Twenty years ago, if salespeople and marketers knew some of the existing technologies that are available today, they would probably burst into tears (at minimum). The industry has gone in a direction where account-based execution is everything and beating competitors is all about providing engagement.
As of 2020, technologies offer endless options to strategically engage with potential customers and clients in seemingly every channel. Such examples include sales engagement platforms (SEPs), customer relationship management (CRMs), and sales force automation (SFAs).
That being said, processes and methodologies have changed with technology as well.
Just think about email for instance. What started as "spray and pray" in the late '90s soon became the anti-spam era and the rise of the email database. Then 2010 came along and the age of people power began. Segmented and targeted emails gave companies the ability to strategically hit certain audiences and receive a higher ROI for their efforts.
However, as technologies have evolved with sales and marketing, so have consumers. They're smarter buyers than ever before and have limitless information available at their fingertips. This being said, there's still some ways business can stay ahead of the curve.
Organizations can do so by using modernized B2B prospecting techniques that feed into an account-based selling approach, which can be enhanced through cross-organizational alignment. In this post, we dive into these three areas which we believe are paramount in how you can differentiate yourself through personalized engagement.
1. B2B Prospecting
B2B prospecting is a lot like gold mining. It first involves going out into a territory that is likely to have valuable resources, then you start digging around. Good finds must be sifted out from the bad; the focus should be directed towards refining them into bins of most and least valuable. From there, profit is generated by conveying value to the most qualified buyers. However, all of this work is much easier said than done.
One thing that needs to be addressed right off the bat: B2B prospecting is the first part of lead generation. As Leadiro puts it, “...leads are clients or customers who have expressed some level of interest in your brand, product, or service."
Prospects, meanwhile, are potential clients who have not yet expressed any interest in your brand.” Prospecting in this sense is building the list of prospects with the end goal of converting them into leads. Additionally, there are strictly two types of B2B prospecting that need to be defined to minimize confusion.
Lead prospecting is about finding consumers facing challenges that can be resolved by using your product. These are people who either haven’t heard about your brand yet or haven’t expressed interest in it. Lead prospecting is essentially a process of qualification that involves sorting who would most likely to become a customer and who wouldn’t.
Sales prospecting on the other hand is the process of qualifying leads. This is all about analyzing the list of contacts and leads to lay out which ones are most likely to buy your product. Just because a potential buyer passes the pre-qualification process doesn’t mean they are a qualified lead. There are a multitude of unforeseen roadblocks in place such as contracts that could prevent a company from buying.
Here are some B2B prospecting ideas and statistics from Sales Hacker that you may find insightful:
A Hubspot study found that more than 40% of SDRs consider prospecting as one of the most dreaded activities
The number of opportunities generated by your sales pipeline will have direct correlation with hitting your quota
The success rates of last minute or 11th hour sales prospecting calls turn out worse than those made in normal periods
Customer behavior will always be an uncontrollable variable; yet prospecting is
Nearly half of all buyers prefer receiving calls - cold calling isn’t dead
The faster your team closes deals on average, the more revenue will be generated
Don’t disregard inbound operations - they still share the same goal
Learn from rejection and mistakes
Use B2B prospecting tools that match your business model
While sales prospecting is a vital process to any organization, most efforts should be geared towards lead prospecting. Sales would be a lethargic operation if it wasn’t for lead generation.
Not only does lead prospecting keep a constant flow of leads into the sales funnel, but it also has the ability to improve the quality of the leads that go into it.
Here are some tips from Leadiro that can make lead prospecting a more streamlined process:
Leverage referrals through satisfied clientele. Chances are your customer will have a network of others in mind that could benefit from your product.
Use LinkedIn to bring inbound prospects to you. Just staying active and engaging with users on a regular basis are likely to draw leads in.
Always continue researching. Although it can be a mundane process, this is the single most important lead prospecting tool. The more you know about the buyer before reaching out to them, the more you can personalize how you choose to engage with them.
Synthesizing all of this information wouldn’t be easy for any organization. Our recommendation is to rethink a few key areas of concern within the sales process of your company and then apply this knowledge.
Convey value to your prospects that you’ve done the homework for and initiate contact with them in a meaningful way. Effective B2B prospecting will ultimately be what turns your sales department into a gold mine: and even more so with an account-based sales process.
2. Account-Based Sales
Account-based sales or ABS is the coordination of highly valuable, personalized experiences across all functions that impact a customer to drive engagement at a target set of accounts.
It’s all about building relationships within a buying committee.
