The B2B sales prospecting process, while a shared source of anxiety for sales professionals, is the most crucial facet of selling for almost all businesses. Sales professionals often find themselves racing against the clock to meet quotas. In fact, 42% of sales professionals regard prospecting as the toughest stage of the entire sales process. Since sales are what makes or breaks a business, the exercise of reaching out to leads, nurturing them, and converting them into customers is more important than any stage that comes before or after it.
Keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continuously. Always have more people to see than you have time to see them.
The process of prospecting unearths prospective customers, boosts a business’s sales pipeline, and provides a useful backdrop to forthcoming sales conversations. Yes, prospecting isn’t as exciting as closing a sale. In fact, most salespeople spend only a third of their regular workday talking to prospects. They spend 21% of the day composing mails, 17% feeding data, another 17% exploring and prospecting leads, 12% conducting internal meetings, and the remaining 12% planning calls. That’s why it is often left for the time when all the important things have been taken care of.
But if you don’t have a sales pipeline charged with highly convertible leads, you won’t be able to make any new sales.
That’s why it’s important to understand that prospecting is what kick starts the sales process and decides, to a large extent, if the deal is going to close or not. Sadly, not enough time is made for prospecting by sales reps as much as you would think was necessary. In fact, research by Gong found salespeople making more calls in the last month of a quarter than the first two, with the success rate of these zero-hour calls generally lower than other months.
This only goes to show how important it is to devote time to prospecting every day. The math is straightforward: the greater the number of prospects you amass, the higher the chances to close a deal you have, as every prospect amounts to an opportunity.
And while it’s the marketing department that’s been conventionally tasked with generating leads, it doesn’t mean that sales reps shouldn’t conduct their own research in regards to prospecting efforts. As such, salespeople still are very much a part of the tradition of self-prospecting and generating leads.
However, before we get cracking on the best ways to prospect, let’s take a look at B2B prospecting in general, what it is, and how the prospecting game has evolved in recent times.
What Is B2B Sales Prospecting?
Prospecting is the exercise of instigating and rearing new business by researching and looking for prospective customers for the products, solutions, or services that you provide. The goal of sales prospecting is to guide these leads or prospects along the sales funnel until the time when they convert into revenue-generating customers for you.
While the concept is simple, effective prospecting is difficult to execute. In fact, almost half of the sale time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. This happens because most sales reps are unaware that the buyer does their own bit of prospecting before making any contact with a sales representative.
In fact, according to CSO Insights, 45% of prospects admitted to having evaluated their needs beforehand to look for services on their own before making contact with the sales team. Additionally, almost all of the B2B buyers reported having researched online, while a little over half the buyers said that they turned to social media to look for fair and relevant solutions before making purchase decisions.
This paints a grim picture as it shows salespeople are losing their hold over the process of making sales. However, things are not as bad as they seem because the people you seek are actually seeking you. In fact, research shows that 91% of prospects would like to contact a sales representative in the early phases of their journey, including 34% of newer customers who are keener on engaging with salespeople early on.
Just think about it—how much more would you have been able to sell if you didn’t waste time on unproductive prospecting?
That’s why it’s necessary to identify customers fit for your business early while prospecting. This means looking for and curating those leads and prospects who actually need your product or solution to solve their issues. Take a look at the video below on steps to define the ideal customer profile for your B2B business.
After you have identified your ideal buyer, you, as a salesperson, can use everything in your arsenal to usher the sale and guide it through the right stages early in the customer journey.
How do you do that?
- Well, you first need to be always present for the buyer when they need you. It is during the research and consideration stage that a large number of B2B buyers were found wanting to contact a sales representative. If you present yourself to prospective buyers here, it’s half the battle won because you were there when they needed you the most.
- Conversely, you could also initiate contact as it was found that half of the buyers chose those vendors that contacted them first. Additionally, it was found that all sales representatives had to do was reach out to buyers first, with 85% of them saying “yes” to a meeting.
However, you need to always remember that leads will not just be driven to you like moths to a flame. You absolutely have to initiate action and be consistent about it for something to happen. In fact, the research found that 81.6% of the best-performing salespersons spend at least 4 hours or more each day on sales-related ventures.
Now that you are aware of the importance of commitment to prospecting, let’s take a look at the different methods of B2B sales prospecting.
