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Written by Luke Ferris | October 3, 2022

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Gone are the days of backroom deals and white tablecloth dinners for generating business-to-business sales leads. Although the human connection is still the foundation of B2B sales, it looks different than previous generations. But that’s why you’re here.
If you run an agency or are a B2B sales leader looking to change how you generate leads, you’ve come to the right place. This article will walk you through the foundations of successful sales techniques for a modern B2B business.
Before you start direct messaging contacts on LinkedIn, review these techniques to build a foundation for your business that will allow you to scale and secure leads that actually become customers.
“Sales” might be a word that makes you squeamish or intimidated at best. We get it. You started a business not to drive sales but make an impact.
Here’s the hard truth–for your business mission to survive, you need to find people who need you. Even if you start your business with a robust waiting list or client on retainer, at some point, you need to sell. Otherwise, your business will fail.
It’s time to change your mindset on what the point of selling is.
Gordon Gekko’s famous line “Greed is good” in the 1987 thriller Wall Street seems trite and dramatic, but it’s true of sales, so we’re going to adopt it.
“Sales are good.”
The purpose of B2B sales is to help another business–and when we say business, we mean people. It’s the same reason you’re in business, to use a good or service to solve a problem. Your sales offer is the vehicle for someone to get from A to B.
When reaching out to a prospective B2B lead, don’t think of yourself as a product pusher but as a problem finder and solver. It’s less about your business and more about the person you’re talking to. Be empathetic and act in the best interest of the potential customer.
With this mindset, you’ll have problem-solving conversations, not sales meetings.
Here are mantras to remind yourself and your team to keep your mindset focused on the person, NOT the sale.
Setting goals is a standard business practice and essential for B2B because your sales goals will impact every sector of your organization. Goals may seem straightforward, but they’re a delicate balance. Set unrealistic goals, and you’ll always come up short. Set low-bar goals, and you’ll never grow.
For B2B sales, slow and steady is the best approach rather than spamming your email list like you’re selling prepaid phone cards (look it up, kids). B2B sales inherently have longer cycles because they have contracts, higher price points, and more customer investment. So whether it’s a LinkedIn message or a 30-minute discovery Zoom call, you must be intentional in every message you send–it all adds up.
Here are standard goals to set for B2B sales leads:
This means…
On average, it takes 5 meetings to get 1 client.
As a reminder, your goals should align with your costs of doing business and opportunity growth. Here are some resources to make sure your business calculations are on track:
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Meetings, meetings, meetings. They’re everything for B2B sales. Once you have the undivided attention of a B2B lead for 30 minutes, you’ll clearly understand how or if you can serve their needs.
But even with the adoption of virtual meetings, getting on someone’s calendar can be a pain. You can communicate effectively and use scheduling tools and still end up with people canceling at the last minute, or worse–they ghost you.
Remember point #1? Your mindset will motivate you to stay consistent and relentless toward booking meetings. That’s why a plan of attack is critical for reaching B2B leads. By following a process, you won’t feel like you’re starting from scratch every time you reach out to a new prospect.
Here’s our 3-step process for landing meetings.
As we said, mass sends don’t work with B2B sales. Instead, you need to identify your niche customers and speak to their needs. Ideally, you have a general understanding of your niche as a business (SEO for dentists, SaaS for NFT artists), which will naturally guide you to the type of customers you want.
But if you don’t have previous customer data to pull from, the best way to understand your niche customer is to create an avatar.
Customer avatars are representations of your ideal B2B leads. Essentially, you can pretend what your lead looks like (demographics, business size, region, industry) and plan a strategy to find them IRL. Having multiple avatars is okay, but remember to create B2B sales messages for each one. Again, blanket approaches don’t work for B2B sales.
Here’s an avatar and messaging example for a made-up consulting agency called Engrained SEO:
Mike’s Microbrewery Customer Avatar
Engrained SEO B2B Sales Messaging
Don’t forget to always refer to the goals that you set. They will help you define your niche and target your customer base.
