A professional sales team is an extremely valid asset of B2B sales. Yes, we put such an emphasis on B2B because it implies an entirely different level of sales communication. For example, in B2C it’s possible to skip the sales team part entirely.
It’s enough to establish a payment system and a fine-tuned website to get things started. The sales cycle is short, all decisions are made on the spot, the nurturing is much more dynamic.
Meanwhile, when selling to B2B businesses, you have to engage decision-makers and make sure that your offer reaches the rest of the decision-making groups. In that case, your sales executives become a litmus test for your potential buyers. They represent you and your company, outline your professionalism and competence. Therefore, if you don't have a sales team to do it all for you, you can’t start a sales conversation.
Previously, we mentioned that not all businesses benefit from a sales team. Mostly because it’s a frustrating and time-consuming process where nothing is as easy as it seems. But your path will be as rewarding as it’s tricky. So, if you’re adamant on building a powerful sales unit, here are basic 3 steps to making your dream a reality.
STEP 1: Choose the right B2B sales team structure
Your sales development starts with picking the right people for the job. We highlighted some of the guidelines for interviewing salespeople in one of our previous articles, so let’s talk a bit about managing such an important element of your sales team as People. How do you organize their work? How do you assign experts?
There are several ways to structure your sales team. Each of them has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look.
|The Assembly Line||The sales process is divided into core segments: Lead Research, Sales Development, Customer Success. Accordingly, your team is divided into Lead Researchers, SDRs, Account Managers, etc.||Makes your work more organized. The pace is fast, the sales process is predictable, issues are detected and isolated as soon as they arise.||Requires more than 2 or 3 salespersons to be viable. Team members can become too focused on their tasks and get disconnected from common goals.|
|The Pod||The team structure consists of several groups that are swappable but have more autonomy than the Assembly Line model. One such group or “pod” can include SDRs, Account Managers, and Lead Researchers that are assigned to a particular customer.||Let’s your team focus on the customer journey and erase friction from communication and troubleshooting. Injects more agility into your sales.||Limits options for growth within a smooth fine-tuned process by removing competition and urgency that pushes team members to expand their skill set.|
|The Island||The structure is very basic. Your sales managers have to work with baseline materials and contact databases on their own. That means they have to personally generate and qualify leads and then nurture them into customers.||Requires little management from your side||Is not viable in the modern way of doing B2B sales. Puts too much pressure on your team, affects productivity and your brand’s image.|
From our experience, the island model is the least fitting one when it comes to creating a team for B2B sales. It doesn’t take many resources from you, but not paying attention to the way your sales executives get results costs you. Assembly Line and Pod structures allow you to inject more efficiency and productivity into your sales process, and let your sales teams operate without friction.
Culture. How your sales executives make sales and close deals is highly important. You don’t want to receive an angry call from a prospect who didn’t appreciate your salesperson following up 3 times a week. At best, you’ll end up yelling at. At worst, you’ll be dealing with a lawsuit. So, before you start hiring and assigning people, you must prepare onboarding materials, sales pitches, rules of conduct and communication baselines, and make sure that every team member sticks to the culture you created.
Leadership. This is a vital mood-setter for your sales teams. It’s not only about knowing who is the leader. It’s about understanding whether your team will be working with a leader or a boss. As you know, there is a difference.
|“We were wrong! We have to fix it”||“You [email protected]*d up! You fix it!”|
When you build a team structure, you must remember that all team members are interconnected. If one of you can’t keep up, that’s a problem you should be solving together. So, as a leader, you should convey that feeling of responsibility to your team. It’s also important to combine positive reinforcement with transparency. If things are going wrong, don’t sugarcoat it but let your team know that it affects you as much as it affects them.
Balance. The reason why sales executives close only 20% of deals is that there is too much pressure. If your sales team has to do lead research, lead nurturing and appointment-setting at once, they end up missing opportunities due to simple exhaustion. All those processes are complex and time-consuming, so if you want a perfect execution, make sure you don’t lump all the tasks in one department.
Collaboration. Nowadays, it has been established that letting sales teams and marketing teams exchange information and compare notes have a positive effect on your sales. There must be a synergy between your marketing campaigns and outreach emails. The more wholesome your sales and marketing channels are, the higher is your productivity.
STEP 2: Define Your Strategy for B2B Sales Growth
After People, you have to talk about the Process.
It’s impossible not to notice that modern B2B sales have gone through a lot of changes. For example, according to 34% of salespeople, closing deals became more complicated. That has everything to do with the fact that an average B2B buyer became more skeptical and cautious due to improved access to business information.
Your potential customers find themselves in the sea of knowledge and sales offers. They get surrounded by options, messages, and ads, but they don’t have the luxury to try out each option, one by one. They must be sure that their first choice is the perfect fit and their money and time aren’t spent in vain.
