A successful B2B sales strategy is a set of activities that let you capture and hold the attention of your prospective customers until the close.
Some of the questions contained in the broad term “B2B Sales Strategy” are:
- How should you reach your prospective customers?
- How should you approach them and who should you talk to?
- What should you tell them?
- And how can you lead them towards a purchase?
But we’d argue that there is a central question that lies at the heart of it all. That is; What are the jobs your customers are trying to get done, and under which circumstances?
Derive your B2B sales strategy from your customers jobs
In his jobs-to-be-done theory, Clayton Christensen et. al writes: “Successful innovations help consumers to solve problems — to make the progress they need to, while addressing any anxieties or inertia that might be holding them back.”
The whole purpose of your sales strategy is to “help customers solve problems” and “address what holds them back”.
Thus, the strategy is not set of unrelated questions such as how do you reach your customers, what tactics do you use to get in touch with them, what are the steps in your sales process, and so on. Rather it is the answer to the following two questions:
What are the problems our customers have, under which circumstances, and how can we solve them?
What is holding them back from solving these problems, and how can we design our sales process so that it leads them to the solution?
With these two questions as your focal point, you can start designing the specific channels, tactics, steps and processes your B2B sales strategy should contain.
To learn more about Clayton’s Christensen’s theory, we highly recommend you watch the following video:
Types of B2B sales strategies: Inbound vs. Outbound
A big component of a B2B sales strategy is how to get leads.
There are normally three main ways:
Inbound: Getting leads that search for you.
Outbound: Reaching out to prospects.
Channel: Selling via others (i.e. partnerships).
This entry point will define many of the other decisions you will make in designing your B2B sales strategy. And which method you opt for is often determined by your customers’ job. Here’s how.
In Inbound, the prospects find you.
With an early lead who is just consuming content, you have a unique opportunity to build trust by focusing more on the problems. Use that. Don’t focus on their persona or their attributes. Instead, focus on the problems they're experiencing in the situation they’re in. Make this a core part of your content strategy.
With a late-stage lead, the challenge is instead to take back control over a buying process that's already half finished. Here, focus more on the anxieties or inertia that’s holding them back. Make this a core part of your inbound sales process.
In Outbound, you find the prospects.
The essence of an outbound B2B sales strategy is to hook the client in with a compelling proposition, and lead them through to the purchase. Again, the job the customer wants to get done should play a key role in each such process.
In reaching out, start with the problem your customer is experiencing. This is the hook. Illustrate how you can help them make progress, while addressing whatever might be holding them back. There is plenty of sales material on how to create an effective problem-based opening pitch. By narrowing it down to the very job you help the customer get done (rather than their attributes or personas), you’ll increase both answer rates and close rates.
Inbound and outbound are not mutually exclusive. In fact, your overall sales strategy should consist of multiple cell processes that live in parallel - both inbound and outbound. Ideally, each such process is its own complete funnel.
Case: How we get leads
Since we sell an inbound marketing solution, we mostly use inbound to get leads. Almost all our sales start with an inbound lead. Sometimes the leads come from referrals, but often they come from the jobs our inbound funnels are designed to help the customer solve.
One of the jobs our clients want to get done is to automate tedious marketing tasks. Another one is increasing the number of qualified leads. A third is creating and implementing an effective B2B sales strategy.
The article you're reading right now is actually part of a larger sales strategy where we will address that last one.
At the time of writing this, we're just getting started with that job, so If you're reading this soon after it's been published, you might not see the full journey - only this article which serves as one of the entry points.
Come back in six months and see if things have changed. (Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter meanwhile - we’re likely to contact you when we’ve come further.)
If this and other articles addressing that job show promising results, we would like to add some different next steps, links and call to action to this article. We will design a complete solution for people who need to get this job done, starting with this and other articles like it.
Perhaps you're noticing here another crucial component of designing a B2B sales strategy: that is not just about the strategy itself, but also about how to go from just having a theory about which jobs your customers want to solve, to testing its viability (as we’re doing now with this and other articles on the subject), to having fully implemented the strategy.
What is the best B2B sales strategy for your business?
Considering all this, the best B2B sales strategy for your business will depend on which jobs your customers need solving that are related to what you do.
Let's look at a real example from ourselves.
One job our clients need to solve is as follows: “We want to implement an inbound methodology but it seems so complex and I don’t know where to start”.
One of our core beliefs is that one of the main reasons so many companies fail to use most of the potential with Marketing Automation is that they are expected to do it all by themselves. In fact, we believe the amount of help included in implementing and using the system is one of the main things to consider when selecting a system.
For this reason, our ads that target this problem lead to pages where we talk about the importance of including marketing automation and CRM services with the software. In addition, we have multiple blog posts addressing this precise challenge.
Our resulting sales process for these leads is also focused on that core issue. For example, the first 30 days of onboarding with us is completely free. But it’s not a typical trial - it’s actually a full-on implementation with no payment and no commitments! This helps them overcome the anxiety that holds them back because we can demonstrate that with our help, it’s not that complex to get started.
After onboarding, the same proactive guidance continues, until the client has a fully customized, functional, and valuable sales and marketing “machine” customized to their needs.
In short, everything we do and all our processes around this particular job are designed to get that job - and only that job - done. This includes not only our sales strategy, but also our marketing strategy, onboarding and thereafter.
How to create a B2B Sales Strategy
Here's simple checklist to create a B2B sales strategy with this approach in mind.
First, define the circumstances your customers might be in when they need your solutions. What are the jobs they need to hire your solutions for, and why?
Then, detail how you address that job. What is the end result or solution that you provide to get that job done? This should be an end-to-end solution that fully solves that particular job.
Finally, detail where you can reach those clients (channels), how to reach them (i.e. your inbound and outbound funnels, including opt-ins, pitch and calls-to-action), and how you will take them from needing that job to be done to deciding to hire you to do it (i.e. the steps and content of your sales process, including qualification, presentations, and digital assets such as nurturing content and retargeting ads).
Case Study: Example of a successful sales strategy
Going with the theme of using ourselves as an example, let us show our own numbers for the job to be done detailed above.
Here are some numbers from our advertising funnel targeting that particular job:
This particular campaign starts with ads targeting people with this need and in this circumstance, and leads them into related inbound sales funnels. We've spent a bit over 63,000 kr ( equivalent to roughly $6,000), and already seen a return of 662,000 kr (equivalent to roughly $66,000). That is over 10x return.
This is the power of a strong B2B sales strategy targeting specific jobs your customers want done. It takes effort to find what those are and building a coherent B2B sales strategy addressing them, but the results will be equally awesome and allow you to scale with predictability and control.