According to a report from Gartner, B2B customers only spend 17% of their purchase journey with sales reps. That means the time you have with B2B leads is short. So make sure you land your messaging.
Like the avatar example above, the messages you share with B2B leads matter because they:
Here’s how the messages from Engrained SEO line up with the needs of Mike’s Microbrewery:
Need: Expanding canning distribution and need to reach new markets.
Message: We’ve helped food and beverage companies scale their organic audience by 20%.
Need: An overstretched marketing team.
Message: We offer add-on marketing services for small teams.
Need: The owner makes all the decisions and requires familiarity with business partners.
Message: We know the owner’s brother and sponsored their Oktoberfest event last year.
This is a simple example of how messaging converts B2B leads into loyal customers. It can also provide insight into the gaps you have as a business or if a lead might not be the right fit for what you provide. Here’s a list of messages that you should have ready to go before any B2B sales meeting or campaign:
Understanding your lead’s “flavors of pain” will help you create and refine messages that make a difference. How do you understand these flavors? Ask questions and listen. Only then will you know which message to pull from your toolbag.
Modern B2B sales are made primarily through LinkedIn. It’s a powerful tool to research leads, connect with them, and set up meetings. 63M decision-makers are active on LinkedIn, and 80% of B2B social media leads happen on LinkedIn.
You have to approach LinkedIn as the digital version of yourself at a networking event. You wouldn’t show up to lunch with a lead with a black eye and bad breath? So don’t have a sloppy LinkedIn profile.
Here are 8 key areas to optimize your LinkedIn (at minimum) before you start reaching out to B2B leads.
Don’t forget other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Just because you don’t do business on those platforms doesn’t mean a lead won’t check your profile. Ensure your profiles are private if you don’t want a prospect to know how you spend your weekends.
Read more: 12 LinkedIn Tips and Tricks (You Probably Haven’t Heard Yet)
What’s your daily routine for outreach? When are you setting aside time in your busy schedule to follow up with a lead?
As a founder or leader of a startup B2B business, time is scarce. That’s why you need to set standards from the beginning if you have any chance of getting leads for the next week, month, quarter, or year.
The quality of B2B leads you get reflects the quality of your sales rituals and processes. It takes discipline and organization to ensure you build a strong portfolio of leads and nurture them into customers. A long sales cycle means you need to stay organized over time. Sloppy sales processes will only get you so far.
Here are some tips to refine your rituals for B2B sales:
As you grow, share these disciplines with your sales team and customize them for your brand and business.
Talk to any marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company, and they’ll eventually bring up challenges with customer data. Even with the advancement in automation technology, sales data still is a pain to keep clean and up-to-date.
The good news is that if you’re a startup or young B2B business, then you have the opportunity to create a robust and actionable sales database without hangover data from decades of paper trails and outdated systems. Start small (seeing a theme here?), and don’t try to do everything all at once. Keep track of leads ONLY after they’ve replied or shown some interest–otherwise, the data entry becomes too time-consuming (remember, meetings, meetings, meetings).
You don’t need an expensive CRM tool to get the job done. Trello, Pipedrive, or a well-organized spreadsheet will do. The most important thing is to be consistent and thorough with your data entries. For example, the 1-2 minutes it takes to update a decision maker’s phone number after a meeting will save you time and energy in the future. There’s nothing more embarrassing than walking into a meeting with outdated info about the person trying to sell to.
Here are some standard fields to include in your B2B sales data:
B2B leads won’t walk in the door unless you do the work. These strategies will get you started for a successful B2B sales structure, but don’t stop here.
Check out our free training series to learn how to get quality clients that will ignite your business.
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About Luke Ferris
​​Luke Ferris is the content editor at Foundr and writes about leadership, podcasting, and pop culture. He is a graduate of Michigan State University’s journalism school, and his bylines include Issue Media Group, Michigan History Magazine, MLive.com, Habitat for Humanity, Holland Sentinel, and Gordon Food Service. When he’s not writing, he’s podcasting, discussing cinema over coffee, watching Tottenham Hotspur FC, or reading a book at the beach.
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