Keeping up with the evolving mind-set and practices of current and prospective clients is usually a challenge for independent professionals who operate in the “new economy.” Signing a good client is not easy, what with the penchant for not spending money being all the rage. Solopreneurs can only prosper by staying one step ahead of the client, positioned to neutralize the temptation to keep a project in-house or let it languish and die. Solopreneurs need strategies that bring in billable hours. Here are trends that B2B buyers are following now.
A recent survey of employees who make B2B purchases for their organizations conducted by the global consulting firm Accenture showed that 94% of purchasers (your clients and prospects) research potential solutions for business needs in advance, to learn about options and save time and money.
By the time B2B vendors (you!) are approached, the hoped-for client has done the up-front legwork. S/he already has an idea of what you and your competitors might provide and a ballpark figure of the cost.
Entrepreneur and marketing expert Danny Wong, co-founder of the online men’s apparel company Blank Label, recommends that Solopreneurs acknowledge the elephant in the room and simply ask your prospects about any research they may have done and what you might be able to verify or clarify.
Unfortunately, some sales “professionals” and unsavory Solopreneurs have been known to misrepresent what they sell. As a result, many B2B buyers prefer to purchase online and bypass you and me. The practice was confirmed recently by Forrester Research, in a survey that revealed nearly 60% of B2B purchasers preferred to buy independently, without the assistance of a salesperson.
Wong points out that demonstrating expertise and an appreciation for the prospect’s goals and circumstances, confers credibility and helps you to earn trust, an essential process when competing for assignments or sales. Buyers won’t do business if they don’t trust you. Why should they?
No matter how desperate you are for billable hours, don’t rush the process. Take time to understand what the client needs and how, or if, your products or services can be useful. Avoid being perceived as an aggressive salesperson and instead present yourself as a trustworthy adviser who wants to make the prospect look smart to his/her superiors and other colleagues.
They’re in no hurry
No, it’s not your imagination that making a sale takes longer than it used to. Another study showed that the length of the average B2B sales cycle has increased by 22% over the past five years. While the prospect is working the worry beads, Mr. Wong recommends that you do what you can to stay at top of mind and try to prevent the project from falling into oblivion. Your main competitor is not one of your rivals, it’s the client’s inertia.
Send information that can support (and speed up) the decision-making, but don’t overwhelm—curate. Inquire about a timeline and deadline for the project and suggest what might be a reasonable starting time.
They trust the advice of anonymous “peers”
So do you and that’s why you research hotels and restaurants on Trip Advisor and search for a contractor on Angie’s List. Accenture reports that almost 25% of B2B buyers make decisions based almost entirely on information gleaned from online “social” rating sites.
If your skill set is one that would be found on Angie’s List or a neighborhood blog, attempt to establish a presence on those sites and build credibility that will help you get hired. LinkedIn and Facebook could be helpful once a trusted source has referred a prospective client to you and your profile is researched before you get the call. Create a good profile on your chosen social media sites and make yourself look knowledgeable and trustworthy.
They appreciate relevant content marketing
The longer buying cycle gives the advantage to those who produce long form content—a newsletter or blog, case studies, white papers, or podcasts. A FAQs page added to your website that details how to do business with you could also be helpful. Impartial and instructive information is the essence of content marketing. Produce your own and position yourself as an expert who is qualified to get the job done.
Thanks for reading,