B2B Sales Challenges in 2020

Everyone engaged in B2B industry knows that this field is full of sales challenges. Whilst in B2C industry the sales cycles are pretty short, a B2B sales cycle requires much more time and effort. The whole B2B sales process in general as well as sales enterprise in particular are built differently than B2C. In B2B, a company deals with another business: wholesale buyers will use the purchased products for profit, for example, reselling them further or offering installation, delivery, installation, maintenance services. In the case of B2C, a company is already working with the end user who buys the goods directly for their own use.

At the same time, in B2B, 80% of customers are usually regular. In B2C, every time you have to pay for re-attracting current customers, and, unfortunately, the frequency of purchases in B2C is several times lower than in B2B.

In B2B the buying committee is involved in decision making. Very often the risk assessment comes into the picture.

Before you sell a product or service and make a profit, you will have to determine the target audience, explore and, if necessary, investigate their expectations and requirements, find a solution to their problems, etc. to make them your future customers. That’s what makes B2B business so challenging.

In this article, we will raise the issue of the most common B2B sales challenges that sales & marketing departments may encounter in 2020. We will also give you some ideas on how to mitigate the customer’s objections, what to do with a long buying cycle and how to turn marketing to increase ROI on click.

B2B Challenges to Overcome in 2020

Sales are the most important function in any organization, and also the most difficult. One of the biggest B2B sales challenges is a long list of routine tasks to do - searching for potential customers, sending sales offers, updating statuses in the CRM system and so on. This usually takes too much time and limits sales and marketing departments to do what they do best - sales.

Lack of access to adequate sales tools for high load targeting can hinder your team's performance. So, let's see how your sales team can overcome the biggest B2B challenges that they may face this year. 

Challenge 1: B2B Lead Generation

B2B lead generation remains the biggest challenge in B2B industry. Capturing website visitors is no longer enough. Today, sales and marketing departments must cooperate to develop the lead generation strategy and find a balance between inbound and outbound lead generation efforts.

They should pay attention to the creation of the most engaging content marketing strategy so as to draw and nurture the target audience. In addition, they must also encourage B2B customers to take effective actions that will meet the business goals, for example, with the help of remarketing and advertising.  B2B sales professionals are struggling to increase the sales pipeline and find the right techniques to generate quality leads.

In fact, many of the solutions simplifying business are quite complicated. That is the main reason why selling them is quite difficult. First, the buyer needs to have a clear understanding on how the product works and why it is necessary to be acquired. And secondly, you have to communicate with business representatives - people who are clearly focused on benefits. 

Many companies that sell similar solutions in B2B usually experience the following difficulties:

  • customers do not fully understand what the solution is, and some of them understand it completely wrong;
  • more thorough approach to buying than in B2C; spontaneous purchases do not exist here - one must prepare very seriously for the sales process, which, as a rule, takes a long time;
  • the client is interested in the amount of money to  be earned/saved using the product - therefore, a powerful base of arguments is needed.

How to overcome:

Expand your market. If you want to work in the global B2B market, you must build a reputation in international markets. In particular, content plays a significant role (not only blogs, but also cases, marketing materials, etc.). Globalization means that your content can be accessed from anywhere in the world leading to unlimited business opportunities.

Develop other content. To connect with a wider target audience, you need to know how to reach a wider circle of potential customers. To do this, you can explore new keywords that your customers use when surfing the Internet. By doing this, you will identify gaps in your content strategy and market that you have not yet covered, and create suitable content.

A/B content check. A/B testing is a marketing method used by B2B sales professionals to evaluate and manage the performance of a web page. 75% of websites with monthly traffic of more than 1 million visitors conduct A/B testing. However, it is true that this method requires the implementation of a rigorous process as well as a period for its development. You will need to identify areas of optimization for your website, prioritize in terms of action, and also master statistics in order to prevent mistakes.