The Wonderful World of B2B Sales Prospecting
To sum up, B2B sales prospecting is about searching for prospective buyers or clients so that you can convert them to generate new business. For any salesperson, the goal is to rear prospects throughout the sales-funnel until they are ready to make a purchase.
Here, we will see the top seven b2b prospecting methods you can employ to improve your marketing efforts as a whole.
Those thinking email as a sales tool is an unfit practice in today’s age couldn’t be more wrong. On the contrary, it’s actually one of the more effective prospecting strategies, with a considerable number saying they would prefer to be contacted by email.
But even in the world of email prospecting, evolution has happened in recent times as personalized emails have gained precedence over sending out mass or bulk emails with customized emails seeing a 26% higher open rate than mass emails.
To make effective use of this method, ensure that your content is personalized to a prospect’s unique desires and needs. You have to win over your prospect by showing them your knowledge of their company or industry. Make sure the content is specific and addresses the needs of a particular prospect.
2. Cold Call
No matter how much you may hate and look down upon cold calls, it’s still one of the most effective ways of prospecting. In fact, a survey found that almost half of all sales reps still consider phone calls as the most effective sales tool, while 69% of buyers admitted that they would answer cold calls. Additionally, 78% of decision-makers who have scheduled an appointment or attended an event have done so after a cold call.
If you are cold calling, make it sound like you are empathetic with the customer’s desires and are really there to offer a unique solution to them. Don’t read from a pre-prepared script. It’s not engaging in the least and shows that you make too many phone calls. You have to make your prospects feel like they are the most important entity of the day for you.
3. Warm Call
Did you know if you ask 11–14 questions during a lead call, it will automatically translate to 74% higher success?
You know you have the warm call leads list. All you have to do is prioritize prospects on the list and make the right amount of time each day to call the people in the priority order you have described.
Don’t undermine the potential of a phone call. According to research, 69% of buyers received calls made by new salespeople in the last year, with 27% of businesses admitting that making calls to contacts was very effective.
While making warm calls, ensure that you are making impressionable dialogue with the company so that you learn everything about their unique problems, pain points, and needs, along with identifying which stage of the decision-making process they are at. If they are looking for something, do they have an idea of what they want their solution to be? Identify that by maintaining an interesting conversation during which you swoop in with your offering so that it seems the most natural solution to their problems.
Every business will agree with the fact that their best marketing and prospecting assets are satisfied customers because happy customers spread the happy word.
That’s why it comes as no surprise that a huge number of B2B buyers are swayed by good word-of-mouth during their decision-making process as referral-based sale closing ratios stood at 50-70%.
A golden opportunity that holds the most potential for converting prospects in addition to being free of charge, it’s a sorry state of affairs that 40.4% of salespeople don’t ask customers for referrals.
Always ask for referrals, preferably when the sale is closed because that’s when the experience is fresh in the minds of your customers. In fact, it’s been found that a large section of customers would provide a referral if they had a satisfying experience.
Conferences still remain one of the best ways of prospecting. According to a report by AdStage, 68% of B2B marketers still use personal events for lead generation initiatives. In fact, 68% of marketers use conferences for prospecting and generating leads with the top performers even being able to demonstrate a 26% ROI.
When it comes to conducting a conference with a sure-fire way of generating leads, begin by identifying the attendees that suit your image of the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Use last year’s shows and event apps as sources of curating attendees and come up with a messaging strategy based on times, venues, and shared commonalities of the event.
After you have successfully done this, create a multi-pronged outreach campaign prior to the event, like announcing your conference on social media. Offer to meet prospects at predefined interaction points and send key sales reps to them. Once this is done, conduct a comprehensive follow up on the next steps of action after the conference.
Given below is an example of using social media for publicizing your conference to attract the attention of prospects.
Webinars bring you qualified leads to your sales funnel. In fact, webinars are so successful that over more than half of marketers use them for their content marketing programs, while 73% of B2B marketers commented that it was one of the most effective ways to curate high-quality leads.
Webinars are a great opportunity to deliver a useful demonstration of your solutions and services. So much so that in 2017, webinars such as these were the top revenue drivers for B2B marketers.
To use webinars to your favor effectively, make sure that the topics that are a part of your webinar are in alignment with the needs of your prospective customers. Always try to show through these webinars the finer details of your product, and show customers how your solutions can help iron out their issues.
