B2B Sales Prospecting

Part
01
of six
Part
01

Top Industries for B2B Sales

While publicly available data that identifies the top 3-5 B2B industries with the most effective sales efforts and financial investment in their sales force could not be located, the team was able to identify sources with some helpful insights. We identified the B2B technology, eCommerce, and logistics/shipping industry as successful, growing industries. And, for each of these industries, we located some useful information about their investments in employees (mostly related to the technology and logistics industries).

Industry #1: B2B Technology Industry

  • Using the metric of brand value (financial value), in 2018 BrandZ the largest industry represented among the top 20 B2B companies were from the technology industry. 80% of those companies were U.S. based (i.e., Microsoft, IBM, Accenture, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Adobe, and Salesforce).
  • The majority of B2B sales, according to Online Finances, takes place online, requiring businesses to invest in technology that supports this reality, including AI, customer relationship management (CRM), IoT, cloud computing, mobile applications, and Software as Service (SaaS).

Investment in Sales Force

  • B2B technology companies are the most represented segment of the B2B industry on the Forbes list of the 10 B2B companies with the best customer service experience, a metric that includes investments in employees. That is, B2B technology companies invest in the overall employee experience to become "experiential organizations" that improve the culture, technology, and physical environment of the workplace.

Industry #2: B2B E-Commerce

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that by 2021, B2B eCommerce total revenues will reach $25 billion a year.
  • Online Finances reports that the majority of B2B buyers place orders through digital channels, e.g. email, websites, or mobile apps.

Investment in Sales Force

  • Inc.com reports that the revenue growth for Costco--a leader in B2B eCommerce--can be attributed to its investments in employees, creating an excellent culture. Forbes also includes Costco as one of the top 10 B2B companies investing in their employee experience.

Industry #3: Logistics

  • The B2B logistics industry is also projected to continue growing in tandem with B2B eCommerce; a USPS white paper reports that nearly half of the entire shipping/logistics market is B2B.
  • Three logistics companies (out of 20) make the BrandZ 2018 top B2B brand (value) list; two of those companies are U.S. based (FedEx and UPS).

Investment in Sales Force

Research Strategy

The team first searched for industry reports that identified industries with the largest market share in the U.S. B2B sales landscape. Unfortunately, the reports we located were behind pay walls at sites like digitalcommerce360, Forrester, and Statista. The general information offered about these reports did not identify market share or trends in the different B2B industries, but rather the projected total revenues of B2B sales in the U.S. over the next few years.

The team then attempted to triangulate information about the industries with the most effective sales within the U.S. B2B landscape by searching for industry reports, white papers, business journal articles, and news sources that ranked the most successful (revenue) companies. We located an article that ranked the 20 best global B2B brands--ranked by brand value (financial value). This source helped us approximate what the top industries were in the U.S. insofar as we used this data (with other data points to be discussed below) to segment the B2B into different industries such as oil and gas, technology, and logistics.

Next, the team started to narrow the search to the U.S. B2B technology industry, and we located a recent Forbes article that ranked the top 10 global B2B companies that invest in employee experience/build an "experiential organization." This article also pointed our team toward a Harvard Business Review article underlining the important relationship between investing in employee experience (culture, technology, and physical environment) and profitability. We then began to build our list of the top U.S. B2B industries (profitability and employee investment) by identifying companies on the Forbes list that overlapped with companies on the BrandZ rankings. This enabled us to identify both technology and logistics as top U.S. based B2B industries meeting both criteria.

We located a third industry--eCommerce--from another source we located (in our above search for more information on the U.S.-based B2B technology industry)--providing statistical insights, drawn from a variety of industry reports, on B2B sales. This reporting, on Finances Online, pointed out the necessity of businesses (in the U.S. and globally) to move toward eCommerce. In fact, the excellent performance of the U.S.-based B2B technology industry is driven largely by buyer preferences (that is, buyers from other businesses) to purchase goods and services online. To gather some further insights into the eCommerce industry, we located reporting on Amazon (which is ranked 5th overall in the Fortune 500), providing more general insights into the current and future market share in the U.S.