Therefore, they try not to be reliant on the vendor’s influence and make decisions based on what they can dig up on each potential vendor.
You should keep this in mind when planning your strategy for your B2B sales.
Collaborate, not push. Remind your sales teams, that whether they send introduction emails or follow up with your prospects, they must be supportive instead of assertive. The goal of their sales conversation is to coax people to speak about their top of mind issues and motivate them to brainstorm together. No business owner is glad to hear: “We know your problems and business more than you do”. However, every expert would appreciate the message that says “We have experience of working with your industry and market, so we’re offering it to you”.
Transparency, not urgency. Your sales team should be supplied with all materials about your product and service as well as onboarding materials. It’s not uncommon for B2B prospects to ask “Let’s say, I become your client. What happens then?”. Mind that they don’t expect to hear a by-the-book response. They want your sales executives to paint their customer’s journey, all with specifics taken into account. So, your sales teams should know the process of client onboarding as the back of their hands - and they should be able to apply that knowledge within each individual case.
Adaptation, not automation. Even though your clients and prospects have many things in common, encourage your sales teams to stay away from a cookie-cutter approach as far as possible. Prospect A may have the needs that are similar to Prospect B. But it may take a different tone and pace to nurture Prospect A into the customer. For example, Prospect A becomes convinced to make a buying decision only after three case studies and a call with your CEO. Meanwhile, Prospect B is ready to go after a couple of calls and a free consultation. Your prospects are people — make sure that your sales teams don’t forget about it.
STEP 3: Use technology to empower your sales team
Technology makes your sales move. Your sales teams have to work with tremendously large amounts of data, so they would need a set of digital solutions for keeping up with their tasks and deadlines.
That set must cover:
Analytics. This is the key tool for your success. In our work, our lead research teams scan around 50 data pools to glean exclusive business information. They study the hiring status of potential prospects, explore their activity in social media, their latest technological acquisitions and upgrades, contracts, and other public data that takes some time to find. To perform such a search in a very narrow-niche industry takes some very sophisticated tools, so we suggest regularly updating your range of analytical tools.
Communication. Face-to-face meetings aren’t always possible but your potential audience still has to discuss important questions, get instructed about their customer’s journey, and manage the project in sync with your sales teams. This is why your salespeople must be available to your clients 24/7. Therefore, your digital arsenal must include a wide range of messengers, from Asana and Skype to Slack and Facebook Messenger.
Customer management. Managing relationships means tracking your clients’ project status, monitoring their connections with their customers, knowing when to step up with support or even when to take over and make decisions. Having top-quality CRM software established and accessible to your team will make your employees’ work easier and increase customer retention. Luckily there is a great choice of CRM tools, including AI-based ones, so finding the best fit is a matter of time for you.
Screen-sharing. As remote sales processes become more and more advanced, you can’t start your business day without a screen-sharing tool. Whether you need to make a presentation or show your customer a roadmap, it’s a good way to exchange visuals and make your sales conversation even more illustrative.
Content management. A blog and a website are baselines. However, if you want to make the most out of your inbound resources, make sure that your prospects can instantly access your case studies, explainer videos, and any other piece of content that can be detrimental to a potential deal.
Keep evolving and stay kind
As you can see, People, Process, and Technology are the supporting pillars of your sales and marketing. The most important thing you must remember about building a resilient and effective B2B sales team is that once you pick the right structure and choose the best assets, it won’t stay this way forever.
Even things that seem unchangeable can transform due to outer effects, be erased by groundbreaking innovations, or become subjected to force majeures. Therefore, keep in mind — you're not invincible from change.
At the end of each quarter, take time to evaluate your current structure and strategy, the technology you use, and ask yourself “Am I doing it right? How well do I perform compared to my competitors? Am I ready to face what’s ahead?”.
We suggest making that a part of your routine because it will help you deal with the fear of the unknown (most business owners are anxious about making a plane in case of trouble), hone your ability to forecast and calculate your business strategy.
You must convey this philosophy to your sales teams as well, so they would supply you with reports and contribute to building a functional and effective sales strategy for the future.
Last but not least important element of your success is humanity. We often talk about how your prospects are human beings. But your sales executives are people too. They have their doubts and concerns, they can be affected by pressure and the weight of their responsibilities. Ignoring that will lead not to productivity but to misery and staff turnover.
Guide them when they’re about to get started.
Ensure that they’re comfortable to reach out to you when they have difficulties with a client. Take time to explain and educate — you want people to ask questions and avoid making mistakes instead of being stranded in the dark. Give them days off when they work too hard, build a reward system, and take care to create an atmosphere of trust and friendliness.
This way, you can rest assured that your sales teams will make the most out of any structure and strategy you choose.
We hope this piece will be a great help to you in building a B2B sales team of your own. To get a powerful start, you can order some exclusive lead data from our Lead Research team. We’ll be happy to help you maximize your sales!