One reason B2B sales is so complicated is because of the many blind spots and pitfalls that can ambush sales deals.
You might optimize your prices, meet compliance regulations, and have the best sales tools at your disposal.
And no matter how much it’s drummed up about, I don’t believe there are any shortcuts to accelerating your sales funnel.
What I believe is that B2B sales professionals should have the humility to accept it when things don’t work out. And in those times, they should detach themselves and walk away from the deal.
Before we go into the signs that you’re about to kill the deal, let’s first define what B2B sales really means.
What Is B2B Sales?
B2B sales is short for business to business sales. Therefore, B2B sales involves selling products and services directly to other businesses as opposed to individual consumers. There are mainly three types of B2B sales: 1) service sales including SaaS, 2) wholesale and distribution, and 3) supply sales.
Service Sales (Software)
Instead of a product or consumable, the service provider sells a service or solution—usually in the form of software, SaaS, or a consultancy. Many examples of this exist in the B2B SaaS universe, where companies sell cloud-based software services to other businesses. These include Microsoft, Slack, and Hubspot, to name a few.
Wholesale and Distribution Sales
Another form of B2B sales is distribution sales, where a wholesaler sells key parts and components from manufacturers to other businesses. Examples of wholesalers include restaurant food suppliers and clothing wholesalers that sell to retailers.
Although similar to wholesale at first glance, companies may specialize in providing specific types of consumables to businesses. Rather than selling to individuals, they sell to businesses that use a formal procurement process that requires purchase authorization from a decision maker. Office supplies and computer equipment is a good example of this.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what B2B sales are, it’s easy to see why B2B sales is much more complex selling products to an individual consumer with a credit card. B2B sales can be much harder because it involves a lot of moving parts, multiple decision makers, longer sales cycles with many touch points, and plenty of chances to make mistakes.
Our article on B2B vs B2C sales covers the differences between selling to businesses and selling to consumers in more detail.
In this article, we list seven common mistakes sales reps might make during the B2B sales process.
7 Deal-Killing Mistakes: What Not To Do In B2B Sales
No matter what other sales reps might claim about shortening their B2B sales cycles we don’t believe there are any shortcuts to accelerating your sales funnel.
We believe B2B sales professionals should have the humility to accept when things don’t work out. In those times, they should detach themselves and walk away from the deal.
We’re going to highlight the seven hidden traps in the B2B sales process that might be holding you back.
- Chasing only enterprise deals
- Not asking the hard questions
- Overselling your product
- Rushing your prospects
- Limiting sales to just phone and emails
- Keeping it one-to-one
- Never asking for the sale
1) Chasing Only Enterprise Deals
More often than not, businesses struggle to grow their profits because they waste time going after the wrong product or market.
However, another overlooked area of B2B sales is where businesses prospect the wrong set of the audience within their niche. There’s a general tendency among most frontline sales teams to sell to enterprises and become the next Salesforce.
It’s great to dream about bagging enterprise deals with the Fortune 500 companies, but only if you have the capacity or if your product is specially developed to solve their problems.
Starting off with SMB sales can be an advantage
Most of the time, it’s mostly easier to target your sales strategy towards small-medium businesses (SMBs). Their needs are simpler, they are easier to work with, and the cost of customer acquisition is lower.
Relatively speaking, SMBs are also more capital efficient because the stakes tend to be lower. Other advantages of selling to SMBs is that over time businesses can gain experience in developing enterprise-grade software while beefing up their go-to-market strategy for SMBs.
Enterprise customers also tend to evaluate a seller company’s credibility, their growth trajectory in the industry, and their product’s competitive advantage. Gaining more experience by selling to SMBs lets you earn a good standing in the market and build good relationships that will eventually be helpful in all of your future sales.
Trying to sell to everyone and anyone is tempting, but it’s a fool’s errand. Be hyper-focused in your sales approach.
2) Not Asking The Hard Questions
Sometimes B2B salespeople in their discovery and demo calls become tunnel-visioned. Their motive is limited to finding out if a customer is interested in their product.
They struggle to ask the right questions which might reveal valuable answers or stick to sales qualifying scripts that sound stiff.
One way to overcome this situation is by giving them the headstart to ask questions about your business.
It sucks to get a “yes”
Listen carefully to their questions and ask your own to get more clarity on what they want. It’s better to let your customers talk, rather than to do all the talking yourself and expect a “yes”.
Rather than asking trivial yes-or-no questions that don’t reveal much, asking a few but critical open-ended questions will shorten your negotiation time and enable your prospects to make faster decisions.