Why do you need to start A/B testing? Or, it’s even better to ask yourself: “Are you satisfied with how you use the traffic?”. Optimizing your conversions is cheaper than generating traffic with a higher potential ROI. And with A/B testing, the effect will be even more visible. But A/B testing will allow you much more:

  • Learn more about your visitors: the impact of various components (elements) of your page on their behavior, needs, habits;
  • Eliminate the risk factor and subjectivity in making your decisions, applying the practice of the test and confirming all optimization hypotheses;
  • Concentrate your strengths (and money) on what works best for your target audience thanks to what you’ve learned through A/B testing.

A/B testing allows B2B sales team to compare an existing version of a page with new optimization options that you would like to test. Your visitors are divided into equal parts and subjected to various testing options in order to determine the option that is best suited to your goal (entry, click, add to cart, etc.), that is, whose conversion rate is the best. The data is then analyzed and compared in order to determine whether the changes you want to implement are possible or not.

Each company develops its own process of A/B testing, but in general it looks like this:

  • Measure and analyze website data to identify areas of optimization and growth opportunities;
  • Set one of their optimization hypotheses;
  • Prioritize A/B testing ideas for sales and marketing;
  • Perform A/B testing of the most important hypotheses;
  • Analyze and study test results. Share the results within the company.

Challenge 2: Increased Competition

This is another challenge in B2B. In recent years, the situation in B2B sales has changed somewhat. Customers no longer rely entirely on the salespeople recommendations, as they used to before. They collect and research most of the information themselves. And, usually, at the stage of exploring several alternatives they are applying to the sellers. It is because of these changes that companies need to clearly understand the customer journey map of their audience and provide the highest quality content to address potential customer’s potential issues at the awareness stage.

It is also difficult for potential customers to determine the value of a product and why it is worth buying from you. As a result, they may be dissatisfied with the price, conditions, etc. and refuse to purchase your product. 

How to overcome:

Segment your audience. The details are the most important, if you know who your ideal customer is, how you can solve their problems.

The ideal customer profile is a collective profile compiled on the basis of analysis of customer’s data that brings the largest profit to the company. 

Possession of this information contributes to:

  • Improve marketing materials: ads, commercial offers, landing pages and so on, adapting them to the needs of target customers and the factors that motivate them to buy;
  • Highlight customer engagement channels based on facts instead of guesswork;
  • Decide on positioning and stand out from the competition.

Before you start writing and sending out a commercial proposal, you need to imagine its prospective addressee.

Creating the ideal customer profile involves knowing the answers to the following questions:

  • location (city or village, house or apartment);
  • age;
  • education;
  • marital status;
  • occupation (employee, entrepreneur, business owner, temporarily unemployed, senior citizen, student);
  • what interests him (hobbies);
  • what problems worry them;
  • whether your product can solve their problems;
  • how much per month do they spend on purchases on average;
  • what is the decisive factor when making a purchase decision (price, quality, brand, advertising, recommendations of friends);
  • how well the consumer is familiar with your product;
  • how much they are willing to spend on the purchase of your product;
  • what scare them in connection with the acquisition of your product.

ICP clear representation helps to find a common language with them, turn to new customers, save and motivate returning regular customers.

Attract and hold customers' attention. It's not difficult to get the audience's attention, but to keep it is another B2B challenge.

A value proposition is what makes the client learn more about your offer, motivates you to stay on the site. A value proposition provides a clear understanding of the user about the benefits that they will receive if they become a client.

The key word is benefits. A customer must understand how the product will help them to solve their problems and what result can be expected from its use. And if emotions, fears, desires play a key role in B2C, B2B industry is pragmatic, and the unique value proposition here must be brought to the fore.

Here are a few options for value propositions that prove to be useful:

