Mistakes are valuable sources of learning. Yet, many companies make too little use of such opportunities. Read on to learn about the typical mistakes we often notice in B2B marketing and sales, and the solutions we recommend.
Mistake #1 – Hiding behind high prices
The fallacy: When hit rates are poor and orders are repeatedly being lost, you will often hear sales staff saying: “We were just too expensive.” This knockout argument is intended to nip any further discussion in the bud while, at the same time, absolving the seller from any and all responsibility. This conviction that a bad sales outcome stems from setting the price too high is mainly encountered in low-performing companies.
The solution: In many cases, however, the price is not in itself the reason why the customer selected a rival offer. Generally speaking, the sellers are failing to convincingly demonstrate the value of their own services. Value selling helps to achieve this – not just by using discounts to close sales, but rather through focusing the spotlight on the added value for the customer. By following this approach, sales can be successful even at higher prices.
Mistake #2 – Clinging to outdated sales logic
The fallacy: Many sales staff are convinced that a good business relationship is the key to success. While the quality of the relationship continues to remain an important factor, it is no longer a magic formula for winning offers. Today, instead of being based purely on personal interactions, purchase decisions now depend more heavily upon facts. But when it comes to working the market, many sellers apply the same logic they have been using for the past 20–30 years. They have failed to realize that facts are playing an ever-greater role in shaping business relationships.
The solution: To succeed in a dynamic market environment, sellers must expand their skill sets. The relationship-based sellers of yesterday should provide their customers with a more data-driven, digital service. This means interpreting data correctly to determine the appropriate measures to take and, where necessary, selling without a personal on-site visit. Furthermore, CRM critics will have to stop refusing to use the system and deploy it in their day-to-day business operations. This change process is challenging and will require close monitoring and support from management.
Mistake #3 – Working with dirty data
The fallacy: To exploit the presumed potential of data-driven marketing and sales to their own advantage, companies are collecting vast amounts of data. But they often lack a general plan for managing customers and working markets in a well-targeted manner. Consequently, they lack the necessary data, which must then be acquired at great expense. At the same time, the customer data that they already have does not get used to optimal effect because it is not regularly maintained or has not been adequately prepared for further processing.
The solution: The effectiveness and efficiency of data-driven customer service ultimately depends on the quality of the data. If, for example, customer data from multiple systems are being merged in a sales cockpit, it is vital to conduct an initial clean-up and alignment process. To this end, data may only be stored in one system at a time in order to ensure an efficient customer management. Subsequently, it is up to the sales staff to regularly update and maintain the data.
Mistake #4 – Failing to interlink the digital with the analog world
The fallacy: B2B companies are increasingly relying on a digital and automated customer management model in order to boost the impact power of their marketing and sales operations. The range of measures includes automated campaigns for generating leads, data-driven qualification processes and chat bots for handling support queries. In many cases, however, the analog foundation is lacking, or the digital measures are not sufficiently interlinked with the analog world.
The solution: To avoid disruptions, the underlying end-to-end customer management process has to be thoroughly defined. To this end, it is necessary to identify the tasks, responsibilities and interfaces within the process. Only when this interplay has been defined can decisions then be taken on the use of appropriate tools and systems. Even if this may seem banal, it is this lack of preliminary work that often underlies many company failures in real life.
Mistake #5 – Not striving hard enough to create new business opportunities
The fallacy: In previously thriving industries, sales departments would often focus on “quick wins”. These suggest an easy path to achieving the defined sales targets with little effort. In reality, the days when sales departments could simply pick off the low-hanging fruit as they passed by have long since passed. For many companies, the economic situation has reached the point that every investment decision is repeatedly placed on the weigh scales and continuously compared with other options.
The solution: For sales departments, this means that simple order taking is no longer enough. Business opportunities need to be resolutely pursued, and the customer journey must be closely monitored and supported. Certain preliminary services are also expected by customers, such as feasibility studies and technical drawings. To succeed, sales organizations need to find new ways of becoming involved in the procurement process, right from the early stages. At the same time, the different stakeholders will need to be skillfully tended to throughout the entire process.