You feel a burning desire in your gut, in your whole being, to close more B2B sales. The success of your company is riding on your ability to do so.
Without sales, there are no developers to improve the product. There’s no budget for ads, tech, or support for your current customers.
Without sales, you and your team are doomed.
Now, you guys know me. This will be an inspirational and tactical post… I promise.
But it’s important to acknowledge at the beginning, during, and at the end of every single day that the survival of your company, the well-being of each member of your team and their families, and ultimately your place in society are all dependent on your ability and success in selling.
Primer: B2B Sales Needs Less Wussies
When I look around the industry today (B2B SaaS), especially at our competitors (in Customer Acquisition), I feel a selfish sense of pleasure.
Except for a handful of obvious winners, I see a) weak strategies being b) poorly implemented by c) confused, scared salespeople.
I believe all 3 of these issues can be remedied by working from the bottom up, and helping salespeople focus on the “new fundamentals of B2B sales” and becoming the best version of themselves.
Regardless of where you’re at in your career, what you’re selling, and who you’re selling to, it is my intention with this post to give you specific steps to increase your results at every step of your sales process and stimulate you with ideas to improve your metagame.
Here are 7 high-leverage points to this end…
1) Let Your Reputation Precede You
Let’s be honest; the more “inbound-y” your leads are, the faster they’re gonna buy. They already know they want it. It’s just your job to not mess up the sale.
The best way I know to warm your leads up before you even get on the phone with them is with celebrity authority positioning.
The best way to attain celebrity authority positioning, which thankfully in B2B sales is a glowing company-wide aura, is with expert content that shows your prospects the steps to success with your product.
Combining tactical step-by-step content with customer success stories is a surefire way to get your prospects thinking “Hey, I want that result… and this will work for me too!” and this, my friends, is one hell of a powerful frame to put your prospects in.
Founders and people responsible for marketing: Never outsource your expert content generation for the “pillar content” on your site. You need to find your voice, and your perspective on your market and steps to success are too powerful to hand over… at least in the beginning, until you have enough content for them to use as a guide.
Once you have your content ready for discovery, do not work with a SEO agency.
We built Publicity.ai specifically to protect you guys from the bloat and inefficiencies of agencies. No agency matches Publicity.ai’s accuracy when it comes to planning campaigns, nor our price performance when it comes to actually running SEO and PR campaigns. Hello, disruptive innovation!
It takes a while to ramp SEO and organic content discovery, but we need to increase sales TODAY, right? So here’s a gem for you:
Drop retargeting pixels in your outbound email campaigns and run industry-specific retargeting campaigns.
This plus Facebook & Twitter custom audience campaigns (just import your target email list a couple weeks prior to first mail) to your content and BLAM, you just went from cold outreach to “oh yeah I’ve heard of you guys” even if you’re just two dudes in a garage.
Very few things I have experienced so far in life feel better than 20% banner CTRs and 1-call closes with prospects you hooked with ninja-psychology “way too specific” ad copy.
2) Tell Better Stories
Honestly I’m a little bugged by how effective great storytelling is for sales when compared to everything else, like how great your product actually is.
Seth Godin says “all marketers tell stories”… well “all rich salespeople tell stories” too.
A great storyteller can build trust, create an authentic bond, and excite their prospects about their product all at the same time.
Even if you’re completely new at your company, you need two key types of stories for each market you’re selling to:
- Customer success stories that relate your prospect’s current position to a customer who was experiencing the same pains but now doesn’t because of your product, and
- Stories that you create on the spot about the success your prospect will themselves experience when using your solution.
My first business mentor used to say “I don’t close, I just sell the prospect on a brighter vision for their future than they’re selling themselves.”
The two types of stories I laid out above do this exactly.
The first taps into the powerful “I want that too” effect, and the second brings them into a place of conversing with you about the specific details that they want in their own bright future… in which, by the way, they’ve already bought from you.
Interview whoever you need to at your company to get individual customer success stories and proper context on why each market buys.
Speak with the person who sold them, the customer success manager who made sure they got their desired result after the sale, or even the customer themselves…
Just get the stories, practice telling them from an intimate “we helped them” perspective even if you weren’t involved directly, and you will close more deals.
3) Do Better Demos
However I can tell you that the most important result of your demo is to have your prospect thinking “this will work for me” by the end of it.
