We are now firmly into the 2019 fiscal year, which means, it’s time to establish some new sales goals. Whether you had great, average, or less than optimal business to business (B2B) sales success this past year, everyone can benefit from a few pointers now and then. To that end, we’ve pulled together seven sales prospecting methods that will help you absolutely knock your B2B sales goals out of the park in 2019!
What is Prospecting?
First things first, let’s define exactly what we mean when we say “prospecting” for sales. Prospects actually start as leads and leads can come to you via two main ways:
First, a new lead may appear in yours sales pipeline via a variety of “tell me more” opportunities they found on the internet, heard about via a commercial, or were referred to you by a friend or another current customer. These leads are coming to you requesting information about your product or service.
The second type is a lead that doesn’t come to you but is rather a lead that you reach out to in an effort to make a connection, creating an opportunity for you to engage with them and pitch your product or services.
Regardless of how they get to you, once you have been able to vet the lead and establish interest or possibility of them becoming a customer, they then will become a true sales prospect.
While some might argue that the need for sales reps is dead in this age of the internet as consumers can search for what they want online all by themselves. We, however, would argue that blanket assumption and counter with the idea that good sales reps are actually more critical for B2B sales than ever before because the customer is far more engaged in the research and sales process thanks to the internet.
Sure, consumers in general are 83% more likely to research a product or service online before buying, but keep in mind that more often than not, closing a deal doesn’t solely rest on the user’s ability to research and compare companies and services online for themselves. When it comes to B2B sales, it’s still all about making a connection and building a relationship. Without sales reps to foster this process, long-term revenue and client satisfaction rates can drop drastically.
There are a ton of prospecting methods, both inbound and outbound in nature, from which you can choose:
- Phone Calls – Either cold calling or warm calling a lead that has shown interest in your product or service
- Emails – Similar to phone calls, these can be either cold emails or warm emails depending on your previous engagement with the lead
- Online Connections – You can connect with leads via LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, or other online business focused platforms
- Webinars – By hosting a webinar, you will obtain a list of leads (your webinar attendees) whom you can create a relationship with and develop into a prospect
- Download or Shared Content – In this method you will obtain the contact information of leads who wish to access or download content you have created
- In Person Events – This method includes conferences, trade shows, local meetings or business group gatherings, and promotional events
The method, or combination of methods, you choose to go with can depend on your company guidelines, your own personal preference and style, or the preference of your target prospect. Regardless of the method you choose, the path or journey your prospect will travel will be the same:
- Lead Qualification
- Nurture and Educate
- Close the Deal
Tips for B2B Sales Prospecting Success
Now that we have a clear understanding of what we mean by B2B sales prospecting and what methods are at your disposal, let’s talk pointers! Here is a list of seven things you can do to help optimize your sales prospecting performance in 2019.
1. Don’t Just Use My Name, Personalize Your Introduction
While it is standard practice these days to use someone’s first name in all email correspondence to give it a more personalized feel, you’ll want to do a bit more to capture the attention of a prospect, even when leaving a voicemail. They get lots of emails and calls on a daily basis, so make sure your connection is personal and doesn’t feel like a canned email or call script.
Take time to research them on LinkedIn to find out a bit about them and use a fact about them in your greeting. Did they recently write a blog or article for your industry? Where they recently promoted? Did the relocate to a new city? Do they have a certain professional certification or credentials?
Another great idea is to share an article or video with them that you find interesting and that could have meaning to them. This is especially great if it’s not something you created because it opens the door for engagement without hitting them with your sales pitch immediately.
In general, people like to talk about themselves and consumers, both B2B or B2C, want to know what’s in it for them if they buy your product or service. Tailoring your initial engagement to focus on them will go a long way in breaking the ice when making that first, critical connection with your sales prospect.
2. Be the Kramer of Their Inbox
As we stated in our first tip, your prospects and leads are most likely bombarded with calls and emails all day long. If you want to make your email stand out, grab their attention, and get them to open it, then hit their inbox like Cosmo Kramer!
When Kramer enters a room, you know it and your attention is immediately drawn to him! You want your emails or phone calls to carry the same punch.
Create a catchy, stand out subject line or incorporate a bit of humor. You don’t want to go too crazy and come off as flippant and unprofessional, but rather, have a little fun and let your personality shine through. Your prospect will be far more likely to see what you’re all about if your opening line makes them laugh or seems authentic.
