The A2Z on B2B : From Leadgen Through Closing The Deal

Here are the slides of the presentation Rob Cooper of PlusROI and I gave at ViaTEC yesterday. The idea was to give an overview of the business to business revenue generation process from first “touch” on the web through to signing the deal.

Rob focussed on the best current online lead generation channels (and how to measure them) and I highlighted the top 7 B2B sales tool (all of which are proven to help to close more business but remain unknown or unused).

p.s.: Thanks again to Trevor Lines for his version of the buying cycle which I tweaked a bit (as I explained here).

 

Beware the Buyer Cycle

Is it a good sign if a potential client calls to ask about your product or service? Or if you get an RFP from a big client? Or if you get a meeting with a great new contact?

The answer is it depends. It depends on where the buyer is in the buying cycle.

If they’re very early in the cycle, it gives you the chance to diagnose their situation and help educate them thus building the relationship but you could be a long way from winning any business. On the other hand, if they’re at the end of the cycle, having pretty much decided on their solution and they’re merely looking for “2 more quotes” to satisfy purchasing, you could be completely wasting your time writing that proposal.

It’s a lot easier to foresee these kinds of problems with a good map of the B2B buying cycle.

There are many versions of the cycle but Trevor Lines from KHI gave us a great one last month at Viatec on this topic. I’m reproducing it below (with a few personal tweaks*):

 

Stage Step Client Thinking Sales Role
Need Change “Uh-oh” Student
Discontent “This is really a problem” Doctor
Learn Research “What can we do?” Teacher
Comparison “Who can best help?” Salesperson
Buy Fear “Am I going to regret this?” Therapist
Commitment “I’ll agree if…” Negotiator
Value Expectation “I look forward…” Facilitator
Expression “I’m really (not) happy!” Farmer

Trevor made several good points:

  • This cycle applies to all decisions which involve risk.
  • You need to know where your clients are in cycle to meet their needs.
  • The role of the salesperson changes as the client moves through the cycle.
  • The cycle can help salespeople figure out what to do next to move things along.
  • Initially, salespeople must be students of their clients’ changing industry, situation, etc.
  • Salespeople need to hold back on selling until the clients are the comparison stage.

*I made up the ‘Client Thinking’ column and I’ve changed some of the Sales Roles from Trevor’s presentation:

  • I prefer Teacher to ‘Architect’ at the research stage because that’s your opportunity to share knowledge and help educate the client.
  • I used Salesperson instead of ‘Coach’ at the comparison stage because that’s when clients want a great sales pitch.
  • Finally, I used Facilitator instead of ‘Teacher’ at the expectations stage because that’s when the salesperson can make sure his/her company delivers against client expectation.

Top 10 Questions to Qualify B2B Sales Opportunities

To close business, you need to understand your clients.
To understand your clients, you need information.
To get information, you need to ask questions.

It’s that simple. Yet almost every salesperson I know spends more time preparing what they’re going to say than what they’re going to ask. It’s natural to want to be ready to say the right thing but stopping at that is a big mistake.

One of the problems you get when you don’t ask the right questions is a noisy funnel, i.e. a funnel that’s full of unqualified opportunities. Which means you can’t forecast sales accurately, focus on the right challenge, and you/your team end up wasting a lot of time and money.

So based on the tried and true BANT qualification techniques (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeliness), here’s my Top 10 Qualification Questions:

  1. Budget   “Have you allocated budget for this initiative?”
  2. Budget   “Are you prepared to move forward with this price range?”
  3. Authority “Who would have final say, or signing authority for this initative?”
  4. Authority “What about from a technical perspective?”
  5. Authority “Who else is involved in the decision making process?”
  6. Need       “What’s the driving factor behind this initiative?”
  7. Need       “What does this project mean for you personally?”
  8. Timing     “Is there a specific event that’s driving this initiative?”
  9. Timing     “What’s the launch or “go live” date?”
  10. Timing     “What happens if you chose not to proceed with any option?”

Asking the right questions is crucial at every stage of the buying process (just ask the Solution Selling folk who’ve turned it into an industry leading business). The trick is to use these questions systematically. One way to do this at the qualification stage, is to bake these questions into your CRM.

