How To Lead Your Company’s B2B Growth Strategy
The global financial meltdown of 2008 compelled many businesses to reevaluate their sales strategies or growth strategy in order to remain afloat. Before then, a lot of businesses have a purely reactive strategy, also, a lot of them were uncertain as to how to adapt to a new market situation where survival depended on a proactive sales strategy.
That was the case for most business to business (B2B) companies, which had no experience in this kind of strategy whatsoever. Actually, there is a crucial need for a theoretical framework to aid business leaders who sell to other companies: a solid model that considers the peculiarities of B2B relationships and supports leaders in reengineering their organizations to generate more predictable and quality business.
Any sustainable business transformation must emanate from top to bottom, i.e. a top-down approach. We have come to realize that practically no business school had actually stopped to consider the peculiarities of B2B companies, regardless of the considerable number of businesses offering either products or services to other companies (In a report by A digital this comes down to 54% of businesses in Spain alone, and the percentages go even higher in other countries).
As of today, majority of MBAs and other management education programs have a relatively clear focus on business to consumer (B2C), almost completely ignoring the quite significant disparity between selling products or services to consumers (B2C) and selling products or services to a manager on behalf of an organization (B2B).
If we run a careful analysis of the 20 most popular case studies in business schools, according to The Case Centre, 90% relate to B2C companies, leaving only 10% focus on B2B companies. In the majority of academic programs, when we refer to marketing and sales, we are simply suggesting consumer products. More often than not, we underestimate the importance of the sales function in the growth of B2B companies, and the peculiarities faced by these organizations.
It is critical to supply B2B companies with a dedicated theoretical framework and to train general managers, owners, sales and marketing directors in sales operations aimed at someone other than the final consumer. This conceptual framework must deliver a model that considers both tactical and strategic tools that allow B2B companies to improve the predictability of their business.
If we decide to stop chasing the ball and rather begin to get results linked to the growth strategy of the general manager, as opposed to the efforts of a diligent sales team working on their own, there are 5 major principles in which the leader of any B2B company needs to understand in order to sell more and better, with relatively minimal effort and of course greater predictability:
You are in the people business.
For any manager who has to buy from another company, over 50% of the decision emanates from the trust that the people from the selling company are able to generate. In B2B growth strategy, talent is a very crucial part of what a company is selling; thus, the client is practically buying the culture of the B2B Company.
The B2B sale is a process, heading away from art and approaching discipline
It considers the effort of the seller and the awareness of the buyer regarding a specific problem or need. An efficient sales strategy helps to obtain better results and greater predictability. This approach enables us to determine where we need to improve the process in order to achieve better results. Doing hard work pays always!
Sales management is data-based a science.
Possessing the relevant data enables teams to have more potential to scale up and manage the improvement of business with even greater predictability.
B2B marketing is vital.
Generally, sales professionals are educated in B2C marketing and remain uninformed of the peculiarities of B2B. Managers who patronize us are taking a risk by trusting us and may not believe in us initially.
B2B marketing, however, provides the tools and knowledge we need to prove to our clients that we are capable of providing the promised value. Inbound B2B marketing strategies aim to capture leads to feed the sales pipeline and demonstrate to potential customers that we fully grasp their context or perspective and can solve their problems.
We do not sell products but solve problems:
We are in the business of relative value. The primary asset of B2B sales, which allows us to offer value, is our understanding of the client’s context. Clients hardly care about our product or its features and services; put in perspective, they may only buy what you’re selling a couple of times in their entire professional life.
What a client really wants is for us to be obsessed with their problems and offer solutions after we must have fully understood them. Only by understanding the client’s unique situation can we offer context-specific or customized value. This is to hammer on the importance of having prior information about our clients, which mostly comes about as the result of asking the right questions to understand their pains through a consultative process.
None of these principles can be correctly applied without the full grasp and involvement of the general manager of the B2B Company in question. It is often counterproductive to delegate revenue generation to the sales team, as sales should always be an essential part of the managerial mindset of a B2B Company. Sellers need to sell, sales managers make sellers, and CEOs have cerate enabling conditions for better and more predictable revenue.
It is expected that some managers may try to take shortcuts by applying one of the five key principles as an isolated action, with the expectation that it’ll have an impact. Nonetheless, predictable revenue will only happen with a holistic strategy. This means reforming the organization to realize the results we are aiming for, and not the results we end up getting.
In conclusion, contrary to what most people think, what companies’ buy from other companies is not their products, rather it is t their solutions and not their brand (most times), but the company behind it. Businesses buy from other businesses, true, but they do so because they TRUST people who are able to convey the culture of their company and deliver on the task.