Business to business (BtoB) customers typically search the web before contacting a potential supplier. One would think that this would accelerate the BtoB selling cycle, but experience shows that just the opposite is happening.
Why is this? When some steps in the selling process are shortened, others are lengthened because customers are assessing their options before purchasing. In our oversupplied economy, it is not rare to have four, five or more suppliers from which a customer can choose.
The sales force role of each prospective supplier is to enable the prospect to understand the features and adapt the solution to its needs. Inevitably, this process takes time and becomes a significant investment for each prospective supplier.
To help each prospective supplier select their most promising prospects, we asked the most successful BtoB executives around the globe–those who are at the helm of BtoB companies making over $100M in annual revenue–how they were identifying their best prospects.
Below are the four graphs that summarize the inspiring insights they shared with us:
1. Best Customer Events
According to 74 percent of respondents, the best possible prospects are companies launching new products or services or boosting their investments in their sales and marketing.
The cherry on the cake: There is a ripple effect. When a company innovates, or invests, its competitors must react, also creating business opportunities at other prospects belonging to the same industry.
Verbatim: “Think a new marketing campaign, piece of advertising, customer win… When one player moves, competitors won’t be far behind.” “Reach out with a suggestion on how to burn some of that cash to their benefit.”
2. Best Executive Moves
Overall, the best three executive changes to monitor are the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Sales Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer, which makes sense since BtoB companies typically trust executives that are in direct contact with their customers.
Yet, even within a given industry, the best developments that are sales triggers remain very dependent on the exact products or services that are marketed.
Verbatim: “What counts most for us is strong established industry contacts and domain knowledge.” and “Relationship with client’s business and top management.” “Organizational charts are challenging to find but so very important.”
3. Best Human Sources
Almost 9 out of 10 executives responded that their best sales information was coming directly from their customers or from their sales team. This is reassuring ;).
The comments emphasize the importance of recruiting and training sales forces and being intimately connected with customers.
4. Best Internal Tools
Data are the most effective tools. Why? Beyond anecdotes, they provide insight into a flux of predictable behaviors. Business is a fast moving environment where data quickly decays over time. Because of this, several executives reported to us that having the date of reports is essential.
It is also interesting to see that Business Press and Social Media are considered great and valuable BtoB tools.
Big data and predictive analytics provide helpful directional inputs but are developmentally still far from providing detailed selling guidance.
Verbatim: “No one single source works best. You have to look out for several triggers. That is why intelligence and insight into customer plans/behaviour or indeed the whole market, competitors, legislation etc.”
Engineering modeling is now providing detailed answers to complex issues such as landing a jet or playing go. Human science modelling is giving good directional answers but not yet detailed predictive answers, such as whether it is to forecast traffic congestion or to automate sales.
For developing BtoB sales, the human experts, the trusted relationships and fresh data are still the best!
Thank you so much to our 413 executives around the globe involved in finance, manufacturing, service, technology and transportation for sharing their fantastic insights on this survey. Here is our questionnaire. Please contact me for more information.