As B2B tech spending comes up against economic uncertainty, effective pre-call preparation can be the difference between sales success and missed opportunities. Well-prepped sales pros will join a call ready with a dozen incisive questions that speak to the customer’s accurately-recognized pain points today.
Yet many B2B technology sales teams still don’t make the time to properly research customers before jumping into a conversation. As a result, these sales folks ask general, low-relevance questions – with the inadvertent subtext that their offerings may be irrelevant. Teams that fail to scrutinize their call prep practices might believe they’re getting poor leads or just dealing with unenthusiastic conversation partners. But often the reality could be that unprepared reps are sabotaging conversion rates by coming to the meeting ill prepared or under-prepared.
Discerning a particular B2B technology buyer’s pain points – which they may conceal because of business and competitive rationale – often requires a bit of detective work and deductive reasoning.
Each of a company’s initiatives represents an effort to solve a pain point. For instance, a business that launches in a new market most likely needs to meet heightened revenue goals. However, it’s common to get this symptom/cause logic backwards, especially for salespeople who take only a passing glance at available customer insights before picking up the phone. Asking this example customer about new markets would only help prove a salesperson is off base. But pepper the conversation with a thoughtful series of questions about revenue goals, and that customer’s engaged answers are likely to describe their precise top-of-mind needs. In an ecosystem where every word – and minute – matters, it can be a big distinction.
Here are three ways pre-call prep can tell mere symptoms from the true pains keeping B2B technology buyers up at night.
When customer insights indicate that a company has new funding or banked revenue to spare, many B2B tech salespeople might stop right there and assume the target business is primed for a spending spree. Next-level prep, though, can go a crucial step further by determining what pain points the customer’s spending is addressing, which is made clear by taking a look at the company’s hiring practices. Where a business increases headcount is where its most current struggles tend to lie, and where a dozen smart questions can make a distinct difference.
Some B2B tech salespeople will adopt a case-closed attitude as soon as they identify the persona of the company leader they’re about to call. A far more effective practice is to treat persona identification as a starting point rather than the end of call prep. Personas simply offer generalized notions of the pain points individuals experience in certain positions – and aren’t all that great at representing any actual person with precision. Sure, they’re valuable for understanding the general thrust of someone’s role, but they should not be the end-all be-all of a salesperson’s understanding. If everyone fit a handful of cookie-cutter molds, everything from sales to product design would be a lot simpler than it is.
Superior call prep must strive to understand how the target individual differs from their standardized persona. That means researching their job description, blog posts, available presentations, public company information, and more to understand the person’s specific role, experience, and responsibilities. This information should shine a brighter light on the company’s technology needs as seen from their position. It’s also important to understand that the greater the price of the technology, the more people (or groups of people) will be involved. It’s important to build relationships along multiple threads.
Salespeople know their market competitors like adversaries in battle. They are presumably well studied in their competing feature sets and have some practiced lines covering why their own offering is the better option. Once recognizing that a target customer uses a competing product or service, however, many salespeople will stop there – confident that they know what to say to take their best shot.
However, a company’s own in-house activity is often as dangerous a competitor as any outside entity. A complete perspective on a company’s existing technology stack (and how the company uses it) is under-researched but incredibly enlightening as to specific existing needs and pain points. Having current knowledge of these areas is also made much easier by the fact that, on sites like LinkedIn, tech workers talk about what they’re doing so they can promote themselves across their careers. Tapping into that available information can shape more informed and effective B2B tech sales conversations.
The work required for sales success begins well before the call. While the right tooling using AI, automation, and sales technology can expedite research, B2B tech sales teams must make the fundamental commitment to investing their time and energy into effective pre-call preparation. Going into every call with the right dozen questions prepared will optimize the sales potential of those interactions and have customers sharing more and more about the pain points you’ve come to solve.
Leena Joshi is the CEO and co-founder of CloseFactor, which uses machine learning to automatically curate unstructured information about companies and extract meaningful intelligence that go-to-market teams can act on to drive qualified pipeline.