  • Unique product features. If the product surpasses in some parameters to its analogues, then this fact can be made a value proposition.
  • Price. Since the “bill amount” in B2B is usually higher than in B2C, the price plays an important role here. But the mechanism for using prices in value propositions for B2B and B2C is different. If discounts, promotions like “1 + 1 = 3”, final sales, liquidation of goods are necessary in B2C, then this does not always work in B2B. In B2B, the low price must be argued, otherwise it will become a deterrent.
  • Quick solution in solving a problem. The faster and easier you can solve the user's problem, the better. This indicate that you will complete this work in 1 day, and this will interest the target audience.
  • Quality. There are areas where the quality of products is difficult to “touch” (website promotion, consulting, etc.). Here, feedback and indirect indicators such as the convenience of the website, the information content of the blog, the availability of useful services are significant.
  • Demo version. Before buying a product, it must be tested in action. In the field of B2B, this is especially required, because business efficiency depends on the convenience and quality of a product.
  • Customized solutions. B2B often requires solutions designed for a specific business. Indicate that you not only sell your product with the specified parameters, but also produce products with the characteristics specified by the customer.
  • Technical and informational support. It is vital to maintain contact not only until the sale of the product, but after this process as well. If the product is complex, then customers will have a lot of questions in the process of its use. And they should know that they will receive the answers from you, and they will not have to wander through third-party blogs and forums.

Support users' interests through personalized content. Even a few basic questions allow you to find out what content will be useful for the client. Get started with the audience:

  • create useful content for each segment
  • set up an email newsletter (it is recommended to have double opt-in procedure and ask the customer how often he wants to receive emails)
  • test different feedback methods to better understand the users’ needs and interests.

Prepare a customer for purchase. Try to do it in the following way:

  • come up with a customer action. If users are willing to write about your newsletter on social networks, chances are they trust you and are ready to buy
  • configure consecutive emails
  • create a unique offer for each segment.

If the classic sales funnel is aimed at constantly finding and attracting new customers, then the relationship funnel works the other way: the target audience trusts you, so they regularly monitor your content and offers. New customers come with positive reviews. This is the secret of increasing your B2B sales.

Challenge 3: Long Buying Cycle

If you work in the field of B2B industry, a long buying cycle is your everything. Sales cycle can also be extended because of the number of stakeholders in the client’s company, the change of your contact person in the company, their internal processes, etc. But you can make it more fluent. 

At about three-quarters of B2B sales to new customers take at least four months to close, with almost half taking seven months or more. B2B sales professionals put a lot of effort but very often do not receive the desired result. 

How to overcome:

Improve your lead generation and qualification. The very first step to take in your B2B sales cycle is to fill your pipeline with leads. This will influence every step thereafter. If you have a pile of low-quality leads, your research stage will take forever and high-quality leads will remain unaccounted. Your reps will spend a lot of time filtering out bad leads. By properly qualifying your leads in the first place, you make every following step more effective.

Collect and analyze your data. If you do not know how your sales process works, you cannot make it better. Track at what stage the sales pipeline is delayed or lost to potential customers. The best way to do this is to implement a CRM system. That will help you to have all your B2B data in one place.

Address bottlenecks. No matter how good your opinion is about how your sales cycle is built, there will be bottlenecks. Each process has its drawbacks. The data that you collect from your CRM and other sources can help you to overcome this challenge.

Think about how to make your weakest steps the most powerful ones - write new conversation scripts, change the frequency of follow ups, see how effectively your sales representatives handle objections, listen to all their conversations, etc.

Document your sales process. Have a clear and compressed explanation of your sales cycle and process. And, it should be always kept somewhere where representatives can find it. 

This makes it easy to adapt, helps representatives learn what to do next, and you can refer to them when you look at the metrics. The creation of this documentation may take some time, especially if you have never previously documented the sales process, but the result will be achieved.

Challenge 4: ROI Measurement

20% of B2B companies do not measure their marketing profitability. Why not? Of course, knowing whether you get a return on your investment is the key to planning future investments. In many cases, companies are not 100% using methods for measuring return on investment, as this is not a real value. But the lack of measurement can lead to poorly spent budgets and missed opportunities.

Measuring ROI is also one of the biggest challenges in B2B. There are so many factors that can affect the final number and the readings you extract from it.

How to overcome:

Get data about your target audience. Most entrepreneurs believe that absolutely everyone needs their product or service. This is precisely the key mistake that makes them drain a significant part of the budget. It is imperative to narrow your focus and direct your efforts to your target audience. Knowing your target audience, you can significantly save on attracting it, thereby increasing ROI. You will also understand which channels to invest in, which is also important.

Provide consistent parameters. The whole organization should use the same parameters and field values to record information. Often organizations ignore this process, which can lead to errors and data inconsistencies. Comparing all the leading fields with the corresponding values is important for evaluating marketing programs and their impact on revenue and increasing ROI.

