B2B Sales Prospecting 2021: 10 Techniques That Work

B2B sales prospecting isn’t always as exciting and glamorous as other parts of the sales routine, as you can imagine; it’s far more behind the scenes and challenging. In fact, sales leaders agree that prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process. But the value of sales prospecting should not go unnoticed, and doing it right can be just as rewarding as the challenge.

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Unfortunately, in full-cycle sales organizations, salespeople usually don’t pay enough attention to prospecting until the sales pipeline dries up. They don’t realize that filling up the pipeline with leads early in the sales cycle is a vital part of the process. This ultimately puts a lot of pressure on your sales team to get prospecting right. But how do you know how to proceed when the rules of B2B sales prospecting continue to evolve?

By using the best techniques, your B2B sales prospecting can become less of a burden and far more exciting than you may think. Just follow these tips we use at CIENCE to improve your sales prospecting and get noticed from the start. 

 

How to prepare for B2B sales prospecting

In successful B2B prospecting, talking to prospects is not the beginning. Before contacting them, make sure you get your sales approach ready.

 

1.   Account penetration + identify the ideal customer profile.

The first sales prospecting technique should come as no surprise; it’s essential to know exactly who you are searching for in the first place. Creating a list of target accounts, then the ideal customer profile, or ICP, of those inside those accounts, is an excellent way to define your target prospect precisely.

Penetrating accounts is a strategic science. Many make the mistake of fixating on the C-suite and forgetting: a) just how much harder it is to connect and engage with bigger titles, and b) that most sales cycles these days involve six to 10 decision influencers from up and down a company’s departmental structures. 

The ICP serves as a guideline for every salesperson on how to find a perfect lead. It also helps to maximize the accuracy of shared data on possible prospects. This, in turn, raises the chances of closing more deals and attracting even more leads in the future.

At CIENCE, identifying ICP consists of collecting a minimum of 22 data points, including targeted companies by their industry, size, revenue, and region, as well as the titles of decision-makers by their contact information. Here is an example of an ICP:

Sample of Ideal Customer Profile - B2B Sales Prospecting
 

2. Use LinkedIn & Crunchbase to find your ICP.

You may have noticed that the LinkedIn profile stands as a separate data point in the example above. This is quite intentional. Yes, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are extremely important in social media for sales, but when it comes to B2B prospecting, LinkedIn is a great start.

In the United States alone, there were 171 million registered users on LinkedIn in 2020, with 57 percent and 43 percent male and female, respectively. LinkedIn is considered to be the second-most popular social media platform used by B2B marketers, with Facebook still at the top, according to Hubspot

Crunchbase is another great sales tool that can help you find company-specific information and fill in the 22 data points described above.

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3. Prospect hunting consistently and diligently.

How many hours a day are scheduled for sales prospecting on your team? One? Two? Maybe five per week? Research by Sales Insights Lab states that 82 percent of top performers devote at least four hours every day just to prospecting. Less successful groups dedicate only four hours or less to prospecting.

How much time should you spend on prospecting?

This demonstrates a positive correlation between hours spent prospecting and the salesperson’s level of success. The math is simple: more time spent prospecting →  better qualified leads → higher chance of closing a deal → higher professional achievements.  

So why not have a specified time slot dedicated to prospecting every day? It is the same as setting aside time for going to the gym; it might be not the most entertaining part of your day, but the more regularly you do it, the better the results, and chances are you may start to actually enjoy it.   

At CIENCE, we have our sales development representatives prospecting all day, every day, which we’ve found correlates favorably with generating consistent outcomes through setting qualified appointments.

 

Put your sales prospecting methods to work

Once the research is done, it’s time to contact the prospect for the first time. Here are some important marketing sales prospecting techniques to remember at this stage:

 

4. Send personalized emails.  

The Rain Group states that eight out of 10 buyers prefer emails as a way of communication with sales representatives. However, the average open rate for emails is only 15 percent to 25 percent. In the best-case scenario, only every fourth email you send actually gets opened. With personalization, you can double that number. To win the customer’s attention in the battle of successful prospecting, you need the 10 best strategies to personalize emails in order to grab the prospect’s attention.

