A Step-by-Step Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting – 10 Essential Steps of Sales Prospecting Process
Sales processes are all about volume and velocity.
Whether it is the first day of the month or the last day, if you are not marching towards your target figures, then you are not moving at all! However, when you are racing against the clock and trying to reach your quota, it can be easy to overlook an essential component of sales – the sales prospecting process.
According to HubSpot, nearly 42% of salespersons believe that prospecting in sales is the toughest hurdle, followed by closing and qualifying. So naturally, it would be easier to skip sales prospecting entirely and move on to the next stage in your selling process. It only makes sense, right?
Wrong. The lack of sales prospecting can cost your business dearly! As we have covered in our previous blog, when you fail to prospect, you fail to strike gold!
In this situation, companies must make use of systematic sales prospecting techniques to enjoy its benefits without burning out the sales team. Now, you may be wondering how do companies go about strategizing B2B prospecting?
Here is a 10-step guide for getting you started:
1. Conduct Market Research
Before you launch any product or service, you need to have an acute understanding of the market conditions.
For instance, you would not try to sell field marketing software in the times of Coronavirus! Conversely, a digital solution for sales and marketing could address your client’s pain points, and will translate into a natural hit!
Selling is all about reading the crowd and market conditions. Failure to do so could result in a missed opportunity or a massive flop.
You can start your market research in B2B prospecting by defining your Total Addressable Market (TAM). It offers your company a granular overview of the market size and corresponding revenue-generating opportunities. There are two approaches to determining the TAM – the Top-Down Market Size and the Bottoms-Up Market Size. One can summarize the difference between the two in the following workflows:
- Top-Down: Understanding the market → Analyzing competitors and scope → Tackling addressability
- Bottoms-Up: Defining company specifics → Aligning company specifics with market conditions → Tackling addressability
Rather than calculating TAM manually, companies can use technology to collect this data. Sales prospecting tools like Clodura allow users to create customizable, filter-based searches based on the company size, sector, employee count, tech stack, etc. to break down TAMs into smaller chunks, micro-TAMs. Through these inputs, you can determine the feasibility and the market for sales.
2. Determine Your Target Audience
After gathering all the intel on the market that you wish to target, the next stage of the sales prospecting process must involve weeding out the organizational misfits. But how does one know whether a company has the potential to evolve into a client or otherwise?
For this purpose, your prospecting methods should involve the creation of an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). An ICP is the characterization of a hypothetical customer who will significantly benefit your business.
Defining your ICP starts with assessing your existing clients. Categorize your best and worst on the basis of their industry, geography, size, budget, and similar factors. Next, schedule interviews with your most successful clients to decode their buying process. Ask them questions about their pain points and how your solution addresses them. Finally, use the data to note any common denominator amongst the best and worst clients. You will get an idea regarding what segments are a hit while which ones are misses. At the same time, you can also identify areas of improvement for your offering and how it fares against that of your competitors.
Finally, you can collate the information on your best clients, minus the common traits in your worst clients, to complete your ICP.
An ICP helps develop a tunnel vision for the sales and marketing team to formulate and deploy hyper-targeted campaigns. It allows you to personalize every communication, extend the customer lifecycle, and score more referrals.
3. Generate Sales-Ready Leads
The market is teeming with leads. So you may think, “There is plenty of fish in the sea, it is only a matter of throwing a large net and grabbing them all.”
However, you may still be plagued with an empty net.
Similarly, even if you have several leads, but only a small percentage of them translate into sales, then you are wasting your resources. According to the State of Digital Marketing Report, 48% of B2B sales representatives want quality leads as opposed to the 23% who want more leads.
Needless to say, the verdict is out, and Quality beats Quantity.
Fortunately, you can use your ICP for filtering in the high-quality leads that are worth the time and efforts of your sales team. The commonality and patterns that you notice in your best clients could help your marketing team source additional leads and feed them to your pipeline.
Effective lead generation platforms, like Clodura, can evaluate these leads as assign priority depending on their “readiness.” Hot leads are the low-hanging fruits that your company can harvest first. On the other hand, your sales and marketing teams can work on nurturing other leads that qualify in terms of quality but would need some time to make their way through the sales funnel.
A split-lead approach, lead qualification, and lead nurturing could be your key to success for prospecting in sales.
