The process for developing a B2B sales prospecting strategy is vastly different than what many long-time salespeople grew accustomed to over the span of their careers. Something that hasn’t changed is that sales prospecting is still an important and necessary part of B2B sales growth. To be successful in B2B sales, you must recognize that best practices have changed. New sales prospecting strategies continue to evolve with every new innovation that comes into the marketplace.
Some good first steps toward evaluating your B2B sales prospecting strategy requires clearly defining your sales funnel and personalizing your approach to customers. When you opt to implement a VoIP phone system and sales prospecting software, you position your company to gain the advantages of increasing the number of leads and conversions, as well as avoiding the pitfalls of weak sales processes.
The Importance of a B2B Sales Prospecting Strategy
With any kind of sales, customers want to learn about your company, as well as your products and their features. What’s different in the modern era is that B2B buyers are learning much of that before they even enter your sales funnel. Today’s buyers already know what their pain points are before you have a chance to point them out. They’re checking out your website, reading reviews, and comparing your products to similar ones in the market.
The old sales strategies of aimless cold calling and sending out thousands of mailings simply won’t attract modern B2B buyers. The most effective strategies take on a customer-centric approach. The fact that buyers are combing the internet looking for information is telling about the importance of positioning your content on platforms where your prospects are most likely to view it. The right content will engage prospects and send them into your sales funnel.
Because of the strong role that content plays in B2B sales prospecting, sales and marketing alignment is a necessary component of a successful sales prospecting strategy. Instead of waiting until the funnel is complete, modern sales reps now have multiple points throughout the customer engagement process to influence the key buyer’s decision. By adopting modern sales strategies and digital tools, your sales reps can effectively engage prospects, sell more efficiently, increase conversions, and retain customers for the long term.
What Is B2B Sales Prospecting?
Prospects are potential buyers. They become your customers as they complete the sales cycle. B2B sales prospecting is the process of identifying potential buyers from businesses, reaching out to them, and converting them into customers.
A variety of different sales and marketing activities go into an effective B2B sales process. The first step in your sales prospecting strategy begins in your marketing department. Digital marketers calculate the total addressable market, or the TAM. This figure represents the total number of prospects that are available within your target market.
B2B sales prospecting also entails developing an ideal customer profile (ICP). An ICP gives you a detailed description of the exact type of prospect that you want to target in your outreach efforts.
At this point, sales and marketing alignment is very important. It generally takes a mix of sales-related and marketing activities, which is commonly known as outbound prospecting. B2B sales prospecting may include some combination of emails, inbound and outbound calls, blogging, social marketing, press releases, and various other marketing activities.
This is just the beginning of the process. The next leg of the sales prospecting strategy is inbound marketing. As prospects make contact with your company, skilled salespeople use other processes and strategies to keep these prospects engaged. The most effective sales prospecting strategies attract ideal buyers to your salespeople where they can convert them into customers. Also, well-planned sales prospecting strategies drive efficiency and productivity.
What Are the Benefits of B2B Sales Prospecting?
The idea behind B2B sales prospecting is to bring more leads and referrals in and keep them coming. The right sales prospecting strategies will also help to improve the quality of your leads. As an added benefit, prospects know what they want and need, and they may be able to help you identify new business opportunities.
- Leads stream into your sales funnel continuously. Even when you have large numbers of well-established accounts on your books, it’s not prudent to relax sales prospecting activities. New startups are continually emerging on the horizon, enticing your customers to switch brands. The potential to lose existing customers is always looming. Also, there’s always the possibility that new businesses will set up shop in your area or expand into your market. Without a strong sales prospecting strategy, you could be passing over new customers.
- Brings higher-quality leads into your sales funnel. One of the best things about sales prospecting activities is that they draw out the leads that closely match your target niche or buyer personas. At the end of the day, only the prospects with the most potential enter the sales funnel and provide salespeople with the best leads.
- Sparks innovation and new business opportunities. To stay ahead of the competition, you have to be forward-thinking. Highly qualified prospects are often the best resource to ignite innovation in new products.
- Strong customer satisfaction leads to referrals. Happy customers are eager to tell others about your business. Referrals can bring a new stream of prospects into your sales funnel.
The longer you’re able to keep prospects engaged, the more information you’ll learn from them, which you can use to qualify them even further.
Evaluating Your B2B Sales Prospecting Strategy
Just when you develop a sales prospecting strategy that seems to be working, things can change in a heartbeat. What do you do if leads suddenly stop flowing and conversions drop? It’s best to consider your B2B sales prospecting strategy a work-in-progress. Best practices for B2B sales suggest that you evaluate and adjust your prospecting strategies regularly.
When your strategies aren’t working and you’re feeling overwhelmed, this list of best practices should give you some activities to help fine-tune your strategies:
- Carve out time for research. Stay up to date on market trends, your competitors, and your target market. Clearly define your value proposition. Communicate with salespeople how your product fits into the marketplace.
- Evaluate your target market and be as descriptive as possible when developing personas. Document the initial contacts and others in the buying process, especially the decision-makers and decision-blockers.
- Evaluate whether you have the right mix of outbound and inbound marketing to engage prospects and keep them moving through the sales funnel quickly.
- Evaluate whether you’re losing sales at the handling objections and negotiating stage. This stage is a vital juncture where sales are made or lost. Identify issues that turn customers in one direction or the other and revise your strategy to improve results.
- Does your strategy include a distinct follow-up process? Salespeople should follow up post-sale. If things are going well, it presents a good time to ask for referrals.
Measuring Your B2B Sales Prospecting Strategies Success
Putting all the right tools, processes, and people in place are good first steps. The only way to know that you’re making progress is to measure the results of your prospecting strategy. In doing so, it’s helpful to look at individual sales performance and team performance.