The second most important thing, in my opinion, is to have your prospect thinking “even if I hit a bump in the road on this journey, these guys are the ones I want to help me get back on track.”
Think about a non-competing product category that you already know you want to invest in. Imagine feeling those two things above about any particular provider.
It’s hard to imagine not buying from them, isn’t it? Exactly.
While I can’t tell you exactly what notes you need to hit in your demos, I can suggest the cadence at which you sing.
Check out this infographic by Marketo for a proven sales cycle template, and re-read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross, a legendary sales trainer who helped make Salesforce become Salesforce, for deeper insights into how to construct a winning sales process.
4) Hit The System. Harder.
Note the presupposition – you have a system. Refer to the above point if you don’t.
Got one? Ok now literally hit the thing. Let’s kick the tires:
- What are you split-testing? What could you be split-testing?
- How often are you measuring feedback loops?
- How much activity are you seeing at each step of the funnel?
The best B2B sales reps look for ways to push it and help their team push it harder at every step.
Once you have your sales machine running, even slight optimizations in process can mean multiple more deals done per rep per year.
The title of this point is a deliberate double-entendre.
Even if you just put twice as much effort into a mediocre outbound sales system, you’ll double your results.
Think you’re hitting it as hard as possible?
I doubt it; you’re probably hovering around 40%.
Oh wait, you wanted “work-life balance?”
Great. Live it, enjoy it.
Just don’t be mad when your lunch gets eaten by some chick who was willing to put in the work. After all, it’s just your place in society on the line, homie.
5) Blow The Top Of Your Funnel Wide Open
There’s something inherently powerful about being busy.
I’ve observed this phenomena in every social situation from dating to sales to making friends with powerful people.
It goes like this — the people who are really killing it in life are spread ever-so-slightly too thin. You reply to texts and emails just a little too late, just a little too briefly. You’re excited to talk when you have a free minute, but they have to work into your schedule.
Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior. You really only have two options:
- chase them (don’t –it’s a trap), or
- be just as “killing it busy” as they are.
The funny thing is, while you can try to fake it, it’s so much more fun not to.
In the modern world of sales, because it’s so dang easy to be dealing with “too many prospects” at once, I have no idea why you wouldn’t.
The main point about sales emails that you really need to take with you is that you (or your SDRs) can always be sending more, programmatically (with something like Quickmail), and thus setting and showing up on more appointments.
But won’t we really get spread too thin if we double the amount of email we’re sending?
We recently upped our emails per rep to 270 new leads/day in the SMB market, and we not only increased the amount of appointments being set, but we did it while conversion optimizing our email campaign for positive responses.
That’s a multiplicative increase, and six figures of new ARR in the last few months between a small team.
This is just what worked for us, and your mileage may vary.
Of course, cost per lead may be an issue depending on what stage you’re at.
Mailing 270 leads per day from Lead Genius (crazy expensive) or even Data.com (mid-market but still expensive) would almost certainly be inefficient, as their targeting and cost structures mean you absolutely must nail your buyer personas and give those leads the heavy individual attention they need…
But with new order-of-magnitude-more-cost-efficient solutions like the Lead Roster marketplace in play, you can load your clip to the brim and unload sweet, sweet personal emails into entire markets/segments very, very quickly.
Do this and you’re cooking! Just prioritize your attention on the warmest leads that get back to you.
(Disclosure: We built Lead Roster due to the inefficiencies we saw in outbound B2B lead gen! It’s still early but some users have already created profitability with the platform. Let me know anything you’d like to see, on the buy side or sell side, at zeal [at] GO AMV [dot] com or on Twitter.)
…and really warm ’em up while you’re at it!
My favorite thing for turning cold emails warm is the appropriate person template from Breakthrough Email.
This email, and emails like it, are a very effective way of making first contact since you aren’t selling, you’re just trying to connect with the right person.
We use similar referral language in most of our first contact emails now, even mailing SMB owners when we already know they’re the “appropriate person.”
“Start a thoughtful conversation that feels human.
Too many cold emails sound vain and robotic. Before you write a single email, think to yourself: who am I emailing, what do they care about, and how can I add value to them? Can I make them more money or help them solve a burning problem? …and if you don’t already know the answers to these questions you should do your homework.
Lazy, generic ‘spray and pray’ email tactics won’t work anymore. Whether you’re sending one-off emails to a single individual or a mass email campaign that goes out to thousands, you need to understand how your recipient(s) think so that they actually want to respond and have a conversation with you.
