsoever. That means:

  • Fewer new customers
  • Fewer repeat customers or loyal advocates
  • Fewer sales
  • Less revenue
  • Less fun

B2B vs. B2C Sales Experience: What’s the Difference?

B2B buyers go through the same basic funnel stages as B2C buyers. And after all, B2B buyers are still human beings with the same minds and habits as B2C customers. To satisfy them you need omnichannel, digital and quick access to the information they need.

But the headline is this—the B2B sales experience is far more complex than the B2C sales experience. How it differs:

You create experiences for teams, not individuals 

B2C sales experiences are dictated by the journey of one lone customer. If I’m in the market for dog food, your company’s focus should be to understand my specific needs and build a journey to satisfy them. But with B2B sales, you’re managing experiences for multiple people within your prospect business. And because of human nature (that classic complication), everybody’s different. If my business is in need of a new CRM, I need to make sure everybody from my marketing, sales, customer success, admin and leadership teams love your product.

Each team will have different needs, questions, use cases and opinions, and it’s the job of your CRM company to satisfy them all and make sure they all get the same great sales experience.

You focus on longer-term relationships 

Customers in B2C land have far shorter attention spans, and it’s a lot harder to turn them into lasting advocates. I buy a fizzy drink, I drink the fizzy drink, I get on with my day and next time I’m thirsty, I might just pour a glass of water.B2B customers will likely end up using your product or service every working day. So when you’re engaging them throughout the sales process, you need to keep in mind they’re not just fleeting customers you can trick with your sales magic on then leave alone. B2B buyers need reassurances that you’re in this for the long-run.

Because of this, the sales cycle you go through is much longer as well. A product, used by an entire team, for a long period of time? That requires a whole lotta thinking time to make a purchasing decision, and you need to be there more often to support them because of it.

You sell more complex stuff 

A chocolate bar is (after you unwrap any fancy packaging) essentially just chocolate. Advertisers will claim there are nuances, but as customers, we know what chocolate is. This is the blessed life of a B2C consumer.B2B products are never “just” anything. You probably have many similar features as your competitors that work a lot differently in practice. Your product might have a lot of features that specific customers don’t need, or that would help if they understand the use cases. You might have different tiers of service.

To give B2B customers a happy sales experience, you need a deep understanding of your product and the ability to communicate that simply so your prospects aren’t confused about what they’re buying. You might need to get them excited about doing their work in a new way that product allows — knowing most people aren’t excited for the work that change involves.

What Are the Main Challenges in B2B Sales?

There are plenty of B2B sales challenges. and there are no exceptions when it comes to providing out-of-this-world sales experiences. The challenges of B2B sales experiences can be summarized by these three Ps.

Personalization 

Above, we mentioned that the difference between B2B and B2C sales CX, is that B2B requires you to please a lot more people, who are far more wary of the products they’re buying, over a longer amount of time.

Speaking to different buyers about different pain points requires personalization at scale. Here’s why:

Personalization is about designing an experience to meet someone’s requirements. It means you need to answer some questions for each customer and buyer type: What are their specific pain points? What are their preferences?

You also need to know how to reach these stakeholders. There’s no point trying to engage Tim from operations on LinkedIn when he hasn’t updated his profile since 2014.

There’s also a massive lack of standardization in B2B sales CX processes. One company’s model will be drastically different from another’s. This can make personalization efforts an uphill battle as you have to work out the best approach for your company from scratch.

And due to the fact that personalization is a more complex beast in B2B sales, it’s going to require a lot of your time and resources. This includes gathering customer data (which is hard to come by in B2B), analyzing it, and crafting the personalized content and messaging to match that for a large prospect base.

You need to balance this drive to personalize marketing and communications with efficiency. Personalization is an essential part of the prospect and customer experience, but it can also slow down the whole B2B sales process if too much time is spent on it for not enough reward.

How Can You Solve the Personalized B2B Sales Challenge?

Invest in the right technology

Marketing automation and sales enablement tools are your sword and shield against personalization challenges in B2B. Smart CRMs can use collected customer data to suggest real time, personalized recommendations about what offers to suggest to prospects and customers to keep them interested.

Document automation can cut down the times reps spend on non-selling activities and give them the ability to integrate personalization into their day-to-day engagements.

AI and ML can also be used to analyze relevant customer data and identify the patterns to inform personalized sales experiences.