4. Stock Your Sales Intelligence Ammunition
Now that you have placed your target in the reticule, it is time to study them and scope them out before you go for the kill.
In the current context, it is no secret that data is digital fuel for sales prospecting strategies. Thus, every bit of information relating to the prospect counts. A salesperson may easily locate phone numbers, emails, and job titles. However, how would they know that the data is up to date and relevant? More importantly, do they really have the time to scour the internet?
Your sales team needs that extra “Oomph” factor to leverage data intelligently as they inch towards making the first contact with a prospect.
In simpler words, what they truly need is Sales Intelligence.
READ NOW: What is Sales Intelligence? How Can Sales Teams Use Sales Intelligence Platforms to Sell More?
Sales intelligence offers you the inside scoop on how businesses function. Platforms like Clodura grant your company access to sales intelligence, such as details relating to the key decision-makers, the process for making purchases, and their current technographic data. It also helps you index sales triggers that may indicate that a company is ready to buy. Thus, it not only tells you the best time to make contact, but it also helps you identify the best person to contact and how!
In fact, the combination of ICP, sales intelligence, and buying triggers can help your customers stay on top of their game. According to InsideSales Lead Response Report, 50% of clients purchase from vendors that respond or reach out to them first. So once you get the green flag, you will be the early bird that catches the worm!
5. Craft a Creative Sales Pitch
Now that you are gearing up to move over to the next sales prospecting techniques involving the sales outreach, make sure that you have worked on your sales pitch before. Baseball may offer a pitcher three strikes, but in sales, you only need one effective sales pitch to win the game!
A sales pitch allows you to discuss the prospect’s concerns and address them. You can use it to demonstrate why your product or service is a perfect solution for them. Given that 95% of B2B buyers prospect businesses and research on them online before shortlisting them, it is crucial to give them more than what they already know. Thus, the onus lies on your sales pitch to deliver to their expectations and add value to the interaction.
Sales Pitch is essentially an art combined with science. So what makes a sales pitch great? The brand story. The recipe for a successful sales pitch is no different from a best-selling novel’s plot. You have a character, they face a problem, there is a plan to resolve the problem, and imminent success follows! Also, remember to keep it brief and to the point. Every line or slide must add value to your pitch.
Typically, your sales pitch must contain the following elements:
- Problem Statement
- Value Addition Proposal
- Action-Oriented Plan
- What Sets Your Company Apart
- Examples and Social Proofs
- Customer Testaments and Stories
- Open-Ended Questions
After you have successfully created your sales pitch, now all you have to do is practice, practice, and practice.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. ~ Bruce Lee
Once you have perfected your sales pitch, it is time to move on to the next phase of B2B sales prospecting – the outreach.
6. Initiate Sales Outreach
Sales outreach is the true litmus test for all the sales prospecting strategies that have been employed so far. Until this moment, all the sales prospecting techniques and methods were held in-situ, that is, within the organization. However, this phase of prospecting in sales puts your sales team “out there” on the floor. As a result, your sales outreach could make or break a deal.
Before initiating the outreach, determine the best channel for it. Gone are the days when prospects would chase businesses for their solutions. In this customer-centric world, meeting the prospect half-way is the bare minimum for businesses. So, try and connect with a prospect over a platform that already engages them.
For example, if you find out that they are particularly active on LinkedIn, you can initiate contact there! On the other hand, do you find a company regularly opening your mails? Then, an outreach strategy involving email is perfect for them.
Next, amp up your sales pitch through personalization. Avoid anything that appears generic or scripted. Remember, a bulk message is a junk message. The intention is to come off as a brand that makes prospects feel visible, acknowledged, and understood. Keep it human and friendly.
Finally, set up a multi-channel, multi-touch strategy to warm up your prospect before connecting with them through cold outreach. A company would be more willing to hear from you when they already know about you rather than accepting meetings with strangers.
While email and phone calls form the core of multi-channel prospecting, do consider other out-of-the-box platforms, such as podcasts, videos, texts, and social media platforms. Naturally, all campaigns should be spread out and delivered over a period of time (nobody likes being bombarded!).
Most importantly, do bear in mind that every touchpoint must add value to the client.
7. Actively Follow-Up
A salesperson who makes a sale after a single outreach is a myth.
