Technology has changed B2B commerce sales forever. Today’s digitally savvy B2B buyers prefer to research and purchase online without assistance. As order placement becomes a self-serve process, you may wonder if closing sales in B2B still require a salesman. Forrester’s report ominously titled “Death of a (B2B) Salesman” predicted that 1 million B2B salespeople could lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020. As the deadline approaches, it’s time to look at how salespeople should rethink their role to deliver sales in B2B commerce and provide real value to customers. Try the proven sales techniques we share in this post to help you survive and thrive B2B sales in the digital age.
What It Takes to Be a B2B Salesperson in the Digital Age
According to Forrester’s leading analyst Andy Hoar, order takers, explainers, and navigators are the types of sales reps exposed to the greatest risk of ‘extinction’ in the digital age. On the other hand, sales consultants will be in even higher demand. That’s because sales consultants deeply understand their customers’ business and offer solutions to the specific business problems their clients face. That’s the turning point of B2B commerce sales in the online-driven environment: sales reps must reimagine their roles. When they evolve from product pitchers into well-trained product experts and problem solvers, they shift their focus from the seller to the needs of a buyer and are positioned for success.
But “shifting focus” and “evolving” are easier said than done. What does that mean in practical terms? Let’s look at exactly what a sales rep should do before and during their conversation with a lead to successfully start and accelerate their customer journey in the digital age.
Sales in B2B Commerce: Prospects Are Prepared. Are You?
Your potential buyers most likely researched your brand and products online. They already know much of the standard product pitch. You need to be prepared as well. Before you talk to prospects, research them. Find out about the individual standing behind a lead and explore their business background. This will help you personalize the experience you offer prospects beginning with the first interaction. As you communicate with your prospects, be as customer-centric as possible. That means practice active listening and ask questions to get a broader picture of their expectations and problems that need a solution.
Effective B2B Commerce Closing Techniques in the Digital Age
The salesman’s mantra is, “Always be closing”. Has that changed in the digital age? You should still always be moving a prospect to close, but how you go about it is different. So, in the digital age, when you’re talking to a lead and they seem engaged use these techniques to close the deal.
The no pressure close
As the conversation approaches its final stages, sum up the prospect’s business concern based on what you’ve just discussed and provided your solution to the issue. Ask them if there’s anything you might have missed they would like to add. If there’s nothing to flesh out, ask the lead the following questions:
- Do you believe I have a proper understanding of your business and the goals you need to reach?
- Do you think the plan we’ve just discussed will help you reach these goals? Do you feel there might be an alternative plan?
- If a product demo (or presentation, depending on what you’ve showcased them) meets your expectations towards solving your problem would you consider partnering?
The final question in this sequence lets a salesperson gently close the discussion without pressure.
Ask for an assessment and let the prospect identify the benefits
Closing sales in B2B sometimes require a salesperson to take a nonstandard approach. As the negotiation comes to an end, ask the lead to rate their desire to proceed with your business using a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 stands for ‘not interested’ and 10 is ‘Ready to sign the contract today’. If they rate a score of 6 or less, it’s a sign you need to improve the earlier steps of the sales process. If the score is over 6, it’s a great opening to ask the lead why they scored so high. The trick is to get prospects to realize exactly how they will leverage your product and collaboration as they answer this question. Once they identify the benefits, ask why they didn’t give you the highest rating. This technique will allow you to quickly uncover concerns or objections and address them immediately. Talk through each con the prospect voiced and at the end, ask if their score has changed. If the rating is still below 10, recap the benefits expressed by the lead earlier and go through their concerns. Suggest they compare the pros and cons of being your customer and ask whether they believe the pros outweigh the cons. If the answer is positive, the chances of closing the deal are high.
Assertive yet mild closing phrases
You’re a solution finder and an advisor, not a pushy product seller, right? Use these or similar non-aggressive assertive statements and encourage questions to bring the deal to a close without pressuring the lead:
- Unless you have any further questions or concerns, I suggest we move forward. . You leave it up to your prospects to ask for more information if they really need it to move to the next stage. If you’ve properly addressed their objections or concerns at previous stages of the sales process, the lead suggests it’s ok to start.
- Ready to proceed with the actual agreement? I could prepare and send the contract today. If the prospect feels like committing to doing business with your company, this phrase will bring them a bit closer to signing the contract without feeling rushed.
- If you sign up today, you’ll be up and running (get your issue with X resolved, etc) by… Letting your lead know how your product solves their issues is particularly effective when you can provide them with a date that your solution will relieve their pain point. This estimation can create a sense of urgency in the prospect and encourage them to opt for your solution.
The dramatic change in buying behavior of business customers has changed the way sales reps should act if they want to continue to close sales in B2B commerce. Today’s B2B salesman must be a phoenix: by burning down old approaches and rising from ashes as a sales consultant that offers solutions tailored to customer needs. It’s how sales will survive in the digital age.