3. Don’t Bury the Lead
You can safely assume that your target prospect will be reading your email either via a pop-up alert, email preview, or on their phone. In all three cases, you don’t have a lot of space available to plead your case, so don’t bury the lead! State the reason you’re reaching out in a creative way.
Perhaps mention that you’ve heard they have a certain issue they are trying to resolve or that they might be in the market for the service or product you offer.
Keep in mind that we’re not saying you should come out of the gate swinging and go all 1960s car salesman on them. You just don’t want to hide the reason for your email or call several paragraphs down in an email or ten minutes into your call with them. If you hide your intentions, they are far more likely to get annoyed that you’ve wasted their time or engaged with them under false pretenses.
4. Identify Your Commonalities
One of the best ways to connect with someone is to identify something you both have in common with each other. Human nature instinctively tells us to be a part of a group. When you have something in common with someone else, it unites you and ties you together as a mini-group.
There are a number of natural commonalities you can look for and discover on LinkedIn:
- Previous company or worked with a person you both know
- Similar internship programs or career paths
- Attended the same university or graduate school
- Volunteer for the same or similar organizations or charities
- Members of the same LinkedIn group or professional business group
5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
As with most things in the Age of the Internet, the “way we’ve always done it” just doesn’t work any longer. Toss the status quo aside and stretch yourself!
Do a bit of research and find out what your competition is saying. Sign up for their emails and newsletters and discover their pitch and positioning. Then define a strategy that is unique, differentiates you from the competition, and speaks to your prospect’s position or expertise and isn’t just a canned, stale message you’ve always used.
If they are more senior in a company, pay them the respect they’ve earned and be more formal and direct. If they are middle management, make you introduction a little more relaxed and casual.
Whatever direction you go, be unique! If you simply toss out the same script or email time and time again, your prospects will begin to pick up on it. Challenge yourself to make every introduction and pitch unique, while still staying on message. If you step out of your comfort zone and try and make each opportunity unique, you’ll be surprised at how people will be more inclined to respond or engage with you.
6. Basic is So Last Year…Be Unique
In the words of RuPaul, “Basic is so last year, darling!” So…don’t be basic! Set yourself apart from everyone else through a strategic delivery that shows value and demonstrates that the product or service you’re offering is up with the times.
How is your product or service innovative or ahead of the curve? How can it improve their business or give them a huge return on their investment? Why is now the right time to come onboard with your company’s opportunity?
Customize your offer or opportunity to them and don’t just offer them the basic package everyone gets. Make them feel it was created just for them, which shows them they are different, unique, and special.
The more creative and unique you can make your position, the more intriguing the opportunity will become to your prospect and the more willing your prospect will be to engage with you.
7. Follow Their Lead
Once you are able to engage with your prospect, don’t just force them down a script or series of steps. Really listen to them. Watch their body language. Read between the lines. Your prospect will tell you how they want to proceed and if they are ready to move forward to the next step in the process.
If you simply come at them and start checking off boxes, plowing through a script, or forcing them through a standard process they won’t feel special and will more likely just feel pressured.
Perhaps you typically reach out, set up a demo, and then pitch the close. If you’re prospect is showing signs that they want to get to know you and build a relationship before seeing the demo, then follow their lead. Take them to lunch or drop by with afternoon coffee and donuts just to say hello. You can also send them freebies and content that will help establish you as an industry leader, provide value to them, and even, perhaps, give them the information they need to prove their case to management for approval of the purchase.
Be their partner and let your sales process cater to their needs. If you sense an interest but feel a hesitation, don’t force the issue. Instead, feel them out and see if they would be open to a slower walk or just need to spend more time developing a relationship with you first.
Let them lead you towards the next step and the eventual deal closing. You are more likely to build a longer lasting relationship this way and create a brand advocate for your company that will refer others to you down the road.
Key Takeaway Points
Let’s do a quick wrap up of the steps to successful sales prospecting:
- Personalize the Introduction
- Be the Cosmo Kramer of Their Inbox
- Don’t Bury the Lead
- Identify Your Commonalities
- Stretch Yourself and Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
- Be Unique
- Follow the Ques of Your Prospect
Yes, this method will take a bit more time and energy on your part, but if you follow this strategy, you’re more likely to see better results, create lasting engagements with your clients, and blow your 2019 sales goals out of the water!