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minute read
May 18, 2021

The Complete Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting

Written by
Nat Parkes

Comprehensive Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting

Effective B2B prospecting is key to any good growth strategy. If you can’t generate interest from buyers, you won’t make sales, and your company can’t grow. There’s a reason why fast-growing companies invest heavily in sales and marketing. Once you build an effective, repeatable system for generating pipeline, you can quickly grow your customer base and revenue. But, sales prospecting is hard. It requires time, effort, and patience.

In this guide, I’ll show you proven sales prospecting strategies that we’ve learned from working with the world’s best B2B companies.

We’ll look at:

  1. What is Sales Prospecting?
  2. The Importance of Good Prospecting
  3. Creating Foundations for Your Sales Prospecting
  4. Sales Prospecting Techniques To Fill Your Pipeline
  5. Managing Expectations During the Sales Process
  6. Handling Sales Objections During Your Prospecting Process
  7. Metrics to Track Results

By the end, you’ll know how to prospect in a way that builds pipeline and helps your company grow. Let’s dive in.

What is Sales Prospecting?

B2B sales prospecting is the process of identifying and engaging with potential customers and leads. Your prospects may have never heard of your company and have never considered using your product or service. Your goal with prospecting is to build a relationship, add value to their life and business, and in turn, show them why they should become customers.

The Importance of Good Prospecting

It’s impossible to understate the importance of an effective prospecting process. It’ll make everything in your sales and marketing process run more smoothly.

  • Your prospects will be more qualified
  • Your sales team won’t struggle to engage with leads
  • Your marketing team will know what content to create
  • Your conversion rates will improve

However, if you want to see the benefits, you’re going to have to put in the effort. Next, I’m going to show you the foundations to any good sales prospecting process.

Creating Foundations for Your Sales Prospecting

1. Know Your Ideal Customer Inside-Out

If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you won’t get results - no matter what tactics you use. Learn everything you can about your ideal customer.

  1. What’s their job title?
  2. What are their day-to-day responsibilities?
  3. Who do they report to?
  4. What outcomes are they evaluated on?

Once you know these key bits of information, you’ll be able to tailor your outreach and content to them. You’ll be able to start a conversation with them more easily, as your prospects will see that you’ve done your research and truly care about helping them. Ensure your ideal customer profile is regularly updated and reviewed so your sales reps can always refer back to it when launching campaigns or gearing up to test new strategies.

2. Qualify Leads Before Reaching Out

Before you reach out to anyone, you need to qualify them. Even if they have the right job title, you need to look into the company before assuming they’re a good fit. Look for potential buying signals, for example:

  1. Have they recently raised funding?
  2. Are they hiring for roles that your product or service is aligned with?

You could even use tools like BuiltWith to see if the company is using technology on their website that indicates they’d be interested in your product or service. By qualifying your leads before reaching out, you’ll ensure you don’t email people who aren’t a great fit. That’ll result in you getting higher reply rates, more engagement with your campaigns, and better results.

3. Combine Inbound and Outbound Techniques

While you can focus purely on outbound sales techniques, most good sales and marketing teams will mix targeted outbound with high-quality inbound marketing strategies. By creating content that lives on your website to generate inbound interest, you’ll capture leads who are early in their buying journey.

If you have gated content, such as an eBook targeting a pain point (that you know they have, based on your knowledge of your ICP), you’ll get in front of them as they’re researching solutions to their problem. Once you have their contact details (thanks to your gated content), one of your sales team can reach out with a personalized email. 49% of B2B marketers say that email is the most effective channel for generating early-stage engagement, so if you’re not reaching out to people engaging with your content, it’s a missed opportunity.

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Sales Prospecting Techniques To Fill Your Pipeline

Once you’ve laid your foundations, you can start using actionable tactics to prospect. Here are some of the prospecting techniques we’re seeing success with.

1. Use Intent Data to Find In-Market Buyers

Buyer intent data is one of the best ways to prospect today. By knowing who is in-market, actively researching solutions, you can run laser-focused sales campaigns. Intent data lets you pre-qualify your leads by identifying who is actively searching for a solution to a problem that your business can help with. Considering 27% of the modern buyer process involves independent research, it’s key that your team has access to that information so you can reach out before your competitors do.

B2B buying process happens before first contact
Source: Gartner

When your sales team does reach out to your potential customer, they’ll welcome your email - if you can help them make the right decision. Finding high-quality prospect intent data sources can be hard. If you want insights into which of your target accounts are getting ready to buy, we can help - just get in touch with Internal Results and our team will be happy to guide you through the process.

2. Create and Promote Valuable Content

As mentioned above, creating quality content is a great way to prospect on autopilot. Once your content is ready, it’ll sit on your website, attracting potential buyers. One effective way to make your content work as part of your prospecting is to create content around buyer intent keywords. As we explain here, buyer intent keywords are search terms your ideal customers are using when they have a specific pain point that you can help with.

Make sure your marketing and sales teams work together to ensure your content is targeting pain points your customers truly have, and covers everything you know your prospects care about at this stage of the buyer journey. You can use gated content like eBooks, whitepapers, or webinars to capture decision-makers’ contact details in exchange for access to the resource.