Outreach's book, Sales Engagement, states that on average it takes 6.8 decision makers to close a B2B deal. That's 7 human beings you have to establish a connection with; this can be difficult yet continues to get easier with SEPs. These platforms such as ourselves enable ABS and sales outreach that touch customers multiple times in multiple channels, all of which are tracked.
SEPs have seen the fastest growth out of all technologies in the sales engagement category. 90% of sales leaders plan to invest in SEPs to help their sellers engage better. As SEPs can play a huge role in boosting account-based execution, Sales Engagement breaks down the high-level sales plays of ABS into four simple steps:
High value first meeting
Sellers should be utilizing custom content or a compelling use case to tell a business transformation story. This can be showing them a case study of a similar company or showing how the product can increase their ROI. Selling shouldn't be a routine description of an amazing product, but rather showing what value it can provide for the target.
Sellers should use insights gathered from the first meeting to personalize content with the goal of engaging stakeholders early and inviting other stakeholders into the process. You might want to insert 3-5 insights collected in the prior step to create urgency. On-site workshops or custom multitouch campaigns geared towards other stakeholders may be beneficial at this stage as well.
This is what all the work leads up to. Sellers use every interaction with a prospect and incorporate this information into the presentations, demos, and other content. The more personalized the content, the better.
At this point, marketing needs to support sales by enabling sellers to deliver a high-value, customized process at the close stage. Well-designed and personalized deal brochures that sum up key challenges with the proposed solution fit are a good option here. Another idea is to have a close plan, or a timeline of key milestones that will follow the implementation.
Following the close, it is imperative that Customer Success Managers are stepping in earlier in the sales process to facilitate a clean handoff. Most importantly, perhaps, is ensuring all critical information used by the reps are automatically imported and accessible to the post-sales team.
There should be a system in place where key relationships don’t have to be shared manually. Because as much as 75% of revenue can come after the initial sale, reps need to be incentivized and ready to take over the entire process.
Sales engagement is now more process-driven and repeatable than ever; when used with ABS, you can build better relationships with buyers, their peers, and convey a more valuable proposition to them. Next, we discuss some internal alignment strategies which can streamline such sales processes.
For an effective and functional sales engagement strategy, it is crucial that sales, marketing, and customer success are aligned. What does this even mean? Can’t they all just have a shared workspace or Slack channel to bounce ideas off each other? Can’t there just be an “ambassador” that relays all relevant information across departments? This is just not enough these days.
Successful alignment takes much more and requires full buy-in from the whole company. Outreach's book, Sales Engagement, mentions a multitude of tips that will help your team’s cross-organizational alignment strategy. Below we list seven that stood out to us.
Strategic Alignment Tips
Kill the MQL
Demand Generation Manager at Outreach, Lauren Alt, says this is the first and foremost rule of alignment. The meaning of a "Marketing Qualified Lead" is defined differently at each organization, which can cause confusion and diminish its value. Furthermore, those outside the marketing department sometimes see it as a worthless metric, because without a top of the funnel, there’s no bottom.
Decide on a reliable attribution model
Sales, Marketing, and Success must all agree on a model that is representative of true revenue lift. It must reflect the cohesive buyer’s journey; first-touch and last-touch models no longer cut it.
Use an integratabtle tech stack
Without the proper bridge technology, there will be too much friction among departments to align properly. Sales engagement platforms can help align all revenue teams.
Keep a steady communication cadence
This one goes back to the shared workspace or Slack reference. Make sure to build a consistent rhythm of calls and meetings that allows every team to help each other clear roadblocks, review metrics, and learn new things. The more on the same page everyone is, the better.
Know the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) for each persona. This enables companies to break down their customer's JTBD into discrete jobs that can be easily mapped back to the delivery of a customers' desired outcomes. The main JTBD is a critical task a customer wants to achieve. Related JTBD are what customers want to do in conjunction with the main jobs.
Cultivate a deep understanding of the buyer's journey
This includes mapping out all interactions and touchpoints a buyer has with a company over the full lifetime experience. It also details every step of the buying and renewal process.
Don't lose focus on the human element of things. Increase communication around one another's priorities, goals, and objectives. This will help all departments understand what motivates each other and how they can help each other achieve goals.
These are some helpful tips but the overarching theme here is full buy-in. You can’t have any rogue warriors in sales that blame marketing for their lack of qualified leads. Full cooperation here is the name of the game, and once alignment is achieved, you will see higher levels of sales engagement followed by an increase in revenue efficiency.
To keep up with modern businesses and consumers, it is essential that your tech stack and processes reflects an account-based approach. From internal alignment to B2B prospecting, maintaining a human element is the fundamental basis for everything that revolves around sales, marketing, and customer success.