We attempted to find reports or white papers that analyzed the B2B eCommerce industry investments in their employee sales force, however, we were only able to find sources that compared Costco's investment in employee culture (in general) to Walmart and Amazon's. The sources with insights into Costco were focused, more importantly, on the B2B eCommerce side of their business.

Of all the three industries we identified above, based on the criteria of profitability and sales force investment, the data for eCommerce was weakest. To put this differently, eCommerce does seem to be one of the most profitable industries in the U.S. B2B landscape but not necessarily leading in financial investments in their sales force.


Part
02
of six
Part
02

Advanced B2B Sales Prospecting Best Practices

According to several leading industry experts, using personalized prospect experiences, targeting potential buyers, and adapting to customers' needs are crucial to a B2B company that aims to have a successful sales prospecting strategy.

Brief Overview of Advanced Sales:

  • Advanced sales techniques are considered as those which are concerned with solving problems rather than generating sales.
  • These techniques rely on identifying the implicit and explicit needs of clients in order to help them get the right solution.

Orchestrating personalized prospect experiences:

  • Outreach, which brands itself as the "leading enterprise-ready sales engagement platform", notes that gaining appointments (14%) and connecting with the right stakeholder (12%) are considered among the top challenges faced by B2B sellers in prospecting.
  • Orchestrating personalized prospect experiences is also among the toughest challenges in B2B sales. The potential solution of this challenge is considered to be the use of "advanced technologies." In fact, B2B sellers need precise applications that use artificial intelligence and machine learning, similar to those used in advanced sales engagement platforms.
  • Such as applications are need in order to properly optimize multi-channel playbooks and email/call sequences through A/B testing, intent recognition, and data-backed recommendations.

Smarter Targeting

  • Targeting potential buyers is another part of prospecting. According to the Harvard Business Review, targeting potential buyers helps leading sales representatives to distinguish themselves.
  • This is done through social media platforms that offer rich demographic information, which can be segmented into “likely buyers” and “buyers who are ready to buy now.”
  • In order to do this segmentation, sales professionals rely on intent signals such as job changes, social posts, and hiring patterns. This allows them to know when it is time to reach out.
  • Sales professionals also use social media features, like advanced filters and lead bots, to further facilitate the process of identifying qualified leads.

My B2B sales

  • A.T. Kearney is a leading global management consulting firm. (Source 5)
  • According to A.T. Kearney, the ability to anticipate and adapt to customer needs is on the rise in B2B sales, which can be seen as a process to identify potential customers, similar to what is done in prospecting.
  • According to this practice, customers benefit from customized interactions where they are presented with preconfigured value propositions that are geared toward their specific situation.
  • For example, KSB, a pump supplier, increased its sales efficiency substantially by implementing its 'EasySelect' configurator, which allows customers to get a customized product solution and quote.

Research Strategy:

We started by looking through industry reports from credible sources such as HBR, NASP — National Association of Sales Professionals, American Marketing Association, and Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI) in order to identify specific practices that have evolved as a response to pressing challenges, are practiced by leading companies, or have resulted in significant revenue growths for the company. Although, sources contained information on successful strategies for B2B sales and prospecting, there was no information indicating whether these could be considered as advanced B2B sales.

We then looked into surveys published by reputable global consultancies such as PwC, McKinsey, BCG, and Deloitte. Using this approach we were able to identify a survey by A.T. Kearney that discussed emerging B2B sales practices that were adopted by successful companies. However, the report addressed strategies/practices that focused on the entire sales process and not necessarily on prospecting.


Part
03
of six
Part
03

B2B Sales Prospecting Case Studies

Service Brands International increased targeted new followers by increasing engagement on its LinkedIn page. 10-4, a high-tech enterprise software company, worked with Pipestry to increase its outbound prospecting campaigns. Complete details about each of these companies are presented below.

Case Study #1: Service Brands International

Company

  • Service Brands International is a privately held, multi-concept franchise system with worldwide headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its portfolio of home-services brands includes category leaders Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, and ProTect Painters.

Challenge

What did the company do?