For example I recently had these Top 10 implemented in a client’s Salesforce funnel so that salespeople had to answer each question otherwise they can’t turn a lead into an opportunity. As a result, their funnel shrank but their sales went up dramatically. Why? Because the sales team started having real discussions with real prospects which allowed them to invest their limited time in winning real opportunities.

Bonus Questions
Here’s another 8 great questions based on WHIP:
  1. Willingness  Are key client contacts willing to share information, agree evaluation  plan, or introduce to others?
  2. History         “What have you been doing up to this point?”
  3. History         “In the past, what has been the process for purchasing something like this?”
  4. Importance   “How important is this initiative to your business?
  5. Potential       “Where do you see the company in a year or two?”
  6. ROI               “How will the success of this initiative be measured and tracked?”
  7. ROI               “What would constitute success for this initative?”
  8. Competition “What other options are you evaluating?”

Remember: Ask and you shall receive!

Is Your Funnel Big Enough?

Here’s a simple rule of thumb to figure out whether you’re likely to hit your target next quarter:

If your unweighted sales funnel is worth 3 to 3.5 times the size of your target, then you’re likely to make it.

In other words, if the total value of the opportunities you expect to close next quarter is more than 3 times the size of your sales target for that same quarter, then you should be able to make that target or, as one veteran sales VP put it to me once, “your biggest challenge for that quarter is not to find your quarter but to close it.”

Let me point out a few things here:

- this is just a rule of thumb but its been proven over decades of technology sales (engineering services & software)

- the big assumption here is that all the opportunities in that 3x total have been properly qualified, i.e. each opportunity has passed the BANT test successfully

- do this quick calculation using raw numbers, i.e. unweighted. For example if an opportunity is expected to generate $100k in revenue then it counts at $100k in your total whether it’s rated in your funnel as an early stage 10% probability opportunity or an everything-but-the-contract 90% opportunity.

- if most of your opportunities are in the early stages (10%-50%, or “a left-leaning funnel”), you will have to work extremely hard to progress these through the buying cycle in time to close them in that quarter. If, however, the majority of your opportunities you’re expecting to close during that quarter are in the later stages of the process (50%-90%, i.e. a “right-leaning funnel”), you should be able to slam-dunk that quarter.

Hope this helps. All comments and questions welcome!

p.s.: here’s another way of looking at this:

If sales funnel < 3 x revenue target = marketing challenge, if > 3 x target = sales challenge

Your #1 Obstacle to Rapid Revenue Growth

Contrary to what most vendors promise, there isn’t a single solution to the challenge of B2B revenue generation. Not marketing automation, not the ‘death of cold calling’, not content marketing. There is no silver bullet.

Why? Because sales and marketing form a system, a system which produces revenue. And like any production system – e.g. an assembly line in a factory – every system  has a bottleneck. And as soon as you optimize the current bottleneck, another point in the system becomes the bottleneck, or if you prefer the weakest link in the chain. I.e. it’s a moving target.

It doesn’t mean there are no solutions, that things can’t be improved, and that you can’t hit your revenue targets. It just means that different situations call for different solutions, that improvement is a continuous process, and that to hit your targets you need to identify and focus on the right area, the current bottleneck. That’s your low hanging fruit. That’s where you’ll really see results.

So what is your #1 obstacle to rapid revenue growth? I don’t know. But I’d love to find out!

In fact, I’m currently doing a study with 100 small B2B tech firms. More details below. If you’re interested please let me know!

 

B2B Revenue Growth Study

What is your #1 bottleneck to fast revenue growth?

Benefits:

  1. Confirm your #1 bottleneck to growth (everybody has one).
  2. Get world class best practice recommendations tailored to your exact challenges.
  3. Get free access to the results of the study, including the best practices of your peers (NB: all results to be aggregated and anonymized to protect confidentiality).
  4. Get free access to our B2B Revenue Diagnostic Tool(TM).

Requirements:

The number of participants is limited and to qualify you must meet the following criteria:

  • your revenues are less than $20 million / year
  • you are CEO, CRO, CMO, VP Sales, or VP Marketing
  • your company is a tech firm (product and/or services)
  • you are committed to growing your Business-to-Business revenues fast

Contact: pt@harkandcompany.com, 250-507-8553