If you sell to other businesses, you know how challenging it can be to get the attention of today’s B2B buyers. It’s not going to get easier anytime soon. According to a Demand Gen Report survey of B2B buyers, more than half of B2B companies use buying committees or buying groups to review potential purchases. In addition, 52% say the number of people in their buying groups has increased significantly from last year.
In other words, making the B2B sale now requires connecting with not just one buyer, but with several of them. In such a competitive environment, how can your business make connections? Here are three ways:
1. Reach out to leads early. More than seven in 10 B2B buyers in a report by the RAIN Group say they want to hear from vendors early in the buying process, while they are still gathering information about potential solutions. You can use content such as spec sheets, white papers, downloadable checklists or guides, and more to capture leads in these early stages and then contact them to follow up.
2. Respond to inquiries quickly. By the time a B2B buyer actually contacts a salesperson at your business, he or she has probably done most of the research necessary to identify potential solutions and narrow down the field of competitors. That means you can gain a big advantage just by being responsive. (Almost three-fourths of B2B buyers in the Demand Gen Report survey say the vendors who win their business respond in a timely fashion.) Use customer relationship management or lead management software that helps you track leads and reply to inquiries from potential buyers ASAP.
3. Understand the customer’s needs. A lot has changed about sales in the past few decades, but one thing hasn’t: Knowing the buyer’s business and being able to present relevant solutions remains key to landing the B2B sale. Some 93% of B2B buyers in Demand Gen Report’s survey say they value vendors who demonstrate experience of and knowledge in the industry—but industry insight alone isn’t enough unless you can apply that expertise to the prospect’s business challenges.
Once you have a B2B lead, what’s the most effective way to contact them? According to RAIN Group, email is far and away the preferred method. A whopping 80% of buyers want to be contacted by email.
However, fewer than half want to be contacted by phone and only 21% like to get voicemails. Sellers aren’t listening: 70% of sellers call buyers on the phone, and 38% use voicemail to connect with them.
Direct mail and in-person contact remain effective ways to connect with B2B buyers, according to the RAIN study. About one-third of buyers say presenting, exhibiting, or speaking at trade shows, conferences, and seminars is a good way to connect with them. Less effective: social media. Just 21% of buyers prefer to be contacted on LinkedIn and only 18% want sellers to reach out to them via social media comments.
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Ready to talk?
When you do contact a B2B buyer, what makes the difference in whether or not they respond and take the conversation further? According to the RAIN Group, the top factors are:
- Whether they need the product or service now or in the future: 75%
- Whether they have the budget to make a purchase: 64%
While you have no control over these factors, staying in contact with potential prospects via networking, social media, and regular check-ins can alert you when they may have a need for your product or service.
Social proof is also important—and that’s something you can control. B2B buyers consider trusted sources when deciding which vendors to engage with. Buyers are more likely to respond to sellers’ outreach if they:
- Have a pre-existing relationship with a vendor: 61%
- Have bought from the vendor previously: 60%
- Have heard of the vendor’s company: 58%
- Vendor referred to them by someone inside their company: 57%
- They know people in common: 49%
- Vendor referred to them by someone outside their company: 49%
This is where networking (both online and off) and maintaining your business’s online reputation via reviews, ratings, PR, and marketing can make a big difference.
Okay, you’ve made the connection. Now what can you give the B2B buyer to move the conversation forward?
Buyers want relevant information that helps them make a decision, minimizes risk, and convinces the other buying group members to agree. The following type of content will help put them on your side:
- 69% of B2B buyers are influenced by primary research data relevant to the buyer’s business.
- 67% are influenced by content customized to their situation.
- 66% are influenced by insights on how the vendor’s products or services can solve business problems.
- 63% are influenced by financial justification, such as ROI or total cost of ownership.
- 61% are influenced by case studies and customer success stories.
- 55% are influenced by client testimonials.
The journey to making the sale starts with a single contact. Armed with these insights, you will be better prepared to turn that contact into a profitable relationship.