Key metrics provide data that gives you insight into prospecting efficiency, the number of quality leads coming into your funnel, the number of conversions, and much more. A good sales prospecting strategy sets up metrics that track the origin of leads, shows how they progress through the sales funnel, and shows whether they’re converting to sales. With that in mind, you’ll want to select metrics that will allow you to set attainable goals for salespeople and to track progress.
Some other things you should be considering are:
- How hard are your salespeople working?
- What is each individual’s rate of conversion?
- What are your sales teams’ overall rates of conversion?
- How many high-quality opportunities are salespeople getting?
- What is the win rate at each stage of your sales cycle?
- What is the overall win rate?
By logging into call center software, you’ll be able to answer these questions and monitor prospecting activities and productivity against objective data, which you can use to improve your prospecting strategy.
B2B Sales Metrics to Track
Metrics and KPIs go hand-in-hand. In simple terms, metrics track the status of specific business processes. KPIs give you data that shows you how effective you are in progressing toward business objectives.
Too much data can be overwhelming. So, let’s focus on some of the most important B2B sales metrics:
- Conversion rate—Number of calls to close a deal.
- Average call length—Too many short calls indicate salespeople aren’t nurturing leads; too many long calls indicate salespeople aren’t making enough calls.
- Average speed of answer—Shorter answer times prevent prospects from hanging up. The sooner sales reps answer calls, the more likely they are to close a deal.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)—Quantifies responses to gauge customer satisfaction.
- Percentage of deals closed to deals won—Tells you how many closed deals resulted in sales.
- New leads by source—Tells you which sources are producing the most leads.
- Estimated revenue by lead source—Use call center software to determine revenue for each lead source.
- Ratio of marketing—qualified leads to sales-qualified leads (MQL/SQL conversion rate).
The metrics listed here will point you in the right direction as you develop an effective sales prospecting strategy. A well-planned prospecting strategy will help you avoid the pitfalls of a weak sales prospecting process.
Pitfalls of a Weak Sales Prospecting Strategy
Productivity doesn’t necessarily lead to stellar sales performance or increased revenue on its own accord. It’s just as important to consider the activities that will hurt your sales prospecting efforts.
Do any of these things sound familiar to you?
- Sales reps who waste time on leads that will never convert.
- Emphasizing or incentivizing quantity over quality.
- Sales reps who are overly chatty and have a low conversion rate.
- Prospects delete emails without opening them.
- A high rate of complaints.
- Failing to nurture qualified leads. It can take 6-8 contacts to close a sale, or even more for a complex B2B deal.
- Limiting outreach to one communication channel. Combined channels give your brand greater visibility.
- Failing to include a call-to-action (CTA).
The Importance of a Clearly Defined Sales Funnel
What does it mean to have a clearly defined sales funnel and what makes it so important to your sales prospecting strategy?
Strong marketing efforts and a broad outreach process will load up your sales funnel with lots of new prospects. What you don’t want to happen is for leads to bounce around the funnel aimlessly without a distinct process to guide them through to the final sale.
Sales software is an essential tool for helping you divide your prospecting strategy into two distinct stages. Every stage should lead into a consecutive process that tells sales reps what activities to take to guide the lead into the next lower stage in the sales funnel.
For example, as leads enter the sales funnel, design your processes so that sales reps can glean data from prospects that will help to either qualify or disqualify leads. Tools like call ticketing, call tagging, and automated notifications alert sales reps on exactly what they need to do to move the lead down the funnel or home in and close the deal.
Sales Prospecting Strategy Best Practices
Some best practices for prospecting are tried-and-true, and they’ve changed little over time. As sales prospecting activities evolve, the best practices rise to the top. Cloud-based phone systems and digital tools have brought new life to best practices for sales prospecting. Collectively, best practices stand as a reference for the right things to do and the wrong things to advance the art of selling.
A collection of modern best practices follows:
- Use account-based marketing. Create profiles for your ideal prospects. Here’s a quick hint—who are your top 5 customers and how would you describe them?
- Use analytics to identify where your most profitable prospects are coming from. These resources are the best places to focus your time and effort.
- Be diligent about working your prospect lists. Develop lists for leads and categorize them as hot, warm, cold, lost, and referrals. Decide how much time to spend on each list. Use your time wisely and take advantage of automation when it makes sense.
- Don’t miss an opportunity to ask for referrals. It’s a free source of quality leads.
- Keep your content relevant. To accomplish this, you’ll need to know where prospects are in your clearly defined sales funnel, as previously described.
- Make social selling part of your strategy. Think LinkedIn, Facebook business pages, and Twitter business accounts, and use them to engage and connect with your target market.
- Use personalization. Emails are still popular as long as they’re personal and relevant. It’s the mass and bulk emails prospects don’t care for. Read on to learn more about personalized sales prospecting.
How to Personalize Your Sales Prospecting Strategy
Personalized service is the key to getting more sales, and it may even give you better positioning at the negotiating table. Account-based marketing is based on personalizing your outreach efforts using all the data that you’ve collected about a highly qualified, targeted lead.
Sales automation tools like Freshsales or Outreach work with Aircall’s cloud-based phone system to automatically create tickets, tag calls, and record calls. These are strategic ways to gather lots of information about prospects. As you collect more data using your VoIP phone system and the right software integrations from Aircall’s App Marketplace, you can send relevant content to prospects at just the right stage of the sales funnel—the one you so clearly defined. You can also use it to refer to them by name and personalize every interaction.
To sum things up, B2B sales in the modern era requires changing up your sales prospecting strategy to match what today’s customers know and what they expect. The right tools will help you establish best practices and personalize your prospecting strategy to set the stage for growth and sustainability.