Most sellers we know seem to have a love-hate relationship with prospecting. But even those sellers who enjoy, and are relatively successful engaging buyers early in the sales process would agree that the challenges, as well as the potential methods for prospecting have expanded dramatically over the years.
That’s why we were so intrigued to review the recent research on this topic from RAIN Group, a Qstream solution partner. The reality is that B2B sellers hear lots of messages about the tactics and channels that are best for prospecting today, but much of what we see and read in the market is contradictory to our personal experience. So, what did the data, collected from nearly 1,000 buyers and sellers across the globe reveal? Read on for some data highlights, as well as a Q&A with report author, Mike Schultz, President of RAIN Group.
Buyers want to talk to sellers early in the sales process.
- 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers who proactively reach out to them.
- 71% of buyers who accept meetings want to talk to sellers early in the sales process when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger results to improve their business.
- 62% of buyers who accept meetings want to talk to sellers when they’re actively looking for a solution to solve a problem or fix what’s broken.
Cold calling works, and it’s even more powerful when paired with other tactics.
- 58% of buyers say that for the most recent meeting they agreed to, the seller connected with them over email.
- 54% of buyers say that for the most recent meeting they agreed to, the seller connected with them over phone.
- 52% of sellers say it takes between five to 10 touches to connect with a new prospect for the first time.
Buyers want a mix of valuable content andto hear about your capabilities.
- 69% of buyers are influenced to accept a meeting or otherwise connect when the provider shares primary research data relevant to the buyer’s business.
- 67% of buyers are influenced to accept a meeting or otherwise connect when the provider shares content 100% customized to the buyer’s specific situation
- 67% of buyers are influenced to accept a meeting or otherwise connect when the provider shares descriptions of the provider’s capabilities.
Sellers who bring value, win more sales. Most sellers aren’t doing this.
- 96% of buyers say their purchase decisions may be influenced by sellers who focus on the value they can deliver the buyer.
- 93% of buyers say their purchase decisions may be influenced by sellers who collaborate with buyers.
- 58% of sales meetings are not valuable to buyers.
Q&A with Mike Schultz, President of RAIN Group:
Q. What prompted you to focus on Prospecting, specifically, for your recent research?
People are pretty absolute about prospecting. This works. That doesn’t. The problem is that some of the absolutes completely disagree with each other (e.g. cold calling is dead vs. cold calling is alive and well). There is also a lot of conventional wisdom for in prospecting (e.g. millennials don’t like the phone, buyers do most of their buying journey online now) that we figured it was a good time to see what’s true and what’s not.
Q. There’s a lot of discussion in the sales enablement market about the challenges of selling to “the empowered buyer,' or even worse, predictions about the “death of the salesperson.” But your research is actually quite hopeful about the opportunity for salespeople to add value in the buying cycle and beyond. What do you hope sellers, in particular, will take away from your findings?
First, prospecting is as difficult as it ever was. It takes a winner’s mindset, perseverance, and focus over the long-term to get it right. Today, I think people have a lot more distractions than, say, 15 years ago, to deal with. Staying focused is more difficult, and at the same time, more necessary for success.
Second, sellers have to be able to provide value. The buyers who perceived sellers reaching out to them because they’ll find the conversation valuable, granted sellers meetings.
Third, sellers need a concerted campaign to get through to buyers. You can’t just call and email them one time. It needs to be orchestrated.
Fourth, sellers need to customize. Buyers who felt like sellers were spamming them, not researching them on the web and LinkedIn, dismissed the sellers out of hand. Buyers responded extremely well to “content 100 percent customized to them” as individuals, and primary research relevant to them.
Q. One of the interesting trends I saw in the research was that, despite the digital channels that are so pervasive today, personal, peer-to-peer connections still matter — whether that’s accomplished via a social network like LinkedIn, or asking for a referral, or selling to a customer where you already have an established relationship. Would you agree?
Yes. For example, 82 percent of buyers, when considering whether to respond to a seller, look up their LinkedIn profile before reaching back. Sixty-one percent of respondents who frequently accepted meetings with buyers found shared connections to be an extremely or very important factor influencing whether they’d reach back.
Q. This idea of personalization or customization also extended to the types of content that’s most effective in reaching buyers or getting a buyer to accept a meeting, particularly C-level and VP targets. Is this a case for “quality over quantity” when prospecting?
As per above, it’s not just a compelling case, it’s definitive.
Of course, the costs need to work out. If you’re selling something with an average of $2K and that’s it, doing extensive research on each buyer and running customized attraction campaigns probably isn’t feasible. But let’s assume you’re opening accounts that tend to buy year-after-year, and that you have a moderate or high-dollar value sale. Then, yes, absolutely quality over quantity.
Ready to learn more about what it takes to get through to top executives, fill your pipeline, and win more sales? Download the full research white paper here.