Typically, it takes about eight outreach and follows up events to translate into a single sale.
Thus, even if you have had a great consultation, you need to follow up and stay hot on their heels. The B2B market is competitive enough that the last thing you want is an out of sight, out of mind situation.
As a sales rep, you not only have to follow up on your lead but also establish a sense of urgency while doing so. Thus, your sales prospecting techniques could space out the initial touchpoints by a week or so, but soon after, you must start decreasing the periodicity as the number of touchpoints increases. As mentioned earlier, use an assortment of channels and a mix of messages to interact with the prospect. At the same time, monitor the response rate to gauge the prospect’s mindset.
Before you can sell your product, you have to sell a meeting with the prospect. So keep trying to schedule a meeting at every touchpoint!
Highlight the importance of an appointment, and the value it will bring to their organization. You should offer them an attractive ROI, with their investment being the time that they set aside for the meeting.
On the flip side, here’s another vital aspect of B2B prospecting, and it relates to the law of diminishing returns. The rule states that if you have surpassed eight touchpoints, then the efficacy of your outreach campaign begins to decline. In simpler words, your tenth touchpoint will be less productive than your eighth one, and the fifteenth touchpoint will be even less valuable than the tenth one!
Thus, consider the eighth touchpoint as the prime of your sales outreach and retreat without wasting any more resources on this lead.
However, the figure of eight is merely a broad estimate and is subject to vary from industry to industry. Some B2B environments may call for only three touchpoints, while others may go as high as thirteen! Thus, rather than sticking to a standard number, observe your marketing efforts to identify a suitable benchmark.
8. Qualify Prospects
Your business has been qualifying leads ever since you started B2B sales prospecting.
However, not all leads are created equal. Some prospects may postpone their plan of purchasing the schedule, while others may diversify their sector and change their course. Eventually, some prospects may not be an organizational fit, while others may nurture into sales-ready leads. Further, some leads may not be ready to buy at the moment but may display immense potential as future clients. Thus, sales prospecting will also include building rapport with such prospects, nurturing, and educating them to transform them into long-term clients and evangelists.
Hence, you need to qualify leads over and over again to recalibrate the sales priority while also ensuring that the other qualified leads do not go astray.
The best way to qualify prospects at a later stage of the sales prospecting process is through asking questions on the five main categories, namely:
- Business Requirements
- Decision Makers and Process
- Budget vs. Timeline
- Placement in the Sales/Marketing Funnel
Asking open-ended questions on the above segments will allow your organization to assess the lead as per your ICP. Remember, even if you make a poor-fit sale, you are leaving room for an unhappy customer. Hence, evaluate whether the lead is still relevant to your sales mission.
Don’t try to sell. Help your customers buy. ~ Anon.
At this stage, it is critical that you not only listen to the prospect but also understand the subtext between the lines. Some may not appear too keen on going ahead with the sales only because they find your pricing to be an issue. On the other hand, some prospects may be feigning interest while talking terms with your competitors.
In either case, a missed sales opportunity can be averted by taking proactive measures. You may choose to educate the prospect on the additional value that comes at the quoted cost or highlight the differentiating factors that make your company stand out.
Ultimately, as a salesperson, it is your judgment and intuition that will determine the future course of action. You need to take a selfish-selfless approach to identify what works best for your business and your role. Sometimes, it is about taking a tough decision and pulling the plug on something that is a drain on your resources.
9. Overcome Sales Objections
Speaking of making tough decisions, it may have become apparent by now that the sales prospecting process is not a smooth sailing boat. If anything, it is a rollercoaster ride.
And one of the biggest bumps that you will encounter as a salesperson would come in the form of sales objections.
Sales objections could range from, “Who are you? How did you get my information? I have never heard of your company!” to “I’m sorry, but we don’t think that your product/service would fit in our current setup.”
As we often say, the difference between a “no” and a “yes” could be one sales objection.
However, sales objection handling is not everyone’s cult of tea. Sometimes, even the most veteran salespeople fumble and lose a sale because of an objection. Conversely, rookie sales reps over-promise while handling sales objection, which sets the base for an underwhelmed client.
So what is the best way to overcome sales objections? Here are the best practices of sales objection handling:
- Practice active listening to understand your customer’s pain points. You have two ears and one mouth so that you listen more and speak less.
