Is traditional selling dead? Business to business models are changing significantly. Gone are the days of just selling products and services. Effective and successful sales teams are more focused on selling solutions to help their clients and prospects. Why the shift? There are higher margins in selling solutions and moving the customer needle towards more sales. In order to be effective in navigating this different sales model requires setting up a new framework to capture data that drives solutions. This can take some patience and planning, but in order to be successful, a new framework should be implemented.
Sales people often use basic data platforms such as Hubspot or Salesforce. While these are helpful in recording quantitative data – the contacts, number of calls, leads, etc., they are only capturing half of the equation. The qualitative data is being missed and we lose key information that helps the team have a better understanding of the sales call. It is in those rich conversations and meaningful interactions that the sales team can dig deeper and learn from objections or praises and what types of questions are being asked. The ability to capture and then analyze this qualitative information allows the sales team to become learners about sales as a profession in a way that was previously impossible. How can you improve the quality of the conversations if you don’t have the data to reflect back on? This leads to many missed opportunities and sales.
Soft skills help you leverage the client relationship.
To be effective in this new environment, it also takes more than just data platforms. Soft skills– listening, asking questions, and providing solutions, are also essential. To get there, sales leadership must find ways to leverage technology, data, and partnerships that can both measure and educate about the sales experience and also bridge the gap between selling products by volume and selling complex solutions to C-suite executives.
“JMS Elite’s business development executives (BDE) have mastered the art of listening. It’s a talent that has proven to be a major aspect of our success. Nuances are revealed in the margins of conversations. As the seller, you’ve got to be invested in the entire conversation. You’ve got to respond not only to what you hear but to what’s not being said – without jumping to your own naturally biased conclusions.” – Jim Scaparotti, Principle/Founder, JMS.
Thoughtful and targeted lead generation is the best tool for complex sales.
Effective lead generation requires a long-term approach that incorporates an understanding of the customer need, that the solution, service or product addresses, and the inherent value being provided by that solution. Before beginning any lead generation effort you first need to understand who your prospect is and you need to develop a healthy list of prospects based on your sales criteria:
- What size organization are you selling to? What is their average revenue? How many employees do they have? Are they public or private? Are prospects within a certain geography?
- What industry and or niche buys your products, solutions or services?
- What titles within the organization are going to derive the greatest value? Which titles are typically involved in deals that you have won?
In complex sales, quality is just as important as quantity. By focusing on creating a solid prospect list, you are able to offer the right business solution to meet the needs of the prospect. When this is done correctly, the result is a healthy and relevant prospect list. At this point, a seasoned teleprospector will discover and attempt multiple appropriate contacts to people at the company who may be involved in the decision-making process and their organization’s needs. Make sure to research and understand if the cold call should be made to a C-level executive, or someone at the VP or Director level, or perhaps someone in a very specific department (i.e. Head of Human Resources). Don’t waste time calling people who aren’t responsible or “fall outside” of the scope of what your business solution offers. Keep in mind that if your list may consist of 10 names and titles at an organization and 5 of them are not decision makers, it makes no sense to call them. Focus on the people who can have the conversation with you and understand the solution you can offer.
How effective are phone calls to your prospects in your lead generation efforts?
Using the phone to make contact still works, and it works well. A phone call from an experienced business development executive (BDE) who is able to engage in meaningful and relevant conversation is still one of the most effective ways to generate actionable sales leads. Picking up the phone and speaking with key decision makers will help you quickly determine interest within a large number of prospective companies, saving you precious time in the long run. This is a key step in the process; knowing that the account being contacted has potential as a good fit for the solution being sold. Picking up the phone to call a prospect doesn’t have to be completely cold. Before picking up the phone, an experienced BDE will be informed about whom they are calling, making sure that the business is relevant to their needs.
A first call is about beginning a relationship with a prospect. It’s taking the time to listen to their needs and business pains, developing a better understanding of their business and assessing what they will benefit from in the future. Keep in mind, the purpose of each call should be about engaging in meaningful interactions with prospects. Even if this isn’t their time to buy, building the relationship is key. A teleprospector will make calls to multiple high-level decision makers and key evaluators with whom they can start a meaningful conversation, often using referrals to target the key decision makers.
Should you leave a voicemail message?
If it’s strategic, it can be effective. Your message should give the listener just enough to entice them to pick up the phone and return the call, or pass it along. If you attempt to explain everything in a voicemail message, no one will listen to it, and you are giving them every reason not to call back. The shorter and more succinct the better. Your message should be simple, easy to understand and be compelling.
In my last 13+ years with JMS Elite, and in my sales career before that (since 1994), I have a lot of evidence to the contrary. Half of our leads come from people who do return the call, explains John Magyari, Principal and Co-Founder of JMS Elite.
While it may be a relatively low percentage, if you’ve bothered to make the call, it makes sense to leave a message. Why waste an opportunity. Leaving a message gives you a chance for a return call, or your message may get passed on to others within the organization who might return the call. There is also another opportunity that comes with leaving a message– leaving 2-3 messages, with multiple people in the same organization increases your chances of penetrating that organization. When your goal is to get in front of the decision makers, taking more than one route to get there increases your chance of success.
Place your focus on the client’s goals to generate actionable sales leads.
A successful lead generation program is not about selling “features and benefits” to whomever is on the other end of the line. The focus of your conversation should be on the exploration of the prospect’s goals, pains, and potential roadblocks. This information can only be gained by investing in a conversation. Focus on asking open-ended questions to intelligently guide the conversation. Make a point of listening the majority of the time. Many important details are revealed in the margins of conversations; pay attention and record the data for future reference.
Whether the prospect is interested or not, your conversation provides valuable business and marketing intelligence you can use at a later date. The BDE is either qualifying the opportunity and setting up next steps, or finding out why the prospect is uninterested. A sales leader with a growth-oriented mindset is curious; they want to learn what is happening so they can offer the right solutions. They understand that this process will enable them to have more effective conversations with future prospects and help them win the sale more often. These are the type of people who are pressing the envelope and helping us all learn together.
Successful B2B Lead generation requires peer-to-peer business interactions
Whether performed internally or outsourced, coupled with utilizing the right processes and experienced B2B sales personnel, is a valuable tool in your sales arsenal. A qualified, lead generation firm, is in the business of helping their client build a sales pipeline with qualified, actionable business opportunities. This is not something that can be done by junior-level sales associates or kids right out of college. In fact, the best-case scenario is that a business development rep making the phone calls will be savvy enough to be considered a peer when interacting with an executive decision maker.
A high-level prospect will recognize a peer caller as someone who is knowledgeable, and also willing to listen and identify solutions for complex problems. Because of this, prospects will be more willing to engage in a conversation that could generate a business opportunity. When a novice caller with a scripted, one-dimensional message attempts to engage an executive decision maker, chances are they will not have a meaningful interaction. Complex B2B sales require complex conversations that can lead to solutions. Ensuring the interactions are peer-to-peer will lead to successful lead generation. This investment in the initial stages of the sales cycle will reap long-term relationship rewards with prospects that will positively impact your sales pipeline.
As you can see, there are many facets to running a successful B2B sales campaign. In order to be successful, you need a plan for capturing data, using higher-level sales professionals with a focus on soft skills and a strong focus on offering client solutions. Whether you perform these sales functions in-house or hire a firm, consider these B2B frameworks to build solid sales campaigns.