 

5.  Master cold calling.

Even if talking on the phone isn’t your strongest asset, it’s crucial to test out some skills for the sake of good sales prospecting. Cold calling is more effective than other channels and it works — depending on your mastery level. Here are a few tips to make cold calling easier: 

  • Do the research. The best way to prepare for the call is to know precisely your ICP, buyer persona, industry, and potentially details about the prospect.
  • Prepare a good cold calling script. Make sure that your script includes an introduction that explains who you are, a key message with the main reasons for your call, killer questions to break patterns (conditioned responses), and a call to action for an appointment setup or a follow-up call negotiation. 
  • Experiment with the best time to cold call. Calling someone on a Friday evening or early Monday may not be successful; Wednesday after lunch may have a higher chance of evolving into a good sales chat. 
  • Choose a dialer + CRM system wisely. A good dialer will enable you to automate many things (voicemail drop, local presence, auto-dialing), while a customer relationship management system helps keep track of all previous, existing, and potential clients, and stores the dispositions of all the interactions between you and a given prospect. You need these tools. Super-advanced features also enable you to record, review and learn from your calls (conversational intelligence). These are also great tools to monitor your sales pipeline and control the multichannel outreach process.  
  • Choose more than one channel for the outreach. Cold calling works best together with cold emailing, social outreach, pre-targeted ads, and landing pages for each ICP. 
 

6. Prequalify your potential prospects.

In an average B2B company, half of the prospects who potentially match your ICP still may not be a good fit for whatever you sell. This means the chances of reaching out to the wrong person are really high.

To cut down on the number of unqualified leads getting further down the sales pipeline, prequalify every lead after the first contact by answering a few simple questions:

Lead qualification questions in b2b sales prospecting
 


7. Ask more questions (and use them to book a meeting).

Did you know that during the call, an average of 11 to 14 questions leads to 74 percent better results? But remember that asking the right question is also a crucial factor in a successful appointment setting. 

The NOTE method, introduced by Sean Burke, the former CEO of KiteDesk, is a good way to get started:  

  • N is for Need: What is the current situation in your company, and what is the desired one?
  • O is for Opportunity: What challenges stand in the way to achieving the desired goals?
  • T is for Team: Who are the people that influence the product? How does the product influence those who purchase it afterward?
  • E is for Effect: What do you expect to gain from this collaboration? 
 

Close the deal with diligent sales prospecting  

After talking with the prospect, this is your time to shine to close the deal. Here are a few essential sales prospecting techniques to use at this stage in the sales process.  

 

8. Follow up with persistence.

If you have gotten a positive reply to your pitch on the first try, you are very fortunate — or already very good at your job. But, in most cases, you won’t get any response at all. However, this should never be a deterrent from continuing your outreach campaign. 

For good B2B sales prospecting, follow up with an email, call them again, and make sure you are fully prepared for your next conversation when they are ready to make their next move. Develop a follow-up strategy that works the best for your business, and use follow-up templates to give you more consistency in your approach to deliver better results. Here’s an example of an effective follow-up email template:  

 

9. Learn how to handle sales objections. 

Sure, you may get an answer on the first try—but likely a negative one. Phrases like “I am not interested,” “Sorry, we have no budget,” or “It’s not the best time” are well known to salespeople. But you can still close the deal if you know how to address these objections. Analyze the most common objection phrases and figure out the best strategy to handle them. Here are some options:

  • Not interested: If the prospect is not interested in your proposal, ask them immediately about their priorities and explain how you may be able to help them resolve these issues.  
  • No budget: A good solution is to explain the financial benefits from the possible collaboration with you: “What do you think if we are able to increase your email outreach by 30 percent?” Give some ROI numbers to back it up.  
  • Not the right time: Ask if they are planning to improve their processes. You can offer an expert opinion on their current situation and suggest some tips on how to improve it.
  • We work with a competitor: Ask how satisfied they are with this collaboration, and see if you can, in any way, lend a helping hand.  
  • Send more information: There is a clear danger that your offer might get lost among other emails. Clarify what information they need and make sure to send it right away.
 

10. Ask for referrals. 

Did you know that the majority of referral-based sales get closed? Nine out of 10 B2B prospects admit they are influenced by word of mouth, yet only four out of 10 salespeople ask for a referral. This is simply not enough. Most customers are happy to provide a referral for a job well done. To ensure better sales prospecting in the future, don’t be shy — go ahead and ask for a referral, and get your good reputation out there.

 

Let’s get to sales prospecting

Even though B2B sales prospecting is quite challenging, there are certain methods and techniques to make it easier for your team. Successful prospecting requires strong knowledge of ICP, good skills in cold outreach, and a creative mindset to build the dialogue with hours of diligent practice. If you start building your perfect prospecting routine today, your sales pipeline will surely fill up with qualified prospects in the future.