3. Target Based on Firmographic Criteria

Rather than creating advertising audiences based on guesswork, consider using firmographic data as the foundation of your ad campaigns. This means you’ll target based on:

  1. Company revenue
  2. Industry / vertical
  3. Number of employees
  4. Funding received

It’s an ideal way to ensure your ad spend doesn’t go to waste. You can be certain that everyone seeing your ads is part of a company that’s a good fit for your offering. If you’re using LinkedIn, you can even target your ads based on company name.

Upload your target account list, and as long as the company exists on LinkedIn, you can target them with your campaigns. Granular targeting ensures your ads help your team’s prospecting efforts rather than simply draining your company bank account without results. You’ll build awareness in your target accounts and they'll recognize your company when your team reaches out via email.

4. Engage With Multiple Decision-Makers

During your prospecting process, consider using an account-based marketing approach. This means you’ll target a company and treat it as an account, rather than just reaching out to one individual. This lets you build rapport with multiple people at a company early on in your prospecting process. When it’s time to pitch you’ll have multiple contacts at the company who know and trust your team. If everyone in your target company knows the value you can bring, there won’t be any last-minute pushbacks from other decision-makers you hadn’t considered.

Account based marketing can be time and cost-intensive, but it’s worth it. You’ll win more new business, and your sales team will have an easier time closing deals.

5. Personalize Every Stage of the Sales Process

You can’t rely on generic content and boring sales processes to close deals any more. Big and small businesses alike have access to powerful sales tools, and if you’re trying to optimize for speed over personalization, you’ll miss out on opportunities. Every step of your prospecting process should focus on tailoring every interaction to the person you’re engaging with.

Your outreach emails should be highly personalized to the recipient - just using their first name or company name doesn’t cut it anymore. Find a unique angle, and most people will be happy to reply. The content you create should be focused on answering questions that your prospects have. Your sales decks should be unique to every decision-maker you have a call with.

If you prove to your prospects that you care about them as an individual and are able to solve their pain points with your product or service, you’ll remove all potential blockers to them becoming a customer.

6. Generate Engagement with Targeted Content Syndication

If you’re creating engaging content, you need to work for your business and prospects. Content syndication is the perfect way to increase your content's reach and bring extra useful assets into your sales process. 65% of marketers say that content syndication is an effective demand generation tactic for them. But, how can you use your content as a sales tool?

Let’s say you’ve engaged with your prospect and got a reply to your initial outreach. A few days later, they share a post on LinkedIn about a topic you have content on. You can then send them a follow-up email with a link to your relevant content, with a few pointers on why it’s going to be worth their time.

It’s a simple way to generate engagement with accounts in the buying process, or, to re-engage accounts that haven’t replied to your emails for a while without needing to rely on hard sales pitches.

Managing Expectations During the Sales Process

During your sales prospecting process, it’s key to never oversell the benefits of your product or service. If someone becomes a customer and you can’t deliver, it’s going to be a disappointment. They’ll quickly cancel their agreement with you, and search for another vendor. During your sales process, make sure to manage expectations. Highlight real results you’ve generated for other clients with case studies. Don’t make promises you know aren’t realistic.

Handling Sales Objections During Your Prospecting Process

Not everyone you reach out to is going to be a perfect fit for your offering. No matter how good your targeting is, there will always be someone that isn’t interested. During your sales process, make sure to carefully manage sales objections by sharing useful content with your prospect. Base your content around the customer journey they’re going through.

For example, if someone is concerned about budget, highlight how your offering compares to the other alternatives: your main competitors, or the growth they'll miss out on by not going with you. If someone isn’t ready to purchase, slowly nurture your leads with educational content that will help them understand how you’re solving their pain point and help them build buy-in with their team.

There’s no need to push for a sale. If your accounts are well-qualified, a delay is fine - they may just not quite be ready to purchase. With careful lead nurturing and education along the way, they’ll soon be ready to buy. When they are, they’ll know you as the trusted expert, and choosing your company over your competitors will be an easy choice.

Sales Prospecting Metrics to Track Results

Prospecting is often repetitive work. It can be hard for your sales team to do repetitive tasks over and over if they’re not closing deals everyday due to your long sales cycles. To ensure your team stays on track, use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative metrics and KPIs.

Quantitative prospecting metrics include:

  1. Number of outreach emails sent per day
  2. Number of cold calls made
  3. Number of deals closed

But, those don’t always tell the whole story. Qualitative metrics are worth looking at too. Here are some examples:

  1. Length and quality of sales conversations
  2. Number of conversations with specific contacts in accounts
  3. Time to productivity after being hired
  4. Average deal size closed

Whatever metrics your sales team is tracked on, you need to ensure the KPIs are attainable. It's usually effective to use a blend of quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative will ensure your team's activity levels stay high, but, mixing it with qualitative will ensure that they don't compromise quality just to hit high activity numbers.

Wrapping Up

Your prospecting is one of the most important elements of your entire sales process. If you’re targeting the wrong audience, you won’t generate any pipeline, and won’t close any sales. Good prospecting starts with a complete understanding of who your target customer is, and what they care about. Once you know who you’re targeting, you can test various strategies, like those listed here, to reach, engage with, and build good relationships with decision-makers in your target accounts.

If you want to have more conversations with decision-makers, Internal Results can help. We can help you create content in the formats your buyers want to engage with, and run targeted content syndication campaigns to ensure they see it. You’ll put your sales prospecting on autopilot without compromising on targeting, personalization, or effectiveness. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our process.

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