Fully integrate the systems. To maintain data integrity, sales and marketing systems must be combined to share all data. In particular, marketing automation systems and CRM systems should use the same fields, fill them in and transmit data as they are received. B2B data in these systems should be synchronized as you move through the sales cycle.

In addition, integration allows B2B sales and marketing departments to personalize the experience for each individual strategy and measure the impact of all touchpoints with the customer.

Challenge 5: Social Sales

Social sales turn out to be the latest hot topic for B2B sales industry. The concept of social sales seems to be very simple - this is, in fact, adding social networks to the seller’s arsenal.Just think about it: 78% of salespeople using social selling reportedly outsell their competitors who are not engaged in this practice, yet only 7% of sales organizations view social selling as their priority.

As modern times changing influence on our view of the world, B2B buyers have more relations and are more aware than ever before. The Internet has also made it possible to simplify the word-of-mouth information exchange. It broadened the horizons that must be opened for a new business but also has lost trust.

Not surprisingly, 90% of C-level executives said they do not reply to common sales methods such as “cold calls” and sales emails (only 24% of them might be open) (InsideView). 

So, social networks take over to fill in the blank. The technique of social sales is aimed at using social networks to not only ascertain more special prospects and their industries but also to create wider networks and interact with potential customers at a deep, individual level. Undoubtedly, social sales work, but they also pose a big challenge in B2B. They can bring incredible results only if they are properly designed and accepted completely as part of a B2B sales process. 

How to overcome:

Use it for the right things. This is where many newcomers to social sales make a slip. They believe they can just log in to LinkedIn, connect with a lot of people who look like potential customers, and send them a message to get an immediate reaction. This is simply not the case - there is no strategic thought behind it. 

The thing is to connect with your potential customers and business leaders on a truly personal level. Interact with what they share, answer their questions, follow the content they read. This means you are providing your own experience for which you cannot rely on the script. 

Give it time. To successfully use social networks for B2B sales, you need to devote more time to this. Every day you spend a lot of time making phone calls or sending emails. Social sales require the same engagement to social networks. B2B sales professionals should devote 5-10% of their day to social networks. It is not so difficult, but over time it becomes significant. This time should be used to perform several different tasks: from establishing new relationships to answering questions posted in groups and discussions. You can establish several new connections, but do not expect them to be in touch with you in a week or even a month. They may lead to victory by the end of the year.

Pal up with marketing. A huge part of a successful social sales strategy is sharing pertinent content that is valuable to the business leads in question. This means that your sales foundation needs large assets and resources to be shared. You can find them in one place - marketing. Palling up with the marketing, you not only increase B2B sales by 67%, but both departments will see 200% more return on their efforts as well as open channels for getting the best and most up-to-date content. Content sharing helps you gain trust, become an expert, and become truly interested in the pain points of a potential customer. This helps to establish the customer trust in you and your product.

Continue after-sales relationship. This is a real secret to prosperous social sales, and it will honestly change the way you do! Hard work on creating essential and veritable connections in social networks are not enough.  You should continue building it after sales close, constantly interacting with each other. This provides some huge benefits and helps your social sales strategy have a fruitful future.

Challenge 6: Focusing on C-Suite too much

Almost all customers prefer having meetings with senior executives. Usually, these meetings conduce deeper relationships, revealing more ways to help their customers. 

Selling in a C-suite can be quite difficult. For most of us, access to the C-suite is one of the biggest challenges in B2B. 

The research conducted by Google shows that of all the senior executives, only 64% influence a final purchasing decision, whereas of all the lower level employees, 81% have a say in this process. Therefore, non-executive employees influence around 25% of a business deal.

Employee Influence on Purchase Decisions

The Changing Face of B2B Marketing

Source: Snyder, Kelsey (2015). The Changing Face of B2B Marketing. Think with Google.

How to overcome:

Do your research and find a potential champion in the company. How do the most B2B salespeople prepare for meetings? Usually, they visit a potential customer’s website, read reports and updates, search for the name of the executive on Google or LinkedIn, and prepare a list of questions. This really works. 

