By Amanda Wynne
Sales prospecting has become one of the most effective tools in a sales leader’s kit. One study by the Kellogg School of Management and InsideSales.com found that by specializing sales teams into prospectors and closers, the close ratio leapt from 10% to 17%.
It’s important to stay on top of sales prospecting best practices because buyer journey trends are drastically changing B-B businesses. Your sales leadership and sales enablement teams must equip your prospectors with the tools and processes that make them effective.
Sales Prospecting Calculus
Sales prospecting is both an art and a science. The science is that you can measure the inputs and conversion rates through the prospecting process. As you tune and enhance these numbers you can dramatically improve the outputs.
The two primary drivers of the math are:
Number of Outreaches to Prospects X Conversion Rate to Good Conversations X Conversion Rate to Meeting = Number of Meetings
While this does over-simplify some elements on an individual rep basis, it is useful to work through at an aggregate sales manager level. Let’s take a look:
Number of Sales Prospecting Outreaches
If you are able to increase the number of touches to potential targets you are much more likely to be effective. But there are many elements that can slow down your prospecting, including:
- Time spent looking for contact information. If you have to navigate through a name directory or guess and email addresses, you are again adding 2-3 minutes per outreach. Over 90 times a day, well you get the idea.
- Time spent on wrong connections. Your prospector works hard to make a connection and finally they get someone on the line. But they quickly discover that that person is unqualified or fundamentally uninterested. Could you have avoided adding this person to your prospecting queue in the first place to focus on likelier targets?
ZoomInfo looked into this sales enablement issue and pointed out the importance of having access to good, current data for the prospecting team. When prospectors have current email addresses and phone numbers, they can more quickly reach more people. And their connection rates increase significantly.
Use algorithms and data to identify best practice messages for your key buyer personae.
But perhaps the most important point to be made is around getting the right connection in the first place. Look at your buyer personae to understand your ideal target. When you know the job title, industry, location, and other criteria of your best buyer, you can better identify more people like that. Using algorithms driven from data science, you can predict which elements best match your ideal persona. That means you’re feeding your prospecting teams with not just lists, but prioritized sets of prospects that sales prospectors are more likely to close.
Conversion of Conversations to Meetings
I started by looking into a commonly cited metric from Sirius Decisions. The classic understanding of the metric is that 67% of buying decisions are complete before a buyer speaks to sales.
But that’s a misunderstanding of the data. It actually says that 67% of the buying decision is done digitally. So, buyers are looking at content, reading thought leadership, and engaging with digital communications. But is that information actually being guided by the sales person? It must be. Sales people need to proactively engage and steer buyers through the purchase process.
Why? Because most B2B sales are not inbound-sourced where a prospect arrives with their needs well catalogued ready for purchase. In fact, some data points out that it’s less than 5% of buyers who fit that model. The vast majority either weren’t considering your solution or don’t have a formulated business case for addressing a problem.
So, if 95% of the market is out there, not actively searching for your products, how do you get them into play?
The Rise of the Challenger Sale
In this approach, the 95% of the market is an opportunity for sales people to get ahead of their competition and open untapped buyers. But to do so, you need to recognize what’s happening with those buyers.
They’re not standing by idly waiting for you to approach them. They have 20 priorities on their desks that they’re working through. For you to get them to move forward with you, you have to get them to re-prioritize your solution above other projects that are in-flight. That means that you need to get them to think about their company in a different way. You need to challenge their status quo.
After all, your prospects are deluged with messages from sales people every day. Why would a prospect decide to take 30 minutes to meet with one of your account executives? You need to provide them with information and insights that let them dramatically improve a key aspect of their business. A great bar to think of is would your prospect have paid you for the meeting you’re setting? Simply trying to sell a demonstration is not enough to get a prospect to re-prioritize their activities.
How is Sales Enablement Doing Today?
How well are sales teams meeting this goal of bringing value to prospects? Not very well. Recent surveys of B2B buyers by Forrester shows that from 61 to 80% of sales people add no value in a sales conversation. When sales people add no value, send messages like “just checking in”, and in general behave like order-takers, how can you expect a prospect to want to take 30 minutes?
How Do You Address the Issue?
So how do we as sales enablement professionals and sales leaders tackle this issue? You have to look at sales enablement tools that help you to communicate value to prospects. How do they communicate to the prospect?
- Through what they tell prospects in email and phone conversations
- It could be through how well they know the product they’re selling
- It could be through the content they share that helps prospects build business cases or justify their meetings
Each of these issues can be addressed through effective sales enablement content. For instance:
- Great sales scripts or conversation starters that support email and phone conversations
- Product training and related materials that give just-in-time information for prospectors to address product questions or competitive challenges, for example
- Compelling content that helps buyers understand how changes to their company can have a major positive impact
It’s critical that the content that’s being used – whether it is scripts, training, or business content – is effective. That means avoiding the classic content issues of using content that is:
- Generic: If content doesn’t speak to the buyer persona you’re targeting it’s not going to go far. Make sure your content focuses on the buyer persona that you identified early in this sales enablement process
- Old: Out of date and inaccurate content won’t get you far with a prospect. If you’re trying to communicate about your cutting edge technology but you’re missing key functionality in your product sheets. Or, if you’re communicating thought leadership with analyst data from 5 years ago, you’ll struggle to win over your prospects.
- Ineffective: Just like marketing automation taught us, you need to test your content to understand what’s generating interest with your prospects. Measure it and push best practice material across your prospecting teams.
This is especially important because 95% of B2B purchases are directly influenced by content. So, ensure that your sales prospectors are having great conversations and conversions to meetings by equipping them with sales enablement tools and content they need the most!
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