Modern business-to-business (B2B) buyers are inundated with messages from all sides, making it increasingly difficult to capture their attention. Sales leaders and reps agree that keeping the sales pipeline full is a perpetual challenge, especially in these uncertain times. To fill the pipeline with qualified leads, prospecting efforts must evolve and be delivered across multiple communication channels.
One way to achieve success is to implement a strategically choreographed approach. A sales cadence allows salespeople to effectively connect with prospects by organizing sales activities within a systematic framework that they can repeat over time. It usually includes scheduling non-negotiable blocks of time that allow for social media interactions, emails and — most critically — phone calls. The objective of the sales cadence is to generate higher response rates and enable reps to schedule the first meeting with a potential customer.
How can sales leaders help their salespeople develop the patience and perseverance necessary for filling the revenue pipeline? Here are three tips to help you develop successful prospecting habits across your team.
1. Help Reps Hold Themselves Accountable
When prospecting efforts fail, it’s often a matter of misalignment. Sales leaders and salespeople are not always on the same page about why reps are missing sales quotas, and many sales leaders believe reps neglect their prospecting efforts. The results of a recent ValueSelling/Selling Power study confirm this idea, showing that prospecting isn’t taking place at the level it should. In fact, only 18% of reps say they dedicate more than nine hours per week to prospecting.
Keeping the funnel full will always require strong, proactive prospecting on the part of salespeople, which means dedicating more than 10 hours per week to prospecting within a consistent framework. At the same time, sales leaders must give reps the proper training to build the skills they need for effective prospecting. Confident salespeople are more likely to pick up the phone and follow a disciplined prospecting schedule.
Start by encouraging reps to block out non-negotiable time on their calendars and stick to it. After all, if they don’t respect this time, why should others? Setting hour-long blocks on their schedules will hold them accountable. Of course, last-minute requests that they are unable to ignore will come up, but it’s vital never to cancel prospecting time. Instead, when the unexpected comes up, they should move that block of prospecting time to later in the day.
2. Encourage Value-based Messaging
Convincing busy people to accept a meeting with someone they don’t know is one of the hardest tasks in sales. Every unexpected email, call and LinkedIn message is often an unwelcome interruption. To add to the problem, the majority of content and messaging are more likely about your company than your buyer.
Salespeople can set themselves apart by switching perspectives and implementing a value-based approach. Most buyers choose vendors that provide relevant content to help them navigate each stage of the buying process. By focusing on the buyer’s needs, desires and problems, sales professionals can demonstrate that they’ve done their homework and will stand out. Value-based messaging is compelling, because it flips the script and focuses on the buyer’s needs instead of a rep’s own desire to close.
To uncover value from the buyer’s perspective, focus on helping your team craft informed questions backed by research. The good news is that effective research doesn’t have to take hours out of the day. To start, encourage reps to split their research into small blocks of dedicated time: They should spend 15 to 20 minutes researching the prospect’s industry before their initial outreach. If they receive a response, they should spend 10 minutes on the company itself and another 10 on the individual. For publicly held companies, this research includes taking the time to review financial reports and letters to shareholders. For privately held companies, news and industry media are the best bets.
3. Implement a Qualified and Strategic Multichannel Approach
With advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and sales tools, it’s tempting to assume that data will be precise. However, it’s important that salespeople personally vet their list to ensure its accuracy. Once they’ve taken the time to enter the right mindset and set aside non-negotiable time for sending messages and making phone calls, the last thing you want is to have their cadence interrupted by messages that fail to reach their target.
Once they’ve qualified their prospects, encourage them to consider the persona of the potential buyer. If they’re targeting chief marketing officers (CMOs), for example, it makes sense to begin on LinkedIn, given CMOs’ propensity for staying connected. Manufacturing executives, on the other hand, might be more efficiently reached via phone or email.
Regardless of the platform, when initiating a sales cadence, it’s important that reps provide value from the very beginning. For example, if outreach begins on LinkedIn, reps should interact with a prospect’s shared content in a meaningful way and share a relevant resource in return. Two or three days later, they might follow up with an InMail message that shares another resource. From there, they’ll move on to an email that provides insight on how they’ve helped similar companies in the past and ask to schedule a 15-minute call.
It is of critical importance that salespeople connect these efforts and do not go more than five business days between contacts. A sales cadence can involve 15 to 17 touches across 20 to 24 business days.
Strategic, Determined Outreach Is Key
Adhering to strategic prospecting cadences and delivering value-based messaging is key to driving top-of-funnel growth — but it’s also vital to help your team maintain a positive mindset. It is all too easy to allow negative emotions to affect our communications. Salespeople may not be aware of the difference, but prospects will pick up on subtle cues and be less inclined to respond. Patience, discipline and perseverance are critical to successful prospecting.
Another obstacle is time. Let’s face it: Time is always a top priority for salespeople, and they often cite it as a roadblock to successful prospecting. But reps don’t have to be an expert on a particular company to develop personalized, value-based messages that resonate. Help them focus on priming a potential buyer’s memory through consistent outreach, provoking curiosity with compelling content and providing value early in the sales process by connecting your solution to the buyer’s needs.
During these challenging times, it is vital to instill prospecting best practices in your sales team. Sticking to a strategic and determined multichannel approach will enable salespeople to set more meetings, increase conversions and fill the revenue pipeline.