How to prospect for sales in B2B?
Some swear by the power of cold calling. Nothing beats human interaction, the thrill of getting past the gatekeeper to reach the promised land where prospects accept meetings within minutes.
Others say that cold calling is dead and that emailing is the way to go.
The fans of Social Selling will tell you that both cold calling and emailing are relics from the past that.
The truth is each method has its own set of pros and cons, what matters is finding the right balance that will work in your industry and that will fit your organization.
Sales Prospecting Stats You Need to Know
What figures should we use today to assess our outbound strategy?
What should you take into account when creating your outreach campaigns?
Anytime you think about sales prospecting techniques, you think about cold calling.
For some people, cold calling is old school, even intrusive. We have all been bothered by cold calls before and some of us have the habit of screening our calls. For others speaking over the phone is much better, it is warmer, has more texture and allows to build a relationship more easily than via email. Selling is still about human interactions and about developing relationships, so actually talking to each other does help.
So what are the key figures of Cold Calling?
18: It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer ¹
2%: Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment ²
Yes, you read that right, 18 calls ON AVERAGE. That means sometimes it is much more than that. Can you imagine the time spent calling 20+ times every prospect? Do your sales rep have that much time? Do they have the mental resilience to call that many times for a mere 2% success rate?
You can have a successful cold calling strategy, but you need the appropriate team in place to execute it with the right skillset as well as enough time and structure to make it work.
Sales Prospecting via Email
Cold Calling is not right for you? Let’s see how emailing stack up against it.
Let's take a look at how B2B prospecting emails perform:
24%: Only 24% of B2B Sales Emails are opened ¹
80%: of B2B Prospects prefer talking to sales reps over email ²
Emailing presents its own set of challenges. First, you need to reach their mailbox (acquiring their email address and not getting flagged as SPAM), then you need to be opened (setting yourself apart with creative subject lines), finally, your email itself needs to convert. We receive so many emails nowadays that an opened email is often not translating into getting a meeting. There is always the next email, or another urgent task to get to that will prevent prospects from answering your email.
Social Selling: the new B2B Trend
Now onto the latest prospecting trend, social selling.
Just a buzzword or something you should implement as soon as possible?
78%: of Salespeople using Social Media outsell their peers ¹
40%: of Sales reps have recently closed two to five deals directly thanks to social media. ¹
At Sales Odyssey, we sign several contracts every month leveraging Social Selling. We even wrote a guide to help you start selling with LinkedIn!
So yes, this is an ultra marketed concept and it is not the end all be all of Sales Prospecting today. The point is, many teams do business through social media so why not you?
The B2B Sales Prospecting method that works in 2020
Now that you know the key figures about prospecting, how are you planning to prospect moving forward?
Which method do you trust?
Are you going to implement a prospecting strategy or just wait for potential buyers to contact you?
To help you design the right strategy that would be a good fit for your company and work in your market, Sales Odyssey outlined 3 main steps you need to fil your sales pipeline with dozens of qualified leads.
Step 1 : Build your prospect list for sales prospecting
Define your Target Market to identify potential customers
It’s the most important step, yet it is often overlooked.
Your target is not “Marketing Directors” or “Procurement”.
I can guarantee you that it is not a precise enough Target Market, and it does not provide anything to bolster your prospecting efforts.
That’s why you have to work on your Buyer Personas to precisely define your Target Market. Leverage the Jobs-to-be-done method to understand their context and uncover their underlying motivations that can affect positively their buyer’s journey with your company.
Finding and connecting with the right contact within an organization is what affects the most your conversion rates throughout the sales cycle, especially at the prospecting stage. Why would they be compelled to meet with you if what you sent is not relevant to them?
We lay the emphasis on this key aspect because we know what most Business Developers usually focus on (we’ve been there). When to call, when to send an email, when to text, whether or not you should use emojis… Business Developers have a lot on their minds that can hinder their focus on what really matters. In the end, what will drive better results is your ability to connect with the people that are ready to buy from you.
How to Build Lists of Prospects
Once your Target Market has been defined and you have identified Ideal Client Profiles, you have to find the real-life people that fit those criteria. Of course, you will also need their contact information so you can reach out to them. And, voilà, here's your list!
Very helpful right?
OK, seriously, what information do you need to have a good prospecting file and how do you populate the file?
Depending on your sales prospecting strategy you might need different details, but you will probably at least need the following:
- First Name & Last Name
- Company Name
- LinkedIn Profile URL
- Professional Email
- Company Phone numbers (direct line, cell phone etc…)
Depending on what you are working with you may need several tools to get all of them. If you don’t know where to start here’s what you can do.
