B2B Sales

This is page eight of the Growth Marketing Guide.

B2B sales

This page is for companies who sell expensive products to businesses.

This page teaches you to acquire B2B customers via sales.

It's an abridged guide that briefly introduces:

  • Finding leads
  • Contacting leads
  • Demoing your product
  • Following up
  • Inbound sales

The sales process

The more your business-to-business (B2B) company targets enterprises, the more sales will be your key acquisition channel.

Sales leads come from two places:

The outbound process, which this page focuses on, looks something like this:

  1. Generate a list of prospects.
  2. Contact qualified ones via email, calls, LinkedIn, ads, and other channels.
  3. Engage with them via an online product demo, sales call, webinar, or newsletter.
  4. Deliver your demo: address their objections and build deal momentum.
  5. Negotiate and close the contract.

Who should you contact via outbound?

To identify ideal outbound prospects, interview your current customers to find your buyer personas. Ask them:

Use their responses to:

  1. Identify needs — Understand customers' pressing problems.
  2. Identify work history — Build a picture of their work experience.
  3. Identify channels — Learn where people like them can be found.

Throughout, prioritize leads near the top of the Ladder of Product Awareness:

Outbound prospecting

To contact prospects who match our key personas, we use outbound channels:

Warm intros

When starting out, often the only people you can close are warm intros:

Conferences

If you sell expensive products to hard-to-reach customers, one of your best sales channels may be industry conferences.

As with warm intros, the goal is to build face-to-face relationships. Often, clients will do business with a company that's worse than the competition if they're more familiar and comfortable with the team behind it.

Three ways to getting the most out of conferences:

Buying lead lists

Buying lists of ideal leads is the fastest, most scalable approach to prospecting. However, it can be very expensive and many leads won't be a fit.

The process boils down to using a lead generation resource such as Clearbit. They have the most up-to-date employee contact data I've found online. 

With Clearbit, you select the industries your ideal customers work within. Then you filter through their employees to identify the job roles that are a good fit to pitch your product to. Clearbit will then show you their emails.

Here are example job roles you could target:

Once you've identified ideal prospects, Clearbit—or your enrichment tool of choice—will also help you source company and role data for those contacts. This gives you context on prospects' needs, which helps you personalize your pitch.

Alternative: Manually comb through LinkedIn

Instead of automating lead generation via Clearbit, you can hire a virtual assistant on, say, Upwork to manually search LinkedIn and identify promising prospects. You can then use a tool like LeadGibbon to find those LinkedIn users' emails.

This is often the most accurate and most cost-effective lead generation approach.

Be thoughtful about sales labor

Once you have a prospects list, create a cost-effective process for reaching out. Meaning, don't invest sales labor into everyone. The cost of sales labor is non-trivial, and sales timelines can span months.

You can use your average annual contract value (ACV) to determine how much time is justified per lead (source):

Focus on prospects with the authority, capital, and motivation to purchase from you today. These are your most qualified leads.

If you incentivize new customers to purchase a year's worth of services upfront, this helps reduce sudden churn, which stabilizes the sales labor estimates above. To motivate annual contracts, you can try offering steep discounts.

1. Cold email

By this point, we have our qualified prospects list. Let's contact them.

Of the various outbound channels, this page focuses on email. Email is the lowest-cost, quickest, and most scalable. It can be phenomenally high ROI when it works.

Customize emails for your personas

Because of how much spam we receive, emails have to work very hard to stand out. Gimmicks don't help much, but being relevant to a prospect's needs does.

Let's use the startup UsabilityHub as an example. It's a web design testing platform. They target two buyer personas:

By defining your personas upfront and researching their respective concerns, you can segment your cold emails. The more granular you are with persona segmentation and pitches, the better your response rates will be.

If you fully customize a message to a prospect, it becomes clear to them that you truly intended to email themthat you aren't mass-spamming. When you make someone feel like they were thoughtfully emailed, they're more likely to respond.

Writing emails

When writing an email, what resonates with prospects is how well you understand the nuances of their big problems—and what their dream solution would look like.

Here's a sample cold email template:

Hi Sherlock,

I was looking into {{company}} and noticed {{observation related to huge pain point}}. I know this is hard to get right because {{nuanced understanding}}. 

Companies like {{similar companies}} have worked with me and seen {{results}} this year. Based on everything I've heard about you, I have two relevant case studies to show how we perfectly fit your product. They're attached.

I also have {{industry}} data that I suspect would be helpful for your team. Would you like to spend 15 minutes walking through it? Worst case, you'll walk away with a bunch of hard-to-get, useful data for free. Best case, we're a fit.

Janet Hamburger, Head of Marketing

That email reads too robotically, but it hits the key points. In your own template, consider conveying those same ideas as naturally as possible.

There are two copy rules when writing these templates:

Follow-up emails

After sending your first message, have two follow-ups scheduled. You can use a tool like PersistIQ to automate follow-up emails.

I hate to admit it, but years of data proves that the most effective sales teams send multiple emails over several weeks. I know you don’t want to be a pest, but the bottom line is that persistence wins.

Expect very few prospects to respond to your first email. Every follow-up is then an opportunity to build more credibility and finally get a "Fine, I'll respond."

Meaning, don't waste a follow-up email on a limp "bumping this" or "checking in" message. That’s a useless nudge. Instead, follow-ups should build on top of your original message: for example, provide a video that demos what you originally pitched. Throughout, continue relating to their pressing problems.

More email templates

Cold outreach is covered further in the Demand Curve growth curriculum.

Email metrics to track

Track and improve at least four metrics when sending cold emails:

2. Talk on a call

When a lead replies agreeing to a demo or call, it's time to switch from low-touch, semi-automated sales to high-touch, personalized sales. Go above and beyond.

