Anyone engaged in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and sales can attest that it is not an easy task. B2B conversion requires research, marketing skills and aptitude, and – above all else – perseverance. As a small business owner, I perform both marketing and sales functions for my agency. This can be both challenging and insightful at the same time, and over the years I’ve learned a few helpful techniques in courting potential clients and working with them after conversion. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way in my career:
Know your prospects. Sign up for their emails, newsletters, and Google Alerts. Research them thoroughly enough to be able to speak their language, and offer valuable, relevant solutions to their challenges. Avoid asking them to tell you about their business—most organizations have enough information online to educate vendors on their goals and mission. Your first meeting with any potential client is like a job interview: if you want to make a good impression, you need to be prepared.
Make sure prospects can afford your products or services. I have made the mistake in the past of not knowing how to ask potential clients about their budget up front. This lack of communication can lead to future misunderstandings, and damage the client-business relationship. If money is a problem, you’re better off offering the client insightful do-it-yourself tips. They will be grateful and keep you in mind for future opportunities (and might even refer you to other business owners they know).
Respect the little guys. Small business owners are skilled, hard working professionals. What may seem like a small investment to you is a big deal to them. Don’t underestimate their business acumen. Chances are you’ll have to work harder proving your quality to a prudent small business owner than to the manager of a larger organization with deeper pockets.
Good clients take time to convert. Conversion cycles vary largely based on industry, so don’t pressure or rush a good contact to convert a sale quickly. Patience pays off in the long run. Set up a plan to nurture high quality leads, and stick with it. Maintain regular contact, make yourself available if your prospect has any questions, and remember: it’s not a conversion until the contract is in-hand.
Promise only what you can deliver. When an offer is too good, it raises red flags. Be honest and upfront, and show a willingness to commit. If your clients know you can stand behind your promises, they will respect you more for it.
Never forget that clients have a choice. Let’s face it: they can leave us at any time. Honesty, paired with outstanding customer service, can help safeguard you from competitors, but is by no means a guarantee that they’ll stick with you.
Stay on track and make yourself available. Responsiveness can be a small but highly effective sales tool. You’ll improve your standing with current and prospective clients considerably simply by returning their calls promptly.
Remember: everyone likes to feel important, both during the courting phase, and – most importantly – after conversion. These are simple steps in the sales process that have made a significant impact on my B2B conversion rates. Hopefully, they will work for you as well.