How the best B2B sales professionals find and close more deals
There’s a lot more science to sales than many people suspect. By executing on a series of defined, easy-to-understand techniques, you can become a star B2B sales performer in your industry.
When it comes to B2B sales, it’s about learning how to generate leads, set up meetings and convert those meetings into sales. At each stage, there are tactics you can use to increase your success rate. Then, by keeping your pipeline full, you can dependably hit your sales targets.
“Going from being a good salesperson to an excellent salesperson is really just about repeatable habits and routines,” BDC sales expert Nigel Robertson says. “If you execute on those routines, you know predictable outcomes will follow.”
Robertson, who teaches sales to BDC employees, shared the following tips on how to become a top B2B salesperson.
1. Lead generation: Three techniques to get more referrals
The rule of three
Most salespeople take a direct route to getting referrals—they ask for them from their business associates. The problem with this approach is your associates often can’t think of anyone and forget about it as soon as you part ways.
A better way is to use the rule of three. Every businessperson operates in an ecosystem of three kinds of relationships: suppliers, customers and professional advisors.
Get your associate talking about these relationships. You could say: “Tell me about your customers? Who are your best ones?” Now, your contact is talking about real potential referral candidates, not searching their memory for names.
Listen carefully and when you hear someone who might make a good customer, ask: “Would it be okay if I reached out to Greg and mention that you and I spoke?”
“They will always say: ‘Sure, go ahead,’” Robertson says. “They might even say: ‘I will shoot them an email and tell them to expect your call.”
If you’re only taking referrals and not giving any, your sources will soon dry up.
So, make a point of also giving referrals when you’re meeting with a prospect or a business associate.
Ask your contacts to paint you a picture of the kind of customer they’re looking for. Ask something like: “What would your ideal customer look like if I bumped into him or her?” Armed with a detailed understanding of the kind of prospect your counterpart is looking for, you can then offer referrals that are more likely to convert into sales.
From there, it’s only human nature for the other person to ask: “What does your ideal customer look like?”
The desire for referrals is often not far from the surface when business associates get together. The referral exchange makes the implicit, explicit.
Approach a trusted associate who is selling to the same kind of clients but in a different industry and invite them to meet with you once a month to exchange referrals. At the meeting, you both bring your calendars and go through the appointments you’ve had over the last month.
“I rattle off the 30 companies I’ve met in the last four weeks and if any pique your interest you write them down, and you do the same for me,” Robertson says. “When you get back to the office, you both send out emails on behalf of the other, saying: ‘Bob meet Susan. Susan meet Bob.”
2. Making the call: Techniques for lining up meetings with prospects
Whether you’re making a cold call, or one based on a referral, the steps should essentially be the same for calling a prospect, Robertson says.
First, take no more than two minutes to figure out what will be your conversation starter or hook. If it’s a referral, then your hook will be: “Listen John, we haven’t had a chance to meet yet, but I was having breakfast with your accountant, Sally, and she said I should swing by and see if there’s something I can help you with. And I’m just calling to set that up.”
If it’s a cold call, the conversation starter should be about something you’ve noticed in your quick research into the person you’re calling. “I noticed you guys were up for the business of the year award. Tell me how you got nominated?” or “I notice from your website you manufacture a product called blown aluminum foam. What’s that used for?”
With your conversation starter in mind, put your computer cursor on a time and day you want to propose for a meeting.
Dial the number and when you get your prospect on the line, introduce yourself slowly and clearly. Then in a very conversational, unscripted way, use your conversation starter to get them talking. Remember: You’re definitely not pitching anything or vaunting the qualities of your products. You just want to set up a meeting.
After chatting for a few minutes, the kernel of a relationship will have begun to form. You say: “Hey this has been interesting, how about we get together at your office next Thursday at 10 a.m.?”
Note you’re proposing a specific time—not something vague or multiple options. It’s either yes or no. If the prospect, declines by saying he’s booked at that time, you immediately come back with another day and time.
If the prospect, raises an objection, nine times out of 10 it will be something you’ve heard many times before. Answer it and go right back to asking for an appointment. If they raise a third objection, back off. You don’t want to be a jerk, and you can always try again down the line.
If referrals don’t generate the number of meetings you need to make your week, then make cold calls until you make up the difference. With a conversational, unscripted approach, your success rate should be far greater than what scripted telemarketers achieve, Robertson says.
3. How to convert meetings into sales
Prepare to talk intelligently
Going to a meeting unprepared is setting yourself up for failure. You’ll end up falling back on clichés like: “Tell me where you see your company in three years?” That kind of line is likely to annoy your prospect and cut short your meeting.
Instead, take 20 to 40 minutes to get ready for the meeting by researching your prospect and his or her company. Then, you can show up at the meeting armed with personalized questions that will enhance your credibility.
Explore your prospects’ needs
Ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions about your prospects’ business to discover their plans, needs and timelines.
Once you’ve asked a question, sit back and listen carefully to identify where you can help. Resist the temptation to chime in with observations from your own experience. Those are interruptions that take the focus off your prospect’s needs.
Explore what your prospect is working on right now and then using “what would it take” questions, surface potential future projects.
“What would it take for you to get 50 additional customers?” Get all the options on the table and help the prospect calculate the economic value taking each action will bring to his or her company.
“You help them do the math on all the available options,” Robertson says. “And then rank the options—as a businessperson with limited time, what should I do first, second and someday in the future.”
You leave your prospect with one or two things to work on this quarter and a list for the future, so you have potential built-in business.
Robertson says closing a sale should be a non-event after you’ve done all the work of discovering needs, identifying possible options, working out their value to the prospect’s business and ranking them.
“You’ve got all these cards on the table and monetized them. You’ve come back with a proposal tailored to fix the thing they cared about the most. It follows your offer should resonate.”
After walking the prospect through your proposal, there should be no need for tricky closing lines or strategies.
It should be something as simple as: “So, what do you think?” or “So, should we move forward with this?”