  • The company's franchise marketing manager, Nicole Hudson, decided on a three-part strategy to overcome the challenges and make it easier for the prospective franchise owners to connect with service brands.
    • The first technique was to use more company PR mentions as updates on the company page on LinkedIn. Then she created individual blogs for each of the brands that showcased new franchise owners and their road to business ownership. These were then posted on LinkedIn as updates.
    • The company identified the most important SEO keywords and started adding them into the updates that were regularly posted on its LinkedIn page.
    • To help generate the leads, Hudson added a "CONTACT US" box on the products and services tab of each company page for the franchise brands, with links to send direct messages to franchise development managers.

Results

  • The followers of the page increased by 83%.
  • New followers are prospective franchise owners (target customers).
  • Higher engagement helped grow lead pipeline.

Case Study #2: 10-4

Company

  • 10-4 is a high-tech enterprise software company.

Challenge

  • When 10-4 joined Pipestry, its enterprise sales reps did not have an inside sales team or sales system and had been growing a pipeline using the rep's own personal networks.
  • The company was facing a low number of meetings for outbound prospecting.

What did the company do?

  • 10-4 worked with Pipestry to build its entire addressable market of fortune 1000 companies and the company was able to leverage Pipestry's robust CRM that contains our Pipestry Prospecting App.
  • The company also incorporated a full weekly inbound initiative for them by advising and creating advertising campaigns on channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Results

  • After ten short months, the company's outbound prospecting campaigns brought in over 165 meetings worth over $11 million in potential pipeline.
  • Over the course of scaling its pipeline with Pipestry, 10-4 was ultimately acquired by a large strategic partner, Trimble, and the journey into the Fortune 500 began.

Research Strategy:

We started by checking the case studies from companies that offer B2B prospecting tools as they measure results after using their products. We checked the case studies from Pipestry, Artesian, eGrabber, and MatterMark, among others, but could find only one relevant case study for 10-4 which was relevant to B2B sales prospecting. The other found case studies only highlighted the study from the results point of view but had nothing specific on what had been done to achieve those results. Here our idea was to look for the commonality of the company case studies that had the same type of result using which we could have presented those as the best-in-class. However, this strategy did not work because none of the case studies had a common type of results (some were considered successful on the basis of engagement, page likes & followers, some on basis of revenue or sales pipeline, etc.) and thus it was not possible to rate as best.
Next, we checked into websites that specialize in publishing B2B marketing and sales related articles, lists (most successful/top/best), etc. Websites like B2B Marketing, Marketing Launcher, B2BLeadblog, etc. were checked for this strategy. The logic here was to find a precompiled list or article citing some of the best-in-class companies in B2B sales prospecting, so that those companies could have been looked into to find out about the tools and techniques they use in order to maintain the success. However, upon attempting to find the information through this strategy, we were unable to find any such lists or articles. The information we found here majorly covered the trends in the B2B sale prospecting arena and publications listing the best ways.
Finally, we checked into various benchmarks and surveys created by research companies on B2B sales prospecting to see if any of them mentioned any best-in-class B2B companies along with their results. This would have helped us in two ways: First, we would have backup data to prove that these, indeed, are best-in-class companies because they are meeting the benchmarks and, secondly, we would have further checked to find case studies on these companies. However, checking sources like MarketReach, and RAIN Sales Training, among others, we could only find the benchmarks in non-standardized forms, information on ways to improve B2B sales prospecting, and other information.
Part
04
of six
Part
04

B2B Sales Prospecting Tools

The most popular and effective tools for sales prospecting in B2B include white papers, webinars, in-person events, case studies, and CRM tools.

White Papers

Webinars

In-Person Events

Case Studies

CRM Tools

Research Strategy

To determine the most popular and effective tools for sales prospecting in B2B, we first began our research by looking through trusted publications and white papers from respected sources, such as Engage and Content Marketing Institute. We also utilized several advanced search engines, including Find White Papers, Whitepaper Database, Tech Republic White Papers, Oracle White Papers, and IBM White Paper to collect accurate data to be added in this study. Upon gathering several insights, our research team decided to seek more information related to the selected tools to provide more detailed findings in our research. We selected these tools based on the statistical data to make sure that the tools mentioned above are the most popular and effective tools for B2B Marketers.
Part
05
of six
Part
05

B2B Sales Prospecting and Social Media

As noted by Broadsuite Media Group, "Potential [B2B] prospects aren’t sitting back waiting for solutions to be presented. They are proactively seeking them themselves and as a consequence are likely to be less receptive to an unsolicited approach." With 70% of B2B decision-makers stating that social media is important to their final purchase decisions, the right social media strategy is vital to modern B2B sales.

