Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to business-to-business (B2B) outbound sales. In fact, one out of every two B2B sales reps are afraid to pick up the phone to make cold calls – and more than half of sales professionals give up too easily when cold calling.
These are just some of the key findings from a study by ValueSelling Associates, Inc., and Selling Power, in which 160 U.S. sales professionals from a wide variety of industries were surveyed to examine how B2B sales reps and managers deal with the challenge of filling the revenue pipeline.
Given how essential outbound prospecting is to the sales process, it may come as a surprise that sales reps lack confidence in this aspect of the job. After all, to become top performers, sales reps and managers must constantly keep their pipelines filled with qualified prospects.
What Does It Take for Sales to Successfully Fill the Revenue Pipeline?
One way is to increase the number of overall opportunities to yield more wins. Another way is to qualify each opportunity more carefully, thereby yielding higher win rates. The survey responses point to specific actions sales professionals can take to secure more meetings and increase the quantity and quality of their sales pipeline.
Here are five uncommon insights to overcome B2B prospecting challenges.
#1: Engage buyers with business acumen.
One of the biggest challenges to prospecting is gaining access to the real decision maker. Engaging decision makers, influencers, or even gatekeepers hinges on a sales rep’s ability to demonstrate business acumen. Sales reps can set themselves apart by preparing for each sales call with proper research on the prospect, their company, and their industry, and by providing unique industry insights and asking informed questions.
#2: Break through the clutter with multiple touchpoints and multichannel communication.
More than half of sales professionals (54 percent) say it takes more than five touchpoints – such as phone calls, email, and social media outreach – to book an initial meeting. In 10 percent of the cases, it took 11 or more touches. That’s why tenacity and determination are necessary skills in sales.
A multichannel, cadence-based approach that includes phone, email, social media, events, groups, and networking is proven to increase numbers of meetings set, qualified opportunities, and revenue in the pipeline. One strategy for success is using “respectful persistence.” Space your outreach consistently over time and through multiple channels. This can increase mindshare and keep opportunities “warm” until buyers are ready to talk.
#3: Commit to calling prospects daily.
To enjoy a long, prosperous sales career, devoting time and energy daily to proper prospecting is a must. The ValueSelling-Selling Power study indicates that such prospecting just isn’t happening; respondents said only 18 percent of their sales reps spend nine hours or more weekly on prospecting.
Commit dedicated blocks of time every day to focus solely on calling prospects. Ideally, reps should spend an average of two hours per day or 10 hours per week on proactive prospecting. This ensures daily and weekly consistency and increases confidence when cold calling. Persistence pays off.
#4: Ensure the sales team understands how their performance will be measured.
Measurement is a best practice of high-performing sales organizations around the world. When both sales reps and managers are measured on leading and lagging indicators, every team member focuses on the most important activities and the fastest ways to reach their goals.
#5: Create a continuous learning environment.
Salespeople must regularly hone their prospecting skills through formal training, micro-learning, or coaching. Leading organizations are moving away from “one and done” training sessions to continuous learning. By adhering to a consistent, repeatable prospecting process, sales reps will secure more meetings and increase conversions for the ultimate goal: increasing the quantity and quality of the revenue pipeline.
Conclusion: Practice Powerful Prospecting Habits to Fill Your Revenue Pipeline
For sales professionals to be successful in B2B outbound prospecting, they need to engage buyers with business acumen, rise above the noise with multiple touchpoints and multichannel communications, make calling prospects part of their daily routine, employ measurement as a best practice, and make learning an ongoing process. Taken together, these strategies will build confidence, reinvigorate team enthusiasm, and eliminate the fear of rejection.
Julie Thomas is the president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates. She is a sought-after speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time.