- Mirror your customer’s emotions and repeat back everything that they have said to you. In doing so, you leave no room for miscommunication.
- Validate their concerns so that they feel valued and heard. Along the same lines, fit in your product/service capabilities according to these concerns.
- Ask open-ended questions that elicit elaborate responses. Following up on their concerns will offer you deeper insight into the business requirement and customer psyche.
- Cite stories of other customers who experienced similar reservations about the product/service but is now a loyal brand follower. Nothing is more moving than personal stories and social proofs.
- Give the client space, which they may seek. However, clearly define a timeline as to when you expect to hear from them and when you shall be following up.
- Most importantly, stay prepared for sales objections. Learn as much as possible about the product/service so that no question or objection can leave you stumped.
READ NOW: Guide to Handling Objections in Sales – Tips on Overcoming the Most Common Sales Objections
10. Close the Deal
Closing is the primary goal of every sales activity, whether it is lead nurturing or B2B sales prospecting. Remember, closing is the second hardest sales-related task and comes second to prospecting.
Despite its notorious reputation, closing is no rocket science. It is simply an act of understanding the prospect, handling their objections, and asking for the sale! However, the area where salespeople mess up lies in determining the sales closing technique and the nature of interaction that leads to the ask.
Regardless of whether you are in a B2B environment or a B2C environment, the interaction is always human-to-human. As a result, a potential client is capable of sensing your emotion and evaluating where the conversation is heading. Similarly, you can ascertain the buyer’s intention and interest through their level of engagement. Thus, you can utilize key indicators like your tonality, voice pitch, body language, etc. to steer the conversation in your favor. The ultimate aim is to come off as friendly yet firm.
If it were this easy, then why do salespeople fear to close a sale?
The answer is rather convoluted. Asking too soon could mean pushing for sales with an under-development lead, and waiting too long could result in a loss to a competitor. Either way, the truth lies in the fact that we, as humans, fear rejection. If that isn’t hard enough by itself, sales rejection during the closing phase can be particularly hard considering that you were inches away from sealing the deal, only to witness all your hard work and efforts get reduced to dust.
Therefore, to make it easier for salespersons, there are several closing techniques that can come to their rescue. Training and practicing these sales closing techniques can simplify the task. However, it is not all theory and requires a certain amount of practical exposure. As a sales rep, you need to discover a sales closing technique that works best for you. More often than not, you will have to make this decision in the nick of the moment. So stay one step ahead and learn all the possible sales closing techniques that may fit every situation!
Tips and Tricks for Prospecting in Sales
Here are a few trade secrets that will add value to your sales prospecting techniques:
- The confidence that you display in your abilities or product/service can be the key to your success.
- Develop a positive attitude. When paired with an enigmatic personality, staying upbeat can help you attract a positive response in all your endeavors.
- Make use of digital tools and solutions to keep your data secure, organized, and accessible. Retain the people, but remove the administration.
- Even the best of us make mistakes. However, if you fail to transform it into a learning opportunity, you are essentially letting it go to waste.
- Ask questions. More importantly, ask open-ended questions that will evoke honest responses. The more you know about your prospect, the better will be your chances of leveraging this information for something fruitful.
- Build and nurture relationships with your clients. Be unafraid to ask for referrals and reviews from existing customers.
- Make your personality the cornerstone of every interaction with clients. When you show a willingness to help and support a client, they will be more trusting and open to buying from you.
- Respect your and your prospect’s time.
- Gather deep and intimate knowledge regarding your product/service. You need to have conviction when you try to make the sale. If you do not believe your claims, how can you make someone else do the same?
The above ten elements of sales prospecting are not only crucial for a business’s growth but also employ the best practices in sales prospecting methods. You may customize your sales prospecting strategies depending on the nature of your product or service, the roles and responsibilities of your sales and marketing teams, and the target audience. Once you have defined a sales prospecting process that works for you, continue to refine it to accommodate for the growth in your business, change in goals, and company diversification.
Finally, do bear in mind that the B2B world is highly dynamic. So, the sales prospecting techniques that are effective in the moment are not foolproof and may succumb to time. So consider reviewing them periodically, especially when you have hit a plateau.