High pressure and high energy, that’s the life of a sales rep. It’s about the ‘buzz’ that comes with the thrill of the chase, landing the deal and watching those sales figures soar.
But the B2B sales landscape is constantly evolving, along with the tools and technologies that can support teams to achieve their goals. It’s therefore important to always keep your eye on the ball. To analyze and reflect, then constantly look for ways to strengthen the sales process.
Before moving forward, it’s always beneficial to take a step back and evaluate your current situation. That way you will be moving forward from an informed position, making decisions and taking action that is most likely to lead to results.
So, before we jump into what are the hottest sales tactics of 2018, here are some key questions to consider about your current situation:
- What are your goals moving forward?
- Has anything changed? Is the profile of what makes a good sales lead still the same? Has the product or service you’re offering changed in anyway?
- What’s working and what isn’t? What has brought you the greatest success? Are there any gaps? Are there any patterns or trends you’ve noticed?
- What new tools and strategies have come into play? How might you best capitalize on them?
Understand where you are now
Instead of trying to force new leads into a faulty process, begin by making sure the process is as strong as it can possibly be. Ask yourself:
Does the process work? Are you achieving your goals?
- Are enough leads coming in? Are they of a good enough quality? Are you getting enough appointments? What is the closing rate? Use our sales velocity calculator to help you analyze the situation.
If not, why not?
- Try not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Have other people look at it as well and together discuss what’s going on. Quite often it’s not the obvious but a deeper problem.
If yes, how can you improve, or build on your success to achieve more?
- When you’re deciding what to change, make sure you keep a log book to record them and measure their effectiveness, so you can see what’s had an effect. Decide upfront how you are going to measure the results of any changes you implement. Know beforehand what success will look like.
Use the power of collaboration
Another top tip is to recognize the power of collaboration. The strongest lead generation strategies and sales pipelines will always be created by combing the expertise and insights of both the sales and marketing team. Make this the year in which this happens.
Work together with the aim of creating a customer-centric sales funnel. This will greatly increase the quality of the leads that marketing hands over to sales. And the better the quality of the leads being generated and the more effective the lead qualification process is, the more sales that are likely to be closed – and faster!
Here are some key actions to consider for your funnel:
- Early lead recognition
When is a lead a lead? In many organizations, teams either react too quickly or too slowly when moving someone from the position of being a contact, to trying to actively sell to them.
- Learn to recognize the signs – If someone subscribes to your newsletter, it doesn’t automatically mean they are ready to purchase. You need to weigh up all the signals they are giving off. For example, if someone requests a price list, then that’s usually a good sign.
- Use clever tools to help you – Recognizing who is a lead and who is not, as early as possible in the process, is one of the key ingredients in any successful sales funnel. With the help of technology, website visitor behavior can now be analyzed and appropriate action taken, at the right time. (Which is where our own Lead Forensics software comes in! Speak to one of our consultants to find out how you could benefit from identifying leads super early, before they have even converted on an offer or filled in a form).
- Mid sales funnel lead qualification
While teams will usually focus on the top and bottom of the funnel, it’s important to consider every stage.
For the middle of the funnel, aim to include a human step wherever appropriate. Have a business development person geared up to contact leads and have a non-salesy qualifying conversation with them, to help filter out the good leads.
While this may be an additional cost, it will be a huge time and money saver in the long run, as your sales reps will be left to concentrate on only the very best sales leads.
For more ideas on pipeline management, see: How to build a strong online sales funnel for B2B organizations
Talent development remains crucial
Training is another key area to think about, as it can often be the first casualty when teams are busy trying to get the day job done. It can also be difficult to stay on top of the latest ideas and techniques, especially if you’ve been running in-house training programs for many years.
But training is key, for both driving results and keeping team members motivated. And it’s important not to overlook the so called ‘soft skills’, things like empathy and communication. These are skills that can prove invaluable when embarking on sales conversations. Nobody likes talking to a robot and for modern buyers, being heard and understood is vital for building relationships.
Training is especially important for front line sales reps and mid-level reps – those undertaking the roles which are traditionally seen as ‘burner’ jobs. They will generally have a list of contacts to plough through and will be phoning each, one by one, trying to uncover the golden nuggets. The better their training is, the better they’ll become at this and the higher the quality of the leads that will be generated.
So, what are the 3 most important sales tactics for 2018?
Once you’ve assessed the current situation, it’s time to move forwards and strengthen what you’re doing. Look to plug any gaps, do more of what works and make sure you’re up to speed on these essential sales tactics.
1. Online lead generation
There’s no escaping it, the world of B2B sales and marketing is changing and online lead generation is where it’s all happening. That’s because 94 percent of B2B buyers nowadays, will conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product. To be in the running as a potential supplier, you need to be ‘found’ early on in this research phase and to work on developing a connection.
For any business, success in this space comes down to demonstrating expertise and building relationships. Sales teams are no longer selling in the traditional sense. Their job now is to be helpful and to provide solutions. The key lies in showing a potential prospect you understand their problems and what the future could look like were they to implement your solution.
There are many different online lead generation tactics that can be utilized and which can work really well. Review your existing strategies and consider where improvements could be made.
2. Account based marketing (ABM)
It may not be a new tactic, but it is one that really works!
The basis of ABM is to focus on an individual client, to understanding them, their problems and challenges, and develop highly personalized content for them. To do so effectively, you need to research your targets and then produce campaigns that are designed specifically for them.
ABM can be a great strategy, especially for focusing on high value targets.
For more ideas, see: Top tips for using account based marketing to drive B2B sales
3. Automation (just don’t overdo it)
Automation can be a gamechanger for the whole sales process, ensuring nothing is ever missed and no ball is ever dropped. But you need to achieve the right balance between automation and the human touch.
Automating key elements of the process means the right message will be sent to the right person, at the right time. Software can also be used to ensure any communications are personalized and that content is sent out intuitively, based on what is most likely to interest a prospect. This can help ensure the whole sales process runs like a slick, well-oiled machine.
Plus, some other tactics that are worth considering
It’s always wise to keep an eye on what else is happening out there. From the benefits of using IP tracking software (like we offer at Lead Forensics), to other new tools and technologies that continue to emerge.
Here is a run through of just a few of the tools that are on the radar of the top sales and marketing teams:
- Messaging – Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS, Twitter… they all offer a way to communicate with prospects and clients. The potential of these new mediums of communication is starting to be fully embraced and their use is only likely to increase. Look at how they might fit within your sales process.
- Chatbots – This function is already proving popular with many B2B websites. Chatbots can be installed and used to automatically start a conversation with a website visitor. They are a way to get straight in there with someone who has shown an interest in the company or product. The questions posted by such visitors can also be valuable for spotting areas of the sales funnel that could be strengthened.
- Video prospecting – One way to really stand out, is to send prospects a personalized video. It’s a form of communication being explored by many marketing teams, but sending a prospect a quick video – even if it’s just recorded on your phone – is another way for sales teams to stay in touch and stand out from the crowd.
Find out what B2B businesses are planning for in 2018 in our first ever Lead Forensics B2B Sales and Marketing Benchmark Report.