Call preparation

To prepare for calls, first recognize the two objectives of a sales call:

This page focuses on the selling objective.

Pre-identify objections

Before taking a call, write responses to objections you'll likely hear. Here are common objections:

Memorize your responses before getting on the sales call.

If you're not sure what a lead's objections will be, go into your initial calls with low expectations and focus on taking rigorous notes. Learn for next time.

Research leads

The second part of prepping for sales calls is researching your leads.

Get into a good mood

Before you pick up the phone, psych yourself into sales mode. Smile when talking. People can hear it through your voice. 

As a salesperson, you're an actor. Whether you want to be or not. It doesn't matter if you're having the worst day of your life, your job is to bring it—or to reschedule the call.

Call script

For what to say on a call, consider the template below. Pay attention to the bolded sections, which indicate key points:

Hey, good afternoon!

As a recap, [our product] is for [problem you solve]. How about you tell me how you currently solve [the problem] so I can avoid repeating things you already know. Can you tell me about your process?

[They respond.]

Great. What makes solving this problem important to your business?

[They respond.]

Got it. Here's how our product improves your current way of addressing the problem, and here's how we'd help achieve the business goals you highlighted: [better solution]. 

Now let's move onto a short demo so you can see exactly what I mean.

Demo your product via a screenshare. Keep it to 5-10 minutes.

I'm going to cover [the following benefits] via screenshare. That's what you guys would like me to cover, right? (If not, revise your demo on the spot.) 

Here's the big picture of how being a user of our product makes your life a lot better: [big picture summary]. 

Let's narrow into a few of the most valuable benefits of the product: [screenshare the relevant benefits]. (Don’t go into small details unless they're relevant and interesting. Your demo's purpose is to tease them—not to fully teach how to use the product.)

What else would you guys like me to show you? And what concerns do you have about whether we're a fit for you right now?

If they respond with objections, consult your resolutions from earlier.

Get them to talk

After your demo, if they have neither objections nor feedback, it's typically not because you did a great job. Rather, they likely weren't invested in your pitch.

Interested leads usually ask questions. 

To break their silence and engage them, ask which of the problems your product solves that they're already addressing through other solutions. Then ask if they're currently suffering from inefficiencies, complexities, or obstacles with those other solutions.

If yes, ask for an example then explain how your product better tackles the problem. Rinse and repeat.

Ending calls

If the lead is interested in chatting further, conclude by proposing a next step that moves them through the sales pipeline. 

Examples include:

Finally, if appropriate, end with this question:

What materials or summaries should I send to make deciding easier?

Do the work to get them everything they need to say yes.

Improving over time

To improve your call performance, record yourself. (Depending on your jurisdiction, it might be a crime to not ask for permission first.) 

Analyze recordings with coworkers who you trust to give blunt feedback. Revise your call scripts accordingly. Repeat this process until you're excellent.

There is no more effective way to improve than to confront your own recordings.

Call follow-ups

It's unlikely you'll close a lead at the end of your first call. You'll need to follow up. 

Less is more with email follow-ups. If you avoid being annoying, you leave the door open to return later in good graces.

I recommend following up at most at 1- and 6-day increments after the call. 

The one-day email could look something like this:

Hi Sherlock, 

I hope all is great. 

You'd mentioned you're dealing with challenges A and B and that you have concerns C and D. We have [a landing page] that explains which of our features solve those exact issues.

Is there anything missing from that page I could manually address?

As per the above email, it's worthwhile to create landing pages that address common sales objections. Landing pages are the new PDFs. They're better for conversion because they keep visitors on your site and they can be optimized even after they're sent out.

If the lead doesn't respond to your 1-day email by the 6-day mark, follow up again.

Three takeaways

Inbound sales

Inbound leads are those that come to you. You reach out to those who appear high value.

Common inbound channels include:

Which inbound leads are high value?

Step one is determining the likelihood of a lead being high value. 

This is the practice of lead scoring, which consists of assessing the lead's role and company details to determine, among other criteria, their product fit and financial fit. Many SaaS companies focus on just a few data points to qualify a lead:

You score and sum these values to determine how each lead's potential value compares to other leads in your queue. Prioritize sales labor accordingly.

Job role

If the lead works at a company that would be a perfect fit for your product, but their job title is, say, mailroom intern, they’re not going to be worth your sales labor. They lack the appropriate decision-making power within their company.

Employee count 

The more employees a company has, the more likely they can afford your product's high pricing. Distribute more sales labor toward them.

Company location

Focus on the locations that your business services.

Company industry

Review your customer data to identify which company types close at the highest rate. Get a sense for which are the best fit for your sales team's time.

Sourcing lead data

To enrich your leads with the above data points, you can use Clearbit to automatically retrieve them from a lead's email address.

Send the email address to Clearbit’s API, and it'll respond with up-to-date demographic and firmographic information.

Here’s sample data that Clearbit returns:

Emailing leads

When your enrichment data qualifies the lead as valuable, write a custom email to them. Do this as quickly as you can because short turnarounds increase responses.

Customize your email based on the lead's job role and corresponding needs. In the example below, the left shows an email sent to a developer. Look at the prioritization of a code sample. That's what a developer might care most about.

On the right is an email sent to a different job role: a marketer. For marketers, non-technical integration guides might be shared.

Had we instead sent every lead the same email template, the email would have been lengthy as we’d have to address value props for every persona. Long, unfocused emails go unread.

Going above and beyond

If you've qualified a very high value lead, you can do even more. For example, create a two-minute, personalized screen recording that walks them through your product from the perspective of their company's specific needs.

Next: Content marketing

How to write and distribute content that attracts customers.

Next page →

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