The B2B sales cycle can be divided into 7 big key cycles after defining who is responsible: prospecting, the pre-approach, the approach, the presentation, the overcoming of objections, the closing, and the follow-up.
Even if these stages are similar, the techniques employed to carry them out have evolved so much since the 20th century that a salesperson from this era would ask himself if you are even in the same occupation.
Stage 0 – Who is responsible for the B2B sales cycle?
Formerly the exclusive property of the salesperson, today it is either the marketing team or the sales team that are concerned; as you will see in the following stages.
Stage 1 – Prospecting
Vital elements of prospecting, the list, normally purchased, was the only active prospecting source of any good self-respecting salesperson. Luckily today, each salesperson can create his own list of prospects himself thanks to social media.
Using Outbound Sales techniques, a salesperson can prospect directly through social media for professionals, and automatically engage their prospects via personalized e-mail scenarios.
Also, Inbound Marketing, via the content, allows the interested prospects to discover the products/services themselves, and hence to set up passive prospecting. This indicates that the prospect will seek to enter get in touch with the salesperson on his own.
Stage 2 – The Pre-Approach
Crucial to the B2B sales cycle, the pre-approach is the moment where the salesperson informs himself about his prospect. Previously, this work was done unilaterally based on information on the company that was gleaned from your surroundings based on one’s network, for example.
In the era of Social Selling, it is less rare for a salesperson to exchange with his prospect via social media and to mix up the stages by responding to his questions in advance. Without discussing the tools for the consolidation of data, which, from a simple e-mail, can give information on the role of the prospect, the revenue of his company, etc…
Stage 3 – The Approach
Before the internet, the best solution to contact a prospect was to go door-to-door or to cold-call. Thanks to Marketing and Sales Automation tools, and to Cold Calling 2.0, it is possible to automatically determine the interest of a prospect and focus on those with the most potential.
Incidentally, this approach is almost entirely the responsibility of the Sales Development Representative, who undertakes this gauging process before passing it on to an Account Executive.
Stage 4 – The Presentation
One of the first techniques of presentation set up to improve the productivity of salespersons was the “canned sales presentation” (or “scripted salesperson pitch”).
This approach was very efficient to ensure the uniformity of the speech of the sales people. Today, in order to avoid travel of the salespeople, it is ideal to communicate through a personalized online demonstration.
Stage 5 – The Overcoming of Objections
At this stage, a salesperson from the 20th century would have done all they could in order to overcome the objections of his prospect with the only goal of convincing each one to buy his product and close the sale.
Yet, today we know that it is important to adopt an approach that is more oriented towards the client, and to ensure that the product/service will correspond to the needs of the prospect. Lead Nurturing is being used more and more to ripen a prospect before proceeding to the sales stage.
Stage 6 – The Closing
A simple sale, while very interesting in the short term, does not win the loyalty of the client and ensure a virtuous B2B sales cycle. A sale, even less importantly, will ultimately fetch more if the client has the feeling of having been accompanied through the sale, notably as a result of the recommendations.
Stage 7 – The After Sales Follow-Up
An often forgotten stage of the B2B sales cycle, the after sales follow-up cannot limit itself to the sending of a letter/flyer and a few goodies (even if this reinforces the connection with your client).
The Customer Success position, dedicated to following-up with the client, is becoming itself more and more as indispensable to retaining clients, following-up with them, and especially to obtain precious recommendations with regards to their networks.