If you can do that, you will get 3-10x more responses from your sales prospecting emails.”
This “conversation psychology” is one of those under-the-radar things that can position you as a collaborator rather than a typical salesperson-to-be-avoided.
Combine this with the steps in #1 above, and you’ve now got a consistent flow of prospects looking you up, finding your content and brand with specific messaging for their market, and engaging in a nice warm conversation in your inbox, ready to be escalated to phone, demo and beyond.
6) Get Fighting Fit
Strenuous physical activity begets a stronger mind and physique.
Stamina makes it easier to work long hours, most days, for years on end –and that is the only way you become world-class.
I don’t get to point to the oil industry for positive examples very often. Not many of us will remember this –I wasn’t even alive– but a few decades ago, before “startups” as we know them, oil exploration was where the badass risk-taker entrepreneurs went.
One guy who built and exited an empire then and there, Dan Peña, wrote in his truly epic, $500 literally-leather-bound book Your First 100 Million,
“The guy who can kick the other guy’s ass sitting across the table from him has the upper hand in any negotiation.”
Sure, it’s an old school way of thinking.
Yes, solution-selling is the best.
I’m just saying this point stuck with me since I read it, and considering all of the health benefits and social benefits of fitness… I’d suggest you make time for the gym a couple times per week and clean up your diet.
Personally I’m doing HIIT sprints, skipping step 4 (“start with 4 intervals and ramp up 1 more each session to 8” said the most jacked trainer I’ve ever had) and something similar to 5×5 powerlifting.
Brutal, and effective.
7) Sales Is A Life Skill
This is a long post, but it’s nowhere near comprehensive.
If you want to be a truly world-class sales leader, it’s a long way to the top.
So the last point I want to make with you is an expansion on a point from big homies Aaron Ross, mentioned in #3 above, and Jason Lemkin of SaaStr, in their new book called From Impossible To Inevitable.
In the book, they lay out a new ABC for this brave new world (as opposed to the old, NSFW-but-probably-OK-to-watch-if-you’re-in-sales ABC):
A. Ask questions: Listen more than you talk. Insightful questions make it easy to have conversations with customers or prospects, learn about their problems, and know what solution will help them best. People won’t be ready to listen to you until after you’ve listened to them.
B. Be Honest: About why you’re doing this, and what your personal story is. In being curious about them, their situation, and what they care about. What you’re passionate about. Why you think they should or should not do this. That you’re new and don’t know the answers, but that you know where to get them.
C. Customer Success: If you stay focused on what will help your customers succeed, you can’t go wrong. That doesn’t mean only selling them on what they ask for—because people don’t always know what they need. Become an expert in what you do, and you will guide people in helping decide what’s best for them. Through experience, you’ll learn how to challenge people to get out of their comfort zone, to make a decision and move forward—even when at first they’re uncertain or resistant.
They nailed these new ABCs and I’ve already made their new book required reading for our sales team.
New B2B Sales Excellence Means Always Giving & Growing
A few weeks ago it was a holiday so I set the company sales line to ring straight to my cell.
An entrepreneur who wouldn’t have made it to me through our “Are We A Fit” filtering step called in.
I asked questions to really try to understand where he was at, even though I knew he wasn’t ready to work with us, and spent 20 minutes coaching him on exactly what I would do in his position.
Towards the end of the call, after me emphatically telling him not to buy from us right now, he said AMV’s very existence “seems too good to be true” with deep gratitude in his voice.
I don’t know if he’s going to implement what I suggested to quickly increase his cashflow…
But I do know that when he does consider vendors for organic customer acquisition, or any of his friends bring up the category in conversation, we will be his first, and probably last, thought on the subject.
In closing, “not being a wuss in B2B sales” means committing to the never-ending pursuit of growth in your ability to effectively communicate and add more value.
It’s a brave new world for B2B sales, and as the salespeople who are ultimately 100% responsible for the revenue that our companies need to survive, thrive, and keep building world-changing products, we have the opportunity each and every day to show up and blow our prospects’ minds with our attitude, expertise and helpfulness.
I invite you to join me in this pursuit. Every would-be buyer in the world will thank you.
Now it’s your turn. Everyone has their own methods and tricks to improve their B2B sales game. Share yours in the comments!