Navigating the Customer Journey in today’s Complex B2B Sales Environment
The customer has become the centerpiece of today’s B2B sales landscape. The cornerstone of sales success in 2017 and beyond is leveraging customer intelligence to align your sales process with the customer’s buying journey.
The gray highlighted section in the map above represents an ideal sales cycle where your sales processes are completely aligned with the customer from start to close, through all phases of the sales cycle.
We all know that thanks to the complexity of the B2B sales landscape, with more decision makers and stakeholders involved, longer deal cycles, higher price points, and more competing channels, this “perfect sales journey” is unrealistic. No matter who you are, you are bound to be faced with at least some obstacles throughout the sales journey. However, sales teams can be prepared for these obstacles so they can handle them quickly and prevent straying too far from the ideal sales journey. Navigating this complex environment relies largely on your ability to foresee and anticipate these obstacles.
For this purpose, we’ve created this map of the B2B Sales Journey to illustrate the most common pitfalls that sales teams may face during the sales journey. With each pitfall, we provided a solution so your team can anticipate (and eliminate) the obstacles of the B2B Sales Journey.
Pitfall #1: Aligning Goals with Stakeholders throughout the Sales Journey
B2B enterprises have become more complex than ever with an increasing number of stakeholders involved in the buying cycle. Per a recent Harvard Business Review article, The New Sales Imperative, the number of people involved in B2B solutions has climbed from an average of 5 people two years ago to 7 people today. These stakeholders come from a various roles, functions and geographies.
Your sales reps need their votes. Yet, one of the most common guessing games is played around the key players involved in a deal. It’s increasingly difficult for sales teams to understand and map the roles, objectives, and connections between these stakeholders within these complex organizations. This pitfall is one of the first most common obstacles that often causes sales teams to stray far away from the ideal sales journey.
Solution #1: Relationship Mapping
These days, it’s not enough to simply identify a set of contacts in your buyer’s organization. Sellers must know a high level of detail about each stakeholder involved – from their role in the buying decision to how they evaluate your relationship. Your team needs to see the BIG PICTURE in order to develop the relationships needed to complete the sales cycle.
One great way to navigate this obstacle is through relationship mapping. Some people refer to this as “mapping key stakeholders or influencers,” or “political mapping.” Regardless of what you call it, a relationship map is a key component in deal strategy and it should drive the action plan.
Pitfall #2: Lack of Account Visibility
Often times sales teams develop strategies without a complete understanding of the overarching corporate goals, objectives, issues and priorities that the organization is driving towards. Given the complexity of most organizations, the differing interests of decision makers within buying teams, the number of parties in the selling organization who interact with buyers and other stakeholders, and the amount of account intelligence they disparately gather (which is often not visible or known to all), sales and account teams are not maximizing the available account intelligence to better understand their prospects and clients.
This account intelligence – which could inform and influence sales efforts, leading to better planning and execution, higher win rates, and increased up-sell and cross-sell growth – is often not realized or utilized.
Solution #2: Create an Issue Map
The best way to be prepared for this obstacle is to use an account-based selling approach. This will allow you to maximize the gathering and documentation of account intelligence and enable sharing across all parties who interact with contacts in a prospective or current account. The goal is to support an account-based selling approach.
According to Mark Levinson of Sirius Decisions, an account-based models, such as an issue map, represents a strategic approach that aligns resources against a set of defined accounts and goals in a way that is relevant and valuable to those accounts and to sales/partners. To learn more about how to enable deeper, more meaningful account intelligence with Account-Based Selling Tools, check out our Field Guide to Account Based Sales Enablement.
Pitfall #3: Deal Surprises
In the last mile of a sales cycle, all of your team’s hard work has payed off and come together. The most important part of the journey is getting across the finish line, and this may seem easy in this last stretch. However, often times, sales teams encounter “deal surprises.” These are unforeseen challenges that arise towards the end of a deal, and can include, new decision makers becoming involved, new operational or organizational changes, or issues with budget release that significantly impact close probability. Being unprepared for these deal surprises has the potential to call off the entire deal.
Solution #3: Develop a Close Plan
The importance of a plan to address the ‘last-mile’ of a sales cycle cannot be overstated. It is critical, especially for large and complex deals, that the sales executive draft and review with their sales leader a detailed plan to earn the business in question. Doing so is how we ensure that things don’t get missed, that the account team is in alignment, that senior executives are clear as to what is required of them to support the deal and that everyone is focused on the most important tasks to reach the desired outcome: closed business that will bring clean revenue to the company and a valuable solution or product to the customer.
If you enter the sales cycle armed with these three solutions, you will avoid straying far from the path to close when faced with common obstacles of the B2B sales journey. By developing relationship maps, issue maps, and close plans, you can overcome the challenges that are most likely to prevent your sales team from closing deals.