How to Populate your Prospecting File in 4 steps:
Start with LinkedIn. It is a great database that can provide you a lot of information on your leads, and it is much more accessible than private databases that can be very costly.
- Once you narrowed down your search you can extract the relevant information (the first 4 on the list above). You can do everything yourself or use automation tools like phantombuster or snov.io to speed up the process.
- Then use tools like Dropcontact or Hunter.io to find emails and phone numbers. You won’t find information for everyone you found on LinkedIn, but it’s a start.
- Try to find specific information you can use while prospecting for each of your prospects. For instance, note when they attended a special event in your industry.
Prospecting files age badly, so make sure to use them quickly and after a few months repeat the process to get updated leads. Don’t stop there either, be creative!
There are so many other ways you can build relevant prospecting files. For instance, you can look into specific themes and groups on Social Media, monitor posts, and comments on topics that are relevant to you. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing as well, it might inspire you to explore new opportunities.
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, there are so many communities you can exploit to find the right contacts for your offerings, as long as you provide them value you will be welcomed.
Step 2: Create your sales prospecting funnel
Not to be confused with the Marketing Funnel! Check out this article by Bizible if you want to know how The B2B Marketing Funnel works.
But what is it ?
In a nutshell, it is the set of all stages your prospects will go through before becoming an opportunity after going through the funnel. In the beginning, you have millions of potential prospects, then you decide which ones you are going to interact with and with which method.
More often than not, to get the best odds of success you are going to want to combine methods, stack stages, and multiply the touches with each prospect.
Reach out more than once to improve your conversion rate
When you start prospecting you have to realize that you will “fail” more often than not. If by failing you mean not getting an answer, not getting a meeting, or not getting an opportunity out of each prospect you reaching out to. Which is totally normal!! We are talking about cold outreaching, people that don’t know you at all, any interaction with them is a COLOSSAL WIN!
So don’t expect people to answer your first email or your first phone call. All of those actions have a success rate as we have discussed earlier in the article so by multiplying them you increase your odds.
From our experience, we have seen that 6 to 8 touches per prospect is the sweet spot. The more channels you leverage the more messages you can send.
Don’t go too far either, but keep in mind that if you are being an inconvenience, more times than not your prospect will let you know.
Leverage Multiple sales prospecting channels
The more you call, email, Inmail, text, DM, etc. the more you will get answers. It is as simple as that. Each of your prospecting action has a percentage of success.
Keep in mind that everyone is different, you may have crafted the perfect email to the perfect prospect, yet get no answer. They don’t even accept your LinkedIn connection… What if he very rarely checks is LinkedIn, and automatically screens his emails? You may feel like you are harassing him, but he probably has not even noticed you tried to contact him. There are thousands of reasons why prospects may not answer you, this is why you have to keep trying.
What this means is that you should always be trying another way. In that example above, you should try calling him, and try reaching out through another social media. If these fail as well maybe you have someone you both know in your network that can introduce you, or you could reach him through one of his colleagues.
Picture this, what if out of 100 prospects, 30% of them would just answer an email, 30% would just answer a phone call, 30% would just answer on LinkedIn, 5% would just answer on another Social Media, and 5% would never ever answer. What do you need to do if you want to get as many answers as possible? That’s right try all channels!
At Sales Odyssey, we understand why multiplying channels are so important because you are much more likely to get answer from me on LinkedIn than via Email. But my partner Gaëlle is more likely to answer Emails than InMails.
Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, do you answer every call, every Email/InMail you receive?
Sales prospecting cadence
We discussed who you should target, how often, and through which channel, but we have not touched on when to prospect yet. It is also very important because not only does it affect your conversion rates (there are better times to cold outreach, see our prospecting tips at the end of this article) it also affects your ability to consistently prospect. And consistency is key. If you are not consistent in your efforts you won’t reach the right number of touches per prospect you should reach and you won’t get the expected results.
The way to be successful is to plan ahead of time your prospecting rhythm. Prepare all your steps ahead of time, the messages you will send, and when you will send them. You then “just” have to execute and keep track of the results.
Also by planning everything ahead of time you ensure that you will actually follow through all the steps instead of fizzling out and stopping midway.
Most Sales reps are overzealous at the beginning and send to many messages to quickly, and then give up. It is actually better to start slow, give time to your prospect to react, and at the end speed up your rhythm and create urgency.
Remember it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting with a new prospect.
The right content for your campaign
Personalization is a big deal. It can almost transform cold email into a warm email. There is no magical email templates for that. Personalization is not just about calling out the prospect’s name. But it is not either about days of research about every news story of the company, or looking up each prospect pet’s names on Instagram. Your time is limited and you can’t spend that much time researching the information that may not even matter anyway.