Patience 

Ok, at the end of the day, we’re salespeople. We want to close deals fast in the best way possible: “there are sales quotas to hit!” But don’t let this ruin your customers’ B2B sales experience.There’s a fine line between persistent and pushy, and treading over it can put your prospect or customer on edge and make them more likely to back out of a relationship.

The most commonly associated word with salespeople is “pushy,” according to Hubspot research. And when B2B salespeople try to push customers through the experience in the name of fast conversions, it signals you’re not properly listening to their needs.

Rushing the process without taking the time to understand your customers is a false economy. You’ll end up offering things like product demos before they’re bought into the idea they need a product, or asking about their internal structures before they’re even aware of your product.

This kind of pushiness makes a prospect feel like they’re not being worked with.

How can you solve this B2B sales challenge?

Give your prospects and customers autonomy

We understand this is a hard thing to define in the consumer space, and indeed realize. In the age of information and automation, consumers have more choice (and therefore perceived autonomy than ever), and simultaneously are paralyzed by the sheer abundance of choices out there—thus, the modern “paradox of choice.”

Consumers want to ultimately feel like they are in control of the decisions they make, but with smart algorithms making the solutions they see even more tailored, this puts that perception at risk.

So, giving consumers true autonomy is somewhat of a paradox in the age of prospecting tools, and hyper-relevance.

But here are a few things that can help give people their sense of self-determination:

  • Give prospects a clear way out: You can do this by sending “opt-out” emails to prospects if they aren’t interested in your product.
  • Link prospects to information they need to educate them on the subject: Instead of bombarding them with the facts they need to see value in your product or service, individuals will feel more empowered if they gain the capabilities to see this themselves. This can include relevant eBooks or studies, but try to make them external if possible to avoid seeming forced.
  • Create a sense of belonging: People naturally feel more in control when they feel a sense of relatedness to who they’re engaging with. Take the time to fully understand what drives your prospect and where they like to interact, and connect with any similarities in your company.

This shows that you respect their decision-making process. It acknowledges buyers have the power and space to feel comfortable making decisions, and allows them to trust you — and nothing greases the sales process better than trust.

Giving your prospects and customers the autonomy they need also benefits you. It helps you separate the people who are serious about engaging with your company and those who aren’t as interested. You can then allocate your time accordingly.

Position in the funnel

One of the most dangerous challenges in B2B sales is misplacing your prospect or customer’s position in the B2B sales funnel.Three hallmarks of a good B2B sales experience that involves multiple stakeholders are:

  • Taking the right steps at the right time
  • Making sure the prospect gets the right information for their role
  • Leaving them time to digest it

The main reason B2B companies get this wrong? Misalignment between marketing and sales teams. It’s an age-old problem but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved.

The handover of prospects from marketing to sales teams and the collaboration of both teams throughout the prospect’s experience make it possible to give buyers the right information and content at the right time.

If your sales team pulls in one direction and your marketing team the other, your prospect becomes a tug of war rope that doesn’t move in either direction. And in tougher economic times, misalignment is malpractice.

The handover of prospects from marketing to sales teams and the collaboration of both teams throughout the prospect’s experience make it possible to give buyers the right information and content at the right time.

If your sales team pulls in one direction and your marketing team the other, your prospect becomes a tug of war rope that doesn’t move in either direction. And in tougher economic times, misalignment is malpractice.

How can you solve this B2B sales challenge?

Align your sales and marketing team

It’s not just about alignment but about supporting smaller things, like validating and updating assets that are relevant to your new focus (think data sheets and case studies to start with).

To ensure a successful sales process, it’s important for both teams to align on key priorities such as messaging, use cases for each account, and roles and responsibilities in the customer journey.

By establishing a shared strategy and clearly defined responsibilities, sales and marketing teams can work together to provide customers with consistent messaging and content that will help to drive engagement and close deals.

While the specifics of this alignment will vary from company to company, establishing internal alignment is key to a successful B2B sales experience.

These are just some of the challenges of B2B sales experiences. But if you’ve built a robust customer journey, a lot of these will probably (hopefully) never come your way.

B2B Sales Examples for Creating Your Customer Journey

At this point, it’s important to acknowledge that no sales experience is ever the same, so there are many B2B sales examples depending on what kind of experience model you use.

Examples of B2B sales experience models:

Consultative sales experience: where your sales team works closely with the client to understand their needs and challenges, giving relevant insights and recommendations based on their expertise. This is often used in software and technology industries.

Solution sales experience: where you sell a complete solution to your client’s problem. This could involve bundling different products or services to create one solution to fit your client’s needs. You’d usually use this approach in manufacturing, logistics and supply chain management.

