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Understanding who is your prospect and who is going to make a purchasing decision for your product is the key to success in B2B sales. The data is out there, and Russ Heddleston, CEO of DocSend, showed us the state of B2B at the InsideSales AI Growth Summit 2018.

“In the olden days, the buying process was driven by the seller. As a salesperson you got to own the process, you were in charge, you owned the information. Someone would come in at the top of the fall, they’d say I’ve got questions, you’d say I’ve got answers. So we’d get them through awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase. (…),” said Russ, on his session at the AI Growth Summit.

“That’s just not how it works anymore,” concluded Russ.

B2B Sales Statistics

There is much research that shows the state of B2B sales, and most of it shows that it has become an increasingly complex environment to navigate. Here are just a few statistics:

  • The number of people involved in the buying process for B2B has gone up dramatically (an average is 6.8 according to CEB)
  • The overall length of the average sales cycle has gone up 24% over the last two years
  • 38% of salespeople are having a harder time getting a response from their prospects

“What’s really happening here is that buyers are more in control than they’ve ever been before, they are used to everything digital and doing a lot of research,” said Russ.

The reaction of salespeople has been to change their tactics from transactional, high-velocity sales, to account-based marketing and account-based sales, personalizing content to their personas. It can be hard to create a sense of urgency for such a large group– which makes it harder to make a sale, and a lot less fun.

Content as the Sales Catalyst

However, salespeople do have assets at their disposal to navigate this environment, added Russ Heddleston. Sales professionals couple their account-based sales strategy with sales content.

“You have blog posts. You have case studies. Everyone has a sales deck. There’s going to be a proposal if you’re fortunate to get that far through the process. Depending on what you’re selling, especially if it’s a complicated solution oriented system, there might be spreadsheets involved as well. (…) The content is going to get circulated amongst those 6.8 people,” said Russ.

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Because salespeople don’t usually have access to decision-makers or know what happens in a company behind closed doors, it’s important to be aware of the statistics around saes content usage and engagement. Russ Heddleston showed how B2B buyers use sales content, and how

B2B Prospects – Statistics

B2B prospects use sales content a lot in their journey to make a decision, said Russ Heddleston. The company studied over 13,000 accounts (B2B buyers) and over 682,000 interactions, and came across four main findings that are poised to make a difference for B2B sellers today.

1. Decision-Makers for B2B Sales Read Your Content

Even though the average number of decision-makers for a B2B sales deal has increased (5.4 decision-makers for a transaction), this does not mean they are uneducated about your product. B2B prospects do engage with sales content on a regular basis, according to DocSend data, shows Russ.

“The number of unique stakeholders in an account is on average 5.4. That’s a lot of people. There are probably people involved in the buying cycle that you aren’t even aware of as a salesperson. But the good news is is that these people obviously care about the content. The average number of views per account [for content] was 14.4,” said Russ.

Stakeholders do care about your content, but this means sales representatives need to be mindful of what type of content they send to.

Daniel Baunds @Vendas B2B Academy

“Interestingly enough, at least from my point of view, the average number of assets shared per account was actually pretty small, 4.4. This really varies a lot by deal, but you don’t have a whole lot of chances here. […] Make sure you’re sending over content that is relevant. And make sure they understand why it’s relevant,” explains Russ.

2. B2B Prospects Spend Very Little Time With Your Content

Just because you manage to get B2B prospects to read your content, this doesn’t mean they are immediately swayed by it– nor does it mean they spend a lot of time with it. B2B buyers spend, on average, just 1.5 minutes with every piece of content, said Russ.

“They are just flipping through things. So if you’re sending someone a 40 page deck, or a huge white paper, just remember the odds are not in your favor that they’re going to read through the entire thing. People like having bite size chunks of information. They wanna get through it quickly and it has to be obvious. What you do has to be obvious to them, otherwise they’re not going to take a ton of time to figure out why it’s gonna be relevant to them,” said Russ Heddleston.

This doesn’t mean salespeople should give up on using content, underlines Russ – but rather persist in sending follow-up content. This content gets forwarded and passed around in companies, leading to more informed and educated buyers.

The average time spent with content on the account level is 37 minutes, which shows all decision-makers at one point use content to do their own market research.

3. The Bystander Effect – More People Equals Shallow Engagement

DocSend data also showed that the high number of decision-makers for every deal produces a so-called “bystander effect,” shows Russ Heddleston. The higher the number of individuals involved in a deal, the higher the chance is that many of them will not feel like they own the deal. In a large group, no one individual tends to assume responsibility for the acquisition.

Most salespeople feel like they have no control over the number of people involved in a deal. However, that’s not entirely true, says Russ. All they need to do is find the one person who can sway the group and make things happen.

“Sometimes this is something that’s within your influence. Typically, what people will do is they’ll figure out who their champion is. Their champion is the one who’s got the greatest need. They’re the ones who are most likely to push it through the organization. They might not be the economic buyer at the end of the day, but they’re going be the person that’s gonna go to bat for you. And they really, really work hard to make this happen,” said Russ.

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Sales professionals can also control the number of decision-makers to some extent, by simply making sure not everyone participates in meetings. They can ask the influencer (the champion) to limit the number of participants to a pricing call, for example, or just make sure they have an idea of what each one of them has to win or lose by implementing the solution.

“Nobody wants a scenario where there are ten people involved in your deal,” added Russ.

4. There is No Right Answer

Sales professionals use a series of techniques to get through the clout of B2B sales. The main findings of data analysis, shows Russ Heddleston, is that there is no one right answer for navigating through this process.

“There is no one right answer. […] If there was one right answer, would the world need salespeople? For the things that are easy to buy, the things that are linear and straightforward, you don’t really need a salesperson anymore. […] I always tell our sales team that they will have a great career in B2B sales. And the reason is — things are only going to get more complicated,” said Russ.

“Companies need to invest in something complex like artificial intelligence (AI), for example, and as a salesperson, your role is to really help them navigate that. To educate them. And the best way to be a trusted resource is to use content,” added Russ.

Top Performing Sales Content

Russ also showed that certain piece of content perform better than others, and made a list of the top performing sales content. These are:

  • Pricing sheets
  • Customer testimonials
  • Product comparisons
  • White papers
  • RFP generators
  • Analyst Reports
  • ROI calculators
  • Case studies

If you’re on the fence about what type of content to use with a B2B prospect, Russ added the decision is simple. Case studies have the highest engagement and highest completion rate among all types of content, according to a DocSend analysis of over 34 million interactions.

“When in doubt, send a case study,” concluded Russ.

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