Long. Very long. That's how we can describe the sales cycle for the majority of B2B companies.
This sales cycle typically lasts several weeks, or even months, before transitioning from discovery to purchase. But do you know how to accelerate it and convert your prospects into customers more quickly?
The answer lies in four words: build your Customer Community! In this article, MeltingSpot explains why creating your community of prospects or customers is crucial and delves into the impact of this strategy on your sales. Let's Begin.
Sales Cycle: What are the stages for B2B?
The sales cycle is consequently longer in B2B than in B2C. And for good reason:
- Purchases are less impulsive.
- Relationships are built for the long term.
- Decision-makers are more numerous within the organization.
- Investments are generally higher.
Therefore, to make the magic happen and convert sales cycles into actual purchases, it is essential to carefully manage each stage of the customer journey. The customer goes through a few stages, starting with Discovery, then Evaluation, and finally Purchase. On the company's side, here are the 9 stages of the sales cycle to move from "visitor" to "loyal customer":
- Stage 1: Visitor to Prospect transformation (lead generation).
- Stage 2: First contact.
- Stage 3: Lead nurturing through Inbound Marketing.
- Stage 4: Needs qualification.
- Stage 5: Presentation of the offer or demo.
- Stage 6: Sales proposal.
- Stage 7: Negotiation.
- Stage 8: Conclusion of the sale.
- Stage 9: Customer retention.
To shorten this B2B sales cycle, there are various levers. Are you ready to discover them?
Marketing automation: The solution to accelerate the sales cycle?
Marketing automation is a strategy that enables the automation of conversion actions. With marketing automation software, marketing content can be scheduled and sent to prospects to educate and qualify them.
One notable aspect is the use of nurturing sequences, which are automated series of emails designed to guide prospects through the conversion funnel.
This innovative strategy is intriguing, but it can sometimes be time-consuming to set up (with emails sent weekly or bi-weekly). Educating prospects can be a lengthy and tedious process, and we must be cautious about the marketing pressure that many users experience.
To revolutionize this nurturing, qualifying, and educational phase, MeltingSpot invites you to explore another lever: the Customer Community.
Customer Community: Definition, Benefits, and Impact on Sales
What's a Customer Community?
A Customer Community refers to a dedicated online space where customers can connect, engage, and collaborate with each other and the brand. It serves as a platform for fostering meaningful relationships, providing support, sharing knowledge, and gathering valuable insights.
70% of B2B purchasing decisions are driven by Millennials, making it crucial to adapt to the preferences of this influential generation of decision-makers. The key ingredients to capture their attention and drive engagement revolve around digital platforms, the power of sharing, and the sense of community.
Today, one of the most effective ways to convince (without coercing) is through building relationships. And what better way to establish a strong connection with prospects or customers than by accelerating their decision-making process?
To achieve this, the creation of a vibrant Customer Community becomes essential. By establishing a thriving community, you cultivate an environment that fosters:
- Peer-to-peer support and sharing of testimonials.
- Facilitated collective or individual exchange with the company.
- Organizing events for your customers, such as workshops on the product or keynotes with inspiring ambassadors.
- Providing high-value content.
- Demonstrating your products or solutions, for example, through webinars.
- Co-creating new offers, products, or services tailored to customers' needs.
A well-nurtured brand community serves as a gateway to the right information and best practices, empowering individuals to educate themselves while prioritizing the human touch, free from the constraints of automated emails!
Customer Community: Benefits and Impacts on Sales
A Customer Community is a powerful lever for accelerating sales while reducing the decision-making cycle. By inviting prospects and current customers to join a community driven by your company, the benefits are numerous:
- Converting Non-Paying Customers: Harnessing the power of community, you can quickly convince non-paying customers of the value you offer and gain their trust. Within the community, they discover tutorials, educational content, and best practices that motivate them to make a purchase. Interested in this strategy? Learn how to launch your Community-Qualified Leads (CQL) strategy in this article.
- Streamlining Onboarding for Paying Customers: Creating a community provides an excellent opportunity to enhance the customer onboarding experience. You can establish direct connections with customers, assist them in familiarizing themselves with your solution, address their questions, and introduce them to other like-minded individuals.
- Fostering Loyalty Among Long-Term Customers: By bringing together loyal customers in a tight-knit community, you increase their engagement, retention, and likelihood of repurchasing. Unlike a prospects' community, the customer community has already had at least one purchasing experience with your company. The community transforms the transactional experience into a relational and emotional journey, paving the way for customers to become true brand ambassadors.
A Customer Community enables your company to engage effectively at every stage of the sales cycle. The impacts of a community strategy are manifold and occur at different levels. For example:
Customer Community: Inspiring Examples
Are you still hesitant about launching your community of prospects or clients? Discover the initiatives of these 3 B2B companies.
Smappen and the Smappen Academy
This SaaS startup currently supports over 500 paying clients and has 4,000 free subscribers. However, maintaining a privileged relationship with such a vast ecosystem has become a challenge for Smappen. The solution? Launching the Smappen Academy to enhance customer relationships and the Customer Success Management strategy.
As Brice de Marcillac (CSM Smappen) reveals in an interview with Skalin, this academy is "a set of modules that allows users to progress from a professional standpoint (...). It is not focused on the Smappen solution and how to use specific features. That is the role of UX/UI design (95%) and online help resources (5%)."
This academy specifically helps clients improve in specific areas such as "sales territories." Expert content fosters the skill development of each member, exclusively for clients.
Plezi and its Happy Academy
Marketing automation and community marketing are not mutually exclusive, and Plezi proves it! This marketing automation solution runs the Happy Academy, a community and knowledge base available 24/7 for its customers.
The objective is to enhance customers' digital marketing skills. Users can find various resources in the Happy Academy, such as:
Guides to get started with Plezi (useful for onboarding). Tips and tricks section with insights from the teams. An FAQ section on the topic. Live chat for close interaction with the Happy Academy teams. Bi-monthly webinars. Regular meetings through the "Club Plezi" for intimate gatherings and networking with other customers.
Lemlist and the Lemlist Family
In less than 3 years, this B2B startup has gathered over 10,000 clients. Lemlist offers its customers a community platform to access various tools:
- Segmented sub-communities based on the target audience or topics for discussions: Sales Talks, Outbound Agencies, Growth/Marketing Talks, and more.
- Thematic channels for specific exchanges: welcome, announcements, expert search, and more.
- An academy featuring relevant resources: Personal Branding School, Multichannel Masterclass, and more.
In a podcast interview with SaaS Connection, Guillaume Moubèche (founder of Lemlist) highlights the power of their customer community. It notably accelerates the customer retention stage, as many members become Ambassadors or even "Product Researchers."
They willingly provide valuable recommendations to shape the startup's product, conducting extensive market research and providing precise feedback to the team. This contributes to the long-term improvement of the Customers Community strategy.
To accelerate the sales cycle of your B2B company, now you know what you need to do:
Take inspiration from the examples above. Prepare for the launch of your Customer Community. And choose a platform like MeltingSpot to build and nurture your community!