The B2B industry is full of sales challenges when compared with B2C. B2B sales cycles are complex and require much more time and effort than B2C selling. In B2B, an organization sells to another business with unique internal processes, workflows, approvals for buying, etc. Many B2B buyers require a sales quotation from the seller, and then the decision-makers in the B2B company approve the quotation before the purchase is made.
To successfully sell to a B2B business, it is important you understand their expectations and requirements and find a solution that solves their problem at a price better than your competitors because you are not the only seller the business would have approached for a sales quotation. And you have to do it quickly, within two days would be the best.
How you deliver on the above depends a lot on your internal sales quotation process, the ease of creating accurate quotations, access to distributor pricing, etc. Because unlike the B2C industry, which plays on customers’ psyche, impulses, fears, desires, aspirations, etc., B2B selling is pragmatic, and your unique value proposition should be clear and brought to the fore.
What is a Value Proposition?
Here are a few proven examples for value propositions:
- Unique product features. Does your product have some features that surpass those of your competitors? If yes, then these unique features can be your value proposition.
- Competitive price. The billing amount in B2B sales is usually higher than in B2C, hence pricing can be a big differentiator between sellers. Do not price very low as that can be questioned as well, so a competitive analysis is necessary to hit the right spot when it comes to price as a value proposition.
- Quick turnaround time. The faster you can resolve a customer’s problem, the happier they will be. If your business responds to an RFQ (Request for a Quote) immediately with a quick timeline for implementing the solutions, it will interest the customer, and they will choose you over others.
- Value-added services. What more does the customer get apart from the products quoted? Stellar customer support, after-sales service, industry expertise, turn-key solutions, staff training, product tutorials, etc., add ‘value’ to your product or service.
- Product demo. A demo of the product or testing in real-time is important for B2B buyers as the business efficiency depends on the solution offered. Customers need to know that the product or service they are buying from you enhances operations without glitches that could cost them heavily.
- Customized solutions. Every business is different and has unique requirements. Understand the buyer’s problem and offer customized solutions specific to their business.
A B2B customer has many questions as the product or service you offer will affect critical business operations. You need to address these doubts and be available, not just until a sale but even after. Gaining customers’ trust and assuring them that you are interested in their business growth beyond the sale is crucial. That’s what makes B2B selling so challenging.
Common Challenges Faced by B2B Businesses and How to Overcome Them
Challenge 1 – Long Buying Cycles
The number of stakeholders in the customer’s company, their internal processes, changes in their staff or your lead in the company, etc., affect the buying cycle, especially if it is a new client. On average, about 75% of B2B sales to new leads span at least four months before closing, and almost 50% take 7 months or more.
B2B sales reps put in a lot of effort and time behind a prospect, often without receiving the desired result.
How you can overcome:
Improve your lead qualification. A big mistake you can make is to fill your pipeline with leads without qualifying them. This adds a step for your sales reps, who will have to spend time filtering out the low-quality leads, and the high-quality leads may languish.
Qualify your leads properly with the help of an effective CRM to make every step easier and quicker.
Collect and analyze your data. Tracking the sales cycle and the stages at which you lose a lead will help you understand the drawbacks in your sales process. Again an effective CRM will automatically collect all the relevant data and generate reports for you to make data-driven business decisions and improvements.
Address bottlenecks. Is the buying cycle long because you take a long time to respond to your prospects? Does your sales process take unusually long at one particular stage? Is creating a sales quotation taking a lot of time for your sales reps? Is finding accurate prices for products a challenge? Are they missing follow-ups?
The data you collect from your CRM will tell you where the bottlenecks in your sales cycle are. Improve those processes to reduce the time it takes to close a sale.
Document your sales process. A well structured and clear sales process document which is accessible to all your sales reps will guide them on what to do next. A documented sales cycle with relevant information pertaining to the particular lead and follow up will streamline the sales cycle with no room for ambiguity or confusion. You will have a sales team that is aligned and on the same page. If a sales rep leaves your company, it will not be very challenging for another to take over and follow-up with hot or warm leads immediately.