Research the Prospects

  • As noted by a recent Business 2 Community article, "If you’re in the business of gaining prospects, your role will be a lot more challenging if you don’t take advantage of the information your potential clients already provide online. "
  • Twitter and LinkedIn are key social media platforms in B2B sales (though one should not neglect Facebook and Instagram), providing insight not only into a prospect's professional background but their other interests and concerns; as one insider notes, "if you can understand their needs, and help them by sharing relevant content, there are high chances of getting connected with them over a call or email."
    • Though not social media per se, checking out the "Our Team" or "About Me" sections of a company website can provide not only potential prospect names but a snapshot of their biography to more quickly find the right prospects.
    • Apart from this, LinkedIn's Advanced Search will likely be the most powerful tool for finding prospects within a company or even an industry, followed by Twitter-monitoring tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and SproutSocial to find out when prospects are tweeting about topics relevant to one's business.
  • It is not only vital to research prospects on social media but to go into that research with a clear idea of the type of clients one is looking for, whether because they are similar to existing clients or because they represent a new type of client that one wishes to develop reach into.
  • Some sales organizations invest in tools to help them gather relevant data about their prospects, whether built into their existing CRM or through a separate platform.
  • Remember that when it comes to personal social media accounts, a retweet or repost does not necessarily constitute an endorsement; people often retweet things that impact them negatively. Reading each post in context is critical.
  • Don't research just one person within the company; the average B2B sale involved 5.4 buyers, so the more people one researches and interacts with before the pitch, the better the ultimate chances of making the sale will be.

Build a Rapport

  • When reaching out to a prospect, it is important to recognize that not all decision-makers use the same communication channels, e.g., "they may not respond to messages on LinkedIn, but reply to emails. (And vice versa.) "
  • It is a good sign if a prospect follows the salesperson back after the salesperson follows them. "It means they’re already receptive to listening. "
  • Building a rapport with a prospective client ahead of the sales pitch — that is, developing warm leads — has become critical to current salespeople; as one sales expert puts it, "listening is the new prospecting."
  • Engagement with a prospect before going into a sales pitch is not only important for understanding what a customer values and customizing that pitch accordingly (see below) but in learning the prospect's habits to engage them at the time when they are most likely to see the pitch online or take a phone call.
  • To successfully prospect via social media, it's critical to be active on social media; engaged prospects will almost certainly research the salesperson in turn. "The more activity that you present on social media, the more authentic you become when reaching out to prospects through the same platforms you use daily."
    • This means that careful crafting of one's image, both personally and as a representative of one's company, is also vital to a salesperson; e.g., showcasing the blogs and success stories of existing clients and carefully making sure that one's image is in line with that of their company.

Customize the Pitch

  • As noted by Business 2 Community, "social media lead generation is not the digital world equivalent of cold-calling on the telephone. This strategy means more work for a customized pitch to increase your chances of gaining business. "
  • This is particularly important because, in a digital world, people still appreciate a personalized, human touch over the feeling that "they are being pitched to by a robot. " The whole point of social media is to be sociable, after all.
  • The salesperson should consider how they (the salesperson) use social media or other online resources to find a company for a service or product. "Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect. "
  • Value, rather than price, is the key deciding factor for B2B buyers; thus, the successful salesperson will craft their pitch around what the prospect values based on the knowledge the salesperson has gained in their research and engagement phases (as described above).
  • Even if the client has been engaged with on social media, email remains a key means of communication and should not be overlooked when making the sales pitch and, as explained below, nearly half of B2B buyers prefer to get that phone call.

