If you’re like most small business owners, you’re constantly juggling a million different things. And when it comes to your sales strategy, you may be tempted to just do what you’ve always done and hope for the best. But hoping for the best is not a winning strategy – especially in today’s competitive market. So if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, it’s time to reevaluate your B2B sales strategy. Here are three reasons why it might not be working:
- You’re targeting the wrong leads.
The first step to a successful B2B sales strategy is understanding who you’re targeting. This means learning about the corporate stakeholders that have responsibility for your area of expertise and figuring out how to best communicate with them so they understand what it is their company can gain from working together, rather than just trying to guess at which prospects will respond positively or negatively based off initial reactions alone!
Most small business owners struggle to sell to corporate organisations, because they aren’t sure on the types of corporate stakeholders that they should be targeting / trying to speak to or aren’t sure how to communicate effectively with those leads, once they’ve identified who they are!
Targeting the right types of stakeholders who are actively responsible for specific business areas/ projects, makes it much easier to run the sales process quickly – and usually generates a better outcome. Whereas targeting the wrong types of leads can often result in;
- Meeting junior employees who say that they’ll refer you to senior colleagues but often don’t have the ability / confidence to make the introduction.
- Endless meetings with stakeholders who say that they’re interested but that ‘it’s not my area and I’ll have to pass you over’… and often don’t know who would be the best person for you to talk to.
- Inadvertently irritating the right leads when you’ve talked to everyone but them!
A lot of these errors can be overcome by making sure that you’re correctly identifying stakeholders – and making sure that all of your leads are decision makers in your area, rather than simply being employees who happen to be at a senior level in the company. If you want to sense-check the differences between a stakeholder and a real decision maker, click here to listen to my podcast episodes; How to Find the Right Decision Maker.
If you’re looking to map your market correctly – and find the right stakeholders to talk to each time, you’ll need to consider a few things;
- What types of stakeholders (and their job titles!) are responsible for your area of specialism?
- Which stakeholders / decision makers would be responsible for the type of transformation your products/ services can produce?
- Which types of employees would be most impacted by your products / services? Who manages them or is responsible for leading them?
These questions will help you identify one or more stakeholders who are most likely to be your best leads (and who’ll be most interested in what transformation you’re able to provide!) so making a list and deciding how you want to proactively target them, will help you see epic results!
If you know that market mapping – and finding the right stakeholder – is where you struggle, check out the Converting Corporates Bundle where you’ll be able to access an entire workshop on creating your best corporate market map and a whole proactive LinkedIn strategy to target them correctly.
- Your follow up cycle isn’t fit for purpose.
We often wish that sales was a simple ‘one and done’ process… in other words, we wish that we’d send out one email and that our stakeholders would magically respond with a ‘yes’ and pay immediately… without any further sales activity.
Unfortunately, if you’ve read any B2B sales guides, you’ll know that following up is where the fortune comes in… and in fact, more than 50% of sales are made after the fifth follow up… meaning that if you don’t prioritise your follow up sequence in the lead generation or business development processes, that you’re definitely losing sales.
Most entrepreneurs or small business owners don’t want to follow up because they don’t want to be seen as ‘pushy’ or ‘sleazy’. But the reality is, that life happens – and unfortunately, when a work day gets busy/ a stakeholder gets sick/ someone goes on holiday… your previous email isn’t necessarily top of the priority list and can get forgotten.
(Just like that dental/ gym/ hair/ nails appointment that you keep meaning to reschedule..!)
Following up politely with stakeholders, moves you back up to the top of the priority list and helps to remind them what they need to do next/ of any urgent deadlines that they’re about to miss.
I always tell my clients that in every situation (lead generation/ business development/ the proposal stage) you always have three opportunities to follow up. Minimum!
That means, you have three occasions where you can remind / chase a stakeholder about the same thing.
Now – we do have to make sure that we follow up in the best way… because nothing will get on a decision maker’s last nerve like following up in a rude/ condescending/ aggressive or butt-hurt kind of way.
(And yes, I know… I’m too British to use the phrase ‘butt-hurt’ but I really want to make it work for me!)
So make sure that you are sending regular, polite follow ups. And if in doubt? Send them once per week so that you’re not over-doing it, warn them in advance that if you don’t hear from them that you’ll send regular reminders and always be polite but keep to one clear point.
I hope you’re well and having a good week so far!
I wanted to reach out as I know you felt it would be best for me to talk to [OTHER DECISION MAKER] about [TOPIC] – and I wanted to check whether you’d had a chance to chat to them about it?
It’s not rude, aggressive or pushy – just reminding them simply that they’d offered to do something – and gently pushing for an update.
If this makes you feel uncomfortable? It’s totally normal – and I promise that we get way more emails from stakeholders who’ll genuinely thank us for following up, than ones who are cross about it. In fact, following up well demonstrates core sales and delivery skills that stakeholders appreciate! It shows that you’re dedicated, tenacious, genuinely keen to work with them and that you prioritise good communications… not bad eh?!
(Want more ideas on how to follow up without being sleazy? Check out my podcast episode here on The Art of the Follow Up for more tips and techniques.)
- You’re not getting enough/ the right information on sales calls.
Ahh business development calls. Usually the nemesis of the inexperienced salesperson… and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running a business, often there are many things that you’ll worry about when talking to corporate decision makers.
Unfortunately, business development / sales calls make up a large part of your B2B sales strategy. Effective sales calls mean that less time is spent emailing, help you to clarify the problems that organisations are struggling with, co-create best fit solutions, build mutually beneficial relationships and help prospective clients learn more about you, your credibility and get a feel for how you’d fit as an external supplier too. Not to mention the clarity they get on the issues that they’re struggling with – and why they need and want to fix them right now!
But it can be hard to know whether a business development call has really gone well or not. After all, simply ‘having a nice chat’ isn’t enough to generate revenue. And believe it or not, ‘nice chats’ don’t necessarily make you the top service provider of choice or the most memorable… even if the stakeholder promises that they’ll keep your details on file and let you know if they have anything that you can help with!
So how can we judge if a sales call genuinely has been successful?
A successful sales call will have a clearly defined next (business) step.
That’s right. A clearly defined next step, not necessarily a sale. (Although we’d love it if every conversation was an outright sale immediately!)
What do those next steps potentially look like?
- Referrals to other areas of the business/ other stakeholders who might be relevant to you.
- An agreement to look over a proposal in a defined timeframe.
- Booking another call to discuss specifics/ more details on a situation.
But those next steps do not look like;
- Asking to see your website/ for you to send them your website so that they can (never) ‘take a look’.
- Asking you to ‘send a brochure/ one-sheet’
The above are simply a nice way for stakeholders to exit the call and feel like they’ve not been mean to you.
(Wondering how a good business development call should go? Check out my podcast episode on running a great business development call here)
Unfortunately, running ‘nice’ calls that don’t lead to you gaining the right information / being able to support a stakeholder in diagnosing the issues that they might be seeing but not able to solve, are likely to impact your sales process negatively… and lead to you having;
- To make more calls to generate one sale.
- Calls that take a long time but never seem to lead to anything.
- Seemingly good relationships with stakeholders – but always missing out on work/ never hearing about upcoming opportunities.
What can you do to avoid these mistakes?
It’s common as a small business owner to make mistakes when you’re selling to corporate companies. And mistakes happen to everyone. But if you’re looking to learn best practice business development and consultative sales skills so that you can sign more corporate clients quickly, then get yourself subscribed to the Selling to Corporate ® podcast where I share B2B sales tips and techniques every fortnight.