B2B sales teams are hungry for the win. They want to hit their numbers and get results, and that means landing sales as efficiently as possible.
Finding ways to refine and shorten a complex sales process – so leads are converted within the quickest timeframe – therefore remains a constant challenge for both sales and marketing teams. As the shorter the sales cycle, the more potential sales that can be achieved.
A number of factors will be at play when it comes to the length of a sales cycle. Depending on the type of product or service you are selling, your sales cycle may naturally be quite long. Complex cycles can even reach up to two years in some cases. But most of the time they will fall somewhere between six and 18 months.
Building a successful B2B sales pipeline is one way to start streamlining the process, helping you improve your figures and strengthen your sales velocity. But there are other steps you can also take. Content marketing is one such powerful tool and many of the tactics used for it can also help you achieve this goal.
Here’s how some of the key online lead generation tactics can be used to help shorten a complex sales cycle:
Show you’re a good fit – get the content basics right
What content do you have on offer that explains about your product/service, and more broadly about the company and what it’s like to do business with you? This core content should cover off all the questions that any potential buyer might ask, at any given time in the sales process. Top content marketing trainer Marcus Sheridan calls this the “They Ask, You Answer Concept”. It’s about making sure you’ve got everything covered from the point of view of a potential purchaser. That doesn’t mean answering what you think (or want) them to ask you, it should be what they are asking in reality.
Help prospects relate – up date your case studies
Case studies are a powerful way to show your product or service in action and the type of companies you work with, which potential prospects can relate to. In a typical B2B company with a longer sales cycles there may be a couple of tried and tested case studies. Revisit them and make sure they are up to date. Try to keep your bank of case studies current by adding new ones and think about presenting them in a different way. For example, instead of focusing on you as a company and your solution write about the problem the customer had and how they arrived at using you to solve their problem. That way potential other buyers will find it easier to identify with them.
Make full use of content as a sales tool – provide easy access
Once you have all the basic company content together that you need, make sure it is easy to access. And that means by everyone, including all your customer facing employees. Make sure team members are aware of it – and using it! Modern CRM systems will help as they can make it possible for you to track all your sales material, its uses and effectiveness across the sales cycle.
Segment leads – be strategic with nurturing campaigns
The whole idea of nurturing campaigns is to build up a relationship with potential prospects and nudge them along the customer journey in a non-spammy but helpful way. Be strategic with these campaigns and how you use and share your content. For example, if someone downloads case study ‘A’ then they are likely to have similarities with that client. From there you can start segmenting leads down further by their behaviour and demographics. This will give you a clearer picture about how far along the sales funnel the lead is and importantly what you can do next to move them along even more.
Be there when they ask – provide high quality top of funnel content
Potential prospects need to find you easily. This means that when someone starts typing words into a search engine in order to find solutions to their problems, they find you. And even better, they should be able to tell from what information they can find that you’re likely to be a good fit. If you have already been on their radar by being helpful and full of advice, then you’ll land yourself on the list of potential vendors. Getting to that place means nailing your top of funnel content – i.e. the content that the search engines will show when someone starts looking. But you will only get into those search results if your content matches what a prospect is looking for and answers their questions well.
Content to help close the deal – let sales concentrate on sales
Sales teams should be left to concentrate on only the hottest leads and making conversions, and content marketing can help with that. They should be focusing all their time and efforts on those leads that have shown through their behaviour that they are truly interested. Reps should know what content is available and make full use of it to help them in closing the deal. For example, they should let leads hear from existing customers through testimonials, case studies or even to meet them at an in-person event you’re hosting.
So from providing the right content to using it properly, content marketing can be an effective tool for shortening and easing a complex sales cycles. The key here is recognising that thanks to the digital world we now live in, a shift has been made in the way B2B purchases happen. Being found online and the information you provide is now more important than ever before, as buyers will be actively looking there and using what they find to help shape their decision making.
Putting yourself into the shoes of your potential prospects is one very helpful exercise. Start by making sure you know where they are searching for solutions, what information they are looking for, how they’ll then use that information and what questions need answering before they’ll even make contact with you. If you can get that right, then you’ll be qualifying leads earlier and speaking to prospects much further along the process. Then to really get ahead of the game, consider how else you could be streamlining your sales process. Investing in software and tools that can help improve your sales velocity and making sure you’re generating the right type of leads to begin with, will ensure that you are spending every second of your time where it should be spent.
Calculate how fast you can turn leads into sales and turbo-charge your sales funnel with our free Sales Veloctiy Calculator.