- How badly do they need a product like yours
- What they are trying to solve
- What they expect from the product
- If they have a set budget and timeline
- Who makes the final call
3) Overselling Your Product
Maybe it’s because of daunting sales goals or bad sales pitch habits ingrained in them, but a lot of sales reps tend to oversell.
Here’s a personal anecdote on why this doesn’t work.
A few months back, our marketing team was considering buying a tool for organizing our blog editorial calendar. We shortlisted but soon abandoned the one tool we had come very close to buying. It was information overload! There were way too many features for the kind of needs we had.
This one time, the rep demoed features like social media co-scheduling, campaign management, cross-platform integration, etc. We just didn’t need such an extensive tool.
Had the sales rep taken the time to understand our requirements before overwhelming the team with all that information, we may have bought the tool after all.
Sell the ROI of your services, not the features.
4) Rushing Your Prospects
By definition, B2B sales cycles are longer and require a LOT of back and forth’s. Most sales reps tend to be hard on their heels and end up chasing customers away.
When customers download a content upgrade from your website, it doesn’t automatically qualify them as leads. It’s great to “follow up” with them, but keep in mind that they might not be your likely prospect at all.
“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” ~ Zig Ziglar
Following up also doesn’t mean you have to send emails to your leads every second day.
It will make you look like the well-meaning yet pesky retail store clerk who follows a customer around from aisle to aisle, asking them if they need any help.
By contrast, nurturing your prospects is a far better approach than following up. Try to understand what your leads are looking for. If your product matches their expectations, add value to their research and offer them resources.
This way, your follow up becomes persistent but polite and doesn’t come across as annoying.
5) Limiting Sales To Just Phone And Emails
We’re not suggesting you fly down to your lead’s hometown and start pitching. However, there’s very little merit in sticking to just phone or email sales.
For instance, when leads come to your brand through a webinar, it doesn’t always make sense to break their experience by calling them.
There are also new hurdles to email outreach, like the freshly-minted GDPR for example.
And let’s face it, phone and email are not the fastest, most effective channels to respond to your customers.
Instead, you can give them an integrated customer experience by creating a truly omnichannel sales funnel. This might include their interactions with your website, live chat agents, product marketers at a business event, online ads, social media pages etc.
Let’s consider the Forrester report that found that B2B buyers’ expectations are also shifting towards an omnichannel experience. And because live chat is becoming increasingly popular, you can use it for your FAQs and help articles too.
6) Keeping It One-to-One
The smartest salespeople know the fastest way to close a sale is to find their way to the right people in the deal. B2B sales cycles are not only longer but also more complex because, on average, there are more than 5 people involved in a purchase decision.
The buyers are partly at fault with this because they might not realize the significance of including their peers in the buying process.
This can happen for multiple reasons. Maybe they don’t want to bother their higher-ups in the trial phase. Or maybe they assume that a salesperson has all the answers.
As a diligent salesperson, you should be quick to loop in key decision-makers from your end. They could be product managers or software developers who can answer technical questions. Getting experts to talk to customers helps them engage more deeply with your product and understand your offerings better.
Expand the sphere of decision-making by trying to identify and include key stakeholders on the prospect’s side and yours.
7) Not Asking For the Sale
Your prospects are never going to say they are ready to purchase. And a good chunk of sales reps shies away from asking them if they are. This is ironic, given that selling is their job.
In fact, 36% of salespeople say that closing is the most difficult part of their job.
Asking for the sale is not like asking to sign a contract. Assuming that you had a great round of sales calls with the customer, it’s absolutely natural to ask for a sale.
Worst case scenario, they will say no or delay their answer.
If you are wary about popping the question, you can first ask them to give feedback on how their buying journey is going so far. If they give you an affirmative, chime in with a proposal for next steps.
Remember, asking for the sale doesn’t guarantee the end of a sales process. In fact, it might work as an ice-breaker for negotiations or discuss your SLAs, etc. Therefore, it never hurts to ask for the sale to bridge into the more interesting phase in your B2B sales process.
B2B sales is already challenging because the market is largely resistant to change. The sales cycle takes longer and involves multiple decision-makers. But when you have additional blind spots in your B2B sales process, it leaves you with little to no results.
Knowing about and being more aware of these common pitfalls is a great way to improve the way you sell. It’s what Stephen Covey refers to as “sharpening your saw” periodically in order to work smart and not just hard!
Also published on Medium.