Debunked Myths

Given the emphasis on social media marketing over old methods, it can be easy to think that traditional B2B sales methods are dead. However, according to the Rain Group, there are four common misconceptions that their research has debunked:

  • "Because product info is already accessible online, buyers don’t want to hear from sellers. (Around 82% of buyers actually do.) "
  • "Cold calling is not dead! (Nearly half of buyers prefer getting calls). "
  • "Buyers don’t want to hear about your product’s capabilities. (Product descriptions influence 67% of buyers to accept a meeting). "
  • "Cold meetings don’t end up as sales wins. (They apparently do when you focus on the value you can deliver to prospects, approach them collaboratively and articulate game-changing ideas for their business.)"

This means that while social media prospecting has become a vital tool in the salesperson's kit, it is best used as a supplement to traditional prospecting rather than as a replacement for it.
Part
06
of six
Part
06

Habits for Highly Successful Salespeople

While the internal locus of control is identified as a habit, resourcefulness is classified as a strategy of prospecting of high-performing B2B salespeople. The careers and achievements of two expert salespersons, who are presently working at Salesforce, were used to illustrate the success of both habit and strategy.

Internal Locus of Control

  • One of the prospecting habits of high-performing B2B salespeople is the belief that they 'own everything.' This is what psychologists refer to as the internal locus of control.
  • This habit is anchored on the principle of meritocracy; that is, what a person gives in is what the person gets. Internal locus of control is reflective of an attitude of responsibility, implying that success or failure is dependent on the individual, not on any other person, or extraneous forces.
  • It is, however, believed that this habit is rooted in the personality of the individual. This habit entails building the right relationships (networking), putting in extra work, speaking up with confidence, and solely accepting responsibility.
  • The 'owning everything' habit leads to success because high-performing B2B salespeople approach sales "with a total ownership mindset." According to a doer of this habit, it also translates to "success at work, higher income, and greater health outcomes."
  • As a high-performing B2B salesperson, Joseph Curtis, who has instilled this habit in his personality, grew in success from director of sales at NCSA in 2003 to the AVP, B2B Commerce, Salesforce, North America region (presently).
  • Using the promoter of this habit to illustrates its success, Curtis grew "an organization from $3 million in revenue to $50 million in revenue in four years."

Resourcefulness

  • One of the strategies that high-performing B2B salespeople use is their wealth of resources.
  • No matter how backed to a wall expert salespeople find themselves, so long as they are equipped with their wits and phones, they must be able to sort themselves through arbitrary obstacles. Resourcefulness is the ability to navigate through this situation seamlessly.
  • According to a B2B sales expert, "resourcefulness is as much a mindset as it is a skill." High-performing B2B salespeople who are resourceful must be versatile at every given situation.
  • Resourcefulness, as a strategy, leads to success because it enables high-performing B2B salespeople to deploy "multiple alternative routes to arrive at their desired destinations."
  • As a high-performing B2B salesperson, Stacy Parker, who has identified with this strategy, grew in success from an audit manager at Ernst & Young in 1985 to the VP, B2B Commerce, Salesforce, Ohio (presently).
  • Using one of the high-performing B2B salespersons at Salesforce to illustrates the success of this strategy, Stacy Parker is one that is versatile and very resourceful with "insights to over 300+ enterprise-wide solutions."
  • Parker is responsible for "leading a newly formed B2B Commerce sales team in North America for the commercial business unit," and he also attained 100% revenue for product lines while working with Oracle.

Research Strategy

We started our findings by looking through authoritative publications for prospecting habits or strategies of high-performing B2B salespeople. After concise research, we found a recent publication in Harvard Business Review, enumerating things associated with high-performing B2B salespeople.

We were able to identify one prospecting habit and one prospecting strategy from this authoritative source. Internal locus of control is identified as a prospecting habit because it is one trait that high-performing B2B salespeople have inculcated into their personalities. Habits are one of the things that define a man's personality, and the author points out that having an internal locus of control as one's personality will, among other things, enable the right networking and build confidence towards effective B2B sales. Resourcefulness is identified as a prospecting strategy because it is identified with high-performing B2B salespeople, and it avails them in difficult prospecting situations when their backs are against the wall. Resourcefulness is also defined both as a mindset and skill-set.

