How to improve your B2B sales processes

Written by Ian James, Feb 2, 2016

Here is a story on how I improved my sales processes and, chances are, you can too. Don't miss this crucial step in the sales funnel. 

A sketch of a ladder with rungs labeled awareness through sale

Even process consultants make mistakes.  Here’s  a story about how I messed up my own sales process. Don’t worry it has a happy ending.

When I started out on my own, I knew I needed a website. In fact, it was right there at the beginning of my process diagram. What? Doesn’t everyone map out their sales processes when they start a business? Well, what can I say? I am a process guy.

I spent a lot of time creating that first site. Far too much, in fact. But then I did not have any clients at the time so that was not much of a problem.

Apart from the mechanics of the site, which I found truly fascinating, I spent most of my effort on writing on what I thought of as text. Apparently I should have been calling it content. Silly me.

The content was all about what a fantastic, super duper consultant I was. Also, what a great job I would do for you. It was all written in my best engineering-trained prose. A style my tutor at college called “clunky but thorough”. It was also what my good marketing friend calls “I Should Think So Marketing”. As in I will do a good job for you (I Should Think So). I will save you money. (I Should Think So). Etc.

Another word for this is “brochure ware”. Whatever you call it, it meant I did not have any customers. At all. For months. I was metaphorically starving. So, eventually it dawned on me that my sales process did not work. Why is it so hard to see your own problems?

So I read around the subject. That’s when I discovered my sales process was not exactly the problem. No, it seemed I was missing a process. The buying process.

The buying process? What’s that? Well let’s imagine you are a buyer (and let’s stick to B2B here). What do you do when you have identified a need? You start with a search engine. Of course you do. You want to research the subject. You want to stay well clear of salespeople. At least you do until you are ready. And then, once you have learned all you need to know about the product or service you are planning to purchase, that is when you decide from on the business or supplier from which you want to buy.  From all the sources of information you discovered while doing your due diligence on te web, which will you choose?

Yes, folks, the people who provided the most information and helped you learn the most about the subject during your research.

So I was missing the “help people understand the subject” process. AKA the buying process. And guess what? It starts much earlier than the sales process.

My sales process just assumed that people were looking for a process consultant. Actually, they were trying to figure out how to solve a problem. One possible reason might be that they had a process issue. So they were researching the general subject. Seeing if they could learn if a process approach might help.

So I switched my site from being an online brochure. And I did my best to turn it into a resource for people looking to fix process problems. I wrote blog articles at first. Then I discovered it was much more fun to make process improvement videos. Now I am developing training materials (more on that another time). The term of art for this is content marketing. You will find that there is a whole industry devoted to it. But that is not my field. I am still a process guy and always will be.

Of course, I thought I was the last person in the World to discover the notion of content marketing. Sadly, this is not so. My clients often ask me to look at their sales processes. And what I find is a lot of brochure-ware sites. So I bring in the notion of the buying process and that usually helps.

I guess the lesson is that it is simply not possible to build a sales process in isolation. At least, not if you want to be successful. You have to consider how the buyer gets to the point where your sales process can begin. Often that is over half way through the buying process.

What you want to be is the person that the potential buyer approaches first when they reach the moment when they want (finally) to engage the salesperson. The role of content marketing is to give you a fighting chance of doing that.

Well, it works for my clients. And it worked for me. Once I realized a needed to attend to the buying process, I never looked back. Now the problem is to find the time to write cool stuff. Sorry, content.

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