Look at the video below to see how you can employ webinars to this end perfectly.
7. Social Selling
Sales teams all over the world have woken up to the importance of initiating conversations and engaging prospects on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to gather leads.
According to a report, scores of B2B decision-makers use social media to help them make a purchase decision while another report revealed social media as the number three driver of engagement behind segmented email marketing in the B2B marketing sphere.
One key aspect of social selling is to leverage the data found on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to learn everything you can about your prospects. Find out about their interests and needs on these platforms, and if you feel you have a solution for their troubles, connect with them over an email or a call to pitch the same.
Top Ways to Improve Effectiveness of B2B Sales Prospecting Methods
Sales prospecting is when sales or business development representatives attempt to rear and qualify leads into sales-ready prospects. This can be done by:
- Researching the needs of prospects.
- Identifying their issue.
- Evaluating their persona based on your ICP.
After finding a match, sales reps gear up for closing profitable deals with sales-qualified leads. Here, we will take a look at five powerful prospecting strategies you can employ to do so.
1. Understand Your Buyer
Did you know that 36% of companies have been able to produce shorter sales cycles using buyer personas
Oftentimes, what leads to B2B sales to be unproductive is a lack of understanding of your customer’s needs. If you don’t know the pain points, interests, and buying triggers of your target audience, you can’t sell to them.
That’s why the first step in the effective profiling of prospects is to create an ideal buyer persona. Although buyer personas are more in the territory of marketing, they also help with the prospecting stage. In fact, almost all of the companies exceeding lead and revenue goals have reported categorizing their database on the basis of the buyer persona, while a little over half the companies have said that they were able to create higher quality leads using them.
If you don’t have a buyer persona ready for your product, this should be step number one for you. To create one, consider the people who will derive the most use out of your product. List out their characteristics. The more specific you are, the more granular you can be with regards to your sales prospect list.
2. Gather Sales Intelligence & Do Smarter Prospecting
Gather as much information on your prospects and leads as you can to hone your pitch and customize your outreach process.
Learn about your prospect’s business and try to find a way to connect with them. The reason could be anything from having mutual connections to them having visited our website recently. While you are at it, make a decision map to delineate your prospect’s end goals. This will help you prepare for handling any objections and personalize your pitch in accordance with the prospect’s primary objective.
3. Know Your Conversion Ratio
In a recently released trends report by BrightTALK, it was revealed that improving lead quality is the topmost priority for 68% of B2B marketers.
This trend is symbolic of a general shift of focus to quality over quantity. As businesses try to come up with ways to better their conversion ratio, they are setting higher standards of qualification for prospects.
In addition to having higher aspirations from your prospects, you can also employ a lead scoring system to quantify target requirements to enhance the conversion rate. Lead scoring allows every lead a numerical value that’s dependent upon the firmographics data gathered from lead captures, along with the actions that a lead takes in terms of social media and browsing behavior, downloads, email engagement, etc.
After the lead crosses a certain numerical threshold, you can follow up with them. Not only does this improve the chances of conversion, but it also gives you a peek into what your conversion rate is going to be.
4. Nurture Leads
According to HubSpot, 74% of companies prioritize lead nurturing over everything else. This is because they understand good leads are hard to come by, and generating them can be heavy on the pockets, leading to an increased focus on nurturing leads for greater benefits.
The way to build a lasting relationship with a lead is to take the effort to understand why they refused your offering in the first place. Take the time to understand what the hesitation is or why your product isn’t necessarily a good fit. Then, develop a nurture cadence to maintain your relationship with this prospect. Aim to be helpful, rather than pushy.
5. Use the Right Sales Technologies
In today’s digital age, technology can make all the difference to your organization. That’s why it’d prudent on the part of businesses if they developed their strategy and invested in tools for sales prospecting that would further that strategy. Mentioned below are a few types of tools you can check out:
- Sales Enablement
- Data and Prospecting Insights
- Lead Scoring
- Lead Management
- Social Selling
- Sales Performance
Ready to Prospect?
Prospecting doesn’t have to be a mundane and drab process. With any effort, you can make it out to be a fruitful experience for both you and your prospects. Take note of the strategies mentioned above and try to implement them in your workflow while coming up and experimenting with novel tools and techniques to see what works best for you. If you can do this perfectly, you are bound to convert more and more suitable prospects into recurring customers.