There are prospects in your pipeline who look primed to buy but they’re hesitating at the final hurdle. Even worse, the end of the month is looming and you haven’t reached your target yet.
How can you speed up the sales cycle? Is it even possible?
The simplest solution for accelerating the pipeline is to know your target customers’ pain points and interests and carefully build a relationship with them through lead nurturing and scoring.
However, for B2B education brands, this is easier said than done because the sales cycle is notoriously longer in the B2B world than for consumer-facing companies.
Because anything that costs a pretty penny, is tied to a lengthy contract or is a corporate buy requires more education, logical thinking, and potential buy-in from multiple members of staff.
Even so, B2B education marketers continue to pump out engaging content, nurture leads, and convert prospects like any other industry. But the long decision-making process brings with it a whole new slew of challenges.
Here’s how you can overcome them.
1. Align Content and Offerings With Different Stages of the Funnel
Trying to sell straight away to new prospects who don’t even know who you are is a disaster waiting to happen. It’s a surefire way to turn off prospects who may have eventually become a loyal customer further down the line.
The key is to avoid pushing too hard before a lead is ready, but also knowing when the right time to push is. You can do this by:
- Providing constant thought leadership content to establish brand awareness and position yourself as an expert in your industry
- Integrate thought leadership content with promotional offerings to provide a balance that taps into prospects who might be ready to move to the next stage of the sales cycle
- Consider the first action a prospect took as this shows where they are in the funnel. For example, someone who signs up for a trial is going to be further through the sales cycle because they have actively chosen to explore your product
People are swamped with ads and marketing messages every single day and, as a result, they’re becoming better at ignoring them. This is particularly true for B2B buyers because their purchases aren’t driven by emotion.
But if you can’t reach your prospects because they’re straight-up ignoring you, how can you turn them into a customer?
The answer is personalization.
Generic promotional messages are a turn-off. On the flip side, when a company takes the time to get to know their prospects on a more personal level and actively gain an understanding of their wants and needs, then trust can start to grow.
EverTrue, a software solution that helps higher education brands expand their donor networks, does exactly this. The sales cycle for the software is usually around six months long and the marketing team tries to personalize every touchpoint as much as they can.
For example, they often tag universities they want to connect with on Twitter or Facebook and write blog posts directly aimed at certain institutions.
3. Analyzing and Tweaking
It’s impossible to improve and shorten your sales cycle if you’re not watching what’s working and what’s not.
However, instead of constantly testing, you ideally want to tweak one element at a time so you can really dig deep into what’s resonating with your prospects.
Look at what your targets are for each month and break it out by channel and program to see what’s working. Check how many qualified leads you’ve generated each month and take a look at what pieces of content have had the most impact.
Taking each prospect manually through the sales cycle is long-winded and just not viable if you’re getting a lot of leads each month.
This is where automation can come in and save the day.
Tapping into marketing automation software can help you trigger actions based on the behavior of leads. This means prospects are getting the right information at the right time, and they’re getting it automatically so you don’t have to worry about sending them stuff when they need it.
Lego Education, a brand that sells resources about Lego in the classroom to schools, has started using marketing automation over the past few years.
In the past, they sent out the same emails to everyone on their list. But now, thanks to powerful list segmentation (which they split up by demographics, firmographic profiles, job titles, and behavior), they can send out the right emails to the right people at the right time.
For example, if someone signs up for a webinar on Lego for math learning, the company now knows they’re interested in that topic and can send them more resources and information on that topic.
“Automation has allowed us to do so much more with fewer resources because it is scalable,” says Brandee Johnson, the integrated marketing manager at Lego Education. “Our campaigns reach hundreds of thousands of educators and we’ve quadrupled our reach with email.”
This tactic is particularly important in the B2B education world where there are distinct buying and planning periods to consider. The goal is to get in front of buyers at the right time to establish a presence and start nurturing them through the sales cycle.
Make Your Sales Cycle Speedy
It’s a fact of life that a B2B education sales cycle is always going to be longer than a brand selling consumer-facing goods. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t speed it up by using the tactics and strategies we’ve outlined here.
Tap into the power of automation, personalization, and analytics to provide prospects with the right information at the right time.