Different types of sales require different approaches. A salesperson who sells to the government (B2G) is going to need to make sure they are on every list to ensure they receive a request for a proposal (RFP). A B2C salesperson is going to reach out to customers by phone, mail, or door-to-door. A retail salesperson need only wait for a customer to walk in their front door. Prospecting in B2B sales is different than the other types of sales.

Play the Long Game in B2B Sales Prospecting

There once was a time when a B2B salesperson would make a call to a prospective client in one quarter. When the client rejected the request for a meeting, the salesperson would try again in the next quarter. This is not playing the long game. We now have many more media to communicate with prospects. We also have many more tools.

One way that B2B prospecting is different is it requires you to displace your competition. Most of the large companies you target already have a supplier taking care of their needs. Some of your prospects have a long relationship with their current supplier, making it difficult to win the client's business. Success requires a patient, professional pursuit plan you execute over time. Using a prospecting sequence that begins with a phone call, a voicemail, and an email is one communication. You follow this first communication with other touch points over the course of a quarter. Most of these communications don't ask the client for a meeting. Instead, they communicate something the client will find valuable. This brings us to the next part of successful B2B sales prospecting.

Nurturing Your Dream Clients

One rule that seems to help salespeople create and win new deals is: Create value before claiming it. Most of the time, salespeople want a meeting with a contact that doesn't know them. That same contact isn't interested or is too busy to give the salesperson their time. Nurturing a future relationship begins by creating value.

A modern B2B sales organization needs to have a catalog of tools to nurture their contacts. A contact eventually agrees to a meeting in communication that helps them improve their results. There is no end to what you can use for value-creating communication. You might start with one of your company's blog posts or some report your company publishes. A good piece could also be an article that explains something your contact is—or should be—concerned about now or soon.

By sending these communications, you create value before ever trying to capture any. What's equally important is that you are proving you are on top of your prospective clients’ concerns. When you send these communications, you are exercising a consultative B2B sales prospecting approach. The contact that reads what you send them is already taking your advice. You are pointing at something important, and they are learning why they may need to change in the future.

Prospecting to More Decision-Influencers

At one time, salespeople worked with a single decision-maker. If you were prospecting B2B at that time, the best advice was to start at the top of the company's organizational chart. Much of the time, that person was a CEO or a president. At worst, it was a vice president. Getting a meeting with this decision-maker was necessary. Over time, however, decision-makers became unhappy when they made decisions that their teams wouldn’t execute. Decision-makers handed off the decision-making to the managers and their teams, holding them accountable to execute whatever they bought. The sole decision maker has been replaced by organizational consensus, with different teams weighing in on a decision.

The downside of these changes in B2B sales prospecting is that no one knows who the decision-makers are. The upside is that you can pursue more contacts. In a book called Eat Their Lunch, I described the person you are seeking as "the CEO of the Problem," the person responsible for some important result. That person may be in the C-Suite, but more often you will find them a level or two down from the corner offices. Success in B2B prospecting often requires you to identify and locate the person who is motivated to make the changes that will improve their outcomes.

Approaching multiple contacts at the same time can be dangerous because someone may decide to shut you down and thwart your attempts to meet with others. I prefer to pursue one contact at a time. Failing to acquire a meeting, I move on to another contact, trying not to get on anyone's radar until I have a meeting.

The Promise of Value in the First Meeting

For as long as anyone can remember, salespeople have called their contacts and offered to tell their contacts about the salesperson’s company and how it helps other companies. They have done this before learning even a little bit about the contact's company. This is not a good or effective value proposition for a meeting, and it fails because it creates no value for the contact. Busy people don't like to waste their time.

When you attempt to schedule a meeting and you can't identify what's in it for the contact, note these sales prospecting ideas. When it comes to acquiring a meeting, the largest variable is the promise that the client will gain something from the time they give to you. The second most significant variable is your confidence. The more confident you are that you are worth the client's time, the easier it is for your contact to agree to spend time with you. Then, you can only acquire a second meeting by creating enough value in a first meeting.

Success in B2B Sales Prospecting

The best approach is to use a territory plan and a prospecting strategy that allows you to play the long game. Recognize that nurturing your contacts is part of prospecting. This is especially important if you need to steal clients away from your competition. Take a broader look at potential contacts who might benefit from the better results you sell. And finally, make sure your pitch for a meeting is all about what the client gains from spending time with you.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on September 4, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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