While recession looms over the remaining months of 2022, publicly-traded multistate operators (MSOs) have watched their stock prices plummet, endured diminishing capital investment, and contemplated survival strategies in a high-risk business sector with little margin for error. Optimizing the business-to-business (B2B) sales process can drive necessary revenue and help companies stay profitable through difficult times.
The B2B sales process is a series of events that take place when one business sells a product or service to another business. When businesses are successful in refining their B2B sales process they produce more sales, create more revenue, and stand a better chance of surviving turbulent economic conditions. The cannabis industry’s biggest companies are making wholesaling a priority, and B2B sales have the potential to secure a successful future for a variety of brands looking for a permanent spot in the market. A sales team that is skilled at understanding data, presenting its product, engaging clients, and evolving alongside its unique customers’ needs has a better chance of keeping its business alive and profitable.
Understanding your B2B sales process for 2023
The B2B sales process takes time to develop, refine, and optimize. Every piece of research gathered and every connection established should serve as a data point to help strengthen a company’s position in the industry. With a robust and effective B2B sales process, businesses have the chance to act as thought leaders in cannabis, dispelling misinformation and offering smarter solutions to their customers. It may feel disheartening if your business is in the process of strengthening its B2B sales process, but every prospect you interact with gets your business one step closer to a continuous revenue stream.
Research and reach out
Before your sales team attempts to engage with a new business client, it is important to develop the resources and research to properly prepare the team for a first-time interaction. Successful B2B activities mean cultivating expertise with target customers and understanding the exact need they fill in the industry. Because every retailer in the market is not going to be a true target, your leadership team needs to take the time to decide which businesses can benefit most from the products or services you’re selling. After identifying the real potential customers, a successful sales team must also be able to identify the key decision-makers within those companies.
This approach helps drive results from an efficiency standpoint, which is especially important for smaller teams that need to mitigate the opportunity cost of spending time and resources on low-impact activities. When it comes to capacity, it is much easier for a small team to offer a high level of sales support to a dozen large accounts than 100 smaller accounts. While there is certainly opportunity in both, focusing on quality relationships with potential repeat customers can often yield less volatile revenue streams and help elevate your reputation in the industry as a quality service provider who’s readily available when your clients need you.
Ask questions and listen intently
There is only so much you can learn about a company without speaking with the folks who make it function. After your sales team has done as much background research as possible, the next step is to contact the prospective customer. Upon first contact, never make assumptions about the customer, even if your research identifies significant problems you’re perfectly positioned to solve.
During this initial interaction, the more information you can gather, the better your chance of completing the sale. Through thoughtful and genuine questioning, you can learn about the potential customer’s needs, dislikes, struggles, goals, and how they like to get business done—helping to establish a champion within your target business who can advocate for you in the future.
In the cannabis industry, it is especially important to demonstrate your understanding of each customer’s unique needs. The regulations under which businesses operate vary significantly depending on their location and the level of interaction they have with the plant. Asking questions that require answers beyond a yes or no response promotes comprehensive answers, illuminating valuable information for the sales team’s efforts with insight into each company’s operations. The best sales teams demonstrate their shared passion for the industry and the ability to communicate effectively in a complex, competitive environment. People like to feel as though their perspectives and understandings are valued, so encourage your potential customers to talk as much as possible. A salesperson should be prepared to listen more than they speak during initial interactions with customers.
Offer free knowledge
After decades of prohibition and stigmatization, the cannabis industry has an opportunity to openly collaborate, research, and discover better ways of operating. The B2B sales process offers an opportunity for businesses to partake in the demystification of cannabis production and the exchange of newly developed technologies and operations.
In the past, B2B sales were straightforward, but the internet has changed the way purchases are made. Most potential customers will search for your business on the internet before they think about making a purchase. According to Hubspot, 60 percent of prospects want to talk to sales staff after they have researched their options. When you are speaking with a potential customer, offering knowledge they may not have found online can increase your chances of closing the sale.
Most people in the cannabis industry are committed to and passionate about the power of the plant. After you listen to a potential customer’s needs, you can offer them free relevant knowledge that will both benefit them and demonstrate your authenticity as a cannabis professional. This is a powerful way to prove to your customers that you understand their business and their needs. Sharing your expertise with a potential customer establishes mutual trust, shows the prospect that your business provides support to its customers, and exemplifies your knowledgeability. You are more likely to close a deal when your customer views you as trustworthy, helpful, and intelligent.
Not only does free information help show your shared commitment to bringing quality cannabis to the masses, but it also offers an opportunity to indirectly demonstrate the value of your product. Always use an educational opportunity to indirectly market your product and build rapport. You know your product better than anyone, and you know how the technology used by your business can help your prospect. Offering your technical knowledge, tips and tricks, or a piece of expert information can help close the sale. Through education, you can teach a potential customer about the needs your business can fill without ever directly mentioning your product or feeling like you’re “pushing a sale.”
Qualify the customer
After offering the potential customer free and useful knowledge, it is time to gauge the likelihood of a purchase. To do this, a sales team or representative must gather insight to determine the conditions under which the potential customer will make a purchase.
Traditionally, sales teams have used the ABC (always be closing) method. However, this is no longer the most effective method in the sales repertoire, and in the context of cannabis sales, there is a range of nuanced approaches businesses use to qualify the customer with better results.
Using the information you have gathered throughout the first three steps of the B2B sales process, your sales team can determine its approach to closing the sale. Instead of the old ABC method, most businesses have adopted the GCPT or the BANT methods. GCPT stands for goals, plans, challenges, and timing. Similarly, BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline. These methods allow the seller to identify the goals the prospect wants to achieve, the challenges preventing them from reaching their goals, the timeline of their plans, and who has the ultimate purchasing power. The ABC method is considered reductive in contemporary approaches to business relationships, which are complex and multifaceted. Other methods like GCPT and BANT yield more positive, ethical, and strategic outcomes by aligning sales practices with the complex preferences and needs of customers.
When using the GCPT or BANT method, sales teams should be mindful of the opportunity for performance-based pricing in 2023. If a potential customer is worried about the performance or price point of your product, there is a low-risk option that may inspire the prospect to make a purchase. Performance-based pricing allows the seller to receive payment based on the performance of the product or service. In a financially uncertain environment, performance-based pricing offers cannabis companies a chance to try new products without making a significant purchase commitment.
Close the sale
When the B2B sales process is thoughtfully developed and executed, closing a sale should generally be a painless process. However, even the best plans are subject to unforeseen events and extemporaneous events. As Tyson 2.0’s Mike Tyson famously said about going toe to toe with a worthy opponent, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” If you get to the closing phase of the B2B sales process and discover you and your prospective customer are not aligned, it is time to repeat the process.
Just because a prospect did not agree to the sale, does not necessarily mean they are lost as a potential customer. During this time, the sales team can address any opposition and provide more information when prospects are hesitant. It is important to keep the prospect engaged by offering a follow-up appointment or additional meeting with other decision-makers. Simply scheduling an additional time to meet with a prospective customer offers you the opportunity to identify where your plans have come up short and how you can repeat the B2B sales process in a more personalized and effective manner based on better information.