What you need to do -ALL THE TIME- is bringing value to whoever you are contacting. You want them to read your message, answer it, and agree to meet you? The only way is to get their attention, gain their trust, and motivate them to want to know more.
Provide content that deserves to be read and that encourages answers. The content piece of B2B Sales Prospecting is where prospecting meets marketing. Read this article if you want to learn about Content Marketing and why you need it, even for sales prospecting.
What does bringing value to a prospect look like? It can be a lot of things, it mostly depends on your company and what you actually sell.
For example at Sales Odyssey, we like to share blog articles, infographics, and videos that discuss real pains that our clients are dealing with.
You can also be creative or bring humor to the table. The better your content, the more you will stand out, the better your prospecting results will be.
What is for sure, is that you should never lay the emphasis on yourself, your company, your achievements, etc… People really care about what is relevant to them so you need to make sure that whatever you are sending them will strike the right cord with them.
Asking relevant questions is also encouraged because we have been trained to answer questions, so if you are asking a good question, you are more likely to get an answer.
Step 3: Sales Prospecting execution
Once all the planning is out the way, you just have to execute your strategy. Easy enough right?
Prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process. So, if you want to sell your products or services, you need to make sure you are going to be able to hold strong throughout the entire duration of the campaign.
Emulation can help with that, we advise you to not prospect on your own. Do it as a team, or connect with peers. Share your struggles and your successes, it will motivate you to keep going.
Also, we said it before but consistency is key, so it is better to prospect a little bit every month, that launching a huge campaign with thousands of contacts just once a year. Not only these campaigns are less efficient but even if they were as productive you would not be able to properly handle all the opportunities coming from it.
5 tips to improve your Sales Prospecting efficiency
To thank you for reading all the way to the end of this article we want to share with you a few tips we learned handling multiple prospecting campaigns for companies in various industries. Of course, our number one tip is to have the right strategy for your business as we just outlined, but that being said there are a few things that can also make a difference and improve your results.
Best timing for Sales Prospecting
A key topic among sales reps: when to call and when to email. Once again everyone is different so you really want to try different things and see what works on an individual basis. For instance, if you try reaching out every time on Tuesdays and Thursdays with no success, you should try another day!
That being said statistically Thursday is the best day for cold outreach, with Wednesday not far behind. Also, avoid Monday, especially in the morning.
Improve your email deliverability
Remember to properly set up your domain name, especially the email accounts attached to it such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC tags and keys.
This is more technical and if you are interested we can write a dedicated article on the subject. Just be aware that this configuration allows you to certify your emails so that they avoid being flagged as SPAM, which obviously affects opening rates.
Put extra effort on your email subject line
Email Subject Lines are pretty much the only thing that decides whether or not your email will be open. If your email is not open, it won’t be read, if it is not read, you won’t get an answer.
You have to be creative, try to find ways to entice prospects to click. Be mysterious or funny or really relevant, and you will see your opening rates skyrocket. Also, personalization once again is your friend, using the prospect’s first name, or the company name will bring more attention to your email.
Email signature impacts your response rate
Email Signatures are a big deal as well! Prospect see them and form an opinion on you and your company from it.
There are 3 things you need to have an Email Signature that improves your conversion rate:
- Title: so that your prospect knows who he is talking to. If you have a not so glamorous title this is your opportunity to shine and to be creative to set yourself apart.
- Picture: having a picture of yourself in your signature dramatically increase your chances of getting answers. All of the sudden you are not a faceless telemarketer, you are a smiling human being that just wants to help. If you are still on the fence, I invite you to read this article by Brand My Email that explains why you need a picture in your email signature.
- Type: Avoid .PNG and .JPEG, use .SVG instead. Why? Because they tend to be blocked by Email Providers, and the reader has to click to accept to see them.
Cold Calling tips
The last tip I want to share with you is a very interesting statistic because it echoes many examples of real conversations between a sales rep and a prospect.
Using “Did I catch you at a bad time” makes you 40% less likely to book a meeting, while asking “How are you?” increases your likelihood of booking a meeting by 3.4X.¹
I hope this article helped you, and that you feel more prepared to prospect in the future.
To sum up: How to Meet & Exceed Your Sales Goals
- There is no magic formula, you have to leverage as many channels as possible and figure out what works for your company for each of your markets.
- Nothing has more impact on your results than targeting.
- Bring value to the table, offer a great experience to your prospect.
- Do not be discouraged after the first attempt, or second, or third, or fourth, etc. ...