How Good Is Your B2B Sales Process?

From Sales Funnels to Fly-Wheels and Back Again

‘How Good Is your B2B Sales Process?’ That’s the question we were asking B2B tech sales leaders in 2018. In fact, sometimes the question was more like, ‘Do you feel like your sales process is letting you down?’

Earlier in the year, Brian Halligan, co-founder of Hubspot, introduced the concept of his inbound marketing-led Fly-Wheel sales method and argued that the ‘sales funnel’ was dead. But it’s not dead. Products still don’t sell themselves, and in most businesses, there still needs to be a salesman ultimately to sell products and services. What’s needed is a new blend of inbound and outbound sales engagement — but what does that look like?

Obstacles In B2B Tech Sales (in the Digital Era)

The Newton 4-Phase Sales Process design came out of a face-to-face primary research exercise we ran with already large and fast-growing B2B tech companies, performed in 2018 in Europe and the USA. We wanted to learn how sales and marketing leaders were responding to the new sales and marketing challenges of the digital era, specifically:

  • Customers spending more time snacking online, performing ‘personal discovery’ in the sales cycle BEFORE they wanted to talk to a salesperson
  • Sales processes transitioning to inbound AND outbound engagement (i.e. ‘fly-wheels’ and ‘sales funnels’) disrupting organizational designs
  • Changes to data privacy legislation re-balancing the usefulness of certain types of customer communications mechanisms
  • New obstacles challenging salespeople to work differently, such as the reduced use of land-lines, greater remoteness of customers etc.

Selling in the Digital Era Means New Sales Roles, Sales Behaviors and a Re-Prioritization of Budget Priorities

We found the ‘cracks’ were manifest in a series of undesirable operational characteristics:

  • Businesses were seeing the volume of useful leads decay overtime— spending more marketing dollars for every sales opportunity.
  • They reported discontinuities between digital marketing and field sales objectives, outcomes, cultures, behaviors and spending priorities.
  • They were over-prioritizing new business sales while ignoring the potential of repeat and expansion business opportunities with existing customers.
  • They recognized that no single role had accountability for the end-to-end conversational path that leads web surfers into opportunities, into prospects and ultimately customers.

Re-Designing the Sales Process for the Digital Age

I once had a salesperson that always wore the same underwear when he closed big sales deals. It convinced me (were it needed) that salespeople are on the face of it extremely confident, but behind the facade, they are some of the most self-critical and sensitive people you’ll ever meet.

Salespeople are constantly questioning their ability to be a ‘great salesperson’ — probably because, on the face of it, the qualities of salespeople aren’t highly academic. It means we’re always wondering if we still have what it takes to succeed. Changing the behaviors of salespeople is extremely difficult. Once a salesperson thinks they have the miracle ingredients to be successful and make money, they’re really reluctant to change how they work.

But market changes, including changes in buying behaviors, the wider use of digital platforms to learn and buy products, the growth in access to competitive alternatives, the reduced barriers to entry of introducing new technology products, the evolution of new business models powered by digital technology — these things are transformative and the B2B sales process design needs to adapt in order to operate within this new business climate. Salespeople too.

The Newton Day 4-Phase Process

Embracing modern conversational path marketing principles, the team at Newton Day set about re-designing the sales process template, working in consort with its B2B tech company clients.

We’ve recently designed Zoho CRM to underpin the operations of these behaviors and we aim to do the same for Salesforce.com shortly. A word of warning: Not all technology platforms can enforce the behaviors needed to fulfill the four phases required for Account-Based Selling (i.e. a sales approach that starts by identifying profitably prospect accounts, where sales contacts are a subset of the account they serve).

We came up with 16 steps split into the four phases of SEDUCE-ENGAGE-DELGHT-EXPAND. If you’d like to find out more about it, or how to adopt it into your processes and CRM platforms, get in touch.

I'm passionate about the role of conversation in life and business. These are my perspectives on life and my passions including business marketing.