Recognising the different stages in the b2b sales process can help you gain new leads and convert them into business....
1. B2B Prospects
A prospect is a company which could buy your product or service, but that you’ve never contacted before. This doesn’t mean every other business in the country is a prospect – just the ones which might actually have the need for your product or service, and the resources to pay for it. Prospects should be the target of your direct marketing and field sales activities. They can be identified and gathered in a number of ways, and are usually managed in a prospect list or database.
2. B2B Leads
A lead is often confused with a prospect, but is in fact a prospect that you have had some contact with – either by them contacting you, or you approaching them directly using field sales, telemarketing, or direct mail. Leads are often managed by the sales team, whose job it is to try and convert the lead into a customer as soon as possible.
3. B2B Customers
The most important conversion your sales process needs to achieve is from Lead to Customer. It may only be a small one off or sample order, but they are still a customer, and your relationship with them has changed forever. Now you can focus on building a relationship through your customer service team, and regular communication using direct marketing, service calls and newsletters. You also need to get the valuable second and third repeat orders which are the sign of growing customer loyalty.
4. B2B Clients
Clients are customers who buy your product exclusively from you, and not from anyone else. In other words you have become the sole supplier. For some businesses such as accountants and banks it’s normal for customers to become clients from the start. For others, converting a customer into a client can take much longer. But it can be worth the wait. Clients will usually buy more frequently and are also a great source of recommendations, referrals and testimonials.