Plan each conversation with a goal in mind. When selling to a C-suite, most people find themselves at two opposite ends of the spectrum. They either retrain and start working with a program to achieve the result or simply decide to transfer dominance and ask the leader what do they want to talk about.

In both cases, they actually provide a solution to the agenda of the executive branch - but at the expense of their own.

Instead of sketching general topics for the meeting, think about what you would like to achieve. Plan it like a trip. What is your final destination? Where do you want to stop on the way? What do you want to see when you are on the road? What points do you want to score?

A good start (preparation) and planning of the main moments of your trip will help you in solving your problems as well as theirs.

Be confident and balanced. Sometimes executives in large corporations like to throw challenges. Depending on how you answer, they will either refuse you or you will be one step closer to becoming part of their trusted inner circle.

Intellectually and in terms of our experience, most of us can (objectively) pass this test. But many of us get confused when we are under pressure. We begin to sort out the words and defend ourselves for a long time, trying to prove our point of view. Or we are trying to resell what we have already sold.

All of this can be avoided using a simple technique. Recuperate the control of your breathing. If you feel nervous, take three breaths. 

Instead of focusing on the right in front of you, activate your peripheral vision. Realize what is before your eyes. Literally, see the big picture. Do not worry that you will answer too long. Your colleague will think that you simply collect your thoughts and make up a well-thought-out answer.

Challenge 7: Providing Demos

Confucius said: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me and I can remember. Engage me and I will understand”.

This is the essence of demonstrating an excellent product in B2B sales. Providing your potential customer with a long scenario of product advantages simply does not have the same effect as a visual presentation. In such a way you actively interact with your potential customers. But it still remains one of the biggest challenges in B2B.

But there’s a little discrepancy between when prospects want to see a demo and when salesmen are planning to show it.

Take the expectations from the first call; 54% of buyers would like to see a product demo already, but only 23% of sales reps are prepared to give one.

How to overcome:

Evaluate your readiness. Just because you can provide your product demonstration does not mean that you should do it. Ensure your potential customer is ready. This means finding out at what stage they are on their way to B2B buying process. If the potential customer is not yet sure what they need, the product demo will not be effective or useful. As soon as a potential customer officially evaluates the options provided in order to make the final decision, only then the demo will be brilliant.

Be selective. Make sure that the potential client you are going to show your product features to is the ideal customer and/or in the right target market. You do not have to demonstrate the product for each potential customer. 

Before the demo, a BANT sales qualification must be conducted, whether it is a target audience and might influence the final decision. 

Focus on perspective and tell a story. You may consider the demonstration to be only about the product. However, potential clients will use the product, so they need to know how it can assist them to achieve their goals. Therefore, take the time in advance to think about solving the future customer’s needs and problems. Then show how the product meets these needs and how it can help them to tackle their issues.

Be representative. Yes, you are dealing with a company in a professional environment, but that does not mean that you should ignore the human aspect. Take some time to speak with the person you are demonstrating before starting the presentation. Ask them how their day passed and what interesting projects they are currently working on. You will not only know them better, but also get useful information which can be used when demonstrating. It also establishes the understanding that is necessary to build a good relationship with a potential client.

Ask additional questions. When the demonstration is over, you need to measure the “room temperature”. Ask questions regarding both the product and the potential customer. For instance: “Is there anything you need from this type of product that you have not seen in this demo?”, “Have you seen anything here that you think will be useful to you?”, “What features of the product do you think will be most useful to you?”

Such questions may tell you what the potential customer really needs, what features are most popular and what features you might have missed. It will also help you to evaluate interest levels and the likelihood of placing an order.

If you work with B2B customers and promote your services, you must have encountered at least one of the top B2B challenges listed above. The B2B industry is constantly changing, and convincing potential customers to work with you is no longer easy.

Be active in your sales and marketing strategies and find channels where you can increase your B2B sales. Your sales and marketing departments must work closely together to attract more potential customers to the sales funnel.

Overcoming all those challenges means establishing relationships with your customers and building trust, which is the key to success in today's B2B sales. 

 

Updated on 03/39/2020

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