As a new report reveals that B2B sales teams are struggling to cope with new ‘buying by committee’ and lengthening sales cycles, JPC’s James Mollard explains why ABM is up for the challenge, but only if you build true ‘man-marking’ activities at the core of your engagement strategies.
The B2B sales landscape is getting increasingly complex. This is being fuelled by the growing number of stakeholders involved in the buying process. Some 40% of sales professionals surveyed in the recent State of Virtual Selling report said key stakeholders were on the rise. This is lengthening sales cycles and means more ‘touches’ are required to close deals.
Almost a quarter (23%) of salespeople surveyed say they are having to deal with five or more stakeholders, with over half (55%) encountering two to four. Complicating matters further, 44% of respondents said that they are having to engage with stakeholders across different departments.
The rapid shift to hybrid working has also added to the complexity by making it more difficult to reach and engage with stakeholders. Some 91% of sales professionals reported that their team is already working remotely or from the office part-time. This is reducing the opportunities for more traditional sales approaches, such as face to face. Only 9% now are primarily based in the office, with over half (58%) mainly or exclusively working remotely and a third (33%) practising hybrid working.
Putting stakeholders out of reach
As a result, 34% of sales professionals find it tough to uncover and reach key stakeholders, something that 53% say has got worse over the past year. Furthermore, 42% of sales professionals report problems connecting with prospects. This is backed up by the 2022 B2B Data Report which revealed that 90% of salespeople find it challenging to identify and reach prospects and customers (37% very challenging). Meanwhile, 23% also struggle to collaborate with stakeholders across the sales process, while 17% admit being held back by the number of key decision makers now involved.
This is lengthening sales cycles to over a month for 80% of salespeople, with nearly half saying the process can last from four to 18 months, and often even longer – particularly in complex infrastructure deals. Consequently, the number of touch points required before a sale is closed has increased over the past year, according to over half (57%) of sales professionals. This makes it vital to find new ways to interact with customers by creating valuable, engaging, memorable connections. Yet 14% of salespeople struggle to produce and find high-quality assets with which to achieve this.
How ABM can close the gap
As decision making becomes increasingly based on committees rather than individuals, traditional sales methods struggle to handle the complexity this brings. Perhaps this is why many B2B sales and marketing teams are switching to account-based approaches, with 90% expecting to invest more in this area in 2023, according to the recent ABM Benchmark Survey. Carried out correctly, the forensic focus this brings to identifying key stakeholders along with their business goals and personal communication preferences, along with the formulation of a personalised content and engagement strategy, provides the tools sales teams need to spark conversations and open doors.
Developing account-based experiences that guide stakeholders from initial contact to purchase help maintain engagement no matter how long the sales cycle. In fact, the longer the process, the more opportunities vendors have to deliver insightful content and prove their credentials. Continuing this post purchase can also strengthen the ongoing relationship, driving retention, while providing cross selling and up selling opportunities.
Reaping the rewards
Recent research illustrates the results account-based approaches are delivering. Over half of marketers (52%) say they are practising account-based marketing to ensure they are targeting the right stakeholders (Demand Generation Benchmark Report 2023). Once they have been identified, 90% of marketers say it maintains active engagement (Elevating ABM 2022).
Having built this platform, respondents to this survey found their ABM programmes grew pipeline (84%) and drove revenue (77%). Interestingly at a time when sales cycles are lengthening, 59% of marketers say they are using ABM to accelerate pipeline, with 31% confirming they are succeeding in doing so, according to the ABM and Intent Benchmark Study 2022 and ABM Benchmark Study 2022 respectively.
It’s almost as if ABM was designed to solve the challenges sales and marketing teams are encountering right now. In reality, the more human, personalised approach it brings is responding to the need to stand out in an increasingly homogenised, competitive and virtual business environment, where the subtle personality cues that face-to-face communication delivers are reduced. This means the challenges of creating truly effective multiple stakeholder engagement and man marking strategies should not be underplayed.
- The increasing number of stakeholders involved in buying decisions spread across multiple departments is increasing the complexity of the modern B2B landscape.
- This is resulting in longer sales cycles and increasing the number of touches and contacts needed to close a sale.
- Together with the shift to hybrid working this is also meaning B2B sales teams are struggling to find and engage with key stakeholders.
- The forensic focus ABM brings to identifying stakeholders, their business goals and personal communication preferences provides the tools sales teams need to spark conversations and open doors.
- This is why recent surveys show that most marketers are now using ABM to track down stakeholders and engage with them successfully.
For tips and tools to design a more strategic approach to stakeholder mapping and engagement, please get in touch…
The State of Virtual Selling: https://awesome.vidyard.com/rs/273-EQL-130/images/Vidyard-The-State-of-Virtual-Selling-Report.pdf