Challenge 2 – Manage the Perception of Risk
B2B buyers assess the perception of risk when associating with another business or vendor. No individual wants to make a bad decision that may affect their professional growth.
How you can overcome:
Engage multiple stakeholders. Before creating a quotation, talk to all the stakeholders to get their perspectives and gain a comprehensive understanding of the problem to offer a solution that will make everyone happy. This also raises the confidence of your primary contact and erases room for differences once they receive your quotation.
Be transparent and manage their expectations. Transparency is key in today’s age as any information is widely and easily available online. Over-promising will not do you any good. Understand their expectations and ensure that both you and the prospect are on the same page about the budget, scope of work, additional charges, if any, inclusions and exclusions, etc. This will remove any fear, uncertainty and doubt from the decision maker and eliminate their perception of risk.
Offer relevant examples or references. Openly share references with your prospect or offer relevant examples of how you solved a similar problem successfully. Show them in detail how you will address each area of concern and what benefits your products or services can bring to specific pain points.
Challenge 3 – Access to the C-Suite
Every sales rep prefers meeting with the senior executives as usually, these meetings foster deeper conversations revealing problem areas that the sales rep can find a solution for. Research by Google revealed that while 18% of non-C Suite employees have some level of influence over the purchasing decision, 64% of senior executives have the final authority over a buying decision.
How you can overcome:
Research the company well and find a potential decision-maker. Researching a company and its employees is not difficult today. Visit a potential client’s website, LinkedIn profile, Google them, understand how their industry works, read reports or news about them. You will get a fair understanding of the company and its C Suite to prepare a list of relevant questions to ask them.
Set a goal for each conversation. When selling to the C-Suite, there is no beating around the bush. Plan the conversation with the desired outcome in mind. What do you want to achieve from your meeting? If it is the first time you are meeting with them, you do not want it to be the last, so make sure you convey your unique value proposition to them succinctly and convincingly.
Be confident. Do not get intimidated or confused under pressure. Take your time and collect your thoughts before you answer questions so you do not ramble on. Talk about the benefits your product or service can bring to their company. One of the secrets of successful salespeople is to believe in the product or service they sell. When you know your product well, you can tackle any questions confidently.
Challenge 4 – New Decision Makers Entering the Fray
Changes in the client company’s structure can throw you off and delay the sales process. You invest time and effort in forming relations with the decision-maker only to find that one day, there is another employee who may have taken on the role. Be prepared as there is a possibility of this happening in any organization. People leave, get promoted, change departments, etc., but you can overcome this challenge with a little foresight and a broader perspective. Always be prepared to offer any new decision maker a briefing on your proposal, focusing on the value of your offer to their organization.
How you can overcome:
Look beyond your primary contact. While maintaining a warm relationship with your key contact is crucial, don’t overlook their peers, colleagues and superiors in the company. Develop some form of cordial relationships with them so if there are any changes in the status quo, you have some foundation to build on, and they too are familiar with you.
Ask for an introduction. While the internal processes at your client’s company may require the new decision-maker to be apprised of all suppliers and vendors, it does not hurt to take the initiative, and request your current contact to introduce you to the person taking on their role.
Document the sales process and transaction history. An effective CRM will help you document the sales cycle, while a good sales quotation tool will document the client’s previous quotations, their preferred products, prices, transactions, etc. The new decision-maker may or may not be aware of all these factors, and the transition will be much smoother if you as a supplier have all the information easily accessible.
Challenge 5 – Trouble Managing your Pricing
B2B price structures are complex. Not all B2B buyers generate the same volume of sales hence B2B sellers differentiate pricing based on factors like the size of the client company, the volume of sales expected, customer lifetime value, loyalty, etc.
The kind of product or service poses another layer of a challenge in pricing products. For instance, configurable products like IT equipment have dynamic pricing and without a tool or software, tracking the changes in prices is difficult.
How you can overcome:
Integrate with distributor catalogs. Integrate directly with distributor product catalogs or get a sales quotation software like VARStreet, which has catalog integrations with over 45 IT and office supply distributors in the United States and Canada, to bring you real-time price, inventory and distributor deals and promotion updates, straight to your computer screen. Your sales reps have easy access to up-to-date and accurate price information to create sales quotes easily.
