Do's & Don'ts of B2B Sales Success

Every sales department is trained on the perfect close. Whether it is writing up trade show orders, selling e-commerce services, merchandise displays or inventory management systems, the biggest sales investment by organizations is typically focused on the end of the process. While this is important, very little time is spent training sales reps on how to secure the very first conversation — which is the real key to sales success. It's no secret that you can't get to the last conversation without having the first, so the prospecting phase of selling is critical. 

Creating opportunities is the most important thing a sales team can do to ultimately increase revenues. Yet doing that is the greatest challenge. Whether your team struggles to get past the "gatekeeper" or properly identify the key purchasing decision makers, there are some tried and true rules for navigating the prospect phase.  Below are seven Do's and Don'ts to follow:

Don't acquire more leads.  Less is actually more when it comes to sales conversions. One top report cites that only 27 percent of leads ever get spoken to while 35 percent to 64 percent never get contacted at all. These ‘forgotten leads' are wasting your marketing dollars so instead, create and implement a consistent method of prospecting that will maximize opportunities to increase sales and revenue. Once nailed down, you will open the flood gates on the leads!

Do lead with value. Don't attempt to sell your plus-size apparel line by saying you have the best clothing line for plus-size women because every one of your competitors will be saying the same thing. Instead, lead with the value: "I am calling today to get a brief appointment to discuss increasing your product margins with a line that will make your customers feel sexy." This accomplishes two things: it lets them know you have something to sell but also something to solve, including an improved bottom line and enhanced response to customer demand.

Don't hire more reps. It may seem like the most logical way to increase sales, but it's expensive to hire reps and ROI isn't immediate. Top recruiters have cited that the average cost of a new sales hire is nearly $60,000. Training your existing reps and providing them with the tools to succeed is far less costly and will be more profitable in both the short and long term. Remember, if you haven't trained your reps to prospect efficiently and effectively, having more won't help. It's imperative that you implement a successful method of opportunity creation before bringing in more reps.  

Do use social media. Homework has never been easier or faster. Before the call, do your research using LinkedIn and other professional social sites to gather information on key decision makers, and identify other people within the organization who may be appropriate to contact. Look for any commonalities you share for use as ice-breakers and make a note of any achievements or awards you can comment on. Find out what you can, but if information is limited, that may be deliberate and will also serve as a briefer to stay focused on your goals and not their personas.   

Don't forget the value of consistent training.  Research has shown that 85 percent to 90 percent of sales training fails after 120 days because it is only done once. Training must be continually reinforced to be effective. Learning is an ongoing process and only through repetition and practice will your sales team internalize and consistently put it to use.  Wash, rinse, repeat!

Do hold back on selling right away. Remember that when you call someone, you are likely interrupting their day and if you launch into your pitch, they will likely tune you out. Instead, provide some context for your product, but remember your goal is to get them interested in wanting to "learn more" rather than "buy now." Stay disciplined, hold back and be purposeful to pique their interest only enough to schedule a next meeting when you can sell away.

Don't hide behind email. Email definitely has a place in prospecting and sales but emails don't sell—people do. Emails are an effective touchpoint, especially when you include calls to action, such as downloading a white paper or a short product brochure. And be sure to track their activities from that email so you can follow-up appropriately. Emails are an excellent way to support your phone sales efforts, but analytics are critical if they are to have value.

Selling is all about having as many opportunities as possible to "tell your story." Without an effective prospecting solution to create these critical conversations, your team will struggle to hit quota. The biggest mistake managers make is assuming their reps are effective at prospecting (and often blaming marketing for supplying "bad" leads). Take a close look at your sales analytics and if the numbers reflect a poor lead to conversion rate, you have a prospecting problem. Fix that problem and your apparel, e-commerce and supply sales teams can become wildly successful.

Mike Scher is CEO of FRONTLINE Selling, creators of StaccatoTM, a leading sales software which removes the ‘trial and error' of prospecting by standardizing the process across company sales teams. Leveraging its proven methodology, FRONTLINE has helped thousands of apparel, tech, manufacturing & retail industry sales reps convert more leads into opportunities, consistently hit quota and close more deals. Scher can be reached at [email protected].