The solutions and strategies that are enabling sales teams to keep pace with informed buyers and more complex requirements for closing the deal.
Today, power is in the hands of the buyer. More and more information is available at the click of a mouse, pricing transparency is offered through sites like CarMax and Parkers, and online peer reviews of anything you could possibly purchase can be viewed anytime. Buyers – in consumer and business markets alike – are more informed than ever before. But this newfound power has also driven a healthy dose of mistrust and skepticism. With so much information, it’s hard to know what to believe with a backdrop of conflicting messages and advice.
Yet, informed business buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated about what they want and how to choose wisely, and as a result, today’s sales proposals are becoming more complex than ever, requiring volumes of information, customer references and proof that sellers understand their unique business needs and can deliver.
B2B Buyers Raising the Bar According to a CEB study, 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier, and HubSpot reported only three percent of people consider sales and marketing to be trustworthy. The days of informed, yet skeptical buyers are upon us. In turn, these buyers are putting pressure on sales and marketing teams to be more responsive and attuned to their needs.
So how do sales and marketing teams win business when this complexity becomes part of the sales proposal process? It requires a new set of tools and strategies.
Automated workflows and a centralized repository. With fast RFP turnaround times and new, complex requirements, sales teams today must have centralized access to approved and compliant content that enables improved collaboration, as well as more efficient project management capabilities. Automated sales proposal solutions can help sales teams pull together targeted content under tight deadlines to maximize productivity, streamline workflows, and spend more time strategically personalizing the proposal to stand apart.
Customer reference programs. According to a Nielsen survey, only 33 percent of buyers trust what a seller tells them, but 90 percent trust what another buyer tells them. For this reason, building effective customer reference programs should be an integral part of the B2B marketing toolset and support sales activities.
Marketing can enable sales by helping salespeople bring the Voice of the Customer (VOC) to their prospects and the market through a wider variety of methods than ever. Just as marketers are creating content at every stage of the sales funnel to help deliver on account-based marketing strategies, so too should they develop content at every stage to support peer-to-peer selling. These two initiatives are often synergistic, with a great deal of overlap in the type of content that is required to support them.
Analytics. RFP automation is enabling internal SMEs, sales, marketing, and proposal teams to easily create, maintain and update a central library of content across teams, to more quickly and easily respond to RFPs with current, relevant and effective information. But once the proposal is out the door, what lessons can these teams learn to continuously improve the process? How do they grade their success, manage content, predict how long an RFP will take to complete, determine the right mix of resources to work on it and assess the value of their efforts? Tightly integrated sales workflows combined with strong data analytics can give them a more accurate view of the customer lifecycle, help them listen to what prospects and customers are saying through their digital footprints and respond to them with personalized messages in different platforms and different devices at the right time.
Mobile collaboration. According to Text Request, text messages have a 99 percent open rate and 95 percent of texts will be read within 3 minutes of being sent. Mobile as a means of sales proposal collaboration, process management, and content delivery will soon be the norm. Automated notifications at different stages of the RFP process will ensure workflows are progressing successfully, while also serving as a way to deliver content to prospects and customers via text, apps, and OTT notifications. Today, for example, a sales executive on the road will be able to simply text the word “Reference” to a short code and with a few simple text responses, have a curated customer reference, or other timely content sent directly to his/her mobile device, or routed to a prospect, receiving mobile alerts when that content has been read.
As a growing base of informed, yet wary buyers demand greater transparency, along with more customized and complex sales proposals, content that speaks to their unique business needs and shares the Voice of the Customer is essential. To win the business, sales and marketing teams must work together to develop convincing content that not only meets key checklist items on the road to the sales win, but that goes above and beyond, personalizing the message, building trust and demonstrating to prospects that you mean business.
This article originally appeared in Top Sales Magazine in May 2019. You can read the article and the magazine in full here.