The purchasing process has changed over the last several years: More large companies have centralized buying decisions to a single position or department. The result is that buyers may be less knowledgeable about your products. Combine this with turnover rates among these positions, and you’ll find it’s hard for salespeople to build and leverage personal relationships with purchasing contacts.
Much of the B2B sales process has been designed around building and nurturing these relationships, from cold calling and in-person visits to email campaigns. The tricky part is that the way executive-level buyers and purchasers communicate with other businesses and make decisions has changed, too. Here’s how to get to those key individuals, and why it’s still important.
Fifty-three per cent of a B2B customer’s purchasing decision is driven by a salesperson’s ability to teach them something new. Top sales pros know that this is best done in direct conversations with the decision maker. Relying on another person in the company to “sell” a C-suite executive on their products can actually damage the chances of closing the sale.
Finding your key contact can be challenging, but technology can help. Many sales departments work with marketing to harvest lead contact information and data. A CRM can help sort through the information to point out leads who are both ready to buy and have the authority to do so. Salesforce Einstein, for example, uses AI functionality to automatically search through communications with a prospect, looking for phrasing (such as “ask my boss”). They also can alert you that you may not be speaking with a key contact. Searching LinkedIn, a company’s website, and even Google can also bring you contact information for cold contacts.
Powerful salespeople know that no matter how they find key contacts, getting them on the phone is key to closing the deal.
Do you ever think, “If I could just get my prospect on the phone, I’d have a real chance at closing the deal.”? You’d be right. Often, the biggest barrier to conversion is just getting past the all-powerful gatekeeper. This is the person who screens phone calls and takes messages for the contact you need to talk to. Here are two strategies for working with them to reach your contact.
Marc Wayshack, bestselling author of Game Plan Selling, says the easiest way to get past a gatekeeper is to catch them off the clock. Most gatekeepers have job titles like admin, receptionist, or assistant — typically hourly, nine-to-five positions. Your prospect, however, is likely a salaried individual who works longer hours and even weekends.
This discrepancy in schedules is your foot in the door. Try calling your key contact just outside of normal business hours, such as right at 8:00 a.m. instead of after business hours begin, or after official office hours. You can also try lunch hours during the week, since many executives do “working lunches,” while their gatekeepers clock out.
Not only do you improve the chance of your prospect picking up the phone, but you may catch them at a time when there are fewer distractions. Fewer people in the office means fewer interruptions, and less chance that an executive will feel the need to rush through a call.
Powerful salespeople who find themselves on the phone with a gatekeeper know that how they handle the interaction is critical to whether or not they’ll get through to the buyer. They must speak from a place of authority from the very first, “Hello.” They’re polite, but not overly friendly (which many gatekeepers expect from salespeople).
When the gatekeeper asks questions, sales pros get to the point in fewer words, offering firm, to-the-point answers instead of jumping right into a sales pitch. The goal is to sound like the C-level prospect is expecting this call and wants you to be connected immediately.
Experienced salespeople have been using these strategies for years to get on the phone with the right contact in order to close the sale. Unfortunately, some gatekeepers are impervious to certain tactics — specifically, the electronic ones. Caller ID and voicemail allow C-level executives to screen their calls, even after hours. In fact, many B2B buyers forgo sales calls altogether until they’ve already decided to buy, which takes away your opportunity to influence their decision making process.
In these cases, how can salespeople get through to their prospects? By taking a page out of the marketing handbook.
The rise of some technologies (such as caller ID and voicemail) has hindered contact with your prospects, but the internet offers a new way in. Salespeople who struggle to build one-on-one relationships with buyers early in the sales process can depend instead on leveraging tools such as their company website, email, and social media to exert influence. Since many buyers prefer to research options themselves before approaching a salesperson anyway, salespeople should team up with marketing to ensure consistent messaging that drives prospects deeper into the sales funnel with every touchpoint.
Benton Foundry President Fritz Hall boosted his leads by 40 per cent by creating a website, for example. Emails often make it directly in front of prospects without having to pass through a gatekeeper. And more and more people use social media to connect with businesses and share recommendations. Leveraging these technologies is critical to gaining the interest and confidence of potential B2B buyers.
Learn more ways to close more sales in our ebook, “100 Sales Tips for 2017.”