For how the habit and strategy lead to success or illustrate that success, we used the thoughts, careers, and work outputs of high-performing B2B practitioners and promoters. Both high-performing B2B salespersons we used work presently for the US-based company, Salesforce.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "While publicly available data that identifies the top 3-5 B2B industries with the most effective sales efforts and financial investment in their sales force could not be located, the team was able to identify sources with some helpful insights. We identified the B2B technology, eCommerce, and logistics/shipping industry as successful, growing industries. And, for each of these industries, we located some useful information about their investments in employees (mostly related to the technology and logistics industries). "
Quotes
  • " Advanced sales techniques rely on identifying implicit and explicit needs of a client, helping him understand the implications of the need, and ultimately providing him with a solution. Advanced sales techniques are more about solving problems than generating sales."
  • "Identifying implicit and explicit needs and showing how big of a problem a client truly has is worthless unless you can provide a solution. Demonstrating capability should not be attempted until the prospect is clear as to what he needs and how badly he needs it. Once that point is reached, it is imperative that you have a product or service that solves the problem."
Quotes
  • "Prospecting is the first step in the sales process, which consists of identifying potential customers, aka prospects. The goal of prospecting is to develop a database of likely customers and then systematically communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential customer to current customer."
Quotes
  • "A.T. Kearney is a leading global management consulting firm with offices in more than 40 countries. Since 1926, we have been trusted advisors to the world's foremost organizations. A.T. Kearney is a partner-owned firm, committed to helping clients achieve immediate impact and growing advantage on their most mission-critical issues. For more information, visit www.atkearney.com."
  • "A.T. Kearney recently launched an exciting new platform: A.T. Kearney Answers - an online forum where anyone can submit their business related question and our firm experts will provide an answer. It’s that simple. "
Quotes
  • "B2B customers now seek what their B2C counterparts crave: personalized experiences. They want to be engaged by B2B vendors in the manner they prefer. As a result, it requires multiple touch points over different channels (email, phone call, social media, events, etc.) to engage each individual prospect and get them to agree to a meeting."
  • "Orchestrating personalized prospect experiences at scale is among the toughest challenges in B2B sales. And only one solution stands out: advanced technology."
  • "Simple marketing automation and sales enablement tools are the absolute minimum. To scale up sales operations, B2B sellers need precise applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning such as those used in advanced sales engagement platforms. These tools help optimize multi-channel playbooks and email/call sequences through A/B testing, intent recognition, and data-backed recommendations."
  • "Meanwhile, B2B sellers cited gaining appointments (14%) and connecting with the right stakeholder (12%) among the top challenges in prospecting, according to a Richardson report."
Quotes
  • "Outreach, the leading Enterprise ready Sales Engagement Platform, accelerates revenue growth by optimizing every interaction throughout the customer lifecycle. The platform manages all customer interactions across email, voice and social, and leverages machine learning to guide reps to take the right actions. "
  • "Thousands of customers, including Cloudera, Glassdoor, Pandora, and Zillow, rely on Outreach to drive predictable and measurable growth, increase efficiency and effectiveness of customer-facing teams, and improve visibility into sales activity and performance."
  • "Headquartered in Seattle, WA but with offices in San Francisco, CA and Tampa, FL, Outreach was named Seattle Business Magazine's #1 Mid-size Company to Work For in 2017, a 2018 Forbes Cloud 100 company, and was featured as one of LinkedIn's Top Startups of 2018. Outreach has received $239M in funding from top tier investors including Lone Pine, Meritech, Spark, DFJ Growth, Sapphire, Trinity, Floodgate, Mayfield, and Microsoft."
From Part 06
Quotes
  • "with a total ownership mindset."
  • "success at work, higher income, and greater health outcomes."
  • "resourcefulness is as much a mindset as it is a skill."
  • "find multiple alternative routes to their desired destinations."
Quotes
  • "an organization from $3 million in revenue to $50 million in revenue over a period of four years."
Quotes
  • "insights to over 300+ enterprise-wide solutions."
  • "leading a newly formed B2B Commerce sales team in North America for commercial business unit."