B2B sales: digital first becomes a norm

Most decision-makers prefer not to talk to salespeople and this trend is likely to continue in the near future. Therefore, closing business deals online becomes vital. We have four tips to set up your sales funnel accordingly.

While baby boomers are slowly retiring and millennials are progressing to the positions of key decision-makers in the business market, it becomes even more important to take a digital-first approach in B2B sales. For example, a study by Gartner shows that by 2025, 80% of business sales interactions will be digital and 44% of decision-makers would rather not talk to sales at all.

For B2B marketers, this means that in the coming years it will become even more important to effectively add value to the buyer’s journey and convert online prospects into sales.

So, where to start?

1: Collect qualitative insights

For an effective digital sales funnel you need content that helps prospects during their orientation process and convince them of your solutions. Developing quality content takes time and money. The last thing you want is to learn after publishing that you were working on the wrong topic.

Therefore, collect qualitative insights before you get started with content creation. In the book Buyer Personas, you can read, for example, how to conduct interviews with prospects, leads, and customers and convert these into buyer insights. This way you learn why they are looking for the service first of all, how they assess success, which barriers they experience (internal and external), from which sources they obtain information, and how they ultimately reach a decision.

These insights are called ‘the six rings or buyer insights’ and help you to put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and, above all, to determine exactly why they need your services.

  1. Persona Profile – Your target buyer description based on key attributes and role in this buying decision;
  2. Priority Initiatives – Drivers that cause your persona to prioritize this category of the purchase now;
  3. Success Factors – Positive results and outcomes your persona expects to achieve as a result of this purchase;
  4. Perceived Barriers – Attitudes and obstacles that cause your persona to do nothing or choose your competitors;
  5. Decision Criteria – Company and solution capabilities your personas investigate as they weigh their options;
  6. Buyer’s Journey – Actions taken, resources trusted, and personas involved at each step in this decision.

You can also collect insights through the smart use of chatbots. Often these are only used to answer questions, but what if we expand that? Not only does the role change from reactive to active, which promotes interaction, but the value of your bot grows also, as a source for new insights.

With these insights available at the start of content creation, it almost feels like taking an exam with a cheat sheet. It increases the conversion of a digital sales funnel and gives you the confidence to invest invaluable content.

2: Validate with quantity

Interviews are a great way to find out what the buyer journey of your target audience looks like. However, it’s a time-consuming process, especially if you want to collect enough data for reliable conclusions. Fortunately, we live in a digital age where reach has almost become a commodity.

First of all, it is good practice to use your own website to continuously test insights with your visitors. This can easily be done by embedding mini-surveys with which you ask visitors to answer one or more short questions. Some survey tools use a payment model based on the amount of data you process, so that it can even be free for business websites (with relatively low traffic).

A second way to quickly validate insights is to develop small display / social campaigns. Develop a number of ads that are similar in design and otherwise only contain the topics that you are considering to develop content about and show them to your target audience. With a budget of a few hundred dollars, you quickly learn what information is more needed, which can save you a lot of time and resources in the creation.

3: Create engaging content

Now that you have a clear picture of the information needs during the buyer journey, you can start developing content. Keep in mind the goal that you want to get in touch with your target group, for example because they leave their e-mail address and telephone number.

Think of a fair exchange of value: you offer something that has value during the orientation process in exchange for contact details. For example a whitepaper or webinar in exchange for a name and e-mail address.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that your content really helps the user, because with hot air you run the risk that you will no longer be considered as a serious provider.

Make downloading content accessible. Partly by not asking too much information (name and e-mail address should be sufficient), but also by optimizing your landing page for a high conversion from visitor to lead. You will notice that a few percent difference in conversion has a huge impact on the cost per lead and the ROI of your campaigns.

4: Convince with marketing automation

When making a business decision, don’t do it overnight. Via automated mail funnels you create multiple contact moments and pro-actively help your leads to come to a decision.

Again, following up on your leads is about the value you provide. This turns out to be quite difficult, as in the 2019 lead nurturing & acceleration survey, 60% of the respondents indicated that they were disappointed with the nurture funnels in which they participated.

This just shows how important it is that you understand what prospects need during their buyer journey. It’s also important to realize that you are probably dealing with multiple buyer personas. With tools such as HubSpot, you can set up smart mail programs that send targeted content based on the behavior of your leads, so that you are not stuck with a one size fits all campaign.

Digital first is becoming the norm

With the rise of millennials, a digital first in B2B sales is becoming the norm, where relevance is the key to success. You can still create such great campaigns or set up automated mail funnels, but when your content does not help prospects further in the decision-making process, you will lose them in no time. By combining the power of qualitative market research with today’s marketing tools, you can not only help the decision-makers of tomorrow digitally, but provide a truly valuable experience.