In recent weeks, I have made purchases online ranging from the completely generic (paper towels) to the totally personal (custom wedding invitations). It’s not news that transactions that used to take place almost exclusively face-to-face have moved online. But for most B2B companies, whose products and services lend themselves to an established face-to-face sales model, the process is about much more than a one-click purchase. But no matter what your business, your buyers are out on the internet. It’s not only safe to assume that they are conducting at least some degree of information gathering online, but also shaping their preliminary buying preferences. Done right, it’s an opportunity to establish an early edge over your competitors.
So how do you bridge the gap between a more traditional “feet on the street” sales model and an increasingly digital world? Imagine taking parts of your sales process and giving them digital life. It’s not about opening a new channel, but supporting existing channels with a rich and compelling digital story that mimics your offline sales process. It doesn’t mean getting rid of your sales force – in fact, just the opposite – but enabling them for success through a robust digital presence.
Perhaps you already have a lead capture form or “contact our sales team” call to action on your website, but that’s where your online sales presence ends. These will have a low conversion rate without the right story being told to your prospects along the way. Consider making some of your existing sales content available up front, such as an introductory presentation. Not as is, but integrated into a digital story. Just like at an in-person meeting, you need to say the magic words that spark a prospect’s interest. Attracting buyers’ interest, with a compelling headline or visual component, lets you drive them through a structured digital funnel. Now that you’ve piqued their interest, perhaps you offer them the option to read some relevant blog articles. Every step they take offers more detail, and takes them through specific steps of the sales process that would otherwise have to be done offline. If you have ever found it difficult to get a meeting with prospective buyers, or wished that you could shorten the sales cycle, going digital could be the solution. Presenting reliable, increasingly detailed information that buyers can explore at their own pace credentializes you – which means that when you do get that in-person meeting, you’re much further along in the process.
For one client, moving their sales process online meant creating a microsite dedicated to addressing a specific user need. A catchy headline gently poked fun at a common complaint, one that would be immediately recognizable to a prospective buyer. As they dug further into the site, they were guided along a defined path that progressively showed why they should address the problem, what their world might look like if they were to address it, what the solution could look like, and what others who have done it had to say and the tangible results they realized. Strategically positioned calls to action along the way encouraged prospects to further engage with the story. All of this was highly traceable, and resulted in leads that were not only generally well-qualified, but also well-educated. Your website provides a meaningful opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition – not only by telling your story digitally, but by showcasing your organization as a forward-thinking industry leader.
Websites are often looked at simply as marketing exposure or brochureware – and maybe a place where prospective buyers can submit a request for more information. This no longer cuts it in our digital age where all buyers leverage the internet and social channels. Your digital properties should work for you – reaching buyers while they’re in the research phase – establishing your products and services as an early preference and enabling your sales force to take it from there.