Consider catalog management tools. Catalog management tools handle the maintenance of your product catalog, updating product information, prices, inventory, etc. You can even set rules for different customers or prospects, and your sales reps will automatically be able to add the correct prices based on the rules to their sales quotations.
Challenge 6 – Errors in Quotations
Errors in quotations cost your company, and you could be losing a significant amount of profit due to these errors like redundant prices quoted, undocumented margin-cutting practices, wrong products added to quotes, etc. All this could also lead to lost opportunities.
How you can overcome:
Automate the sales quotation process. An advanced sales quoting software like VARStreet eliminates all manual errors in your quotation process. Integrations with distributor catalogs for price and inventory updates ensures your sales teams have accurate information while creating quotes. Products can be easily added to the sales quotation with up-to-date product information. No manual typing or going through various excel sheets to create a quotation!
Set up automated workflows for approval. You can set up automated approval workflows where some big decisions cannot be made without approvals. For example, margin-cutting above a certain percentage, quotations above a certain amount, pricing for high-ticket items, quotations created for high volume sales or a large enterprise client, etc., would need to go through your approval workflow.
Integrate with shipping companies. Calculating freight to add to a quotation can be tricky with complex products and different geographies. A sales quoting software with integrations with shipping companies automates the shipping cost calculation based on variables like product dimensions, weight, size, delivery location and more in real-time. This eliminates any manual errors or discrepancies that may arise later.
Auto-calculation of tax. Similar to shipping integrations, tax can be auto-calculated as well based on geographies, currencies, local taxes, etc.
Challenge 7 – Quote Creation is Time-Consuming
Some of the factors and challenges above result in a time-consuming quote creation process. The consequences are lost opportunities as prospects may not wait or find someone else. This will add up and eventually start affecting your bottom line and your reputation.
If you are still manually creating quotes, it is time to change! You cannot match the speed of quotation software. The only way you can overcome this challenge is by automating the process and investing in reliable quotation software that addresses various business operations, has seamless integrations with other popular business systems and can handle complex B2B quoting requirements.
The VARStreet Solution
VARStreet’s advanced sales quotation software is designed to handle complex B2B requirements yet is simple enough to use. It eliminates all the challenges we’ve covered above and then some more!
Some of the key highlights of VARStreet’s sales quotation application:
- Thousands of pre-designed quotation templates to choose from, so your sales reps can create sales quotations quickly and easily.
- The templates are highly customizable to suit your business requirement, and you can add your company’s branding to them.
- Integration with 45+ IT and office supply distributors, with a product catalog of over 7 million SKUs, and real-time price and inventory updates.
- Sales reps can easily search and add products to quotations with accurate price information right on their screens.
- FREE rich content from Etilize, IceCat and distributors to enhance your quotations and provide potential customers with detailed product information to help them make an informed buying decision quickly.
- Upsell and cross-sell suggestions.
- Ability to add approval workflows for your company as well as set up workflows for your client.
- Ability to configure complex products.
- Automated pricing structures for regular customers. Sales reps only need to select the products, and the price gets auto calculated according to the price rules set by you.
- Integrations with shipping companies and auto-calculation of tax. Avalara integration is also available for Avalara users.
- The sales quotation software seamlessly integrates with all popular business applications like ERP, PSA, CRM, and has PunchOut abilities with widely used eProcurement software.
- Our sales quotation software is cloud-hosted, which means that you can access your quotes from anywhere. Quotes can be created, edited, copied and sent with just a few clicks from any location or any device.
- A mobile quoting application to create quotes from your smartphones.
These are only some of the benefits you get from VARStreet’s sales quotation software. Fill this form to get a FREE demo.
An advanced sales quoting software like VARStreet will help you overcome many challenges that a B2B business typically faces in its sales quotation process. It also empowers your sales staff by taking away cumbersome manual tasks, helping them save time and become more efficient in following up with prospects to build relationships and close deals than spending time and effort in creating sales quotations.
Automating your sales quotation process is the edge your business needs to increase conversions and grow revenue.