Nowadays, sales on the B2B market are more and more demanding. When offering our products or services to other companies, we have to take into account strong competition, increasing requirements for the service provided, and, often, a long sales process. At the same time, this is an area where direct relations are often more important than any conducted marketing activities. How to meet the challenge of building a sales department on this difficult market? What does sales management actually consist in?
Step 1 – Check who your customers are
The first step to good sales management is customer segmentation. At this stage, we need to ask ourselves whether all the customers to whom we sell our services are, in fact, equally important to us and, if not, what distinguishes the key ones. By reducing the issue of segmentation to a few comparable and measurable parameters, we will be able to properly divide them. What does this mean? When selling training services, the size of the company will be important to us, but if our services are addressed exclusively to the management staff – the key is the number of this staff. In such a case, we will assign different weights to potential customers – a corporate company that provides financial services, and a manufacturing company – whose numbers may be identical, but whose purchasing potential differs significantly to us. If we succeed in dividing our customers by several measurable criteria, awarding them points in a given category, and then summing up the scores, we will quickly be able to divide them into appropriate groups, e.g., average, good, and VIP. What for? To ensure that the right salespeople take care of the right customers, and to know what our ideal customer is like – if we know who we are looking for, the chances of finding them increase significantly. And it would be good if every member of the sales team had this knowledge.
Step 2 – Determine what influences sales success
The second important element is the sales process. When operating in the B2B segment, a won sales process is not only the result of a good offer, but also of all the activities that precede its preparation and follow its submission. Let’s take a look at what the sales process looked like when we really wanted to win. We tried to meet the customer, understand their needs well, identify key decision makers, and think about the criteria that would guide them when making the decision. Only then did we prepare the offer, and, after submitting it, we kept asking about the result and negotiating the terms and conditions, thus arriving at a stage where the offer really met the expectations. When analyzing the effectiveness of won deals, is it possible to see the difference between such a sales process and simply submitting an offer and waiting for the customer’s response?
Knowing how a properly conducted sales process should look like in our industry, let’s write down these assumptions. Then let’s make sure that every salesperson knows about them and let’s settle up with them not based on the number of offers sent, but rather based on all the elements that have a huge impact on the probability of a win.
Step 3 – Act systematically
Sales are statistics. If we are able to carry out the right measurements, we will quickly notice at which steps we make mistakes and what we could do better to achieve results. Surprisingly, it often turns out that the problem in sales activities is the lack of regularity and consistency. A large number of offers to be prepared in one month automatically translates into a lack of any other activities, which quickly leads to a lack of any offers to be prepared. If we measure our sales activities, we will quickly see how many contacts at the level of a diagnosed purchasing requirement (leads) we need so that, from among them, we can obtain a certain percentage of companies with which we actually discuss specific sales (prospects). Next, we will submit offers only to some of these (potential customers) and only then will some of the offers allow us to gain a customer. This structure is very well illustrated by the so-called sales funnel, which represents the decrease in the number of each group depending on how effective our activities are at particular stages. It demonstrates how many open sales processes we have at each of said stages. The lack of systematic activity is very clear in this form of presentation – at some point in time it may turn out that our funnel’s shape dangerously resembles the shape of a cylinder, or maybe even begins to taper towards the top… How can we make sure that our sales team does not fall into the trap of the lack of systematic work? The simplest solution is to set the sales targets correctly. If the only criterion for settling up with salespeople is the budget they are supposed to implement, then there is a big risk that they will focus only on those sales processes that are at an advanced stage, while forgetting to systematically build a base of new contacts and to ensure the proper shape of the sales funnel. Therefore, let’s set such targets to be achieved that will take into account the budgetary result as well as the new contacts established, the quality of offers submitted, and the number of meetings held with customers.
Step 4 – Select the right tools
Managing a sales team is a complex task, but well-chosen tools can definitely make the task easier for us. In the case of sales on the B2B market, we will find excellent support in a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management). Most companies will find something for themselves among the solutions available on the market. There are extended, multi-module systems, capable of rendering complex sales processes, such as Microsoft Dynamics (www.microsoft.com/dynamics) by the well-known office software company, whose unquestionable advantage is that it is similar to the popular Office suite. Neither are there any problems with finding solutions that are really simple and addressed to small organizations. An example of this can be one of the most popular systems in the world – Highrise CRM (www.highrisehq.com), whose simplicity and focus on a definite reduction in functionality, even at the expense of the ability to measure elements of the sales process, have started a completely new trend on the CRM market. Finally, a system worth considering is the Polish product – Livespace CRM (www.livespace.io) – which, in an interesting way, combines the simplicity of everyday work with embedded methodology and a well-selected set of tools that support sales management on the B2B market – including customer segmentation, forecasting, and sales process management.
Step 5 – Measure results and draw conclusions
The specific nature of every organization and industry varies. If we want to manage sales well, we can use systems that support sales management, or we may reach for literature and training, but nothing will relieve us from the need to consciously analyze the undertaken activities. Therefore, let’s try to measure the effects of our team as accurately as possible in all aspects of the sales process. On the one hand, this will ensure a sustainable level of activities, thus facilitating forecasting and planning. On the other, it will make it easier to find out at which stage of the sales process a particular salesperson is doing worse, and allow to improve this element.