Relationship sales experience: here, your sales team’s focus is to build long-term relationships, becoming a trusted advisor for ongoing support and guidance. This is a popular approach in financial services, insurance, and real estate.

Account-based sales experience: this involves your sales team selling to specific accounts or target clients, working closely with marketing to identify and engage relevant target prospects’ decision-makers. This is often used in technology, software and other professional services industries.

Direct sales experience: where your team engages your client without any middle-men, usually through multiple channels such as mobile, email, social media and in-person meetings. Technology, software and manufacturing are industries where this approach is popular.

But no matter which B2B sales experience model you use, the B2B sales examples and B2B sales tips you can use to provide an outstanding sales experience should be etched in your brain.

Six Great B2B Sales Experience Tips for Each Stage in the Customer Journey

Awareness stage:

Focus your targeting

One of B2B sales’ biggest mistakes is when they try to be all the types of things for all the prospects. Subpar B2B sales experiences happen when you try and be a people pleaser.

There’s no better way to make sure you and your customers get along than by focusing on relevance when prospecting.

This is a job to work with your marketing team on. You want your marketing to reach the prospects most likely to care (and therefore buy), so you’re one step closer to building a meaningful relationship before you’ve even said “hi.”

Don’t rush. Research who your priority customers are. Analyze the most profitable customers you already have. What are their firmographics? What do they have in common? What are their pain points? What problems are you helping them solve day-to-day?

When you know who you’re targeting, you can tailor your messaging and content to their exact moment.

Interest stage:

Ask plenty of questions (plus how can we make you look good)

Ever heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”? It may sound simple, but asking the obvious questions can become a huge differentiator between a good and bad B2B sales experience.

Because of the nature of a B2B sales customer journey, you’re going to be working with these people for a while. So, at the start of your relationship there’s absolutely no harm in asking things like:

  • “What can I do to make our partnership easier?”
  • “Where would you prefer me to contact you?”
  • “What kind of content do you want to see from us?”
  • “What do you want to know about us?”

You can also be as blunt as to directly ask prospects and customers how you can make them look good. This also helps you extract some of their key problems and pain points, so you’ll be able to cater for their needs much easier.

Educate your customer on common problems other buyers face

Unlike a romantic relationship, it’s OK to talk about past (and current) partners with your customers.

Sharing best practices, lessons learned, common roadblocks and pain points from past deals with your offering can help your customers properly immerse themselves in your world. By educating them on the intricacies of their expected journey, their experience will inevitably become more positive, as they’re more prepared for anything to come.

Decisioning stage:

Invite prospects into your world

Imagine you’re starting a new job. Would you prefer to be left alone to make connections by yourself, or would you rather a friendly, experienced face showed you around and make you feel comfortable?

Inviting your prospects into your ecosystem is a great way to make them feel at home in your relationship before they’ve purchased your offering. You can do this by putting them in touch with your current customers who have had similar issues or experiences, including them in your events, newsletters, and even socials.

This helps you create a trusting and pleasant relationship and builds your community.

Action stage:

Give your prospect space

Throughout the B2B sales journey, you should be wary to not become pushy, but this is especially important in the action stage.

This is where your prospect ultimately decides whether or not they want to work with you, so any wrong move on your part can shift the balance of decisions negatively.

This is your prospect’s decision. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, it should be a favorable decision. Don’t mess it up now.

Retention:

Conduct check-ins

Connecting with your clients regularly lets them know that the trust they built in the purchasing journey wasn’t just an act to get them into bed. It also lets you know what you can do to keep them as a loyal customer.

This can be as simple as sending them content you think they’d be interested in, introducing them to new clients or events, or asking them to fill out feedback forms.

These can also be great opportunities to upsell, as you’ll become aware of how their business needs are evolving within your partnership.

These are some of the core experience-focused B2B sales process examples that can make your customers happy if they decided to engage with your company.

And the more a customer is happy, the more other customers follow, and the healthier your revenue stream is.

But (after all that), here’s the thing.

Doing All of This is Hard Work…

B2B is a space full of exciting new technologies, innovations, and players. It’s also a space where growth can be fast, furious, and hard to keep your business to pace with.

B2B sales experience outsourcing can alleviate all the pressures of keeping your customer journeys at the same high level as your company’s growth.

It helps with the high costs associated with hiring and maintaining an in-house team, and frees up your existing employees to focus on business-critical functions.

Learn more about our B2B sales solutions.

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