A sales process is a set of predictable, repeatable steps that a salesperson takes with a prospect to move them down the sales funnel to become a customer. It’s a high-level map of expected interactions it’s not set-in-stone list of activities, but rather it’s a helpful guide for sales reps to follow with each new prospect.
Traditionally, sales reps would find or be handed a prospect, then they’d pick up the phone and call that person. Within a few minutes, the rep would know if they had a shot of making the sale or not, and they would make the decision to pursue the prospect or move on.
Historically, a salesperson’s knowledge was his trade secret. Prospective buyers didn’t have access to things like pricing, specs, customer reviews, or competitor information. The salesperson was the expert. Because of this, the sale actually hinged on the salesperson’s ability to sell. Could they convince the buyer she has a problem? Could they make a strong enough case for why she should buy their solution?
The Modern B2B Sales Process
Today, however, B2B buyers are taking the lead in the sales process. They do their own research online before considering which solution might be the best fit – even when they’re making an offline purchase. In fact, much of the buying decision has been made before the salesperson ever talks to the business. Google analytics alternative of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases, and they conduct an average of 12 searches before engaging on a brand’s website.
Key Challenges Within the Modern B2B Selling Process
Modern B2B buyers are much more actively involved in the sales process. They are not passive participants – they don’t just trust what the sales rep says, they do their due diligence.
Some of the biggest challenges salespeople face in this new selling environment include:
Increased availability of information, which results in prospects entering the sales funnel at much later stages.
The point of contact with sales comes a lot later, so we have to be well prepared to present our value story to our customers or potential customers much earlier and articulate it in a much simpler manner.”Renee Richardson, Caterpillar Global Marketing Services Manager, as told to Think with Google
Product details, competitor information, pricing – there is so much information available online today, and prospective customers are spending their time looking through it and using it for planning before even considering talking to a sales rep. In fact, studies show that this increase in research and planning on the buyer’s side has led to the buying cycle getting longer overall.
This doesn’t mean that reps are having fewer interactions, though – it means that often the buyer has been in the sales cycle for quite a while before the interaction occurs. And this, of course, means that the salesperson’s role in that interaction is different than it used to be.
Instead of being a source of information, salespeople are now asked to confirm what the customer has already uncovered about the solution.