How to Adapt your Sales Experience and Focus on Relationship Building

The combination of COVID-19 and the accelerated adoption of digital technology by B2B customers has forever changed the sales landscape. B2B customers now prefer to skip the more traditional interactions with sales staff by performing most of their research online. 

Whilst this is a critical change in the customer journey it’s complicated by the long sales cycles inherent within the IT industry. B2B customers now tend to be ready to make a decision when they contact a sales team, so how can you influence these buying decisions? 

One solution is to focus on building relationships with potential leads, however, before we delve into the topic, you need to understand how the sales landscape has changed over the past five years and what it means for the IT industry.  

5 ways sales have changed in recent years

So what’s changed in B2B sales that makes it so critical that you need to adapt your sales strategy to build relationships?

The customer journey has changed

The accelerated move towards a digitally driven landscape has greatly empowered B2B buyers, who now prefer to independently research purchases online. Add to this the fact that 8 out of 10 buyers prefer to interact with sales reps via email, rather than spend 60 minutes in a meeting and you’ll realise that the customer journey has significantly changed.

These changes have led to extended buying cycles for outbound marketers and a shortening of the nurturing cycle for inbound marketing. This means that most of the buyer’s journey has been completed before they interact with a salesperson. 

Multi-channel marketing approach 

Digitally aware B2B buyers are now demanding a different approach from sales reps. Gartner found that B2B buyers spend less than 20% of the customer journey interacting directly with sales reps. Since most buyers interact with multiple vendors during the buying cycle this significantly reduces the time your sales team can interact with buyers. 

This brings us to multi-channel digital touchpoints that allow B2B buyers to better manage their time, whilst also providing numerous opportunities for sales reps to communicate with potential leads. For example, offering a video or webinar to B2B buyers allows them to watch it in their own time resulting in more convenient interactions. 

Another good example of multi-channel marketing is to send your B2B buyers a gift via a direct mail service. This strategy creates opportunities for further communication, particularly if the gifts and the messaging are on point.

Resource availability 

With buyers in control of the sales process, you need to cut through all the noise before you can make your pitch. Given that B2B buyers like to perform their own online research, content marketing has become a key element in the customer journey. 

However, to differentiate yourself from the masses you need to provide quality content (eBooks, videos, webinars, and so on) that focus buyers’ attention on your products or services. The more helpful the content you provide, the more trustworthy your company appears and the more likely a sale will be achieved.

Data-driven strategies for sales and marketers 

Traditional sales models have become less reliable as B2B buyers rely more on independent research rather than interacting directly with sales reps. This means that a customer-centric approach to qualifying leads is necessary. This is best achieved by utilising high-quality B2B data that allows for personalised approaches to each lead. 

This data-driven approach, however, will only be successful if your sales team has a thorough understanding of the metrics and how to adapt their strategies to remain competitive. For example, the number of calls it takes to qualify a lead, MQL to SQL conversion rates and the number of landing page visits are data that can be used to create well-informed sales strategies to grow your sales and revenue. 

Optimising sales processes

The best way to personalise your interactions with B2B buyers is to make them feel appreciated and you can achieve this by optimising your sales processes. This means using multiple tools to aid your sales team in generating leads, such as customer support software, CRM systems, email sequences, scheduling tools, demo software and so on. It also means aligning your sales and marketing teams so they share the same goals and strategies.

Why building relationships with customers matters

With the accelerated change to a digital landscape, client centricity has become a key element in the success of your marketing and sales teams. Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable when compared to companies that don’t focus on their customers. It helps you acquire and retain customers, as well as reduce attrition and save on acquisition costs. 

It's a sustainable business practice that focuses on nurturing leads and building trust with your customers. This leads to increased customer satisfaction and greater brand loyalty which often results in word-of-mouth referrals to other B2B customers.

How to build relationships with customers

Whilst outbound and inbound marketing teams need to adapt their strategies when building relationships with B2B leads, four steps will accelerate the process.

Practice active listening: A customer-centric approach to lead generation or selling means that you need to listen more than you speak. Focus on concise messaging where you identify their problem and explain how your services or products provide the solution.

Utilise social selling: This is a strategy that focuses on making connections through social media rather than selling your products or services online. Given that B2B buyers conduct most of their research online before they interact with salespeople, IT companies that use social selling strategies can open doors where more traditional sales strategies may no longer be successful. 

Prioritise long-term relationships:  Simple steps to prioritise long-term relationships with B2B buyers include developing the relationship early in the process, establishing multiple communication channels, delivering value-laden content and responding promptly to enquiries. 

Relate on a personal level: Coming across as a human being and not just someone intent on making a sale is vital to building relationships with B2B customers. This can be achieved by learning about their interests, finding common ground and ways to relate on a personal level with your customers.

Leverage SalesPond’s direct mailing expertise

With a variety of lead qualification and marketing support solutions, SalesPond helps you optimise lead generation opportunities through direct mailing campaigns. Our specialist team identifies qualified leads, nurtures them and books appointments with your sales team. 

SalesPond’s direct mailing campaigns help you kick-start your sales pipeline with highly qualified leads that are waiting for your call. For more information on improving the response rates of your direct mailing campaigns, don’t hesitate to contact the SalesPond team. 

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